A Chat With Georgia Hill

Let’s go back to the start. How did it all begin? What is it about typography that drew you in?

I grew up in Newcastle, always drawing, painting, bringing every school assignment back to some elaborate header or graphic kind of detail. I moved to Sydney to study Visual Communications at UTS and it all came full cycle in my final year where my major project was focused on mixed-scale lettering installations. You could say it’s all coming into an even bigger cycle still, as a lot of the word play and texture work I’ve been developing really throws back to when I was very young… it’s a long trip but it’s working out!

Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

I’ve come to be really inspired by a lot of the people I work alongside, which isn’t always about the exact style of work they produce but the where, why, how long they’ve worked and pushed themselves to do better, different, or totally new things. On a totally other angle, I really love looking to things outside of the illustration and type worlds. I look at a lot of editorial styling, fashion design, jewellery design, graffiti and architecture.

I see you worked for a year in Berlin. How was that?

 Super challenging but also super rewarding. I met some really amazing illustrators and other artists who made me shape up and deal with what I really want out of all of this. I hate admitting it but I need a certain level of comfort to make good work, but you always need to be challenged or else there’s just no point.

I love how your work is simultaneously classic and ultra-modern. How do you think those elements work together in typography?

Type has existed for so long in so many forms that there will always be classic elements to it, but I also feel for that very reason there’s so much room to push it and play with it. I think that I often use a bit of a bootleg-Futura with really graphic textures which brings the two together, so it’s not that I’m reinventing lettering, but rather the scene that the message is sitting in.

You work with a range of mediums on both small and large scale projects. Do you think it’s important as an artist to continually mix things up?

I worked really hard to create a visual language of my own that could translate across a lot of mediums and still be seen as ‘mine’ – my style, instantly recognisable as a ‘Georgia Hill’ thing. I initially studied Visual Communications as I could never decide exactly what I wanted to do. My work has involved all sorts and hopefully soon I’ll be on to large scale installations taking over spaces, art direction and so on. Every time the scope changes my work is pushed that bit more too, which really is the whole point.

Do you believe street art can make a difference to urban city life? How does it feel to be making your mark?

Oh for sure. I find people really open up to street art when they see a style they like. It can range from being something someone sees once, to changing their whole day, the way they walk to work, what they think about an area, how a whole town is seen. I love the context for each person is so different and how the effect keeps developing with time. 

Thanks for what you do! Any final advice for budding artists out there?

Get on with it! It takes a lot of time to find your own style but the sooner you just get the ball rolling, you’ll start to find your role. Draw, paint, talk to other artists, cold email even though you usually feel like a goose. I feel like I spent a few years putting off doing all of this, which is exactly what I wanted all along. You grow up along the way, it all works out, it’s just better to start sooner than never at all!

Photo credit: Georgia Hill


Look Hear: It’s Travis Price

As the Look Hear festival approaches I had a chat with Travis Price, illustrator and creator of kids label Mister Mista. With more than ten years experience in graphic design, Travis is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of vector illustration and will be hosting a workshop in Digital Illustration on 12th December at The Lock Up, Newcastle, 10am – 1pm.

Let’s go back to the start. How did it all begin?

Like many it started as a kid, laying on the lounge floor and drawing in front the the TV. After finishing Year 12 I went on to Ballarat University and completed a three year design course.

Do you remember your first ever commission? How did it feel?

As a freelance illustrator my first commissioned work was with advertising agency Leo Burnett creating a set of diagram illustrations of how to cut your Christmas Ham that was printed on a cotton Ham Bag for David Jones. Seems funny looking back, but you have to start somewhere and I was stoked to be working with such a respected agency.

Tell us about Mister Mista. What inspired you to design cool clothes for kids?

After making the transition to Freelance Illustrator I decided I wanted to chase my dream of creating t-shirt graphics. We’d just had our first son Oscar. I knew it would give me invaluable experience but never anticipated the doors it would open in regards to my apparel industry. It also made me get better and faster in Illustrator and really helped build my folio.

Your work has a rebellious streak. What values underlie it?

I grew up in the 90’s and was heavenly influenced by Mambo. I think that tongue in cheek approach has stayed with me in relation to my own character work. I like my characters to be cool but a little rough around the edges be it crooked teeth or even smoking.

Do you have a process for creating your characters? Who’s your favourite?

The process always changes. Sometimes I think of their back story, e.g. what music would they listen to? What movies would they watch? Also I like to choose animals that aren’t obvious, like the weasel mascot I did for a recent AnyForty tee. My favourite character is Ozzie the multi eyed monster. He was my first design for Mister Mista and it still makes me smile.

Your work is incredibly diverse. I’m starting to wonder if there’s anything you can’t do. Is an important as an artist to keep pushing your boundaries?

There’s still a lot I can’t do but I have a go at most things. I find realistic illustration of people really gets me out of my comfort zone but if that’s what the clients needs that’s what I’m going to do. To make a living from illustration I’ve found I need to have a diverse range of styles. That being said I think I’d get bored doing the same style everyday.

I notice a lot of playful pop culture references in your work. How do you keep a sense of humour when managing a heavy work load?

Something I’ve learnt about myself over the last ten years is that I need to do fun little self initiated briefs along with my client work to keep myself creatively happy. I think all creatives need an outlet or side project. For me it being involved in group shows or creating fun art prints to sell online.

We’re excited for your Digital Illustration Workshop at Look Hear next month. Until then, do you have one piece of advice for all the budding artists out there?

Build your folio with self initiated briefs of the type of work you’d like to do. You don’t get the dream job without the folio to back it up.

Photo credit: Carl Morgan

The Novacastrian World of Coffee

When I arrived in Newcastle I was thrilled to discover its assortment of cafés and boutiques. I felt spoilt for choice at the huge variety of quirky little places to enjoy a coffee or to buy locally crafted jewellery. But as I began to settle in I learnt from the locals that Newcastle hadn’t always been as vibrant as it is today. It seems that the last five years have been crucial in Newcastle’s development with more independent businesses opening their doors and art galleries popping up around the city. So as the café culture begins to boom how can we distinguish the truly great places for our daily fix?

Tristan Harries, proprietor of Welsh Blacks and one of the city’s most reputable baristas, tells me that running his first business is “exceeding expectations; the satisfaction definitely outweighing any challenges.” Welsh Blacks is situated in Cooks Hill where Tristan is pleased to have discovered a huge community. He has received a vast amount of support since opening his doors less than six months ago and reflects on the experience so far: “I’m passionate about coffee, period. But it’s a bit like playing sport in that passion doesn’t make you an athlete. Commercial reality sets in and you realise that running a business takes compromise, but I’m finding fulfilment in working beyond my comfort zone.

“Good companies,” he continues, “are driven from the top down. What we experience in great establishments is the presence of the owner who genuinely cares for the staff, the customers and, of course, the coffee.”

The same can be said for Kenneth Blackman, at Xtraction Expresso, known for his consistent, high-quality coffee. He notes the changes in Newcastle over the years and how they have affected him as a business owner: “Five years ago the city was dying, but the locals have brought it back to life. Since reopening fourteen months ago I saw that everybody had a fresh enthusiasm; efforts are now being made to beautify Newcastle and many new places are opening and thriving.”

He adds, “I expect the growth will continue which is good news for strong businesses. It all depends on who you’ve got working behind the machine. After all, great coffee doesn’t just happen.”

The fact that coffee is an art shouldn’t be understated. It is a long journey from bean to cup and it is the responsibility of the barista to ensure that every step taken is worth it. “People are looking for an experience,” explains Kenn. “We have to take it to another level with alternative brewing methods, better quality beans and an explanation of where they are grown.”

This kind of authenticity is what gives a café its soul. It takes more than a coffee machine and a few tables to create a space where people can encounter such virtuosity. Here passion is a part of the infrastructure; it keeps the place alive.

Whilst Tristan and I were discussing the complexities of exceptional coffee he revealed: “There’s an incorrect assumption about coffee that you’re just pouring milk into a cup. A key element of standing out is understanding that it’s much more than that. I love everything about coffee; working with my hands and using all my senses. Here, coffee is where it starts and ends.”

So if you’re still searching for great coffee, look no further. There’s no need to settle for less when here in our city we have cafés like these; not only will you find first-class coffee, but it will be served with a smile and an extra dose of enthusiasm. If the caffeine doesn’t perk you up, the service sure will.

Photo credit: Welsh Blacks


Hit The Bricks

I met with graphic designer Carl Morgan one sunny afternoon to talk about the upcoming Hit the Bricks festival taking place in Newcastle. This one-of-a-kind street art event had only recently crept up on my radar and I was eager to find out more. You may have heard of Look Hear, the over-arching project run by Carl and his colleague Lara Schubert at Zookraft, which invites established designers to exhibit their work alongside younger, emerging street artists;

“A mammoth project,” Carl comments, “that we undertake for the love of street art.”

It all began at a local pub where artists would meet to discuss their ideas, but gradually evolved into a solid platform of presentations, workshops and a nationwide festival taking place in our city in November. Hit the Bricks, brought to us by Carl and local artist Sally Bourke, made its debut in 2013 as something quite unlike anything Newcastle had seen before. Carl admits, “We all had to take a leap of faith and encourage people to believe in what we envisaged. A lot of the public were confused about the difference between street art and graffiti, but this year people know what to expect. We’ve come across very few hurdles; everyone is enthusiastic and receptive to the work.”

After my conversation with mural artist Trevor Dickinson earlier this week I was starting to really think about what made street art so important. I wondered if it was the rebellious aspect of street art that made it so popular, giving creative people an opportunity to express themselves by subverting the status-quo. Carl muses, “Perhaps in the beginning but I think artists have evolved, making street art into something much more important. It humanises the industrial environment, beautifies buildings, creates landmarks… we need things to stand out or everything ends up being ordinary.”

As it happens what I find most extraordinary about street art, or moreover the artists themselves, is their willingness to accept the impermanent nature of their work. In the city things are always changing, moving, evolving; street art reflects that transitory quality to the very core and perhaps it is this which draws us towards it.

“Street art is more about the process,” Carl tells me. “That, and people’s reaction to it. Like anything else it has a life span. It reflects the vibrancy the city has to offer.”

So unlike the concrete buildings street artists use as their canvas the art is not made to last; it exists only in the moment which, to me, is what makes it so remarkable.

Hit the Bricks is scheduled from 22th – 24th November. You can find out more information about the artists and locations at Look Hear.

Photo credit: Adnate at Hit the Bricks 2013 by Newcastle Herald

Trevor Dickinson: The Man Behind Our Murals

I was looking forward to meeting Trevor Dickinson, the man behind the murals we all know and admire on our way to the beach. I’m new to the city but already familiar with the artwork that is iconic among many Novacastrians and, as I was about to find out, for very good reason.

It turns out that Trevor is from England, like me, so we immediately bond over our mutual longing for nice old English pub. He moved to Newcastle 12 years ago from London and found the transition quite trying to begin. Going out to draw the city enabled him to get to know, and develop affection for, the suburban sprawl of Newcastle. He describes the city as “down to Earth, unpretentious… it’s definitely got soul. I like how the locals have a sense of humour and appreciate the way I see Newcastle.”

Trevor is most well-known for his tunnel murals at Newcastle and, as of this winter, Merewether beach. The bright and entertaining design has transformed these sterile spaces into something quite spectacular. Trevor notes that the tunnels were previously just “urban structures to get from A to B, but the art has made people look and take notice of the space. It’s been turned into something completely different just with paint and filled up with something special.” But his talent extends further than just the tunnels and has also reached Mayfield swimming pool and Newcastle Museum where Trevor has installed huge walls of fun illustrations for people to pose with and have their photo taken. With his work Trevor aims not only to inspire but to entertain and simply make people laugh.

The largest project he has undertaken yet is the recent installation of The Amazing Merewether Aquarium. He admits “the scale of the project scared me; it was going to be more detailed than anything I’d done before.” But he has pulled it off with outstanding results. The Merewether mural took four weeks to design and over two and a half months to paint with, for the first time, the help of his friends and some very special celebrity guests. If you look closely you will notice the dazzling input of Newcastle artist John Earle and statue of surfing legend Mark Richards alongside his autograph. Trevor’s motivation is to create art which reflects “the town the locals know” so he incorporated familiar landmarks within his design for people to recognise, from the ‘all I want to do is surf’ sign to the old beach house and diving blocks. During our conversation Trevor told me he likes how Newcastle is made up of both the old and new, a concept which has made its way into the mural. Those who are more familiar with the Merewether tunnel will recognise the man walking his dog, painted by Michael Bell in 1998, which together they decided to elaborate on with a pet shark rather than eradicate. Many locals appreciate this gesture telling him “I’m so glad you didn’t paint over the dog, my kids love the dog!”

If you haven’t done so yet you’ve got to head to the beach to check out Trevor’s stunning masterpiece; try and spot your favourite landmark whilst kids run about and pose with the scary sea-monster emerging from the ocean depths. This interaction with the mural is what Trevor had in mind when he spent four weeks designing it; he envisaged young people growing up with it and remembering how they used to touch the ‘press for waves’ button on their way to the surf. “Ultimately,” he says, “the work ends up being a fixture. I’ve created something that’s going to stick with people whatever happens to the wall itself.”

So don’t miss out and see if you can spot Trevor’s mark around the city. We’d love to see photos of you posing as Newcastle’s ‘Most Attractive Couple’ or attempting to walk a dinosaur, so send them in or post them on Newcastle Productions Facebook page. The rest of Trevor’s work can be found on his website as he continues to create art inspired by the city, responding to it in a way which is original, surprising and utterly delightful.

Find more of Trevor’s work at Newcastle Productions.

Photo credit: Trevor Dickinson

Yarn Bombing: It Takes Balls

What do you get when you cross a street artist and a pair of knitting needles? The answer can be found on Hunter Street where ordinary sign posts have undergone a makeover; adorned with beautifully knitted outfits to brighten up the daily commute. Yarn bombing, otherwise known as yarn storming, guerrilla knitting or kniffiti, is a style of street art that uses colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn rather than the traditional method of paint. The woolly wonder is thought to have arisen over in the US in 2005 when Texan shop owner Madga Sayeg was inspired to decorate the door handle to her boutique with a custom-made cosy. It attracted so much attention from passers-by that Sayeg decided to take it to the next level… by yarn bombing an entire bus. Her work has since been exhibited around the world in Milan’s Triennale Design Museum, Le M.U.R. in Paris and the National Gallery of Australia. A yarn bombing explosion, you might say.

Despite connotations yarn bombing is decidedly inoffensive and unlike other forms of graffiti it can be easily removed if necessary. Far from aggravating anybody it actually makes people smile and brightens up areas that were otherwise sterile and dull. Yarn bombing hasn’t caused a ruckus because, let’s face it, it’s just pretty darn cute.

But perhaps there is something more to yarn bombing than meets the eye, pleasant though it is to look at. Could this put a new spin on conventional protesting? I introduce to you Knit Your Revolt, a network of knitters who use the power of craft to unravel society’s misconception of weak women and “other crazyarse notions.” The group’s Facebook page goes on to explain how they “consciously use art ­forms that have gender expectations to highlight many other ridiculous assumptions afoot in the world today relating to gender identity and… other fields of generally bizarro inequity or injustice.” Early this year the group protested in Queensland against Campbell Newman’s ‘anti-bikie’ laws by forming the Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang and riding around rallies on yarn covered tricycles and handing out cupcakes. The idea behind such demonstrations is clear; fight absurdity with absurdity; ridicule has become the new rage.

Above all however yarn bombing is a delightful way for people to express themselves, be a little rebellious and add a bit more colour to our cities. It’s open to anyone, men and women of all ages and interests, and unites us all in the name of silliness and stitching. So next time you walk through Newcastle and spot a bicycle rack clad in pink and purple stripes, smile and be inspired.