I was born in England but immigrated to Australia with my family when I was 2 years old.
We moved around constantly when I was a kid. South-East Queensland was our playground. From the dry, red dirt of country towns like St George and Goombungee, across the Darling Downs to the sun, surf and sand of the Gold Coast, I lived in a different house nearly every year of my childhood. It’s no wonder that I used to feel a little lost.
Both my parents were school teachers. In fact, my father taught me during grade four. That was when we were living in Toowoomba. And, it was while I was in primary school that I met a friend who introduced me to Commando Comics and the music of Iron Maiden. We were both attracted to the band’s album artwork which featured their mascot Eddie – an iconic corpse-like, punk character. I had no idea who the artist was (Derek Riggs) but it was at that precise moment that I decided I wanted to create art just like that.
I went to three different schools and struggled to maintain friendships until my family eventually settled on the Gold Coast during the mid-eighties. It was about this time that my parents expected me to start paying my own way and I picked up some weekend work as a checkout operator, trolley boy and shelf packer at the local supermarket.
I was the eldest of three kids. My brother was a good swimmer and my sister was into gymnastics. I played a bit of soccer and cricket but I derived more enjoyment from comics, 2000AD in particular. The mix of sci-fi, horror and humorous stories along with the eye-catching artwork seemed to strike a chord with me plus it provided an escape from the monotony of school and everyday life.
Even though I grew up in Australia, my parents retained a strong interest in all things British. Whether it was TV shows, movies, music – it didn’t matter. It probably explains why I fell in love with shows like The Goodies and Doctor Who. We certainly didn’t watch American shows or listen to American music although, if I was lucky, I occasionally got to watch an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. As it turns out I didn’t discover many seminal eighties TV shows, movies and music that my peers were into until a little later in life, much to the amusement and frustration of those that know me now.
To this day I still havn’t seen Beverley Hills Cop, Police Academy, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun and the list goes on. I do vaguely remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back at the cinema and I love the original Star Wars trilogy but my most vivid recollection is that of seeing the 1984 movie, The Terminator. That movie blew him away. I was definitely under age but managed to get in with a friend and it was like the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. That was soon followed by Gremlins, Robocop and Predator.
Music wise, the first cassette I remember spending my hard earned pocket money on was The Cure’s 1985 album, The Head On The Door. I liked the song In Between Days and I loved the the music video for Close To Me; the one where the band was stuck inside a cupboard that was perched on the edge of a cliff before it falls into the sea.
That was soon followed by the 1988 album, Seventh Son of A Seventh Son by Iron Maiden. Quite clearly, the cover art was still able to capture my imagination. However, if I’d wanted to look cool I should have been listening to Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘n’ Roses but I refused to go with the crowd and still do.
Music has always played an important aspect in my life, especially because it is usually playing in the background while I’m painting, drawing or designing. It was during one of my high school art classes that I first discovered New Order. My art teacher invited students to bring along their own cassette mix tapes. One day I heard Blue Monday 1988. A remix of a 1983 song which I later learned was the biggest selling dance record of the eighties.
There was something about the cold, electronic drum beats and synthesised noises that I connected with. I then went on to buy New Order’s 1989 album, Technique which is still one of my all time favourite records. I now have pretty much everything that the Manchester band has ever put out. Like many things in life, one thing leads to another and my taste in music evolved to incorporate a variety of styles including indie, punk, shoegaze, goth, electronic and post-rock.
After leaving high school, I was accepted into an animation course at the Queensland College of Art which meant I had to leave the Gold Coast and move to Brisbane to live but I found it hard to cope with being away from home and called it quits after only a month or two. Returning to the Gold Coast, I tried working at a fast food outlet which only lasted a couple of weeks before getting another job in retail. I took on numerous tasks from stacking chicken manure in the garden department to mixing paint in the hardware section. You could say I was multi-talented.
All this while I saved money to do part-time study at the Commercial Art Training Centre where I successfully completed a Certificate of Graphic Art course, although opportunities for work were few and far between on the Gold Coast. I tried getting work experience at a number of surf wear companies but my efforts were in vain. It was around this time that I decided to create my own surf wear brand, Funky Karma which was sold on consignment by local shops to varying degrees of success, but the cost of making my own stuff made it hard to compete with already established brands. Down but not out, I continued to save more money before moving out of home to Brisbane where I made a second attempt at furthering my studies at the Queensland College of Art.
1994 was a big year for me. Not only did I officially leave home, I also remember that it was the year that actor, Brandon Lee died during the filming of The Crow, a movie that still resonates with me to this day.
Kurt Cobain also took his own life just as his band Nirvana were about to hit the big time. His death, in some ways, mirrored that of Ian Curtis, the lead singer with post-punk outfit Joy Division who later went on to form New Order. Funny how things move in circles like that. Anyway your mid-twenties are such an important time in your life. I studied hard and partied even harder. All the while supporting my studies with casual employment in retail.
By the end of 1995 I had successfully completed an Associate Diploma in Commercial Art and decided to stay on to complete a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Graphic Design.
Looking back now it seems weird to think that computers were only starting to be used, the internet was in its infancy and social networking was unheard of. Geez, even the humble mobile phone had a long way to go. When I successfully completed my degree at the end of 1997 it was like I was stuck in limbo. At a crossroads. I had the opportunity to get a job designing the back of shopper dockets but I wasn’t prepared to start at the bottom and work my way to the top. Instead, I opted to pursue my own creative interests while returning to full-time work in retail.
And things haven’t changed that much since. I’ve learnt the ins and outs of computers, how to create digital artwork and designs and make my own websites. Some stuff has worked, some stuff hasn’t. I certainly haven’t found a way to make a living from just being an artist and doing what I love. But on the plus side I have met a wonderful lady who keeps me in check and we have two beautiful children who always remind me about what’s important in life as I continues my pursuit of creative freedom and artistic integrity in the face of adversity.
Click here to see a full list of my achievements.