-How I came to find my style
As I sit here to write about where it all began, I'm caught up in early childhood memories of being intensely loved yet surrounded by violence and instability. It is not for me to point blame at my family who always did the best that they could, in a struggling 1980s dock town.
So, Let‘s just say that my formative years were turbulent and by the time the ominous spectre of 2012 arrived with it’s Mayan doomsday predictions in tow, I was pretty messed up..
I was in a bad relationship, living from hand to mouth every day, trying to raise a baby and working for a bad cut with a long commute. I tried to get professional counselling but I was told that there was a 9 month wait before I could see anyone and I just sank down and down. Unfortunately for me, I was too good at masking after a lifetime of practice and I felt ashamed to ask for help when I could see that mental health services were so strapped in my home town. After all, I was self-sedating and keeping myself busy with opening Joe’s Custom Tattoo Studio, my current studio’s precursor, so I didn’t really let that stuff creep in if I could help it.
I was desperate for something to give and in winter 2013, it did. I found the strength to walk away from a hard relationship that should have ended years before.
So how does this tie in with finding my unique way to express creativity?
Well, after being so intensely demanded upon for several years, at first, I didn’t know where to start to try and pick up the pieces. I moved back into my Nan and Gramps’ spare bedroom and dived wholeheartedly into my artwork and getting out into the world to broaden my experience and bring some new energy into the shop.
On paper everything was going great. I had a strong business, with a name change to Vere Street Tattoos in 2014 that was more inclusive of another artist, my buddy, Dom Turner. My contact with my son became very regular and I had many wonderful periods of being a full time parent amongst work, finally able to be the parent that I wanted to be. I had also rekindled friendships and rebuilt familial relationships that had been neglected due to a perceived lack of autonomy. But still something was missing;
As much as there was a flurry of activity around me, I never felt truly part of it. In 2012 I’d heard about hallucinogenic Ayahuasca retreats which were making all sorts of promises to heal our connection to each other and our spirit. I always saw the expense prohibitive and I had reservations due to some religious baggage and the idea of cultural appropriation so it wasn’t until I’d heard that, familiar psilocybin mushrooms could be used in a similar fashion, that I really got on board with this idea to self medicate.
Psilocybin Truffles are available for purchase in Amsterdam so my quest lead me there armed with all the best intentions to seek healing and I wasn’t disappointed.
After the initial waviness and visions of golden gates, I headed down to my favourite Cafe, the Hill Street Blues, to sit in the warm, welcome gloom and get my pencils out.
It just so happened that I’d bought a tracing paper pad and armed with a blue pencil, I just allowed my intuition to guide and describe flows on the pages. As I was drawing, it was as though I was being cheered on by invisible voices when in this no-mind flow state, and as soon as I got involved the voices would jeer at me; the lines would knot up, I would take a breath, and turn a page.
And so it went for the entirety of the paper.
I closed the pages and looked down in my still wavy state and realised that unknowingly, the lines from scores of pages lined up and had a certain harmony, as though it was all drawn onto an invisible gridded pattern.
It blew my mind.
In this mess of lines, I could see the patterns on money, french curves and Gaudi architecture. I also had an intuition about certain Tattoo artists who must have used psilocybin, I could see it in their tattoos! *(A year later I was working in the states and found my intuition to be true when I had the chance to ask one of these great heroes of mine)* So it seemed to me that this creative force was a universal constant, an energy that can come through us when we relax and let it emerge.
It didn’t seem like it helped fix my problems of connection at first, if anything it set me upon another path that lead me away from the understanding of my peers. I wasn’t the best at communicating about this newly discovered phenomenon so it was natural that my friends and loved ones couldn’t relate.
Despite this lack of understanding, in the background, my tattooing took off beyond what I could have ever expected. Soon after Amsterdam, I travelled with my best friend and now long-time partner, Charl, to my first competition at a convention, fused together several styles of work that I enjoyed and managed to pick up my first award for best small colour!
After some advice from another artist from the show, I decided to dig into this new fusion of styles that I had created and endeavoured to use these new constraints to develop my own unique voice. I could use this format to collaborate with my customers, allowing them to choose the key idea of the piece, which I felt important for their long term love of their body art, but then I could go crazy with the space remaining. And so the Psychedelic Space Banger was born.
The best stuff appeared when I applied no-mind randomness to vibrant colour palettes and the more I did the more I began to appreciate my connection to the wonderful characters that came and got involved with my vision. To this day, my guys tell me how they see another of my tattoos out in public, easily recognisable by the style or from my social media, and it feels amazing to hear of camaraderie and friendships forged through the shared appreciation of this channelled weirdness.
As time went by, I felt the pressure to progress. Tattooing experienced an insane explosion in multi style tattoos and galaxy work, and when the ideas I had in order to progress,didn’t bear fruit, I became despondent. On the outside it appeared that I was experiencing great success; my books would close after one or two days of bookings, once every 3 months and I was always on the road taking the spacebangers on tour, but, I was losing touch with my long-standing clientele, and Dom left the shop in a sad state of affairs.
Feeling alone again, I dived into books and when the opportunity arose I tried to use the mushrooms to get back to that place where I could believe that I was deeply connected with something. I was looking to create, and I’ve got a few painted relics from those journeys but nothing came close to that initial realisation. In the end, looking at the bright lights became all encompassing and all of a sudden I felt rejected by the truffles and I got the feeling that I was missing some point here.
And then magic happened.
I found that one of my favourite modern visionary artists, Jonathan Solter was co-teaching a trimester in the Academy of Visionary Art in Vienna, Austria. And everything lined up perfectly. For the first time in a long time, I had some disposable income and my son now 5, also for the first time, would be absent for 3 months due to an arrangement that shared half term holiday time with his mother.
So off I went! With the blessing of my partner, we gave up our home and I put everything on the line to pursue my intuition and it was a game changer.
Firstly, all of these supposedly abstract ideas of channelling and of creativity as a universal force, were commonly held positions amongst my classmates and teachers. I cannot express enough my eternal gratitude for this passive validation. To relate and converse from this frame of reference was sweet honey to me and for the first time I could talk without feelings of doubt or self-consciousness.
Secondly, I had fantastic instruction. For the beginning half of the trimester, Jonathan proved to be a humble and patient teacher, a very easy going character and he guided me through one of my favourite paintings with care and valuable suggestions. As for the latter half, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I hadn’t known of Amanda Sage before turning up but I cannot imagine a more truly grounded, mystical, and magical artistic persona. She helped me learn to navigate and order my abstract ideas, sat me on her peace train and taught me the value and mission of our art, setting me on a quest to use my gifts to bring positivity into the world.
Finally, I had been connected through my teachers, to a rich lineage of artists with legendary Fantastic Realist, Ernst Fuchs, the original benefactor of the academy, taking pride of place as my spiritual art grandfather. Visiting the Fuchs Villa and absorbing the force of his massive intense works and standing around his massive bed with my art brothers and sisters changed me for good. I felt accepted by him, and to this day, many of his mantras stay with me, but none so much as:
‘Colour is Space’
Psychedelic Space evolved over the 4 years since then, a pivotal moment being the painting of a series of bottles which were left over from drinks with my best friends for my 30th birthday. I continue to refine my process, and it's surreal to be a bystander as it evolves with each new iteration.
These works are the treasured remains of my carousing with the source of creativity. May they stand as a testament to cosmic order and the creative spark that dwells in all of us.