Artist Profile – Potion X

You may know him from his murals on walls and skate parks around Perth, but Potion X, most recent winner of the Art Games, originally hails from Sydney. Potion X made the journey to Perth a few years, where he now works as a freelance illustrator, muralist and youth worker. We chatted to him about his Art Games win, his 10 years experience in different fields of art, and where he sees himself in the future.

 

Q: What is your art background? Have you done any formal art training or are you self-taught?

Potion X: I’ve grown up drawing for as long as I can remember but I specifically started graffiti writing when I was about 12 years old, and picked up a spray can at 13. I’ve always loved cartoon style characters growing up so I usually incorporated them into my graffiti pieces but as I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to drift more towards just characters and pictures, instead of having words/letters as my main focus. I’ve done one semester at Curtin University studying Illustration but I didn’t find it very satisfying so I decided to drop out and learn on my own. Growing up I never had any formal training although I have had many older graffiti writers teach me little tricks here and there and over time I developed my own style and sharpened my skills.

Q: Your art and illustrations have different creatures, some colour, some black and white etc. Do you plan/sketch out your illustrations or do you just let creativity take over?

Potion X: It’s usually just free styled off the top of my head, I find I work better when I’m left to work with what I’ve got and improvise, especially when I make mistakes I try to use them to my advantage. Although for commissioned jobs there is always more planning and experimentation done.

Q: You work as a youth worker in addition to being a freelance illustrator- do you ever use art with the kids you work with?

Potion X: Yes, all the time actually, it’s a great way to connect with young people and help them express themselves through the arts.

Q: What sparked the move from Sydney to Perth? How do the two art scenes compare?

Potion X: I originally moved over to work as a welder, which I did for about a year before quitting and pursuing my love for art. Sydney is definitely busier and more happening in regards to the art scene but I find there are more opportunities here in Perth. Plus I like the slower pace lifestyle.

Q: How did you find the Art Games? Were they nerve wracking or normal- considering you often work on large walls / canvas?

Potion X: At first it definitely was, I wouldn’t of considered it if it wasn’t for my friend Sam (RLSM) encouraging me to give it a crack.

Q: How was it competing against RLSM in the final? Did it make the stakes higher or was it fun to be up there with a friendly face?

Potion X: Had a blast, was great fun.

Q: Where can we see your wall illustrations around Perth?

Potion X: Skate parks, Northbridge, Cockburn, Morley, Victoria Park, just to name a few. I can’t really recall all of them.

 Q: Where do you see your art taking you in the future?

Potion X: I’d love to be able to get large scale wall commissions for my style of art and it would also be awesome to be able to travel through my mural work. I also enjoy youth work, so I’d love to be able to continue to teach and encourage young people.

 

For more information on Potion X please visit his website at www.thepotionx.com

 

Artist Profile – Jenna Downing

Coming from a family that includes a portrait artist, an oil painter, a cabinet maker, a dressmaker and an Opa that makes Dutch street organs from scratch, it’s no wonder Jenna Downing is good with her hands. After graduating from Curtin with Honours in Art in 2010, Jenna has been heavily involved in the Perth art scene. You may have seen her sketching at the zoo or the museum, or getting crafty at Artifactory. She was chosen to play in the Art Games after being plucked from the audience watching for a previous round, where she sat sketching on her tablet, and ended up winning the 2013 Spring Series! We spoke to Jenna about her win, her transition from illustrator to all-round creator and where she’s headed (hint: it’s the stars).

Q: Have you been artistic your whole life or is it something that you discovered later on?

Jenna: 
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon and was always encouraged by my family. Starting young, you can get a lot of the basic learning and experimentation over with early. There have been a few professional artists in the family so there was no helping it, really. 

Q: You began your artistic life as an illustrator but have since transitioned to concept designer and prop builder, what sparked that change?

Jenna:
 I’ve always liked making things with my hands and dabbled in sculpture whenever I could. Eventually people started asking me to illustrate their ideas for specific objects or installations, and then giving me the opportunity to take those concepts from drawing to real-life creation. The transition really started at Perth Artifactory after I graduated from university. I worked on some props for the first Great Steampunk Affaire and met some valuable friends and collaborators along the way.

Q: Can you describe the Artifactory and the type of work you’ve been producing there?

Jenna:
 The Perth Artifactory is a shared workshop that is totally member-run and member-funded. It is available for anyone to join up and start making things. There are tools and facilities for woodworking, metalworking, traditional crafts, sound and electronics.. Anything, really. The major tech draw-cards are our 3D printer and laser cutters. We welcome artists, engineers, programmers and musicians alike; anyone who is interested in learning and sharing new skills.

Q: How has the Art Games experience influenced your art and your view on the art scene in Perth?

Jenna:
 I am already confident that Perth is continuing to grow and support artists. When I first started university it seemed like the only options were to graduate and move to Melbourne for art, or switch to engineering. The Perth art scene is booming and Art Games is certainly doing its part to help the younger artists get a leg-up in terms of community and experience.

Q: How did you feel competing in the Art Games, was it nerve-racking up on the stage or are you comfortable in front of a crowd?

Jenna:
 I have been part of the Perth sketch group for quite a while; and when you draw in cafes, galleries, museums or zoos you will inevitably have people occasionally looking over your shoulder. I have previously produced larger works on-stage or in public so I am more confident in front of a crowd than most of the other contestants, but it’s only a matter of practice. Eventually you learn to ignore your own nervousness and focusing on what you’re doing.

Q: Did you have any idea what you would paint before your round of the Art Games, or did you make it up as you went along?

Jenna:
 I did have a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve when I stepped up to the canvas, though that idea would inevitably change many times in the days leading up to the event. I think most of the contestants will be familiar with the feeling.

Q: You and your brother are part of Evil Genius in Residence- what projects are you involved with under that umbrella?

Jenna:
 Evil Genius in Residence is a personal project that started as a fun way to put all our mad-inventor-style ideas into a more cohesive format involving a comic strip and novel inventions. Now that I am taking a break from producing props for other people, I am keen to get back to shaping the project into something that resembles our original plans.

Q: You’re skilled in many different art forms, do you have a favourite or do you work best in different mediums?

Jenna: I have been making props almost full-time for the last few years but I have to admit I’m still better at drawing things than I am at making them. I am always learning new skills but the old ones are always the smoothest.

Q: Are you working on any big projects at the moment?

Jenna:
 I am actually pleased to say that I don’t have any huge projects looming. I am working part-time to give me the head-space to review what I have done so far and look at some personal projects that have been on the back-burner for too long.

Q: Is art your only hobby- or do you have others? It’s been said you have ‘hidden talents’- what are they?

Jenna: 
I have too many hobbies! My greatest asset and my greatest weakness is that I have this drive to Learn All The Things! Many creative types will be familiar with this struggle. Some people consider welding and radical bicycle-modification a hidden talent, others call it an essential life-skill. I love dance and acrobatics, and have found an outlet in Capoeira (editors note: a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music). Through working with circus performers on various production aspects, I have found some very interesting things to learn. If I get enough practice at something it goes into the bag of tricks. One day calculus will be in there too.

Q: What do you see your ideal ‘career’ as- are you happy with dabbling in all different forms like you do now or do you plan on gaining a more concrete job?

Jenna: That’s a sticky one- and one I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. When I was younger I wanted to animate for Disney, but have realised that would probably be quite limiting and tedious. I’d love to work on larger scale productions like Cirque du Soleil or bigger festivals that have a more immersive experience.

For more on Jenna Downing, visit her website evilgeniusinresidence.com.au or keep your eye on Art Lab’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Artist Profile – Hayley Welsh

Artist, illustrator, children’s book writer and Art Games winner Hayley Welsh has just finished a good old-fashioned American road trip, but this one had a purpose. During her journey, Hayley collected forgotten objects from scrap yards and op shops and got creative with them; the pieces culminated in an exhibition in New York City titled Little Voices. We asked Hayley about her journey, her Art Games win and the meaning behind her artworks.

 

Q: Why do you paint on old objects that you’ve found- rather than the usual canvas or paper?

Hayley: I like the energy created when art is placed or made from something thrown out or forgotten. Making something beautiful or moving from a broken piece if wood, thrown out metal or run down wall, is exciting for me and reminds us all to make the most and see the beauty in what a lot of us take for granted.

Q: You’ve previously said that creating is your therapy, and your latest body of work has the theme of ‘self-doubt’ and listening to one’s inner ‘voice’ and emotions- do the little creatures you often illustrate represent some of your inner thoughts and voices?

Hayley: Yeah, the little creatures reflect the voices inside our heads – mainly the two: love and fear. As I paint, I try to figure out which voice is which through my art. They can both sound similar at times, but I think it’s really important to ignore fear and follow love in our lives, and I try to reflect and remind my audience this within my paintings.

Q: You moved here not long ago from the UK, why did you choose Perth?

Hayley: I think Australia and Perth in particular is such an exciting place. It’s full of so much potential, especially for the arts and culture and seems to be growing every day. I am just excited to be part of it.

Q: You recently travelled from San Fran to New York, painting along the way for an eventual exhibition titled ‘Little Voices’ in NY- why did you choose to do that?

Hayley: I think it’s really important to push yourself as an artist and throw yourself into difficult and stressful situations. I know that’s when I see some of my best work appear.

Q: How was that experience?

Hayley: It was the most challenging project I’ve ever done. Most days we were driving, so to get the paintings done in time for the show, I would have to literally paint as the bus was moving. I’ve never done that before and it often made me feel awful motion sickness, but I pushed though, ignoring the voices in my head saying I couldn’t do it, and just listened to my passion. As much as it was difficult, it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, as well as the most rewarding.

Q: How did being on the road affect your work? Did you notice a difference in what you were producing compared to when you are in the one place?

Hayley: I try not to focus so much on the technique of my work but more why I’m doing it. That’s the ‘standard’ I try to focus on. The passion of why I was creating work on my latest project was so strong that it was some of my best work I’ve ever done.

Q: Painting on the go (and on the road) is similar to the Art Games set up- where you create something without spending a huge amount of time on it, is that how you work best?

Hayley: Sometimes I spend days on a piece, but sometimes I can create something equally as good in 60 minutes. Like I mentioned I focus on why I am creating the image rather than on the technique I use to create it. The length of time and amount of ‘detail’ I put into each piece really depends on what I’m trying to say in that particular piece. I do seem to work better under pressure though. I like to push myself.

Q: What was competing with the Art Games like, was it nerve-racking up there or are you comfortable in front of a crowd?

Hayley: I kind of liked working in front of a crowd. It’s a change from working alone in my studio. It was like a performance showing people what I do. I think once you come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like your art and you’re okay with that, because that is what art is, it’s kind of refreshing and exciting to do. Like skinny dipping – not everyone is going like what they see but you got to put it out there – we’re all different and that’s okay!

Q: Did you have any idea of what you would paint before the games, or did you make it up as you went along?

Hayley: I did plan what I was going to do for each piece. For the first two rounds I had already practiced painting the pieces first at home in my studio, so I could make sure I could finish in time and because I wasn’t used to painting on white canvases.  Also I’m not so great with time keeping and didn’t want to leave a painting unfinished. But for my final piece in the grand finals, it was the first time I had painted the piece. I had an idea in mind but hadn’t even sketched it out. I honestly never thought I get into the final so didn’t bother practicing, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. It was more exciting that way and the final painting ended up being more spontaneous and I was able to throw myself into it more. Luckily it turned out ok

For more on Hayley go to www.hayleywelsh.com, or http://www.hayleywelshusaproject.wordpress.com