‘My mother could draw – she won a scholarship to go to art school in England. Her mother pulled her out and made her go and do a job that she really hated somewhere. It’s terrible.
‘My father really should have been an academic but, through all sorts of things – poverty and a long story – ended up not being able to do that but going into various types of business. He eventually ended up doing what he wanted. He was a writer historian and wrote the Pictorial History of Newtown. That’s my dad, Alan Sharpe. He was a historian but a creative and imaginative person. He wasn’t a visual artist, but I feel that I got my art thing from him.
‘Even though they had gone bankrupt at one stage and had very little money, they were still anxious to do everything they could to help me do what I wanted in life.
‘I haven’t done anything else but art all of my life. I was the only person in my school who didn’t do maths or science for the HSC because I knew that I wasn’t going to be interested in either of them. I went straight from school to art school.
‘To earn a living, I was an artist model and taught part-time. I’ve never had a full-time job except now with painting which is fabulous, but I always just accepted poverty back then.
‘Creativity and the arts are something you’ll have all your life and it’s never wasted. It is enrichment that is forever.
‘Life is chance. You do make your own luck but only to an extent. If you’re out there doing stuff it’s far more likely to happen. It is chance – that’s chaos theory. That’s scary but it’s also good.
‘You have to put yourself out there or nothing will happen. You can’t guarantee if you do all these things that this will happen; it may not, but you’ve got to give it a go.
‘One of my favourite quotes is from Picasso: “Inspiration exists but it has to find us working.”’
‘I’d broken up with my fiancée and suddenly realised I was by myself. It was just me and I thought, well, I don’t need much. At the same time I was also dealing with stress anxiety from working a lot and the lifestyle that comes with that. Even though nobody was pressuring me in the slightest, I felt that way. I felt that you’ve got to live a certain way to make your parents proud and your friends happy.
‘I studied a bit of art when I was a teenager and had left it for about 20 years. When I started it again about two years ago, I found it very meditative and felt very stress free. I realised how much I missed it and that this is my real love.
‘I left all my jobs. One of the biggest challenges of doing that was the fear of whether I would be good enough as an artist because you honestly don’t know. It’s not always about skill level in art either – it’s about finding your own voice and your own style and telling a story through it.
‘At my age, it’s hard to get back in to paid employment – trying to apply for a job when you’ve left it for two years – they’ll take someone who’s currently working in the field and a younger person as well. There was always that risk. If I had kids and a mortgage I wouldn’t do it because you do it for your kids – you work. I can be a little bit selfish because it’s just me. I can’t go out every night with friends and go to fancy restaurants but I get to do what I love every day.’
‘I grew up in a creative home & started painting young. Both my parents were artists. Dad’s a sculptor. My mum did study art but went on to study architecture.
‘My mum’s graphic drawing probably influenced my early work more than my current work. I’ve always been quite obsessed with architecture and buildings. My dad’s taught me things over the years – techniques and ideas. He’s good to talk to about art as he’s got a pretty good understanding. I’ve learnt art history and some of that kind of stuff from him as well – just in all the natural ways your parents influence you.
‘I started out writing much more traditional graffiti so I was working with letter structures and formations. It was quite sharp, aggressive, very technical. About 4-5 years ago, the graffiti thing started to get a little bit old for me & I found the structure of traditional graffiti quite restrictive. I was studying art at the time & was doing oil paintings so it was like marrying my oil paintings with my graffiti work. I lost the letter structure completely & started to experiment with figure work & landscape works. It took a few years to get direction but it’s definitely evolved a lot.’
How do you work the concepts on your walls around the Inner West?
‘Sometimes I have ideas in the back of my mind but need to find the right wall. Mostly however, I like to react to space. If I have a wall lined up, I’ll take photographs of it. I’ll play around with different compositions. Everything is very much designed to fit in that space. Sometimes the trees surrounding the walls can influence the way you lay out your composition – the street, the sky, the buildings behind it. Everything can play a part. I think that’s pretty important when you’re a street artist. You’ve got to react to your environment.
‘I’ve got a lot of walls in the Inner West lined up – it’s just finding time to actually paint them and getting funding as well. Hopefully this year I’ll paint about 10 new murals in the Inner West. I’m going to be working overseas quite a lot as well. Just when I’m home I’ll do what I can. I’m going to be back in Europe & America – and in New Zealand as well which is exciting.’
What’s been the best part of working overseas for you personally?
‘Probably just the people I’ve met over the last couple of years. I’ve met really good, interesting people. For me, that’s probably my favourite thing about travelling and working. It’s been so nice to be able to go somewhere and leave your mark a little bit as well. It’s good to be immersed with local artists & local people. Sometimes you’re up a lift & out of the way but sometimes people chat, watch & take photographs. It’s kind of cool being able to produce work & interact with the community at the same time. You get a direct response & a direct feel. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated sometimes as well even if you are just a visual polluter in many ways!’
‘I knew of a person who passed away for a small period of time and then was revived. They weren’t religious or anything but they said they felt that while they were gone for a while they turned in to an owl that could see in to their sister’s house. Then I maybe thought they’re kind of like gods or icons. That’s the inspiration behind my designs but then it became more just putting them around so they’re recognisable.’
Do you believe in an afterlife?
‘I’m not too sure – probably not at this stage. I think we go to where we came from before we were born.’