FLIPPING THE SCRIPT ON THE ART GAME

MULGA reveals how he made his side hustle a full time gig.


Artists don’t talk about money or business, or so the old adage goes. MULGA finds that philosophy unrealistic. To him, art’s not precious and neither is the artist. Back in 2009, he was scrawling his side-hustle on Post-It notes whilst balancing spread sheets. Cut to countless hours of him slogging away in his garage; painting, drawing, mural designing and T-shirt making. Soon enough, documenting and sharing his work over social media landed him a sizeable online following. A firm believer in hard work paying off, he’s made use of his signature style to design psychedelic masterpieces for some of the biggest names in the biz (Slurpee, Coke, Carlton Draught--you name it). Current projects include submitting a portrait to the Archibald and revamping the Poké Bowl chain with all his hand painted, kaleidoscopic might.
MULGA and RECKON Mag catch up for a candid chat about knowing your worth, putting your work on the map and letting the good times roll.

On drawing at work:

“I bought one of those little round mirrors from Repco and I put it on my desk so I could see if my boss was sneaking up on me. It’s the worst look, drawing at work. It’s like, “Why are you drawing? Shouldn’t you be working? Haven’t you got something to do?” I drew on Post-It notes and I got my brother to take photos of them, and they’re my first posts on (my) blog.”

On realising that Art can be a job like any other:

“I found it hard to believe that you could be an artist full time. I always grew up believing that you’ve gotta go and get a proper office job with a stable income. I went to uni, got a Bachelor in Economics, and fell into a financial planning job. I was a paraplanner: I’d do the calculations, put the documents together. It was just a waste of time. I thought I’d get into finance, make some sweet money. But it didn’t really happen. I just got stuck in that low level job. I always liked drawing; I always carried around a sketch book. There’s heaps of books about ‘doing the job you love,’ so that got me a bit inspired. I guess I just kept reading until it built up. You get bombarded with the message. You slowly get convinced to do something.”

When that little guy was born, that’s when I quit. I had three kids and a wife to support. Not much pressure, you know!

MULGA the Artist

On giving financial planning the flick for the real deal:

“I always wanted to do a job I loved. So, I had to figure out a way to make money off my art. I had two jobs for two years: painting every night, going to the markets on weekends, doing live art during the weeknights, and then I’d go to my day job. I’d cut (paraplanning) down to four days. So I just… quit. I was doing some big art works for an art show and I thought I wasn’t going to get it done.

I was doing the markets on the weekends, so I figured that was kind of a stable income. I focused on making T-shirts. The bearded head was perfect for a T-shirt design. I wasn’t like, “Okay, I’m just going to do a painting and wonder how I’m gonna sell it or make money.” You think about the end result before you start.

When that little guy (MULGA’s youngest son) was born, that’s when I quit. I had three kids and a wife to support; not much pressure, you know! (Laughs). I guess I had a little bit of cash reserved. We sold our unit in Cronulla, so we had a bit of money in the bank.”

You see lots of people who are too embarrassed to share it: Who cares? Just start. If you’re gonna be crap now, you’ll get better.

MULGA the Artist

MULGA’s advice on pursuing your project:

“I think the key is you have to be realistic and practical. It’s all good and well to do something you love, but you’ve got to survive and live. You’ve gotta make money from it. It’s dirty work. I didn’t go to art school. You don’t have to go to art school to make art, you just do it. It’s not rocket science. Even kids are artists. Find your style, do it a lot, get good at it and then share it. You see lots of people who are too embarrassed to share it: who cares? Just start. If you’re gonna be crap now, you’ll get better. It’s always interesting to see the journey. Just don’t be a wuss. Just do it!”

art-piece-2
art-piece-1

On the inspiration for his work:

“I love Summer, swimming and surfing, going to the beach. You’ll find a lot of my characters look like they’re at the beach, with sunnies and stuff. And then you see lots of art. You incorporate lots of things from here and there. I just want to make art works that I’m interested in, really. Whenever I paint a mural, I get people to paint with me, kids or whatever. Anyone’s welcome, really. I put a post out and ask them to message me. Usually it’s other artists (who turn up), or people who are interested in murals and how to put them together.”

On the perks of Insta:

“I wouldn’t be a full time artist without Instagram, I don’t reckon. I don’t know how they did it back in the day without social, or even email. I link my Instagram to my everything, so now I post to Instagram which goes to my LinkedIn and it even makes a blog post, so that’s pretty sweet.”

On his first foray into the Archibald Prize:

“This weekend I’ve gotta finish a painting for the Archibald. In North Sydney there’s a piece of land developers must own and they want to build on it. But there’s a family of owls that live there. So, there’s a Facebook page trying to save these owls and the people who run that got in touch. I’ve painted a portrait of ‘Mikey the Powerful Owlet’ who’s representative of musician Michael Bianchino, a real dude.”

On beards:

“I love drawing beards. Beards are pretty magical. People who have beards achieve greater things than if they didn’t have a beard. It’s just unnatural, really, shaving your beard off. So lots of bearded characters. After I draw a picture or make a painting I write a poem, to give it more depth and be a bit weird about it. Why not? It’s pretty easy. When I get bored with it I write ‘The End.’ A lot of them don’t finish properly, but that’ll do.”

MULGA will be doing some exciting workshops over the next few weeks with Samsung, and will also be holding a market stall at Cronulla Spring Festival September 9-10. Keep up with MULGA and his kooky band of characters here.

Words by JB Keogh
Photography by Daniel Stelmaszak
Featured artwork by MULGA


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