Interview with Gus Eagleton

From small compositions to massive contemporary murals, Australian-based artist Gus Eagleton goes beyond creative boundaries to bring you a special live street art installation for Maroochy Music and Visual Art Festival 2016 (Sep 10, Sunshine Coast). Over the years Gus has exhibited nationwide and abroad, receiving accolades in the form of art awards and steadily producing commissioned works for private clients including Brisbane City Council and Queensland Rail. In this interview Gus reflects on his artistic roots, provides insight into his creative process and discusses his future goals, too!

How did you first make your way into the art world?

From a young age I always felt that I wanted to do something creative with my life. I grew up on the coast of NSW, painting and drawing constantly. It got to the point where I realised that in order to further my practise I had to move to a big city to study and also surround myself with more art. Originally I wanted to study at a particular university in Sydney but then out of the blue a few of my friends decided to move to Brisbane so on a whim I decided to move to Brisbane as well. I then studied at South Bank Institute of Technology and then Queensland College of Art(Griffith University).

What was the most valuable lesson you learnt while studying art at university?

I learned lots of things at university, from techniques to the ins and outs of the art world. I can’t pick one specific lesson so here’s the three I found most important: always work hard, stay social and keep yourself inspired by checking out new exhibitions.

Are you currently working on any projects?

I am currently working on some large mural projects as well as some fun creative projects that I am doing for myself.

In situations where you have creative freedom to paint whatever you like, do photographs, sketches and test patterns act as a guide or do you allow yourself to go wild, painting whatever pops into your mind?

My art stems from a lot of things – normally an idea will pop into my head, which can sit in there for an extended period of time while I ponder it further. I think about every aspect of the piece: colours, size, execution, meaning and possible subjects. And then when the opportunity arises I make that Idea come to fruition and depending on how I felt about the piece or what I would change about the piece can determine the subject of my next piece.

What, have you found, is the biggest misconception people have in regards to making a living from creating art?

A lot of people think that art isn’t a serious career, and in the past I have copped a lot of stigma about it. “Arts degree!? Ahah what are you going do now that it’s over?” – I heard that a lot when I was studying. But in reality art is everywhere; people don’t realise how important it is. I never let the naysayers get to me and you shouldn’t either! Because if you work hard and do the things you love – you’re going to enjoy life a lot more and chances are, you’re gonna be alright. The world has paid artists for hundreds of years, so why do people think that all of a sudden there’s no need for it?

Does listening to music while painting alter the way you think? Is music more of an aid or distraction?

It’s definitely an aid, I use it for everything – it keeps me proactive. When I am bored of listening to all of my music my productivity goes right down until I find an awesome new album to listen to. Music is also good to get the creativity flowing and it definitely helps with developing ideas. Or when I am smashing a 12 hour day on a large wall and I’m super sore and tired I put on some hectic techno or beats to push me through it.

If you were given permission to curate your own multidisciplinary art event, which artists would you invite and where would it be held?

I would love to get some of my all time favourite contemporary mural painters out here for sure guys like Weis, Onur, Etam crew, young Jarus, never, Telemomiel and then of course my friends and family that have come out of Brisbane - Fintan Magee, Guido Van Helton, Sofles, Frank and Mimi, Drapl, Treazy and everyone else on the rad Brisbane artist list. It would be awesome to get everyone involved and take over Brisbane city and paint all the large walls in the city centre. Props and shouts to the Brisbane Street Art Festival crew who are working ever so hard for next year's festival.

Five fast questions for five fast responses:

  • What was the first concert/gig you attended and where was it held? I went to a few things when I was younger but the coolest one I went to was an old school Vans Warped tour in 2002 in Coffs Harbour.
  • Do you have any art galleries or festivals on your bucket list? I would like to spend more time painting over seas at festivals or wherever. I’m just keen to get out there.
  • When was the last time you painted a piece on canvas? I haven’t been doing too many the last couple of years since I have been working outside a lot more. Prior to that I was pumping them out, I have done a couple this year I hope to do more soon.
  • Album art covers more often than not become synonymous with a particular moment in music history. Which artist, musician or band would you most like to be commissioned to work for? I am open to working with any musicians who enjoy what they do and are producing good work. It’s a bonus if they are a band that I like and listen to.
  • What’s your favourite album to listen to at the moment? I have been pretty slack recently with finding new music but I have been listening to Schoolboy Q’s latest album Blank Face LP and Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered.

You’ve produced numerous works for hotels, laneways, cafes and shop fronts both in Australia and overseas. Which mural piece has been the most memorable to create thus far?

For me it would probably be the Pillars Project that was done at South Brisbane on the corner of Montague Rd and Merivale St. It was my tallest wall at the time and I put my best effort in to paint something challenging and different from what I was painting at the time and it turned out to be exactly what I was going for. The project at the time also seemed like a big step in the right direction for Brisbane.

Can you give us a quick rundown of the caps and cans you would need to pack for use at an event like Maroochy Music and Visual Art Festival?

I use all different brands for different colours and effects, my particular favourite at the moment is Montana Blacks just because they have a great colour range they come out super smooth and it’s quite durable in full sunlight. In terms of caps I use Ironlak Vegan caps, New Yorkers, blue dots, and ghetto blasters mostly. I have been getting into brushwork a lot more too. I’m aiming to use half brush half spray in the future.

What is the most rewarding element about being an artist involved in so many communities based events and collaborations across Australia?

For me it’s about being able to meet new people, travel to new places and paint new things. It’s also about using my gifts to help and benefit other people, there’s nothing more rewarding then enjoying life and bringing enjoyment to others.

Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give to your twelve-year-old self?

Pick up a can nice and early and try not to worry so much.

This interview was first published on 26 August 2016 for Amnplify.

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