Meet the one and only, Trevor Dickinson, the man who’s giant quirky wall murals put Newcastle on the map. From the humble beginnings of Newcastle Productions‘ zines, tea towels and cards to painted murals that animate Newcastle’s city walls, Trevor has done it all. After years of designing for the fashion industry, Trevor moved to Newcastle and away from his computer. In his most recent project, the weirdly obsessive artist, spent nine months visiting almost every street in Newcastle scouting out 100 unique Australian letterboxes to draw. Trevor chats with TDK about his journey and creative influences.
Tell us about yourself. When did you start illustrating and how did it become your career? I’m an English designer specialising in graphics and textiles for the fashion industry. I used to do this in London, then I moved to Newcastle twelve years ago. I started drawing on the streets of Newcastle in 2009, as an excuse to get off the computer and out of my studio. Pretty soon I became obsessed with making new drawings and I wanted to do something with them, so I collected them in zines. This expanded to tea towels, cards and prints and I sold them locally under the brand Newcastle Productions. Newcastle Productions changed from a hobby into a career when I was accepted as artist in residence at Megalo print studio in Canberra. This gave me the time to draw the city and make a body of work that I could sell on a larger scale in Canberra galleries, museums and shops.
You have a particular way of drawing. How did it come about? Any obvious influences? I was into Marvel comics when I was young, at the time the English editions were in black and white and I started to notice the different styles of the artists through their drawing styles. At the time my favourites were Steve Ditko and John Buscema. My recent influences have been Robert Crumb’s drawings, not so much the comics, but the landscapes, his drawings have a very human touch. I also love Evan Hecox‘s precise city and truck prints, he uses line beautifully. I have also been inspired by the flickr group, Urban sketchers. I like how line drawing reproduces well in all forms, reduced in a Zine or enlarged on a screen printed tea towel. In an age where everything can be rendered perfectly on computer I think hand drawing is appreciated even more than ever. This is why I try to keep imperfections in my work.
Any advice for students/graduates wanting to gain more exposure? I can really only talk about my own experience. I regularly update my facebook page and flickr account but my main exposure is from the shops that sell my work. I recommend Zines as a great way to get the work seen, they are a perfect low cost outlet for images, I sometimes use my zines as glorified business cards. People still like to see things printed.
You’ve done so many projects along the way from your 100 Letterbox’s series to zines and more. Which has been your favourite? My favourite is definitely 100 letterboxes, because it’s such a neat project. It had a structure and a clear goal right from the start. It highlighted part of our environment that is in full view but never really noticed. I spent nine months visiting almost every street in Newcastle to find good letterbox examples to collect, select and draw. Seeing the project finished and exhibited felt amazing, not only because I managed to complete the goal, but it was great to see how the public responded to seeing such a collection of Australian artifacts lovingly drawn and put on display by a weirdly obsessive artist.
Newcastle has obviously influenced your designs, so what’s going on over there. What’s the creative scene like? The creative scene has been thriving for a while, but Renew Newcastle has definitely made it a lot more visible. A walk along Hunter Street Mall is like being in a funky new city compared to how dead it was five years ago. It definitely feels like a scene has developed in recent years. Blogs like the Novocastrian files and events like Look Hear and TINA have also helped spread the Newcastle word. Having said that, like any city, under the surface there are many more creative people who are just getting on with their jobs and not part of any scene, I occasionally meet people who are working at a high level in their careers and realise that I had no idea that they were out there.
What’s on the cards for 2014? I still work in the fashion industry and have a few new projects to work on for companies in Sydney and London. I’m aiming to get an exhibition in another Australian city, this will give me a deadline to work towards. I also need to urgently update the Canberra drawings as I haven’t had time to revisit the city on paper for a while. Not having enough time to do everything is my biggest frustration at the moment.