We talked to graffiti artist SKIES, a Diploma in Creativity student who is now producing screenprints to rival his eye-catching works lighting up the streets of Wellington.
Hi SKIES, what drew you to urban/street art in the first place?
When I was younger I would see coloured writing on the walls around the city, such as in alleys and along the train tracks and thought it looked so cool. It wasn’t until I got to college where I started to draw and write myself.
Are you developing a particular message with your art?
There’s not really a particular message to my art – unless I write something out next to my piece – people can make out whatever they want from it. I’m always trying to push each piece to be the best of my ability with the resources I have, so I’ll often write ‘The Skies The Limit!', implying anything is possible if you really want to achieve it.
As an artist tuned in with the urban environment, what is your take on the Wellington street art scene?
There's a reasonably active graffiti scene in Wellington – there's always been a big street/urban art scene here. If you find yourself walking down any street in Wellington you might be surprised at how immersed in it you’ll be, it’s literally everywhere.
Wellington is a very creative city as a whole! Not many cities in New Zealand have streets as colourful in my opinion. Wellington isn’t a huge place and there’s a lot of artists and writers here that take to the streets to showcase their work.
You came to The Learning Connexion (TLC) predominantly a graffiti artist – how have you evolved since then?
For one thing, I've found a huge passion for screen printing and printmaking. I enjoy being able to combine photography, digital art and spray paint to create multi-media pieces.
So what brought you to TLC?
10 years ago my mum went through TLC. She was a good artist before starting, but over the time she was here, the quality of her work increased dramatically. Her motivation to create works was incredible and I had seen what TLC had done to her as a person and an artist and I wanted the same for me.
"I really have no idea what I would be doing if I hadn’t started at TLC. I was lost and going off track and coming here helped me straighten up and reignited my passion again."
What are some of the things you enjoy most about studying at TLC?
It’s an awesome environment to be studying and creating work in. You can feel super inspired just by speaking to the other students and tutors. Also seeing everyone’s artwork around the school is amazing! There are so many incredibly talented individuals here.
"Everyone is different and TLC understands that. They really help push you in a direction that suits you."
How important is creativity in your life, and what drives you?
If I don’t create something for a few days I feel like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing – life isn’t exciting if I’m not throwing colour around. The satisfaction of finishing a piece is great, but the fun I have during the process is just as good!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I take inspiration from kiwi artists such as Berst and Askew One as they both create a lot of amazing work and content to watch online. Spraydaily on YouTube also showcases lots of amazing artists. I can’t forget my loyal crewmates who are down to get busy with me, we all motivate one another to be consistent and always evolving as artists and I think that’s an amazing thing!
How has TLC helped with that creative journey?
Doing this course has really helped me find who I am. It’s given me confidence in being myself and creating work regardless of other people's opinions. Every day I’m trying to do things differently and creatively.
Do you have a project you are currently working on?
There’s always projects in the works! But some cool ones currently are getting a mixed media screenprint framed to submit to the WSA NZ Painting and Printmaking Awards 2021. A big thank you to Linda Smith – one of the amazing tutors at TLC for getting me on to this!
I am also working on my biggest screen print to date which will be 65x65cm. So I will hopefully have that finished up in the next few weeks after some experimentation to find the most successful method of printing/creating them.
Describe a highlight, a wow moment of a recent work or creative experience?
I feel as if anytime I create a new screenprint, when I’m completing the last layer of colour and I get to see it completed for the first time, that’s a wow feeling. When someone explains their process in depth it fascinates and often wows me. There is something about knowing ‘how’ it was done that makes it so much more interesting. I will appreciate work more from knowing what went into it - for a lot of artists their final piece is only the tip of the iceberg. The amount of time, thought and planning is never really appreciated.
What advice would you give people starting out at TLC and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?
"Keep your mind open to all the possibilities this place can provide. Take the time to find out what you love and keep pushing and developing it! Being creative is the way of life once you’ve studied here!"
What are your creative ambitions? Where would you like to be in five years?
I will continue to create works for myself – no doubt about it. I would like to take on more commission/mural works to get my art out into the world. Having a studio where I can plan and create new works in is something I am working towards. Ultimately the idea of having my works in galleries and hung up in homes would be crazy cool.
- Shout out to @shadows_surgeon for the amazing night time photographs.
- You can check out my prints and other art projects on @prints_in_disguise