Heres a question ahead of the question for you? What would you get if you mixed over 6ft2" of radness, a shit load of good nature and more talent when it comes to painting owls than you can poke a feather at? Well none other than Melbourne based top bloke, artist and design extraordinaire Darren Henderson of course. Growing up in the South Eastern burbs of Melbourne Darren grew up on a fine mix of BMX, surfing and creativity and along with a very supportive dad noticed early on that his art class marks 'vs' his english class marks were a sign of things to come. Jump frame a bit and Darren is now working comfortably between being a respected and admired fine artist and graphic designer under the codename DIRTYGOOD.
When you think about it, Darren is a perfect example of the type of person you want to be when you grow up. You know, the kind of guy that is living the dream of making a living from what he loves doing and with a huge serving of integrity at the same time. So ahead of his 2010 debút solo exhibition at Melbourne's Gorker gallery, I grabbed some time with Darren to briefly talk about his work, his plans and life as an artist riding the wave.
Gday Darren! please tell our readers a bit about your dirty good self? I'm an artist/designer/illustrator living in Melbourne Australia. I've worked in Australia and the UK after settling back down in Melbourne in 1998. With a combination of naivety and creativity I started my own business ‘Dirtygood’ in 2000 which lead to me designing stuff for adidas and salmon Australia. I've been working for myself ever since. I do a lot of computer generated artwork as well as getting my hands dirty with ink, enamel and shellac, painting and building art whenever i can. A happy balance.
What is your background and tell us when did you stop and decide to make a living out of art and your design work? I grew up in Melbourne's South Eastern suburbs and riding my BMX home in Year 8 one afternoon i decided to become a graphic designer. “You could be creative and earn money” was my Dad's advice! I was always interested in the visual and creative side of things. My art class marks were always better than my english marks and I know consider myself very fortunate to be able to be creative and make a living. Also you meet some great people along the way.
"The best things are made out of wood. Skaties, 10 foot malabu's! I love working on wood. It has such great texture and a lot hardier than most surfaces."
You were involved in opening a really neat gallery for a while in Melbourne called AUTOPSY back in the day. tell us about this space and what inspired the idea? They were some of the best years of my life. Short lived but I had a lot of fun and made some great friendships out of it. Myself and Jade Palmer were helping a mate Andy Sargent to set up his new show at the time called “The Guild”. We had know each other for a few years and worked well together. We had the idea to start a small gallery seeing as we were having so much fun and it all went from there. The Autopsy was born. I was always influenced by Jade's “Basefield” shows, which we all had work in plus Andy's shows and their creativity. That was were the inspiration came from. I'd always wanted to run a gallery and Jade had a lot of experience in the field also. There was also an unfaltering passion for local and international art. Melbourne rocks and it has such a crazy good creative community. We were very lucky to be part of all of that.
"Its like a meditation process for me. You build a heap of frames… the excitement builds and then you start painting. Oh and maybe a surf in between. You can't work too hard!"
Most of your artworks are on hand made wood blocks. Tell us what is the appeal for your working on wood as opposed to other surfaces? We love wood too! did you know that? Hahahaha. I know you guys love wood! The best things are made out of wood. Skaties, 10 foot malabu's! I love working on wood. It has such great texture and a lot hardier than most surfaces. I also like the depth of colour you can achieve through layering shellac and varnish upon the wood. Mmmmm. I build all of the wood blocks myself too, down at my little house at Cape Woolamai. A good amount of manual labour before the painting starts. Its like a meditation process for me. You build a heap of frames… the excitement builds and then you start painting. Oh and maybe a surf in between. You can't work too hard!
You feature a good amount of owls in your artwork? What is the connection between your art and these feathered friends? Owls are a theme that have been running through my work for the last few years. They're amazing creatures and they feature in all cultures throughout the world. They're markers of gods, fertility, wisdom as well as death and destruction. Celebrated, even hated, which is a huge contrast. They're distinctly bizarre and unique. Little misfits. The most appealing thing about painting them is that they're unplanned. I tend to just sit down and start and see where you end up. A lot like life in a way. Haha.
Speaking of Owls, You have your debut solo show coming up at Gorker Gallery, Tell us about this and your idea/s for the exhibit? Yes! I can't wait. Its been a long process but very rewarding. I'm wrapped to have my first show with the Gorker Crew. I've painted approximately 300 owls of various sizes which when hung will form a world map. The sizes vary from 60mm up to 500mm. The larger paintings will be hung in the middle of the continents and gradually get smaller as it heads to the coastline. Its going to be a long hanging night!
What are you listening to at the moment? and tell us how much does music inspire your work as an artist? I can't work without my music! I've been through a lot. From old hip hop to The Dirty Three. The most listened to bands have been Gil Scot Heron and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Eddy Current is insane to paint to. So much energy. Gets me super motivated. I'm glad no one has caught me dancing to it though.
And what are you reading or looking at between making art? Allen Carr's Easy way to stop smoking. Hahaha. I think I've read it 16 times. Your Miso book is superb, Champfest is a cool little mag i stumbled upon lately.
On your website you have an artwork called 'Buzz has special powers' Is that your dog? if so tell us about him/her? Buzz seriously has special powers as that photo attests. Buzz belongs to good friends Paul, Dieta and Wilky. She lives in the Victorian Bush and I had the pleasure of babysitting her one summer when they went away. She is an Australian Kelpie and is seriously one of the smartest dogs I have ever met. Very perceptive and insanely well behaved. That was why i made that image. She also has an amazing skill of making an eye fillet disappear from the BBQ when you turn your back! Just by looking at it I'm sure! Freaky.
Outside of making art and design what does Darren like to do to keep himself busy. We hear you're a keen surfer? Surfing is the best sport in the world. It is a complete leveller for me. Your world can be falling apart before your eyes and you surf for two hours and it all seems insignificant. Brings you back to earth. I feel very at home in the water. Safe somehow. Also hanging out with family and friends... I can't live without any of them.