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November 29, 2021

Art, music, surf and you

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Byron Bay Surf Festival creative director James McMillan spoke with artist/musician/singer Tim Kerr.

Byron Bay Surf Festival creative director James McMillan spoke with artist/musician/singer Tim Kerr from seminal skater punk bands such as The Big Boys and the Monkeywrench. Kerr hails from from Seattle, Washington, and features in this year’s Surf Culture Now! art show along with another punk rock musician/surfer/artist, the Goons of Doom’s Ozzie Wright. Along with Otis Carey, each of them gets a corner of the Lone Goat Gallery to hang their fave stuff for all to enjoy – and buy!

Tim is not your normal artist. For a start, he signs all his work and murals with ‘Your Name Here’. Not exactly good for self-promotion. Or is it? ‘It’s a call to arms,’ Kerr explained. ‘If the viewer looks to see who painted this and sees ‘Your Name Here’, I am hoping it might plant the seed that they can find and celebrate their own self-expression. I’m not like Banksy so it does not bother me if someone uses my name.’

Kerr found out about the Byron Bay Surf Festival through Byron’s very own punk rock legend of the art world, Paul McNeil, who turned up at one of Tim’s gigs on his Australian tour with The MonkeyWrench.

‘Paul raved about the festival and I looked it up and saw a post from James and thought his art was cool and so got in touch. He then asked me about maybe coming and painting a mural and or being part of an art show. I said Yes because it looked really cool. We really loved Australia when MonkeyWrench came last year, and I really like doing murals. We had some extra money to get us over from a bunch of paintings that had sold, so why not!’

When, and how, did they both start – the art and the music?

I started drawin g and then trying to play something before elementary school. I never really separated the two because, just like anything you do, it all comes from the same place – inside you.My parents were both in the school district (a principal and a librarian). Both my brothers, who were older, ended up coaching, so my mom and especially my dad were happy to have a kid who had different interest from the other two. Of course growing up in a small Texas town where American football was king, it was bit of an uphill climb if you took that other road away from football and the American Dream. Getting into surfing in late junior high through high school in the late 60s, early 70s, was not helping me at all since it was absolutely not cool, then where I grew up I was pretty much a loner and surfing, music, art, and my now-wife Beth saved me through this period for sure.

How did your art style develop with the brush and also why predominantly portraits?

I think I started out drawing houses and stick figures. The dinosaurs destroying the houses and stick figures in elementary school. I graduated to drawing Batman, bubble words, album art that I liked, and sort of a comic diary in junior high and then high school. I came from the generation that when you got out of high school you obviously went to college. I came up to Austin in 74 to go to college and decided to get a degree in Art since the music school at the time did not have guitar, and I knew that I did not want to do Drama. My portfolio consisted of a guy getting tubed (smile) and they let me in. In college I was always mixing abstract with some sort of concrete object. I really liked the idea of things looking like they might mean something even if they really did not, so I would add numbers and descriptions to things as part of the art. I really did not start doing the portraits until I got asked back into showing my art at galleries. That was in the late 90s and all because of the bands I had been in, and the bands I was recording.

What is your motivation to produce artworks of activists and heroes from human history?

We are all making history. The motivation for doing the portraits came from the realisation that I had been influencing people because of the bands I had been in, and the lightbulb moment that we all in fact influence someone every day, even if it’s just something you might be wearing. I thought about all the influences that I had had (and am still having) and decided I wanted to draw/paint people who did what they did because something needed to be done and, in their mind, it might as well be them. I could see the similarities of the DIY attitude that started everything from youth cultures to civil rights to art, to even me and my friends and their friends being the seeds of what is now the indie scene. I realised that if I could cause something, then anyone could/can. With that knowledge I decided I wanted to inspire the viewer by showing them men and women, boys and girls, in all fields and cultures side by side; that because of their one action or idea or self-expression had in turn caused a positive reaction. As time goes by, I am also realising that there are so many more levels to self-expression. I always try to paint some people from wherever I am showing with the hope that someone might come in who knows the person I am celebrating, is related to them, or was there when they did what they did. Realisations and conversations begin that seem to hit deeper with those involved.

When and where did you learn to skate and surf?

I will answer this one with something I sent to James and Andrew early on.

I was born in 56 and grew up 20 minutes from Surfside Beach on the Gulf Coast of Texas. I began physically surfing in junior high, after mentally surfing on steel and clay wheels in elementary school through the early 60s. By 1970, my first year in high school, I had made my own twin-fin shortboard, and was going out to the beach any time I could get a ride. As cool as surfing was to me, surfing was absolutely not cool with the majority of my so-called peers. It did not help that all my friends were older, so that by my junior year I was pretty much the weird loner kid who listened to Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, soul music and country blues instead of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. If there were waves, I did not go to school. High school was not a great memory for me, but music, surfing, and Beth got me through it. My graduation summer trip was to surf up and down the west coast with a friend. I was about as hardcore as you could get about surfing, though I did not really read the magazines or know the names like I did later with skating. It was just something I did, like breathing – and like breathing, it saved my life.

I headed to Austin after that summer of 74 to be with Beth and go to college. Since the beach was three-and-a-half hours away, I started skating on the then brand-new urethane wheels that had just come out. I skated every day because I could not get to the beach and surf. As the years went by I got caught up in the whole DIY movement. Being in bands, helping book shows, recording bands, and making art took the front seat. I slowly stopped physically surfing, though mentally I was, and still am, surfing every time I step on a skateboard. This last year or so I have slowly been bringing the physical side of surfing back into my life and now long to head right, and slide along the wall of waist-high mellow waves for the rest of my waking days and dreaming nights.

I am really looking forward to this and giving something back to something that has always had a part of my soul.

The Lone Goat Gallery’s Opening Night Party is Friday 23 Feb from 5pm until the Sunset Cinema starts at dusk across the road.

Tim will be all around the fest as a special guest all weekend and word is he will be painting a large mural somewhere around town before he goes.

For more information about the upcoming Byron Bay Surf Festival and the events over the weekend go to www.byronbaysurffestival.com.au

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