Ballina Council has commissioned NITSUA to paint a mural at the Lennox Skate Park, and he’s teaming up with a bunch of local kids to do the work.
NITSUA is well known for his vibrant art work at schools and other large scale sites around the country, as well as at Rappville, which brought life and colour back to that community after the devastating fires.
Recently the artist held two morning drop-in sessions at the skate park, which is next to the Lennox Head Cultural Centre, to get feedback and ideas from local young people for the next stage of the artwork.
NITSUA told Echonetdaily, ‘The kids came down and I asked them what they thought about the design, which I’ve got on the iPad. And they were just frothing on it, of course, it’s very local inspired! So I signed them up to come and help start painting.’
He said there were twelve kids involved. ‘Different ages, mostly kids that actually skate at this park, which is perfect, that’s what I wanted, kids that come here and appreciate the park.’
What’s the inspiration for the design?
NITSUA said, ‘It’s locally inspired, so I’ve got the pandanus, that’s your East Coast palm tree, the ocean, and a big welcoming hand coming in on that, kind of like Gulliver’s Travels.
‘It’s an over-size hand and arm that’s surfing the waves!’
While the design is under wraps for now, NITSUA gave Echonetdaily a sneak preview of what’s planned, which is going to be an exciting addition to Lennox Head’s visual landscape.
The artist explained that the artwork is not going to cover the whole skate park, but just the front facade – ‘You can’t really paint inside skate parks because it makes the surface more slippery to skate on.’
When does the work kick off? ‘I was going to start priming today,’ said NITSUA, ‘but the rain is coming in today and that won’t give it enough time to dry. It needs a priming coat because it’s all raw brick at the moment.’
While the work is postponed until the rain stops, NITSUA says there’s probably four days work involved altogether, ‘maybe three, depends how hard I go!’
Was it hard to find time between your other commitments?
NITSUA said he’d squeezed the skate park commission in as the last of his major public art commitments for the year.
‘I usually go from school to school, and my last public school was in Gladstone. I did a massive piece up there, a whale to full scale, with a yacht cruising just above the whale, to give the scale of the whale.’
He says he designs every artwork to fit the individual public canvas. ‘Before I start painting any wall I always ask for a good side profile of the wall, with no perspective.
‘Sometimes it’s hard to get that photo, but there’s always a way of tweaking that photograph so it is a straight profile perspective, the way you’d see a piece of paper. Then I draw it to that shape.
‘That way I know the proportions are all working with the space, and I’m not just winging it from a drawing to that space.’
Once he gets to the real wall, NITSUA starts with a rough sketch, after it’s primed, then progresses to full colours.
He told Echonetdaily he has a special connection with Lennox Head. ‘100%. I’ve lived in and around the area for the last 10-12 years, grew up on the Gold Coast before that, and New Zealand. I’ve come down even before I lived in the area. I remember when the highways weren’t that good, going through the canefields from Kingscliff to Pottsville there, the old highway was quite a mission!’
Does your artwork for this space relate to what they’ve done next door with the cultural centre? ‘Yeah, you could say it’s post-modern, and I believe a lot of the background I’m working on for this piece is post-modern,’ said NITSUA.
‘I’m putting a lot of my stencil pattern work into it, which you could say is very interior design, inspired by old wallpaper and the like.’
With the revamped Cultural Centre very grey, he says the skate park mural is going to bring some welcome colour into the area. ‘But that’s art in general, said NITSUA. ‘I think it should have contrast and clash in the area in some way or other, otherwise it doesn’t pop out or serve its purpose.’
The role of public art
NITSUA often does his work in quite conservative places, but he doesn’t seem to attract the kind of antagonism from community that some public artists attract.
What’s his secret to being loved instead of hated?
He said, ‘I don’t know what that is, I just paint what’s relative to the area, that’s why it’s quite suited to the public. There’s something in the area that’s inspired the art, and I think that’s really important.’
That said, he does enjoy leaving the beholder ‘a bit bamboozled’.
For the next stage, NITSUA is looking for some older kids to help out with the mural. ‘When you give young grommets a can and a stencil the quality gets a bit loose, so I’m looking for some older kids with a bit of artistic experience to help with the stencil work, and come to the stencil workshop,’ he said.
‘You need a bit of confidence to do this sort of thing, otherwise they’ll be a bit hesitant. So I’m looking for older kids from say 15-18, that’d be ideal.’