Kiel Tillman was recently commissioned to paint three murals and a piece of art for The Arts Centre's Signs of the Time exhibition.
He's a long-time Gold Coast local and much-loved designer. We sat down for a chat with Kiel to find out his take on the local arts scene and what he's got coming up.
Tell me about your background. How did you come to be an artist on the Gold Coast?
I grew up in a small coastal town on the mid north coast of NSW. I was always creative through high school and in year 12 I found out there was this thing called a Graphic Artist and you could get paid for being creative so I was like, “sign me up!”
As soon as school ended, I packed my life into my Barina and moved to the Gold Coast.I studied a Diploma of Graphic Design and jumped straight into working at a big offset printing company, I went to Billabong designing clothes for eight years, worked with a friend at his company called Potato Press.
After seven years with those absolute legends, I felt the need to do more freelance work. Now I am predominantly working on my freelance career with my own clients doing everything from graphic design and illustration to t-shirt design, murals, hosting workshops and whatever else creative I can sink my teeth in to. I think it was back when I worked at Billabong I realised I could produce art and exhibit it and people would actually want to check it out.
About six years ago I started to focus on it more and was getting involved in group exhibitions and having my own solo exhibitions both here and interstate. Now I just basically get involved with any exhibition I get asked to do.
We have seen your work at the Gold Coast Arts Centre’s latest exhibition, Signs of the Times, how did you get involved?
They contacted me to create one of the commissioned pieces so I jumped at the chance. I also got the opportunity to paint three of the walls in the main terrace areas out the front of the Gallery and Arts Centre. It was really great working with the guys there. They're really trying to bring more of a youthful culture to the Coast. The Signs of the Time exhibition is the perfect example; I mean they had a lineup out the door on opening night. I don't think that has ever happened before.
What have you been working on lately?
I’ve had a bunch of logo designs on the go lately which is pretty standard. I have a collaboration with TC and Beach Burrito Co. happening which will be a t-shirt and some live painting at the Coolangatta Beach Burrito on the 4th of March.
A piece for a sneaker themed group exhibition coming up at Sanchos Dirty Laundry in Canberra. I’ve got some big stuff going on with Burleigh Brewing Co., which will roll out soon.
The job I'm literally working on right now is a tee design for The Undercurrent representing my home suburb, Currumbin. Represent. Kinda like a non-cheesy souvenir tee for the locals and tourists alike. It’s going to be rad.
How has the Coast’s arts scene changed over the years you’ve been involved?
It has definitely evolved since I started. There are seriously so many great creatives coming out of the Coast. Some people in the industry can be surprised when you say you're from the Gold Coast, they think that you should be from one of the capital cities or something. The world is connected so much more than even 10 years ago when I started, so you can get your work out there easier.
What’s unique about artists on the Gold Coast?
I think we’re unique because we DONT come from a major city. We have a different perspective due to the lifestyle we live. I think the best thing about the creative scene on the Coast is how supportive everyone is of each other. It’s so awesome to see the community thrive.
What do you think the future holds for art on the Coast?
The opportunities are endless. There is seriously so much potential for the coast to become a heavy hitter in the creative industry. Look out!!
Anything exciting in the works for you?
This year I’m just focusing on getting my freelance business cranking. I love connecting and creating with all kinds of people through my work, so just more of that is the aim. I have had an idea for a solo exhibition for the last couple of years, so I might take some steps to get that off the ground this year also. No promises though. My wife and I not long had our second child, so I’m enjoying spending time with our little family unit at the moment. Trying to get that work life balance right - It’s not easy!
Stay tuned for Kiel’s collaboration with The Undercurrent, a new local t-shirt label, which will be introduced exclusively on Inside Gold Coast in April.