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Ash Nixon

Chats with The Betoota Advocate illustrator.

Meet Ash Nixon, a Gold Coast artist (and larrikin if we may say so) who has created pieces for everyone’s favourite online satire The Betoota Advocate and, more recently, local brand The Undercurrent.

We sat down for a chat with Ash about his artistic ode to Paul Kelly and why Palm Beach is the greatest suburb on the Gold Coast.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
Since the year 2000, I have been in between the Coast and where I grew up near Goondiwindi.

What do you love most about our beautiful city?
It’s pretty hard to go past the beaches, particularly the southern point breaks.

You recently designed a t-shirt for The Undercurrent representing (everyone’s fave suburb) Palm Beach, what did you include and why?
For Palmy I wanted to pay homage to a bygone era of coast culture. Recently I stumbled across a flyer for The Playroom. From memory the bill featured Split Enz, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and The Angels, all on consecutive nights! What an institution. Some of my friends parents had met there, so it seemed sacrilegious not to feature or reference it. As it was located at the northernmost end of Palmy, I thought paying my respects to the southern end could be a nice touch (hence the creek to creek phrase). The old Cheshire Cat Motel came to mind straight away, mainly due to its awesome signage along the GC Highway.

How did you come to work with The Betoota Advocate?
Funnily enough I met Clancy and Errol at the Wallaroo Hotel in Coolatai (not too far from my Dad’s place) where they were investigating the reappearance of the Coolatai Panther. As there were only about four people in the pub, they were trying to glean as much information as possible – before the publican starting pouring rum, that is. Eventually I was questioned, and pretty swiftly swung the conversation around to my line of work, and they hired me upon seeing my caricature of the Panther on the side of the pub. I even got to go to Parliament House for their most recent book launch, bloody ripper!

Do you have a favourite piece in your own collection?
I’d have to say the graphics that I’ve slapped onto tees just recently. The first one is an ode to the Paul Kelly song “40 Miles to Saturday Night” which tells the story of two station hands driving into a country town in SA to spend their weeks paycheck on a good time. The second is a graphic about the grandeur of gum trees, called “Australasian Eucalypt Appreciation Society”.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s growing arts scene?
I think it’s incredibly heartening for all of us creatives, who are looking for a wider audience! But most importantly it allows the general public to appreciate art and be inspired themselves.

What’s been your personal artistic journey?
After studying graphic design, I’ve had many jobs that weren’t design related but that have been integral to me being able to continue doing what I love. I started out doing band posters and flyers and branding small businesses. I’ve done a smattering of sign writing too. To be perfectly honest, it all started with my dad’s collection of Footrot Flats and old servo signs that adorned his shed. My art practice is a mixed bag of graphic design, signwriting and healthy adoration of Australiana.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourite on the Coast…
Beach: Greenmount
Cafe: Barefoot Barista, Palm Beach
Restaurant: Punjabi Flavour
How does your weekend usually look: Some surfing, some eating of tasty grub, some more surfing, maybe a drink or two on Saturday evening over more tasty grub. Sleep and repeat. Maybe a smattering of op shopping in there also.

Interview by Kirra Smith (passionate Palm Beach local).

Sarah Huston

Sarah Huston is a Gold Coaster passionate about skateboarding and design.

So much so that she has put together a photography exhibition, fittingly titled Yeah Girl, showcasing female skateboarders from around the world.

We took five to chat with Sarah about Yeah Girl’s collaboration with Bowlzilla and how skateboarding fuels her creativity.

How did the Yeah Girl exhibition come about?

I started noticing more and more girls around the world were shooting skate photos and it just seemed like this really niche little group that was flying under the radar. Originally, I was going to do it as an exhibition of female photographers shooting anyone skating—guys or girls—but I’m also a bit of an advocate for increasing the exposure of female skaters, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put all the ladies in the spotlight; the ones behind the camera and in front of it.

How is Yeah Girl linked to Bowlzilla?

Yeah Girl and BOWLZILLA were both part of the Bleach Festival lineup last year so we began working together to create one big weekend of skateboarding. Since then BOWLZILLA have been big supporters of Yeah Girl and vice versa. BOWLZILLA’s ethos is based around bringing people together, having fun and celebrating skate culture; something Yeah Girl can definitely relate to and get behind.

This year we’ve joined forces again to put on a double movie premiere on Friday March 17th at Warehouse No. 5. We’ll be premiering Quit Your Day Job, the first female skate film to come out of the USA in over a decade, as well as Steady Lurking, a new local film from the guys at Fiik Skateboards.

Why are you passionate about showcasing female skateboarders?

There’s so much talent in women’s skateboarding these days, from both the skaters and photographers. There’s also a really unique culture in women’s skating. It still has a really DIY vibe about it and it is what it is because of the passionate women that are a part of it, constantly pushing to make things happen. It deserves to be highlighted and celebrated.

If you had asked me a year ago I would have said my passion was driven by the lack of coverage for women in the core skate media. But to say that now – on the day when Lizzie Armanto’s new Thrasher cover was just revealed – wouldn’t really be fair. As a community we need to keep that momentum going though and continue to back women’s skating with the same passion and determination that has gotten it to where it is now.

You’re a skateboard coach, why do you think people should try it?

I can’t think of anything else that can teach you so much patience, determination and persistence and still be so fun! It’s kind of funny, I often find myself in deep philosophical conversations with friends about the life lessons that can be learnt from skateboarding.

The most rewarding part of coaching is seeing people support each other regardless of their skill level, gender or age. Skateboarding just has this way of bringing people together and breaking down barriers.

What do you love about it personally?

So many things. But I think it’s the challenge that keeps me coming back for more. I get as much satisfaction out of trying to learn a trick as I do landing a trick. Which is lucky because it tends to take me a while so I might have given up long ago otherwise…

I also love the friendships that come from skateboarding. It’s a pretty special community, especially amongst the girls. It’s still tight-knit enough that a mutual love of skateboarding is enough to reach out and build a friendship on.

Tell us about your background, how did you get to be where you are today? 

I feel like where I’m at right now is because of a beautiful collision of my two biggest passions – skateboarding and design. My love of skateboarding began as a kid. My brothers used to skate so decided to try it out and it’s been a part of my life ever since. I studied design at Queensland College of Art and since then I’ve been working (–and living–there’s no dividing the two) as a designer. Skateboarding and creativity go hand in hand so those two parts of my life naturally came together. I guess Yeah Girl is their love child.

How does skateboarding inspire your creativity?

As a skateboarder you tend to think outside the box and see the world a little differently – a ledge isn’t just a ledge and a set of stairs isn’t just for walking up and down. The premise of creativity is the same. You need to see different perspectives and draw connections between seemingly unrelated things. So to more directly answer your question, it’s not so much that skateboarding inspires my creativity, but it is an extension of it. They go hand-in-hand.

What’s in the pipeline for you?

Right now I’m working on the next Yeah Girl exhibition. I’m excited to be teaming up with Girls Are Awesome to take the exhibition to Copenhagen this year. It opens on July 15th at Vess Gallery and will run through CPH Open, one of skateboarding’s biggest global contests and celebrations.

Your favourite piece of life advice?

If it doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth doing.

You’re not a Gold Coast local if you haven’t…

Quoted “beautiful one day, perfect the next” to interstate visitors and then struggled to entertain them while it rains for a week.

Being a Gold Coast local we have to ask for your favourites…

Beach: Mermaid Beach – it’s close to home and not too busy

Restaurant: Zipang Japanese Dining in Currumbin

Bar: I’m more of a small bar person – Apres Surf

Coffee Shop: All Time Coffee

Hayley O

Local fashion illustrator and graphic designer Hayley O’Connor has worked with a slew of impressive international brands including Billabong and Collective Hub. Her style echoes urban lifestyles and surf culture with a distinctly feminine quality and is the perfect representation of the Gold Coast’s growing arts scene.

We sat down for a chat with Hayley about her recent tee shirt design for local brand The Undercurrent and how our beautiful beaches influence her work.   

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved to the Gold Coast from Melbourne almost three years ago now. I got a job with Billabong as a graphic designer and made the move! I wasn’t sure how long I would be here but fell in love with the place and its beach lifestyle.

What do you love most about our city?
The beaches and all the new cafes and restaurants popping up! I think leaving Melbourne, I was worried about finding good coffee and food but Gold Coast food is really impressive and I’m definitely not missing out. I also love that there’s a real sense of community here. You always bump into someone you know and there’s a fun, friendly vibe.

How is the art you create influenced by the world around you?
I have a lot of references to the tropics and the ocean in my work, which I definitely think is influenced by living here. These things have kind of merged with my love of fashion from growing up in Melbourne.

You illustrated a Broadbeach tee shirt design for local brand The Undercurrent, why did you include the elements you did?
I guess when I think of Broadbeach I think of the nightlife. I wanted to create a retro pin up kind of girl in bathers to represent the beach and sunshine and I included the cocktail glass and playing cards to represent The Star casino. The seal is a reference to one of Broadbeachs’ first hotels on the Coast, Lennons Broadbeach Hotel. The famous seal statue from the Lennons pool now sits outside the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in a nod to the past.

How would you describe your artistic style?
I would say it’s feminine with an edge. I love drawing beautiful girls surrounded by nature, patterns and tattoos.

You’ve worked with some impressive brands, is there a commercial piece you’ve created that you particularly love?
I think the piece I created for Surfing World Magazine. They have a section of the mag called “The Octopus” and the brief was pretty much do what ever I wanted but just don’t draw an octopus! I liked how weird and fun the brief was and it started me drawing a series of mermaids that are some of my favourite pieces still.

Do you have a style of art you most enjoy creating?
I have two styles of illustration. One is really detailed with pencils and watercolour and the other is a simpler style I create with pens and markers while mixing in typography. I like jumping between the two as my detailed is more serious and my simpler is fun and quirky.

What’s been the journey you’ve taken to get where you are today?
I guess a lot of time drawing for the love of it and hard work over the years had led me to where I am today.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever been given?
Life’s too short to do something you don’t love.

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites…
Beach: Miami and Greenmount
Café: Bam Bam Bakery
Restaurant: Rick Shores / Etsu
How does your weekend usually look? Pretty much drawing and hanging at the beach!

The Undercurrent’s new range is here

Gold Coast fashion brand The Undercurrent has launched their second range of tee shirts designed by local artists to depict popular aspects of Gold Coast suburbs.

The range will see Palm Beach, Miami, Broadbeach and Nobby Beach represented along with a general Gold Coast t-shirt and trucker cap.

Five new artists have been commissioned to design the range and the simple brief requested they include elements that best represent both the history and current vibe of the suburb. The initial range saw tees representing Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Currumbin, Burleigh Heads and Mermaid Beach fly off the shelves thus calling for a second range to be created almost immediately.

Aimed at both locals and tourists, The Undercurrent was born from owner Carly Snodgrass’s desire to showcase the Coast in a way that adequately represents her beautiful hometown and the talented creatives residing within it.

She says, “It was easy to see from the get-go that a second range would be needed with the amount of feedback we received from the first range. People were screaming for their suburb to be added! I’m really stoked with how the new suburb tees look. They were created by completely new local artists to the brand.

“The suburbs were chosen by which locals screamed the loudest. Our coastal suburbs appeal to both locals and tourists, so everyone can get on board.

“I chose the artists from a few who had approached me and a couple we sought out. There are so many fantastic local creatives on the Coast, so it’s always a tough decision aligning the right artist with the right suburb. We want to make sure they thoroughly do their research for the area and can bring that history to life.

“I feel like we’ve really taken the essence from each suburb and have created something that locals will be proud to wear, otherwise we haven’t done what we set out to do.”

The Undercurrent’s name is two-fold; a nod to the Gold Coast’s thriving surf culture and the unveiling of a side of the city that may not be common knowledge, but definitely should be.

$2 from every sale is donated to Surf Lifesaving Queensland who were who were chosen due to the huge part they play in both assisting tourists and their vital role in shaping the Gold Coast’s culture.

Use the code ilovegc for 20% off all products.

Words by Kirra Smith.

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