HOW I MAKE IT WORK...
AS A YOUTH, HE FAILED ART IN HIGH SCHOOL AND LIVED ON THE FRINGE OF SOCIETY. NOW, AT 47, THE GRAFFITI AND STREET ARTIST REFLECTS ON HOW HE TURNED HIS GREATEST PASSION INTO A LIFELONG CAREER
Artist t Stormie Mills on living on society’s fringe. ge.
Growing up in Perth in the ’70s, I was a solitary child. My parents emigrated from Wales when I was three and we moved around a lot. I went to nine different schools, so my brothers and I were always “the new kids”.
I spent a lot of my time drawing; I was more interested in making art than going to school. Despite my passion, I failed art in high school. Back then, being an artist wasn’t a career option. Now, if someone asked you what you wanted to be, I think you could say an artist. When I was growing up, it wasn’t a real job. And I think, in a lot of respects, it isn’t: it is a life and a passion.
It’s taken a lot of work to get to where I am today. When I came back to Australia after living in Europe in my early 20s, I lived in an [abandoned] warehouse in East Perth. I had this romanticised notion of living on the street. Of course, the reality was less pleasant. I used to go to the train station every morning and pay a dollar to have a shower before going to work running community art programs. Nobody knew the circumstances I was living under. I thought that way of living seemed a lot freer.
The hardest part of being an artist is the self-doubt. A lot of people let their own demons erode their confidence, and get discouraged or give up. It takes a certain kind of stubbornness or focus to become successful.
I still don’t consider myself a success; I always feel like I am trying to make it. I’ve had successful exhibits and what I believe are significant works, but I am still working towards something. Being able to help other people achieve their goals has become important to me. I was a kid who fell through the cracks of the system. I couldn’t have done what I have without the people who supported me.
Looking back, I never could have imagined my life today. My work has historically been about isolation and loneliness – those emotions I felt as
a child. My latest collection, To The Moon And Back, was inspired by space and continues that theme of isolation.
I have had conversations with people about what they want to do when they retire. I’ve never even contemplated that as a concept. Why would I retire from what I absolutely love doing? If I keel over with paint on my hands, I’ll be happy. To The Moon And Back is showing at the Friends of Leon Gallery, in Surry Hills, Sydney, until October 29.