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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Al­ley Pas­coe

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.

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