Local artist, Samuel Hall has brought to life a magical mural on the outside of our Gateway building, off Burelli Street in the CBD.
The artwork is called “Botanical Reflections” and is a concept that speaks to the wonder of the Wollongong area with the incredible water-based wildlife that surrounds us. Inspired by Wollongong’s botanic gardens and vivid sunrises, the piece elucidates the calming effect of water, nature and local wildlife.
The theme of reflection and introspection permeates throughout this artwork and imparts this notion into the veins of the bustling CBD.
Sam has worked on an extensive range of murals within the Illawarra, and being a local, he is woven into the very fabric of the community.
We did a Q&A with Sam below:
- What is your art background/how did you get into mural work?
My formal art background is a diploma in Graphic Design, but like most things my love of creativity stems from so many life experiences, but a love of drawing from a very young age, maybe 4 or 5, and my father's background in photography were very instrumental. Some of my earliest memories are in the dark room/ home studio, helping Dad develop photos and being amazed at the process. My family ended up owning a photograph printing business in my teenage years, so photography has been a huge part of my background and has helped develop my style from quite illustrative/ cartoony works to bordering on more surrealism work.
When I was 19, I was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease, which affects my hands greatly and my ability to use and hold brushes, so finding aerosol paint when I was travelling through Europe years later after finishing my design degree has allowed me to work with my disease and still paint to a high level without losing the dexterity in my hands. This obsession with a newfound material gave me the fire to practise more and more and eventually start showing my portfolio to businesses and schools, and ever since I've been able to build my client base and continue my work as a full-time mural artist.
- Who inspired you to be an artist?
I am inspired by many artists that I admire both locally and international, although in my early days I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from and be inspired by local artists like Mikey Freedom, Kane 'Trait' Horspool and Claire Foxton to name a few.
Pivotally, I think my inspiration comes from within. My yearning for personal growth and exploration within myself was my biggest inspiration to be an artist, and the challenge to adjust and overcome the difficulties created by my battle with my disease. Being able to express myself every day and build on my skills through my day job was my biggest inspiration to pursue a life as a full-time artist. While I feel incredibly grateful to be in control of my own path and have that control over my life, it's the constant growth and the tangible evidence of being able to see your skills and execution progress that I love most.
- What inspired you to create ‘Botanical Reflections?’
The idea behind 'Botanical Reflections' came to me after spending a morning surfing during sunrise, watching the Swallows skim across the water as they caught the insects that flew above the water, with the slowly rising sun glistening off the oceans ever changing surface. After my surf I decided to take a walk through the Botanical Gardens, a place I find very inspiring, somewhere I often spend time when in the concept phase of a project. As I sat by the Lotus Pond, I noticed those same Swallows that were having their morning feed over the ocean had now made the short journey just as I did, this time to feast on the insects that lived among the reeds and fresh water in the lotus pond. I noticed how the sun reflected off the calmer water in the pond in a different way.
The wonder and amazement I felt gave me the realisation I have had all too often, that I am just so grateful to live in a truly beautiful and inspiring part of the world, with such a diverse ecosystem existing between the short amount of space that is wedged between the escarpment and the ocean, all living in perfect harmony with each other, and just how much life is sustained by the water ways we have in Wollongong.
"Botanical Reflections" is a direct reference to that beauty and wonder we are surrounded by, and the rich and vibrant colours that I surround us.
- Can you describe the process of a mural artwork?
My process starts generally with a plain white canvas of primer (also known as "buffing a wall"), which is then covered by a range of different shaped and sized triangles, creating a grid for me to digitally impose my sketch onto a photograph of the wall, allowing me to apply my sketch accurately to the proportions needed. A mixture of common house paint (for the larger fill sections) and aerosol (for the details) is then combined to fill in the giant jigsaw piece that is a large-scale mural.
- How long does it take to finish a piece?
Pieces can take various times to complete depending on many factors like complexity of the design, but also things like weather, access to the wall, pedestrian and vehicle traffic and time spent talking to passers as I love a good chat. All these and many other factors can contribute, but this piece in particular took approximately 120 hours to complete.
- What is your connection to the Illawarra?
I am a third-generation small business owner in the Illawarra, with my grandfather running a butchery in Jamberoo and my father working in Journalism and Photography for a local newspaper for more than 35 years, having grown up in the area and lived here both of my life, I feel an immense pride and connection to the Illawarra and the surrounding areas.
- What do you hope people take from your artwork?
I hope more than anything this piece can being some brightness to peoples days as they pass by and give them a feeling of wander and joy.
Photo credit: Blake Lauricella