Brad’s story, like the many image makers before him, starts on the streets.
“I have always been a skateboarder, and the industry culture is so visual-based,” he says.
“I remember flicking through skate magazines when I was growing up and paying a lot of attention to all the graphics, logos and art.”
“I was into drawing and became interested in art and the way it related to skating, street art and otherwise – it was just part of the culture. We would always check out the art that was around us.”
Again like so many more before (and after) him, Brad geared a little left from his love of drawing and wound up in the world of graphic design.
“I always drew pictures, but I didn’t know I would end up being able to do it professionally,” he says.
“I started doing graphic design but I definitely didn’t want to do it full-time – I didn’t like to do work just to please other people.
“My drawings eventually turned into paintings, and I thought I would see what I could make out of it.”
“I’ve never really been a career-minded person – I’m nearly 30, but I still feel 18.I still do a bit of commercial work to pay the bills, but if I could, I would just paint every day.”
His fantastical creatures and the colour block elements in his work make it immediately recognisable, which you would think almost pays homage to the pseudonym he has given himself – or rather, the world has given him. As it is a literal play on his real name, it seems Brad was always meant to be Beastman, forever creating creatures that leave their meaning up to the imagination of the viewer.
“The characters could be yelling with anger or with joy – they could be anything you want them to be,” he says.
“It’s not really up to the artist, but rather the person looking at the paintings to decipher the code. It’s completely relative to the viewer’s experience.”
Using a bed of hundreds of thumbnails to eventually piece each individual painting together, Brad approaches his work in an almost freestyle, with no set vision of how the painting is going to turn out until it’s complete. With wood, plywood, acrylic paints, and ink pens he uses a variety of symbols, including heraldry, shapes and shields, to portray the underlying themes in his work, which range everywhere from the human interaction with nature to death and the afterlife.
“Some people will look at my work and see things I don’t even necessarily see,” he says.
While his work has stayed relatively true to his initial aesthetic – albeit with some added colours and themes through time – Brad concedes that he had to “work his ass off” to get his name out there.
“I just went for it. I got online and started WATIM, mainly to get my work out there as there weren’t a lot of avenues at the time – most of the internet content was based in America,” he says.
That was four years ago. Now there are plenty Australian sites to choose from, but WATIM has certainly secured its position at the top of the list, throwing exhibitions and generally promoting national artists on a regular basis. And Brad gets emails from artists all the time – but he has managed to remain discerning about the type of talent that gets up on the site. Generally speaking, it has to be pretty damn good.
So how does one manage to create, curate, show and mentor, most of the time simultaneously? By “constantly working,” and, as Brad would advise, every aspiring artist should be prepared to do the same – even if it is at times a challenge to stay sane.
“Make commitments and work really hard for fuck all money,” he says.
“It will take years to get to the level you want to be, so you have to be productive and passionate. Do as many shows as you can and get people to see your work.”
“But most of all, stick to what you want to do. If you want to paint in a certain way, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Beastman has recently painted a mural behind the record store on the corner of Crown and Goulbourn streets, Surry Hills.
He will also be in a joint exhibition with Numskull, Phibs and Yok at Ambush Gallery, which will open on December 10, 2009.
words: Seema Duggal