by MICHELE STERNBERG

A fresh lick of paint can make all the difference, especially if you have DRAPL and The Zookeeper on spray cans and a blank canvas as big as the side of a building or a water reservoir.

Ten years ago they probably would have been arrested but times have changed.

The street artists otherwise known as Travis Vinson and Joel Fergie were expressing their creativity on a wall at the Village Bicycle cafe in Noosa Junction last month and will next turn their attention to the water reservoir at Point Cartwright.

Both projects are re-dos of previous paintings but while the cafe mural was a new design and a spontaneous project done in a night, the water reservoir will take weeks and has been months in the planning. 

The original 17-metre-high mural, which features local marine life such as whales and turtles, and the native richmond birdwing butterfly, was painted in 2016 and has taken a beating from the harsh coastal elements. 

The 2022 refresh will retain the original design while including a few improvements to the process. Travis and Joel will be joined by The Brightsiders in a three-way collaboration.

Travis says the concrete surface will be stripped back and primed ready for the artists to begin again from scratch.

“It’s going to look way better than it ever did,” he says.

“It’s going to probably be 100 times better. We’re more confident in ourselves and in our work.

“We have learnt a lot since we first painted that … every day we are going to have to hose down the wall to get rid of the salt spray before we start painting.”

Joel says it is pretty incredible to again be painting what he calls ‘one of the greatest canvasses in Australia’ for its location, aspect and visibility.

“We’re redoing the original design but the local community had a few suggestions so I guess there will be a couple of additions to embellish it a little bit but I can’t ruin the surprise. Watch this space…”

Joel, who is best known for his transformation of outback silos and is often referred to as Banksy of the bush, says the elevated oceanfront mural has a special place in his heart.

“I would definitely say it’s one of my favourites. Also, it was really the first time we painted on that scale. So, for us, it was just an amazing breakthrough moment for our work and it led to us basically wanting to do that all over the country,” he says.

The now 30-somethings have made art their full-time careers. 

“We have obviously come from a shady background when we were young and gone through all that and realised that we can make money from murals and we love to travel,” Travis says.

From capital cities to tiny country towns, they have left their marks. But it is the appreciation they receive and the tourism benefits they create that give them a real sense of job satisfaction. 

Travis says they complement each other, with Joel describing their working relationship as ‘yin and yang, which means we’re able to keep pushing the envelope’.

But how exactly do you upscale a piece of art 1000 per cent or more? 

“Technology plays an important part in the process,” Travis says. 

It involves taking a photo of the blank canvas (which in this case might be the side of a building, a silo or a water tower) and using an app to superimpose a photo of the image to be created to see roughly how well it’s going to fit. 

“Then we make a whole bunch of random marks like hieroglyphics all over the wall, like random numbers, letters and shapes, and different squiggles, and then we take a photo of that and superimpose that photo over the top and make it a little bit ghostly so we can see through it,” Travis says.

That creates a big grid for the artists to work within.

“It works perfectly on a round surface; it’s the only way you can get it to look right,” he says.

“We used to use a projector to project images up at night and trace it out but the trouble we found with that was projecting can skew the image a bit too much and sometimes it’s a bit dangerous being on high equipment at night.”

While their techniques have improved, so too has the public’s perception of street art.

“It’s changed the idea of art from being something for people in galleries to being something for everyone,” Joel says.

Travis, who was arrested for his creativity in his younger years, had a little chuckle to himself recently as he was spray painting a wall watched on by a couple of police officers on a coffee break.

“Ten years ago they would have had the cuffs out ready to arrest me. For me, I just find it insane how much it’s changed over the years.” 

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