Melbourne is famous for its street art and design which adorns most of our alleyways, laneways, nooks and crannies.
I have often been fascinated by how it all gets done. As you walk through the city, rarely (if ever) do you see an artist in the throws of their work – on the whole, they are a rather clandestine bunch.
This week, in my desire to see how street art is made, I met up with one artist, ‘Makatron’, at his studios in Fitzroy. He has been painting Melbourne for over 10 years with a mixture of commissioned works and personal projects.
I followed him on his weekly mural project to an abandoned shoe factory in the inner city.
Makatron prepares to leave his Fitzroy studio.
Tools of the trade.
On the way to the warehouse I spot a small hippo on Makatron’s dashboard. His fondness for large animals has become one of his signature styles. Some Melburnians might be familiar with this work (below), prominently displayed at the corner of Lygon and Princes Streets in Carlton.
Arriving at the cavernous warehouse, we spot many other artists who have been working on their ’writing’ or tag styles around the various rooms. Makatron tells me just two weeks earlier, the warehouse’s walls had been bare and, in the secretive manner characteristic of these artists, tags and designs have just appeared.
Makatron begins by outlining the herd of elephants he is going to draw, next to the large previously completed ‘king’ of the herd.
Somewhat unusually, Makatron decides to work from a picture. He says while the picture acts as a guide, the work is “one continuous mistake” of creative interpretation.
The grey spray paint goes on first, followed by paint, water and then splashes of paint to create a speckled effect.
Many of Makatron’s works have surreal design elements incorporated into them such as cities and machinery.
Much like you would expect with a work by an impressionist artist, perspective is all important for large murals. Makatron takes a step back to check the likeness of his work.
Artists’ refreshment line up.
The precarious nature of uncommissioned art mean many are often completed anonymously. Makatron says he is influenced by the work of many of his friends, but doesn’t wish to name names.
The individual artist’s personal style plays a crucial role in the overall feel of the piece. Walking around the warehouse you can see this very clearly; designs can vary from thick symmetrical lines (above),
to colourful squiggles and tags,
to stencils. This delicately carved stencil monster is completed by artist ‘Stabs’ while we are there.
The art also often takes advantage of the surrounding space. This work almost blends with the vivid red of the factory’s scales in front of it to surreal effect.
I walk back and watch Makatron work for nearly an hour. After a while, the overpowering smell of paint begins to permeate the room. “Doesn’t the smell of paint bother you?” I ask. ” I don’t have a great sense of smell so the paint doesn’t bother me,” he replies. A lucky advantage.
As Makatron finishes his work, I wonder about the transitory nature of street art. “How long will your piece be here for?” I ask. “Well there might be a party here in this warehouse, so these [elephants] could be here for a few days, or a few years, and people will come back and rediscover it,” he says.
At least for the time being, there is now a herd of elephants roaming through our urban jungle.