By Jamie Burnett
James Giddy was always a creative kid. It was something his parents encouraged. Instead of days filled playing video games, he was armed with blank paper and crayons. But it was his Grandad’s retirement that saw his creativity evolve into a love of art.
“When I was younger my Gramps started to paint watercolours. He was testing out all these different techniques and my sister and I would go out with him and do our best at painting with him. That was where any introduction into the finer side of art started.
“Mum and Dad always encouraged creative avenues. If I wanted a lightsabre I’d have to make one. I never had a Playstation, it was always paper and crayons for me.”
James was born in South Africa, but moved to Australia when he young. Those roots and a home near a lake led to a love of flora and fauna, a side that’s prevalent in the murals he paints all over the country.
“I started using animals as subjects because when I was younger I spent time in South Africa with family. We would go on Safari and I’d do little sketches of all sorts of animals. I’ve still got some from when I was really young like eight or so. I also think growing up near Herdsman Lake is a big reason why I paint birds. I had a direct reference to native animals so I leaned toward that a bit. The inspiration was right there.”
While James has become well known for his murals (he’s painted more than a hundred across WA), he’s also passionate about other art. Sitting inside his Trigg studio, several recently painted portraits sit above a wooden desk. While they’re depicting no one individual, each portrait contains elements of different people James knows or has seen.
“Mural work definitely pays the bills and I think painting animals on walls in public spaces is really beneficial. It reaches a wide audience without being overly confronting. Whereas my portrait work is ominous and comments on the unknown and isolates moments from the everyday. They are two worlds apart, but for myself it gives me an edginess that murals don’t offer.
“However I love the conversation and colour murals bring to an environment. I think the biggest thing you’re trying to achieve with a mural is to get people to talk about it. I do a few pieces that have a landscape element and there’s this dual point perspective where people see the colours and the detail of the animal, but then they look harder and see the sunset or something else. Creating a conversation is really important, especially in rural areas where you want people to lift morale a little bit and create something that brings people together.”
It’s been six years since James painted his first mural, down at the Ocean Beach Hotel beer garden. Since then, and more than one hundred murals later, he’s developed a system for these large scale pieces.
“I’ll always start with a watercolour on an A5 piece of paper. Then I head to the site and take photos of the walls. After than I impose the watercolour onto the wall and it gives the client an impression of what it will look like before it gets done. It helps the client trust you cause they can see what it will become. I compare murals to skateboarding. Once you’ve learnt how to drop in on a small ramp, a big ramp is the same thing. It’s just in your head… when it comes to a wall I just trust myself.”
James will use the $1000 Alby Made grant to produce a mural piece in Mt Lawley, again highlighting native flora and fauna in an urban space.
“I’ll paint a small wall in a laneway in Mt Lawley. It’s quite a public space and there are a few murals around it already, but there is some graffiti and an ominous vibe. The mural will help create a bit of colour to that area and it will let people stop and bring something native into that scene as well.”