painting cardboard speakers

Jim’s studio in Richmond (double click for a larger view)


Jim’s oversized cardboard creations for Big Day Out ’08

Jim Clark is an artist, art director, props maker, interior designer, builder, graphic designer, sign writer… he also loves building and riding motorbikes, restoring his beloved dune buggy, and I’ve even seen him do the odd bit of plumbing. He’s a jack of all trades, master of many, and one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. He’s also a fantastic dad to 2 of the coolest kids in Melbourne… the kind of dad that can whip up a rooftop swimming pool in a weekend, and takes the kids for noisy joy-rides around Melbourne in his infamous customised buggy. (helmets required for under 10 yr olds).

But the one thing that I find most inspiring about Jim is the fact that for him, nothing is impossible. Any brief you throw at him, he just figures out a way to make it happen. If you want a 10 ft tiki carved out of polystyrene, he’s your guy. If you need to create an aeroplane crash in a TV studio, he’s your guy. And as was seen this year at the Big Day Out, if you want an entire stage decked out in oversized 3D cardboard props… he can make that happen too!

One of his many jobs over the past few years has been as art director for ‘Lilyworld‘ – a stage that tours with The Big Day out all over Australia. He creates a different look every year, and this year the brief was ‘cardboard eco village’. Jim created the most amazing collection of oversized cardboard props – from giant robots to a cardboard-clad bicycle, giant match boxes and skeletons and ghetto blasters and speakers… the list goes on. The results were truly incredible. Check out the images above and below, and read on for an insight into the crazy, creative, cardboard world of Jim Clark…

Tell me a bit about your background – where you grew up, what you studied etc?

I grew up all over the place but spent my formative years in Melbourne. I studied Art and Design at both High School and TAFE. The course I completed in 1989 is now known as Visual Arts. This course is a 3 year lesson in Painting, Drawing, Photography, Ceramics and Illustration. As I started getting jobs, I studied part time at the Melbourne College of Decoration, in Interior Design, Signwriting and Graphic Design.

What is your answer when people ask ‘so, what do you do?’

My response is ,”I’m an Art Director”, which to most people is too ambiguous! I then usually have to explain my role as seeing the overall picture as well as the detail and co-ordinating the Art Department to fully realise the end product. My job description includes Graphic Design, Interior Decoration, an understanding of set building, sign-writing, scenic painting, prop-making and sculpture.

How did you get to be working on The Big Day Out?

A few of my loony friends got together as the “Ambience Team” on the BDO. Their set building skills were limited to hastily scrawled ideas on butchers paper, so they offered me the job of making them look crafty and creative. I initially started carving huge polystyrene sculptures of Tikis , Sumo Wrestlers and 9 ft Gnomes for the Lilypad stage, which recently became Lilyworld. I now spend 3 months of my year conceiving, building and touring our wacky themed stage around the country for the Big Day Out.

What other jobs have you had?

Art Directing many & varied projects……..TV commercials, skatewear showrooms, film storyboarding etc. I also enjoy working as an Art Director for Working Dog, a Melbourne based production company. Working Dog produces “Thank God You’re Here”, a semi scripted improv. show for television. My job is to help realise the five sets we produce each week for the show. Our series can run up to 12 episodes, meaning we conceive and build more than 60 sets over a ten week period. Gets pretty busy!

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened on a job or project you’ve worked on?

My time on the Big Day Out has often delivered some pretty weird experiences, not many of which are printable! Seeing touring artists interact on the BDO is often very weird, ie; Kamahl and Fergie ( Black Eyed Peas),Kenny and Keith Flint (Prodigy) and more recently Bjork flying into Dizzee Rascal!

Who or what inspires you?

My partner Amber is definitely my first inspiration as she is my harshest critic. I always run ideas past her first to test the water. In terms of referential inspiration, in alphabetical order:
artists,cool fonts, clip art, dune buggies, mexico, motorcycles, murals, stencilling, street art, vintage signage, vinyl cutters.

What is your greatest achievement?

Having an amazing family life with Amber and our kids, Ginger and Jonah.
What’s the best thing about your job?

Working hard for a few months and then having time to travel with the whole family. I can’t do the whole 9 to 5, four weeks off thing.

And the worst?

I don’t believe there is a worst thing, but not having complete creative control can sometimes be unpleasant.

What are you looking forward to?

Where the next job is coming from!

Jim’s crazy Big Day Out buddy Larry, riding the cardboard bike

cardboard speakers in situ

Lilyworld stage

more cardboard jungle

Jim and his partner Amber… and the dune-buggy