A trip to Newcastle wouldn’t be complete without checking out the work of Trevor Dickinson. Actually to be honest it’s basically impossible to miss.
Trevor’s kooky illustrations have become a bit of a local landmark – he’s created a number of large scale public murals around town, the most brilliant of which are his Newcastle Museum Photowalls. These simple interactive murals never cease to draw a giggle from passers by of any age – all ya need is a sense of humour and an iPhone, for hours (ok at least 20 minutes) of amusement! I defy even the coolest of cats to walk past without being lured by the sheer silliness factor! (Even our dear photographer Sean Fennessy got in front of the camera for this one! ‘Good, clean fun!’ he said! )
Trevor is another Novocastrian whose fascination and affection for this unique beachside city comes from being an ‘outsider’ of sorts. After moving here in 2002 from London, Trevor made a conscious effort to engage with his surroundings – the result is an ongoing series of dry, witty illustrations, murals, zines and tongue in cheek ‘souvenirs’ that sum up Newcastle’s unique quirks so perfectly. Trevor has named his ongoing project ‘Newcastle Productions‘. Says it all really!
Trevor is currently on a residency in Canberra but was kind enough to answer just a few questions for us about his work, and the everyday inspiration he finds in his hometown! –
Can you give us a little background about yourself, your career background and what led you to lllustration?
I was born in Swindon, England and moved to London to study textile when I was eighteen. After leaving college I specialised in graphics and textiles for the clothing industry and designed for a range of brands, including The Rolling Stone, Gap, Disney, Fred Bare and Adidas. I also co-wrote and illustrated three children’s picture books that have been published worldwide. I mainly design for childrenswear and most of the work I do involves drawing in some form or another, I see the drawings I make of Newcastle as a natural extension of this.
How and when did you come to be based in Newcastle, and why did you first start making work inspired by your town?
I moved to Newcastle in 2002, my wife Jo is Australian and we just wanted a change from living in London. Jo’s parents had a Newcastle property that we rented when we first arrived. We didn’t specifically choose Newcastle, it just seemed the easiest thing to do at the time.
After about five or six years here I realised that I hadn’t really connected with Australia fully. I missed family, friends and England, I was working at home sending designs over the internet and I could have been anywhere in the world. Going out and drawing Newcastle was a conscious effort to engage with my surroundings, it was drawing as therapy.
I initially chose to draw aspects of Australia that differed from my own experience; this included park benches, telegraph poles, storm drains etc. Everyday things that aren’t often celebrated. I’m interested in recording Newcastle as an urban environment that people actually live in rather than the glossy surf town that’s often promoted.
You illustrate a great variety of things – from incredible wall murals to independent zines and even kooky souvenirs. What has been a favourite project in recent years?
I have two favourite projects, the first is 100 Letterboxes. In 2010 I decided to draw 100 letterboxes of Newcastle with the numbers from one to one hundred all represented by a genuine letterbox. This took me to almost every street in Newcastle searching for good examples of each number. The final collection was a centrepiece for my first solo exhibition.
My most recent favourite project would have to be the Newcastle Museum Photowall.
I have been lucky that over the past year the council have given me prime spots for my mural work, and as I painted them began to notice how people would pose for pictures in front of the murals, they would often interact with objects in the paintings, creating an effect like a still from animated sections in Mary Poppins. I had the idea of painting a wall that was entirely designed to be interacted with and photographed, I had never seen a mural like this, even after searching online. The technical challenge of developing a new approach to murals was exciting. I was offered two walls at the Newcastle Museum that were perfect for the concept and I was allowed the freedom to do what I liked. It’s been great to see how much the photo walls have been used already.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
A lot of procrastination until I slowly power up and focus on either commission work for clothing companies or drawing for Newcastle Productions. More and more I don’t have a typical work day, that’s how I prefer things to be.
Newcastle’s best kept secret?
I think Newcastle itself is a big secret to a lot of Australians.
ps. You absolutely MUST check out the Newcastle Photowall Museum facebook page to see Trevor’s Photowalls in action… so many hilarious shots, and such a super cute idea to document them this way.