Last Christmas the TDF team enjoyed a delicious Greek staff lunch – the type of meal that should immediately be followed by a nap. Of course it wouldn’t be a Christmas gathering without an Instagram snap to mark the occasion, and soon after posting this photo, we noticed we had been photobombed by two of the restaurant’s staff! The identities of the offending photobombers were soon revealed (by friends who had spotted and tagged them on our feed), and one of them was Billie Justice Thomson. We didn’t know her then, but after a decent dose of insta-stalking we discovered Billie’s talent as an artist and sign painter, and realised she would be the perfect candidate for an NKOTB profile!
Originally studying Visual Art at the South Australian School of Art, before moving to Melbourne four years ago, Billie accidentally stumbled across reverse glass painting. ‘I found some old glass in my Dad’s shed and just started painting on it,’ recalls Billie. ‘I really enjoyed the flatness of colour, and my own practice then quickly started heading in this direction, working on both perspex and glass.’
Billie’s work started on a relatively small scale, but she soon found a bigger canvas. ‘I was working in a beautiful fruit and veg shop with these massive windows, and a lot of foot traffic and saw the potential to paint on a larger scale. I asked to paint the window and it kind of took off from there, I have been painting windows ever since’ she says.
If you live in Melbourne’s inner North, it’s more than likely you might have unknowingly walked past one of Billie’s creations, which include larger than life fruit, vegetables, astronauts, animals, and our favourite – a Corona Bottle kissing an ice-cream! Billie’s client base has grown to include the windows of The Vegetable Connection, Kuwaii, Lunar Store, Lucky Buster Hair Salon, Victorine, Black Hearts & Sparrows, Save Yourself Store, Rooftop Bar, and Acland Street Cantina. Her style is bold and just a little kitsch, inspired by nostalgic shop windows of past decades designed to stop people in their tracks. ‘In a nice way the work attracts attention for the store, but still has the essence of my own practice and aesthetic,’ she says.
A self-taught sign painter, Billie explains that her window paintings are conceived using a similar process to her painting practice, albeit on a magnified scale. Using her iPad as a digital canvas to work up loose forms and colour combinations, typically Billie’s paintings start with a black outline on the front of the glass. Once this is drawn, she will begin the laborious task of painting the object in reverse from behind the glass – a process that can take anywhere from two hours to two days depending on the size and complexity of the work. ‘I get a huge sense of satisfaction from the intensity that comes from reverse glass painting,’ Billie admits. ‘I think this pushes me want to create work that is kind of bold, simplistic and uncomplicated.’
With a solo show at Modern Times scheduled for later in the year, and more window commissions planned, we predict Billie’s days photobombing group lunches at Hellenic Republic may soon be over. Before too long it’ll be the general public photobombing Billie’s famous windows, as more and more of them appear around town!