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The Tools I Use · Adnate, Artist

Creative People

Matt Adnate is painting the tallest mural in the Southern Hemisphere. The Collingwood Housing estate is the artist’s (known by his moniker Adnate) canvas, and its community his subjects. An entire 20-storey wall facing the city on the corner of Wellington and Vere streets has been totally transformed by this massive project, featuring hyper-realistic portraits of four of the estate’s residents.

Today, Adnate gives us an inside look at the tools required to bring a project of this scale to life!

25th September, 2018

Artist Matt Adnate painting the tallest mural in the Southern Hemisphere. Photo – Sam Wong.

With a background in street art, Adnate is self-taught in portraiture. Photo – Sam Wong.

The Collingwood Housing Estate featuring portraits of four of its residents. Photo – Sam Wong.

Laying down the base of Dulux Weathershield. Photo – Nicole Reed.

The massive mural on Wellington street. Pictured are residents Badria Abdo from Oromia, Ethiopia who lives with disability restrictions and came to Australia as a refugee in 2006, and Arden Warson-Cropley, a 6-year-old being raised by a single mother. Photo – Nicole Reed.

Sally Tabart
Tuesday 25th September 2018

Starting out as a graffiti artist, Adnate painted letters for a decade before he moved into portraiture. ‘I tried to go to uni and finish art courses, but it didn’t really go very far’, he tells me over the phone as he warmed up bottles for his new baby (who was born right in the middle this project!), ‘I realised that the only way I would be a full time artist would be if I pushed myself without anyone else’s help’.

The self-taught artist’s unbelievably realistic portraiture can be seen in car parks, libraries, trucks, buildings and silos all over the world. But his latest project really takes things up a notch – or, up 20 storeys, to be precise.  In one of the largest community arts projects in Australia’s history, Adnate has teamed up with Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne MP, and Melbourne street-art collective Juddy Roller to bring to life this unique community-centred art project in Collingwood.

Living in Melbourne, street art in its many forms is part of our city’s distinct aesthetic. Tours through our graffiti-lined laneways are conducted for hundreds of tourists every day, we have entire organisations dedicated to finding opportunities for artists, and our government even commissions larger-than-life pieces.

Despite its prevalence in Melbourne’s everyday life, I’ve never really given much thought to the impact of the large-scale murals that colour our city. When photographer Sam Wong and I went down to the Collingwood flats to photograph Adnate a couple of weeks ago for this story, I was struck by how engaged the community was with the project. People slowed down, hung around and yelled out of cars. Some tell me they’d come by every day to check what new progress had been made. ‘It’s bloody awesome, right?!’ a mother with a young son who lives in the building asked me rhetorically as together we watched Adnate, his assistant and our photographer Sam suspended high above the street.

Yep. It’s bloody awesome. Here’s how Adnate does it.

Photo – Sam Wong.

Photo – Sam Wong.

Incredible detail on the textured wall. Photo – Sam Wong.

Photo – Sam Wong.

The tools i use · ADNATE

1. Dulux Weathershield Paint

Spray paint is very thin –it’s not a self-priming paint – so you’ve got to put house paint on raw surfaces first. For me, Dulux Weathershield is number one in its priming coverage. The other thing is that it has really beautiful colours. To get those really rich, bright colours I get the original colours before they’re mixed. The other brands don’t actually do that – it’s pretty electric when you work with it.

Find it here

2. 3M Full Face Respirator

When you paint, you don’t just ingest it through your mouth and your nose, which is what a standard respirator covers, to protect your lungs, but you actually absorb a lot through your eyes as well. Working at that scale, when blasting paint up into the air all day, it just drops back on your face and gets into your eyes. If I’m doing that five or six days a week for a month, that’s a lot of paint going into my system. I’ve got to be really careful with that because paint is so toxic.

Find it here

3. Montana GOLD Spray Cans

Spray paint is the medium I’m most comfortable with. I used it for years before I ever started painted portraits – if you give me a brush or acrylics or oils it won’t have the same level of quality as what I can do with a spray can. In the last 8 years I’ve been working with Montana GOLD, which is the most premium spray paint in the world.

It comes from Germany and it’s got awesome valve pressure, so it comes out really smooth and clean, but the colour choices are probably my favourite thing. It’s got all the skin tones – they were designed by Maclaim Crew in the early 2000s, who were the first guys doing realistic portraiture coming out of Germany. The did a very good job of choosing all the right kinds of colours for this kind of work.

Find it here

4. Astro Fat Caps

They come in different strengths and sizes. Working at this scale the only caps that are really worth working with are the astro caps, which are the biggest caps you can get. When you’re at that scale, a massive fat cap just looks like a tiny thin pencil line. When I’m working on canvas I’ll use a whole different range from skinny to fat.

Find it here

Adnate suspended above the city. Photo – Sam Wong.

Photo – Sam Wong.

Portrait of Badria Abdo from Oromia, Ethiopia who lives with disability restrictions and came to Australia as a refugee in 2006. Photo – Sam Wong.

Adnate uses Montana GOLD for their paint quality and range of colours. Photo – Sam Wong.

View from the top. Photo – Sam Wong.

‘Self motivation is the biggest thing. You can’t learn that in school or anywhere else.’ – Matt Adnate

ADNATE’S TOP shops and Tips

Best place to shop for gear?

I get the spray paint directly from the distributor, Rossdale, but you can buy Montana GOLD at a good price from Officeworks. I get the respirators from BOC Gas stores, but you can buy them online too.

Inspiring references?

I look at a lot of photography, like Steve McCurry who took the famous ‘Afghan Girl‘ photo. His work has always been really inspirational to me. I also look at different painting techniques – people who create portraiture in abstract ways, not just hyperrealism. I like it when artists combine other techniques to create strong portraits. 

What do you listen to when you work?

I listen to music full-time. It’s my biggest energy drive and thing that gets me going the most. When I’m painting 8 or 10 hours a day, I need music. It’s my number one inspiration over any other sort of art. I chew through so much music – I find a sound I like in every single style – everything from electronic, jungle, drum and bass to hip hop, soul and funk. It’s very eclectic and can vary quite rapidly. I listen to a radio show every week that pinpoints where I’m at, run by a guy called Benji B on Radio 1.

What’s something you wish you’d known before you learnt it the hard way?

Self motivation is the biggest thing. You can’t learn that in school or anywhere else. That’s where I’ve taken the biggest leaps and bounds. I never learnt portraiture, I taught myself. It means I have my own practice and way of doing things – I don’t have to rely on a method anyone else taught me.

Catch Adnate on Instagram and check out his website for other work. You can see the impressive mural for yourself on at the Collingwood Housing Estate, on the corners of Wellington and Vere Streets. 

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net