If you've been kicking around Wellington in recent years, you may in fact recognise some of Sean Duffell's work on murals, sides of buildings, fencing and street corners. His distinct style has been included in some of Paper Rain's gear in recent times, on everything from our fair trade Tees to our Art Boards.
We caught up with Sean to find out more!
How would you describe your work?
Ancient civilisations drew their inspiration from the natural world and the connections they shared with nature. I also draw my inspiration from the natural world by loosely and abstractly referencing my studies of the patterns found within the macro worlds of entomology, ornithology, zoology and botany etc hence why my mahi tends to look like it’s from a particular culture without actually directly referencing any particular culture (even though my whakapapa is Ngati Porou). Every painting is pushing what I do further from the last one, whether that's compositionally, style wise, what medium I’ve used or just a new range of colours.
Where are you based and why?
No fixed abode, but always in Wellington. I am always travelling with my work but base myself in Wellies, as it's the perfect place for me. A city that's really easy to navigate around with loads of nature within a close proximity of the inner city. I'm lucky to share a studio with 9 other creatives in the inner city - Honey Badger Studios. We all make different arts, talk and share ideas and projects. It's super inspiring and feel honoured to be surrounded by so many talented people.
How is craftsmanship involved with your work?
Everything I create is handmade. My large scale paintings are always freehand no tape or stencils and push the limits to how much detail I can jam in there. Even if people don’t like the image I hope they can appreciate the detailing and the way I’ve painted it. I’ve also started making 3d wood sculptures works and make all the boxes from scratch. I love building and constructing and really want to do more of these ~ if I can find the time. I really do think that the craftsmanship aspect of ones work is paramount as an artist, as well as originality! The DYI attitude of graffiti has taught me self motivation and discipline which are key elements to have as a working artist. It’s one thing to have an idea or vision but to go out and make it happen whenever with whatever you have is another.
How do sustainability, environmental emphasis or localisation factor into your work?
I am very aware of my footprint of this earth and try to keep this footprint as small as possible, I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years now which is one step to reduce my footprint and obviously using as less plastic as possible and always recycling whatever is leftover. This has become a little over the top at times (my incessant need to use paper and cardboard over plastic can be a little embarrassing at times..) but we really have to be more conscious because so many others just don’t even fucking get it. In the future I’d like to make more work from recycled objects as it’s been fun in the past but have to think how to do it wisely and not create junky craft art pieces. I have also been hoarding away all my empty aerosol cans for a recycling art project that's planned to happen later in the year. Anything we can do collectively to use less is critical right now. Buy less s**t full stop! I see way too many people buying so much crap that is single use and it’s just a pathetic waste and that's not just restricted to food packaging… it’s everything. Chill out humans sheesh... Convenience is the true killer.
What drives you to make art?
I have an inner urge to progress and push what I do further with every new work I do. If it’s trying new colour ways, effects details or even a totally new medium, I want to continue to learn where possible. Evolving and experimenting and also that horrible thing called money that pays for my existence in this capitalist society are constant factors that also drive me to do more. Also the people I meet is a huge motivator too. Wether it’s when I’m out on the streets painting or travelling and talking to locals from a different place, wherever that maybe, it’s such a buzz and I love to travel and experience all this craziness. We’re all connected in this world and the more you can share with people the better.
Tell us a crazy dream:
“Life is a dream come true” - Tom Penny
What do you like about working with The Paper Rain Project:
Super goods people doing super good thingsss with other goodly peoples.
Favourite ‘art’ experience?
Pretty much just working on walls out in the open public space with the potential to come across and see the most random things that could occur. I’ve seen and heard the weirdest things all over the world through painting walls and learn pretty quick how to deal with every type of human at a flip of a coin.. I’ve given pencils to kids in Cambodia who didn’t even know what a pencil was - painted a wall in a Brasilian ghetto with an Argentinan, Brazilian and a Peruvian and none of us could really communicate to the other haha - painted an abandoned school in the middle of nowhere Thailand at 6am and a local pulls up on a motorbike with his 3yr old in tow, an we’re thinking uh oh here we go.. turned out he’s also an artist and had painted this intricate hand brushed buddha in there too, so we shared a morning beer with just hand signals to communicate.
Life is just so damn amazing if you're open to it.