fbpx

Latest Stories

Rev-ving Up The Art World

Mitch Revs always knew he wanted to be an artist, but it took a detour as a tattooist to give him the confidence to take the plunge. He talks to us about art, risk and being a creative in Newcastle.
Mitch Revs

We’ve all seen cartoons in the newspaper, but would people ever hang them on their wall? That was the unknown when Mitch Revs decided to pursue an art career- and it wasn’t long before people started to notice the “blonde surfie kid.”

Mitch’s cartoon-based works are colourful, playful and full of little details to make you laugh. In essence, they are Mitch’s personality writ large – and when he reflects on why he has been so successful, Mitch believes this is why – because he has created a style true to him. “I’ve always grown up surfing and skating here in Merewether and was brought up in a positive family, so it was just about connecting the dots. That’s how my style transformed into what it is today,” he says.

Even though he is now an established artist frequently commissioned by Australia’s biggest brands, Mitch is still as enthusiastic as ever about the process of making a new work. “I get more excited about my artworks than anyone,” he says of the anticipation he experiences while producing a new piece. “There’s not a fan out there waiting for me to drop a new work more than I am sitting here waiting to see the finished product. Once I start drawing the outline, I can already see the artwork in colour, but I have to wait. I have to wait all these days to get to that finished point. I kind of feel like a little kid at a candy store just watching it all come together.”

Mitch is best known for the way he interprets coastal locations around Australia. If you have spent time at places like Merewether Baths, Bar Beach or Bondi Beach, you will relate to Mitch’s artworks with a knowing smile. But there is also more to his body of work – he has also produced pieces on subjects ranging from road trips through to surfing and the Pasha Bulker. Chances are you have seen his murals around Newcastle, the best known of which is at Bar Beach Bowling Club.

His latest project is a new exhibition titled All In A Year which opened on 28 November 2020 at Mitch Revs Gallery, which will see him introduce a new style inspired by animals rather than physical locations. “I’m wondering whether people only want to see the beachy stuff and I’m kind of fearful of that – but at the same time, not everyone surfs, so I need to let these new artworks speak to other people,” Mitch explains.

Mitch Revs
Mitch Revs

Mitch grew up in a family where creativity was always encouraged and knew he wanted to be an artist from a young age, but he decided to dip his toe in the water by becoming a tattooist first.

While branching out into a new style of art is a risk, Mitch has become pretty comfortable with taking risks since deciding to throw himself into the art world. He grew up in a family where creativity was always encouraged and knew he wanted to be an artist from a young age, but he decided to dip his toe in the water by becoming a tattooist first. Once he had done that long enough to cover his legs in tattoos, his father sat him down and encouraged him to give art a proper shot.

“I vividly remember that conversation between Dad and I, because I had always wanted to be the artist who didn’t have to work a nine-to-five job, but was unsure of how to do it,” Mitch recalls of his initial reluctance to commit to becoming an artist. “I guess there weren’t that many people pursuing an art career from our generation then either.”

As well as not having anyone to look up to professionally, Mitch was also concerned about how viable it would be to establish himself as an artist in Newcastle, because most people chasing a creative career were moving to Sydney or Melbourne. But that all changed when he mentioned to a mate that he was inspired by a local newspaper cartoonist Michael Eggleston. As luck would have it, that friend was able to introduce him to Michael. “I showed Michael a rendition I did of his Merewether Beach artwork and he loved it that much he insisted on purchasing a copy once it was finished,” Mitch recalls of their first meeting. “He was the guy who gave me the shove to follow that style and give it new life.”

Mitch Revs

With Michael offering guidance, Mitch began to refine his style until it felt right. “I think you know when what you’re painting is you,” he says. That was in 2013, and from there he started to paint locations that meant something to him, and people related to what he was doing. His practice steadily grew to the point where he was making a living from his art – and then a game-changing opportunity presented itself in 2018, when he was approached by Vegemite to create an artwork for a range of commemorative jars celebrating the brand’s ninety-fifth birthday. Mitch was one of just three artists selected from an Australia-wide search, and the exposure put him on a national podium.

A game-changing opportunity presented itself when Mitch was approached by Vegemite to create an artwork for a range of commemorative jars celebrating the brand’s ninety-fifth birthday.

“When they announced it, it was like a full website sell-out moment – everything just went,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘What does this mean?’ I wasn’t sitting there thinking I’m this massive artist, but I thought, ‘This is where it’s going to get fun.’ So that was definitely a moment where I thought, ‘strap in, let’s have some fun’.”

And there has been lots of fun. Since then, he has worked with other major brands, travelled around Australia in a Kombi, opened the doors to the Mitch Revs Gallery and, most recently, established a second gallery next door called Makers / Creators to showcase emerging local artists. Having been guided into his career by Michael, Mitch with Ben Neil (of Newy Burger Co) started Makers / Creators to pay it forward to others. Mitch offers honest feedback, space for artists to exhibit their work and access to facilities like custom printing equipment, which he found difficult to access in his early days.

“If I didn’t have Michael pushing me to give it a go, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Mitch explains of his decision to open Makers / Creators. “We get so many people coming in saying they want to quit their full-time job and be an artist. I’m not there telling them that it’s going to be easy, but I can give them that little boost to help by setting their artworks up and putting them onto our website – it’s basically a testing platform.”

Since the Vegemite project, Mitch’s profile has grown around the country. Yet at the same time, he has continued to deepen his connection to Newcastle. He has opened Mitch Revs Gallery and Makers / Creators near Blackstone Gallery and Daniel Courtney Photography Gallery – turning Hunter Street into an art hub – and now also runs workshops to get creatively curious Novocastrians engaged in art. There are Decked Out workshops for kids and Pinot & Picasso workshops for adults, which are laid-back painting classes with wine. Mitch says participants are often shy about their work at Pinot & Picasso, but the point is not to become the next big name in the art world – it’s about having a good time while trying something new. These classes are a natural extension of what he hopes to achieve through his work. “If you stand there and look at one of my artworks and you actually read the story, it’s just about having fun,” he explains.

Mitch Revs

It’s been a busy few years, during which Mitch realised many of the dreams he had for his art career – and he is proud that he didn’t have to move to Sydney or Melbourne to make it all happen. It means he can continue to expand his practice without missing things like his nephew’s soccer games. “Relationships and family make me more happy than a career,” he explains. “So I was like, ‘I’m not moving away, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll just do something else.’ I think Newcastle now is a place where you can be a creative and live comfortably, so I’m encouraging young people to give it a crack.”

Mitch Revs
Mitch Revs

Once I start drawing the outline, I can already see the artwork in colour, but I have to wait. I have to wait all these days to get to that finished point. I kind of feel like a little kid at a candy store just watching it all come together.

For now, Mitch is enjoying the moment rather than planning too far ahead into the future. “I just want to keep painting and inspiring the younger generation to do what I am doing.” But if an opportunity presents itself, Mitch won’t be afraid to chase it either. “I’m born for taking risks,” he says about his approach to his career. “I have always been a doer and if I get an idea, I’ll run with it and put everything I have into it. It always comes back to the passion behind it – I always do things one hundred percent.”

Words: Melinda Halloran | Images: Zoë Lonergan

As seen in Swell Issue 8. Grab your copy here

Grab the latest Swell

You also might be interested in

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00
Measurements (cm) XS S M L XL XXL
A: Half Chest 46 49 52 55 58 61
B: Body Length 66 69 72 74 76 78
C: Sleeve Length 19.5 20.5 21.5 22.5 22.5 23.5