When The Walls Talk: Artist Kiel Tillman

Original. Unexpected. Genius. Kiel Tillman’s murals layer crisp graphic elements and typography with organic shapes and imagery. His bold clean lines breathe not just life, but character and spunk into every space he transforms.

Owner and Creative Director of Tillman Creative Co., Kiel’s creative practice interweaves murals, graphic design, illustration, brand identity and garment design. He has exhibited in galleries across Australia, and collaborated with brands ranging from Disney and Oakley, to Corona and General Pants.

An expert in pushing creative boundaries, and telling stories through design, there is something wonderfully untamed and free about the artistic wilderness that Tillman crafts, and we can’t wait to see where he takes us next.

We chatted with Kiel about his journey, his inspiration and creating art in public space.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming an artist?

I grew up in a small coastal town, there wasn’t much to do except surf and skate around with my friends. Through surf magazines, skateboards, clothing labels etc I found a love for graphics. That led me to move to the Gold Coast to study graphic design. Since graduating I’ve worked at a printers (Fast Proof Press), a surf label (Billabong), and helped build a company (Potato Press) and all the while I’ve continued to create my own work. Almost 5 years ago I took all of the knowledge and experience I gained from working across different creative industries and I started Tillman Creative Co. Now I get to help build brands with Pixels and Paint. 

What first stimulated you to start painting in public space?
I was given the opportunity to paint a wall in a café for a bit of cash and some free coffees (the old Feather and Docks in Palm Beach). I took it as an opportunity and a challenge to create something larger than what I had created before. Then I got asked to paint bigger and bigger walls. I just kept taking the challenge and learning along the way. Every mural presents a new challenge and experience. 

How do you approach the creation of art in public spaces, and the creation of art in a studio, differently?

Most of my murals are commercial or commissioned – so they need to serve a purpose, represent a brand or have meaning to the people who commissioned the piece. It is very rare that I get to paint a piece that is all about me and my artistic expression. I am a designer by trade so I approach murals with more of a problem solver perspective. For my own personal artwork though (when I actually get time to create) it is all about getting ideas out of my head. Trying things out. Exploring new techniques. 

What do you enjoy most about creating art in public space?

I enjoy seeing the end result. The process of creating the piece can be stressful, exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding, painful, meditative and even lonely at times. But the absolute best moment is finishing, standing back and seeing your work in a public space. There’s a feeling of accomplishment you get which is hard to describe. It makes the roller coaster of creating it all worth it! I like going back and seeing the work from time to time too. Unless it gets painted over, haha. Nothing lasts forever though. 

Can you share a bit about what inspires your work?
The biggest inspiration is a deadline. I work best under pressure. Anxiety can be a powerful tool. All jokes aside though, I love nature, the ocean, music, architecture, animation, movies, my family and my peers in the industry (especially my Gold Coast creative crew). It is also inspiring to see young creatives coming through. Keeps this old man on his toes. 

When or where are you most creative?

I would have to be most productive in my studio in Burleigh. But I think my brain is most creative when I am forced to stop or do a mundane tasks – Like having a shower, doing the dishes, the morning commute. Forced downtime – no phone or other distractions. Just a pencil, notebook, headphones and weird music.

Some of the most recent Gold Coast locations to receive an injection of Kiel’s artistic genius include Cheeky’s bar in Surfers Paradise, Dreamworld, AWOL beer’s taproom in Burleigh Heads, and a pump water station in Hope Island. 

Still curious? Jump on over to tillmancreative.co or follow Kiel @kieltillman and @tillmancreativeco.

IMAGE (C) Darran Franks

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