Melbourne is known as the street art capital of the world. Although graffiti is illegal – murals, paintings and stencils (permit provided) perfectly are. This makes exploring Melbourne’s many colorful laneways a great way to spend time when out and about in this vibrant city.
My company decided to offer Recreation Day last Friday; a day dedicated to getting colleagues out of the office to get active while building relationships. The options consisted of activities such as rock climbing, art and chocolate tours, badminton, a day at the movies, and a stencil class.
At first glance, I thought nothing much of the stencil class, especially when considering my lack of artistic talent. However, after a closer evaluation I discovered that the class offered was actually quite unique so decided to give it a try.
Blender Studios in North Melbourne is held within the dark exterior of Dark Horse Experiment art gallery and Blender Lane – which is covered with over 12 years of street art. Blender Studios also hosts Melbourne Street Art Tours where well-known street artists take guests on a tour of the city’s famous street-art covered laneways.
Upon arrival amongst 19 other colleagues, Michael and Jenny who would spend the next two hours with us shaping our very own artwork greeted us. We were encouraged by Michael to begin sketching designs on a blank sheet of paper to get our creative juices flowing. I stared aimlessly at mine for a while before drawing a very disagreeable version of my turtle tattoo. Glaring at my sketch I reconfirmed what I already knew, drawing is not my forte.
Michael then gathered us around to demonstrate how to take a drawing and trace over it on transparent plastic. Next, placing the plastic on the cutting matt, you carefully had to use a small knife, slightly on an angle, to cut out your design. He made it look so simple too, but oh was it more difficult then you would expect to cut a straight a line!
Luckily I came prepared. After conversing with some friends for an idea in advance, I was inspired to create an iconic Melbourne scene; something I could take home and remember the experience by. After a quick Google search a few hours before heading out to the class, I decided on a symbolic tram.
Thankfully, Michael was happy to lend a hand and did the tracing of the image onto the plastic for me, making suggestions on what outlines to cut out and which ones to keep in the image for the best stencil affect. I can’t say my cutting skills were that great though, and there were quite a few extra cut outs included unintentionally.
The fun really began once my stencil cut out was finished and I made my way out to Blender Lane. Canvas in hand, I evaluated all the color options in aerosol cans to decide what to put as my backdrop. I decided for a camo green and then sought out a few opinions on how to best position my trams. Luckily for me, the talented bunch I was surrounded by offered some perks, and one of my colleagues had a stencil of the Melbourne skyline. While making new friends, I swapped my tram for his skyline and from there a concept was born.
After looking around it was awesome to see what creative ideas everyone had. From a Banksy rat on the skyline to rolling waves and a silhouette of one person’s child, I finished feeling very cultured and shared a special Melbourne-only experience. My fingers were spray-painted pink and nostrils filled with paint smell. Although it felt like some of my colleagues were hanging in just another laneway…just doing some casual street art, I truly felt accomplished.
Anne Marie and I were invited back by Jenny to attend the exhibit at the art gallery, which was opening in just a few hours. We killed time by hitting up Workshop Bar, a really cool boutique beer bar, coffee shop and outdoor garden, with funky beats playing in the background and an after work crowd filling the space.
We returned to the exhibit shortly later, free wine in hand pretending to understand the art world and mingle with the fashionable before hitting up Chinatown to indulge in greasy chili chicken and dumplings.
It was a true Melbournian adventure!