Ten for Ten | 2019 | Series One with Oliver Howes

Oliver Howes is a local Queensland artist. His work Big Fish is a big bamboo fish semi-submerged in the sand; origins unknown. Did it emerge from beneath the surface of the earth or was it pulled from the sea by some divine calling? Did it always possess this woody hard exterior or was it once as slippery, wet and scaly as all the other fish? Oliver likes to believe that on a dark, windy night with rough, unruly seas it leapt from the water and when it touched the moonlit sand petrified into what you now see.

Writer Haley Smith spoke with Oliver about what inspires his art practice, and how this evolves to create beautiful work that speaks to the community.


Can you tell me one thing about your artwork that will make people stop and stare?

Probably the scale.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Literally all around and often where I least expect it. Often the most seemingly mundane things provide the biggest mental spark. Rubbish bins, pedestrian crossings, eye wrinkles, pool noodles, gyroscopes, thermodynamics, bubbles, cetaceans, weathered concrete, bees, anagrams.... a list of arbitrary things that have all provided inspiration in their own way.

What motivates you to create your art?

That feeling of excitement when an idea pops into your head and then the pursuit of that idea to see if it has a heart.  Also, the feeling of being in the zone. I don't know exactly what it is and how to get there but there are times when you're making something and it feels really, really good. Sometimes creating something becomes frustrating, sometimes you don't feel all that into it and other times you just feel supremely confident and content in what you are doing and how it will turn out.

Do you experience self-doubt or fear when it comes to creating art and how do you overcome it?

Absolutely. The self-doubt gets pretty self-perpetuating because it makes you less confident in your work and the work you produce becomes worse which makes you doubt yourself more.

My solution (which may or may not be a healthy one) is if I start disliking something and doubting my artistic abilities I like to pull out a Hail Mary and try something outrageous in hopes of salvaging it i.e. painting it all pink, throwing waster on it, attacking it with an enormous brush; 99 percent of the time this ruins the work and it ends up in the bin but that 1 percent of the time it works out is pretty satisfying.

How long has it taken you to complete your SWELL Sculpture this year?

By the time it gets to opening it will be about seven weeks of work.

Can you tell me what impression you want your art piece to have on the public?

I want it to be the type of artwork that merits an exclamation like "holy %$#" or "wow" or "look at that!". Something so awesome that people feel the need to be immediately vocal about it. 

At what point in the day do you find you are the most creative and productive?

I'd like to think all the time but that's not true. Maybe when I’m not trying to be creative or productive, I weirdly find myself being quite productive and creative.

Are there any installations from other artists that you are excited to see this year?

All of them. I have never been to a Swell festival so am just super excited to see everything there is to see.

Would you rather create art with your opposite hand or have a really annoying high-pitched noise play every time you try to do work?

Non dominant hand for sure. I actually brush my teeth left-handed and had a weird phase of wanting to become ambidextrous so it wouldn't be so bad for me. On the other hand, the high pitched noise would be super annoying and while you can get better at using your opposite hand I’m not sure if you can get better at not hearing high pitched noises.

If you could only use one material to make art for the rest of your life, what would you use?

Paint. Because the scope of what you can do in a painting is so incredibly large and because, unlike other mediums, you can paint literally anything that pops into your head.


Haley Smith is an emerging writer and creative from the Gold Coast. She has had an active blog for over ten years where she shares her short stories, poetry and travelling adventures. She has founded a Podcast; Atomic Sunflowers. Here she shares stories about creative living beyond fear, mental health and balancing the creative mind.

Follow her on Instagram @haleylaurensmith or her blog www.haleylaurensmith.com

Ruth Della