Hear from Newcastle’s favourite colour-loving artist and illustrator
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Over the coming months, we’ll be checking in with some of our region's most talented – a Hunter Valley chef at the top of their game, the local queen of aesthetic beauty, a mother-daughter floral duo, and a much-loved Mayfield Cafe – to hear about how they marry together their core passions whilst successfully running a small business.
Newcastle has never fallen short when it comes to talented artists and creatives. Over recent years, one particular artist, illustrator, and muralist has brightened many of our city’s buildings, and our homes, becoming a much-loved Newcastle personality.
You might know who we’re referring to – Newcastle creative Mitch Revs.
From starting out as a tattoo artist, to painting cartoonified coastal landscapes and large-scale murals, Mitch Revs is one of Newcastle’s most in-demand artists. We caught up with him to hear about his journey.
Can you take us back to your earliest memories of being creative?
“My first memory of being creative would be when I was a young kid, sitting at the dining table with a nice big tin of pencils and doing lots of line drawings and colouring in.
“I come from quite a large family and spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. There were a lot of grandkids and I guess they had to try and occupy us, and the best way to do that was to get us being creative. I have lots of nice memories of being with my family and keeping it colourful.”
Our generation has grown up hearing tales of ‘the starving artist’ – how did you manage that preconceived idea whilst still pursuing being a full-time artist?
“I think my dad wanted me to become an engineer. As parents, we want our kids to do what we find or identify as being successful. Engineering to me was too mathematical and my brain definitely doesn't work like that; I’m very much a visual person and I think my parents could see that as well.
“They wanted to make sure that I was going to carve a career path in something that was going to set me up for a bright future. Now, in the world that we live in, creatives are thriving. There has never been a better time to take a risk and do something that’s different.”
You started out as an apprentice tattooist, how did you transition into becoming an artist, muralist, and illustrator?
“Tattooing was where it all started for me. It opened a lot of doors and has made me into the artist I am today. It was Dad who was the voice in the background saying ‘Make sure you use this skill as a way to do something positive.’
“In my mind, I wanted to create something colourful that was true to who I was. It eventually led me down the line of fine art and then to murals. Since then, I haven’t really looked back and I absolutely love what I do.”
You’ve been a full-time artist since 2013 – can you share some of your career highlights?
“Looking back over the years, my art career has evolved a lot over time, from doing fine art and murals to a few exhibitions over the years. The idea of having a gallery was never something that was at the forefront. It has been one of those happy accidents that has led us to where we stand today. “Things that have been milestones for me would be my 2016 exhibition, Wet Dreams. A lot of the artworks from that are still in the public today and are probably hanging in people’s homes.
“The other one would have to be the Vegemite collaboration. The guys from Vegemite loved the artworks I was putting out there and wanted to wrap my artwork on their 95th anniversary jar. I was very grateful to be a part of that and it has definitely helped boost my career to get me to where I am today.”
Did you ever dream you would be this successful?
“I don’t think I ever saw myself doing this as a career, it just kind of happened. In my eyes, I still think if I can do this for another year I’ll be happy – I think many creatives think like that. You create work, you put it out there, and you hope that people buy it.
“The biggest driver for the success of the Mitch Revs Gallery is community – without their support we wouldn’t be here.”
As a natural creative, how have you managed the logistical side of running a business?
“When I first opened the Mitch Revs Gallery in 2018, I hired my first staff member who is now the Brand Manager and my Personal Assistant, Kellie. One of the first things we discussed was what point of sale we were going to use.
“When we looked across the board at all of the different platforms, Square was definitely a standout for us because not only was it compact, it offered all the things that we needed as a business.
What were the advantages of using Square as a small business?
“A pro for me at that initial point too was being a small business, there was no ongoing monthly fees, instead, it was just a percentage of sales. It also offered us to use everything through our iPhone and had great monthly reporting which allowed us to be able to forecast.”
You’ve captivated the Newcastle community with your unique caricatures of locals and local landmarks – how would you describe your style?
“It’s a combination of coastal art mashed together with cartoonism. There is lots of humour, lots of colour, and it’s something that’s been inspired from artists that I have loved over the years. Local artist Michael Eggleston, and other artists like Michael Egan and Ken Done have inspired me to create the style that I am known for.”
Mitch Revs Gallery opened in March this year. Who is the space for and what do you offer?
“Ultimately it’s a space for the community and a space where we facilitate the needs of all artists.
“We sell local art, we sell art for international creatives, and a range of merchandise. As a service-based gallery, we also offer custom printing, custom framing, and artwork reproduction. It’s a place for artists to come and express themselves.”
“The people that shop here are from all walks of life. We have kids that have saved up their pocket money that want to do a puzzle. We have the grandparents that come in who love the puzzles also. People can just connect through the artwork that we create, and I think that’s where the beauty lies and that’s why people enjoy it so much.”
What is your favourite part of your day-to-day life?
“The beauty of being an artist for me is that I get to wake up every day and create and every day is different. One day I will be doing a custom illustration for a client, the next day I’ll be painting the side of a building.”
If you could give some advice to emerging small business owners and up-and-coming creatives, what would you say?
“My advice for small business owners would be to create a team of people to help you get to where you want to be and make sure that you identify your vision.”
What does the future hold for Mitch Revs Gallery?
“We’ll keep adapting and creating. From when we started this business, to where it is now, we’ve had four different spaces. Fortunately, we have this space at The Junction for quite a long time which is really exciting. We’ve created a space that is beautiful and it reflects the brand and who we are as people. I’m excited to continue to create and bring happiness to the public.”
You have twins – a little boy and a little girl – are you seeing any future artistic talent there?
“I can already see that they’re creative and love being able to immerse themselves in colour, which I’ll always encourage. I want them to be able to be who they are and be creative, which is a really beautiful thing to watch.”
Celebrating 10 years as a full time artist in 2023, we’re excited to watch where the world takes Mitch Revs for the next 10 – hopefully we’ll still be able to call him a Newcastle local for many years to come.
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