‘Anything hand-painted tells its own story - whether it's lettering or a painting - the imperfections are where the value lies. Showing a direct connection to the hand that made it and the time and energy invested in producing it.’

Late in 2019 we connected with local Brisbane signwriter come artist Rick Hayward through mutual friends. He’d done some amazing work for a couple of our customers in the area and we were instantly inspired by his style and ability to capture attention through his designs.

One thing led to another and the topic of our Brisbane Cafe naturally came about. We sent Rick some of our coffee and asked if he could draw something up that would tell a story, capture attention and inspire the local community of independent thinkers.

He quickly got to work and between brush strokes, we managed to sit down over a flat white and croissant while the tape recorder was spinning to dive deeper into his creative journey, his processes and why he does what he does.

What made you shift from traditional signwriting to using a paintbrush and working on larger surfaces? What is it about murals that influences people?

When I moved to the Gold Coast after high school I applied for a signwriting apprenticeship, it seemed to merge everything I enjoyed from design through to production and now it's been nearly twenty years! Around 2010 I made the decision to step away from the modern sign industry to paint full time, it was good timing as the 'handmade' movement was gathering steam and I was able to create a niche out of an old craft that for a lot of people had a sense of familiarity.

Through my apprenticeship I was taught how to scale designs up manually without relying on a projector or other means, this naturally translated to painting murals once I started working for myself. Initially, the murals I was doing were very commercial projects responding to very specific briefs but that has transitioned over time to commissioned artworks in my own style.

I really enjoy the process of responding to a site and it's locality, and believe that public art has the ability to create moments of interaction and contemplation on surfaces that don't otherwise engage the public.

How do you work with businesses to achieve their goals through art and what magic happens in between ideation and execution?

It’s very much a case by case scenario but always starts with the conversation, which is often accompanied by imagery of previous work. Once I have an understanding of the client’s motivation I can respond with a concept that can be finessed to fit the project, and I think the magic lies in open communication and an outcome that fulfils everyone’s expectations.

How did you discover that your work could influence behaviour and perception? How have you refined and developed that?

When I’m given creative freedom to create public work I feel a responsibility to express something that attempts to go beyond self-expression, and that speaks to more universal concerns.

Originally working with typography allowed me to explore this through language, however, I’m now exploring a more reductive abstract approach. This work is not as literal but feels like an exciting new direction conceptually, particularly the studio work I’m creating for a solo exhibition utilising the traditional signwriting medium Gold Leaf.

How do you make each piece stand out as much as the last? How do you convince your clients of the value your work will add?

Anything handpainted tells it’s own story – whether it’s lettering or a drawing the imperfections are where the value lies, showing a direct connection to the hand that made it and the time and energy invested in producing it.

To me, there’s more integrity to something made by hand than pumped out of a machine, but maybe I’m just nostalgic!

Words by John Andrews
Photography by Matt Burt