Interview with Joel Moore, AKA Mulga the Artist

Artist Mulga in front of his paintings

Joel Moore, AKA Mulga, is an Australian street artist who is well known for his wildly colourful iconic style. Mulga’s work defies an easy description, but “blissed out characters, invariably wearing a pair of sunnies, having adventures in a colour saturated eternal summer” hits pretty close to home. You will see his work splashed across buildings, businesses and billboards all over Australia and the world.

Mulga is also known for having made a big career change, from finance to full time artist in just two years. Mulga recently presented a remote lecture for our Australian students. In the talk he shared his story and answered questions, giving our students an insight into his creative career, client work and practice in general. Afterwards, we caught up with him to learn a little more about his vibrant creative process, hear about his favourite client projects, learn about his favourite part of the creative career hustle and more.

You started your creative career two years after your first exhibition, following over a decade of working in finance. Can you tell us what you focused on, creatively and professionally with your business, in the lead up to your decision to leave your job in 2014 for a full time career as an artist?

My main focus was really on being able to replace my normal job income with my artistic income. I was doing that by selling clothing and other goods at markets on the weekends and making the most of any other opportunity that came my way. I started doing more murals and painting live at events as well.

Your online shop is incredible! There’s so many amazing options for people to access and purchase your work. How has your approach to selling your work directly to your audience developed and changed as your career has grown?

At the start I was all about having a stall at Bondi Markets every Sunday but as the other parts of the business have taken off I don’t do regular stalls. I started to focus on the online merch sales and opening a pop up shop in my local Westfields before Christmas every year. Market stalls are really good for getting your name out and getting some dollars in but they are really draining and hard work. I much prefer to create than to sell. My wife (Mrs Mulga) looks after all our merch now and she does a great job.

How did you initially get into painting murals and what has become your favourite part of the process? Additionally, what tips can you offer to other creatives who want to become proficient in designing and painting murals?

I thought painting a mural was a good way to get more eyeballs seeing my art, so I filled out an application and painted my first mural at Bondi Beach. The best part is when you see people engaging with the mural and taking photos. The best part for me is finishing the mural and stepping back. I feel proud of a job well done, because sometimes during the process I’m not sure if its going to turn out any good. Keeping the design and concept fairly simple is a good way to start out. I figure if you can paint something small and it looks good, its not super difficult transferring that onto a larger canvas, like a wall. The best way is to just do it, paint on a wall in your house or in a friends house, on your fence, on a rock—wherever!

Just start and don’t expect it to turn out perfect but just do it. Don’t overthink it, I say under think it.

The bright, vibrant colours of your work jumps out to catch the eye no matter whether it’s a public mural, painting, t-shirt or digital illustration. What are the materials and gadgets in your creative arsenal that you can’t do without and why?

When drawing on a smaller scale I love to use Poscas—I love their ease of use and vibrant colours. Before I get to that I just use pencil and eraser—a pencil sharpener always comes in handy. Painting bigger scale murals I use house paint applied with brushes.

When painting murals there’s a bunch of practical things that I do to make things run smoothly. Small things like setting up my table at each mural site so I have a place to mix my colours.

Another product I’ve recently discovered is a product called Floetrel which helps to thin the paint when it gets to thick but without watering it down like using water does.

Early on in your career, you put a lot of time and effort into promoting your work and getting it in front of as many people as possible. In your opinion, how can young creatives and designers get themselves noticed early in their careers? What’s your advice to creatives for the best ways to get their work into the world and promote themselves?

First off, it really helps if your work is exceptional and remarkable. I’d say work hard at getting your work to a good level.

Once you are there there’s lots of thing you can do. If you have time on your hands, I’d start doing the work you want to get paid for for free. Start adding value without expecting anything in return. Like if you want to design t-shirts for bands I’d start designing tees for bands and then posting the designs on instagram and tagging the bands. Or better yet email or DM the bands directly, find out who their management is and if your work is good they might want to use your designs. Or maybe you redesign the branding for a local business and present it to them. Who knows what can happen.

You’ve worked on so many amazing projects for huge names like Samsung, Coca Cola, Red Bull and Universal Music. Could you tell us about one or two projects you enjoyed the most?

It’s always fun painting live at events, last year YouTube put on a festival in Sydney for industry folk and that was pretty awesome. It was at Fox studios and they built this crazy stage and had bands. The event had all the YouTube peeps there doing their thing, it was pretty cool to be able see all that while being involved, albeit in a small way.

Painting on a BMW recently was pretty cool and they even let me drive it around for a weekend.

Mulga the artist standing by a BMW he painted

Speaking about your collaboration with brands, can you share a bit about your process here? How do you go about tackling a client brief from start to finish?

It usually starts with the client letting me know what they need. Then if they don’t have a set budget I will have to quote them for it which I still find hard to do.

The client usually has an idea in their head of what kind of design they are after, so it’s always best to try and get that upfront instead of me trying to guess that and usually getting it wrong.

Once I know what they want me to do, I will do up a pencil sketch and send it over for approval and once approved I will finish off the art. Sometimes it does involve me staring at a piece of paper for hours trying to figure out what the design will be but mostly I do my thing based on my artistic formula.

So many creatives have had to adapt and be agile during the last few months with Covid-19. How have you had to adapt to the changing working landscape? Have there been any unexpected and exciting new projects that have come out of this?

I lost a few really good projects because of Covid but otherwise I’ve been fortunate that my normal kind of projects have still been coming in and I’ve been able to stay busy. I did have one Covid related project for a council where I painted table dividers on desks, that was pretty cool and fun.

To finish off, give us five words that sum up your creative style.

Colourful summer vibing cool cats.

Massive thanks to Joel for the interview! You’ll want to keep up with his creative magic by checking out Mulga’s website and following him on Instagram

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