Off the Walls with Sarah Sculley
After years of connecting communities with her urban murals, cover artist Sarah Sculley is embracing evolution in the art industry and guiding her fellow creatives through the change, as Georgia Beard discovers.
When I step inside Sarah Sculley’s converted shipping container, her creative mind jumps out at me from every corner – the hastily stacked cans of spray paint and acrylics, walls streaked with pink, blue and black after years of being backdrops for canvas creations, a scattered collection of eclectic art and vinyl figurines.
Her studio is an ecosystem of ordered chaos, and it’s where our cover artist first shapes her vision for murals and urban art. She describes it as her favourite place on earth.
“It smells like wood cuts, it sounds like leaves rustling and kookaburras and it looks like a craft store vomited in it,” she says.
Sarah has roamed the streets of the Sunshine Coast with her spray paint and stencils since 2019 yet a lifetime of experience in painting and graphic design inspires every mural she throws onto a bare wall.
As a teenager, Sarah’s mother tried to inspire a love for creativity with a multi-week course, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Despite her resistance at the time, this formed the basis of her entire creative practice.
Exploring a newfound passion for artistic expression, Sarah completed a Bachelor of Design Studies in 2002 and took on a series of strange and strenuous jobs until she ended up in Shanghai, China with her own design company.
In her spare time, she launched her first sell-out exhibition of mural-inspired artwork in a local bar. As commissions for murals began flooding in, Sarah realised where she wanted to stretch her skills.
Moving back to Australia, she answered a growing demand for mural art, which surged after the pandemic. Since then, Sarah has worked with local communities to produce murals for spaces such as the Nambour RSL, Nambour State High School and Bendigo Bank Tewantin-Noosa.
“I’m constantly pushing my clients to think of the community the mural is in,” she said.“When I’m working in schools, I consult the students to figure out what they need in that space to make a place-making mural rather than just a pretty picture on a wall.”
Whether she’s working on a mural or a canvas, Sarah tries to find a connection with her client. Often, she’ll spend the design process imagining their stories and reflecting them through the piece.
“If I’m on the wall, I splash the acrylic up first and then roll out my stencils, stick them up with a lot of swearing, spray them and pull them off,” she said.
“If I’m working on canvas, I’ll hand-paint it because I like the control and quietness.”
Her murals emulate the eye-catching boldness of a Banksy with layers of colour, nature and feminine energy saturating each piece with joy and hope.
Good Job II celebrates the love, comfort and guidance of our loved ones with a woman illuminated in blues and yellows and cradled by familiar hands. It was commissioned by Arts Queensland and painted live at the 2021 Brisbane Ekka.
Our front cover artwork was a private commission reproduced with permission and with a surprise concealed in the work. As you hold your phone camera above the cover, witness an alternate reality emerging from the image!
Using an online Augmented Reality (AR) program, Artivive, Sarah takes a photo of her work which she can then overlay with animation.
Like many skillsets, Sarah learned to integrate AR into her murals because a client asked her to.
With augmented reality fixed in the design, her murals are no longer artworks to admire with a brief glance as you walk past. Now the community can interact on multiple dimensions, each layer enhancing the next.
“I can see AR, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) heading in the same direction, and I can see a lot of creatives fighting it,” she said. “I believe the smartest thing to do now is to get on board and figure out how you can make that technology work for you.
“As creatives, it’s our job to keep educating ourselves, particularly in such an evolving industry. It would be quite naïve to just sit in our studios and pretend it’s not happening.”
While established artists grapple with the changing landscape of artistic expression, a new generation are ready to embrace the advancing technology.
As the Artist Ambassador for Sunshine Plaza’s inaugural Sunshine Arts Fest Sarah is coaching students from six competing schools as they combine art installations with AR for an in-centre exhibition in June and July.
“It gives the students great ownership over and pride to have their artwork in a public space like Sunshine Plaza, and it gives them the opportunity to truly be creative,” she said.
“They’re stuck within these curriculums that can be quite constrictive, whereas this competition says, ‘Go crazy! Do whatever you want, use whatever materials you want to and make something amazing!’”
Now Sarah is steering her focus to coaching both emerging and established artists in artmaking, technology and business management in the art industry.
Alongside her workshops, she’s seeking new inspiration for her art to enrich communities, create connection and make differences in people’s lives. Story is embedded in every mural, and she has many more left to tell. Find out more: www.sculleydesign.com
BRING THE ART TO LIFE WITH AR
Bring our front cover to life with these easy steps:
1. Download the FREE Artivive App on your smartphone (find it on the App store)
2. Open the app
3. Hold the phone over the front cover.