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Ten Minutes with Jerome Davenport

Ten Minutes with Jerome Davenport

Jerome’s Face of Beaufort Street at Barlee Street car park

Like you, both your brothers are in creative fields. Were you one of those arty families that was always putting on plays and making stuff out of pasta?
Yep, one’s a writer and one’s a photographer. We half grew up on a farm, about three-and-a-half hours outside of Perth, and half in suburbia. There wasn’t a lot happening there, so you kind of had to make your own fun.

How did you start getting into aerosol?
Just getting out like a little delinquent (laughs).

Did you have a signature tag, something like J-dawg?
Ha ha, I did!  Something like that. But I played around with it a bit and I got into WAAPA [for theatre-set building] based on my graffiti, and they really pushed me to do it. From there, I got my first commission in about 2010, and it’s all been a bit crazy since then.

So tell me, how do you make your artwork look so real? 
You’re there with a blank wall and a can, and a few hours later it’s like there’s a real face there.Sometimes I don’t even know. I was never really taught a huge amount of art stuff but always wanted to paint people’s faces, so I just tried it one day and it worked out. It’s just attention to detail, and depth of field and scale, and those three-dimensional things. It’s all trial and error, really.

Is it getting easier for you?
Yeah, but I still get frustrated. You get to a certain point where it isn’t working out, it isn’t looking that good, but then you just kind of push past it. It’s never a breeze or a walk in the park. It’s still a challenge – because otherwise what’s the point in doing it?

After a few hours, you must get tired of standing there with a spray can...
Nah, I think you get into the zone. You realise you’ve done eight to ten hours on it because you get picky with things and keep going back, and don’t even bother taking lunch breaks and stuff. But it’s always good to walk away from
a piece and look at it again the next day. That’s art for you – if you look at the same thing too long, you can’t see what’s wrong with it.

A lot of your art features really gorgeous models, but then you have a lot of regular people too, with freckles and wrinkles. If you had to choose – perfection or imperfection?
Imperfection. Definitely. Freckles are amazing. They’re such a good feature, but people are so self-conscious about them. I prefer to paint people with a lot of character, with a depth behind their stories that you can see in their faces – like if
I paint someone and you can see that they’ve had a troubled life. That’s based on good photography too, if you have a photo that’s captured the person at a certain point in life.

An aquatic piece Jerome created for the walls around Wickepin pool.


Do you talk to people to find out their stories before painting them?
That’s actually something I want to do a lot more of, finding out the backstory and then putting it with the paintings. When I painted some of the characters on Beaufort Street for their wall recently, I had a beer with an old Italian bloke in his vegie garden. That was pretty amazing.

Speaking of the Beaufort Street wall – love the picture of your girlfriend on
there, who’s also a former Perth Guide cover model [Edition 10]. Care to tell
Perth Guide readers how you guys met?

(Laughs) No! You can tell that story.  [It was all thanks to Perth Guide, a little side effect from the dating feature in Edition 9. Jerome and Olivia both joined Anna as moral support for speed dating, hit it off, and the rest is history! – Ed.]

A lot of your pieces are in black, grey and blue. Is there any reason for that?
I really like the colour blue, I don’t know why. Black and grey because it conveys
a lot more, and I really like the depth and meaning behind a black-and-white photo rather than colour. But then I’m half colour-blind, too, so I don’t really like working with colour that much. I have messed things up before, I’ve come pretty close to disaster!

One of Jerome’s street artworks, in Sydney’s Redfern.


So have you got any cool projects coming up?
I possibly have one painting a resort in Panama, then doing a big wall in Athens for the Athens Street Art Project. Over here I’m painting a bus that’s going to be a portable clothing store, called Cheep Clothing, as well as doing up some houses for Renovation Rescue with Matt and Kim from The Block. I’m also trying to find a wall at the moment because I want to do a big hundred-year ANZAC tribute piece.

Is it hard to find walls?
It is, you wouldn’t think it’s as hard as it is. There’s so much red tape from local government and strata companies, they love to make it very difficult for you. But then again, some people are all for it and give you the go-ahead straight out.
Okay, last question. When I punched your name into Google, I saw that Denzel Washington has played a character called Jerome Davenport in a movie Antwone Fisher.

If your life was a movie, who would play you?
Maybe someone pretty like Ryan Gosling. Girls would love it! 

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