With a spray can in his hand, Jordan Lucky is dreaming of adding colour to every corner of Newcastle.
You only need to wander the streets of Tighes Hill, Warners Bay, Cooks Hill, Cardiff, Mayfield, Newcastle West and Port Stephens to see he’s already on his way.
The street artist’s creations are fast-becoming recognisable by both local and overseas visitors, as well as the accidental tourists that stumble across his bright, colourful, some might say loud, designs.
And, that’s just how the Nelson Bay-born muralist, illustrator and digital designer prefers it.
With a business card that reads ‘specialist in place-making’, Jordan dreams of sharing his artworks with everyone – in a big way.
“I worry for a city that ends up just being grey walls and quickie marts and there is no street art. Does anyone even live there?” he said.
“I like that my artwork is just out there. People don’t have to come to my studio and get acquainted with me, they don’t have to know me, my art is for them to enjoy wherever they find it.”
And, as the face behind the bun – the iconic hairstyle as recognisable as his artworks – Jordan has plans to go bigger, with a large mural planned for the border of Georgetown/Broadmeadow and a water tank in Tea Gardens.
“Doing art has always been a thing I’ve done,” he admits.
“Do you remember when you were a kid drawing on brown paper and then you rip the pages off? I feel like I just didn’t stop. It was self-soothing behaviour. My parents were probably thinking ‘well at least he’s not doing anything wrong – let him keep doing it’.
“I just liked splattering paint around at that age.”
It was in graffiti that he found his true form.
“I remember thinking I’d grow up to be a pro-skater and have my own brand, and that was where it started,” he adds.
“As a youngster, I was allowed to catch the bus in with my older brothers, we’d catch the bus from Nelson Bay and go skateboarding at the Newcastle Skate Park. It was a pretty famous graffiti and street art space at the time. It was ahead of its time.
“I remember meeting some blokes from Germany and they said it [the skatepark] was on their bucket list. Everyone wanted to paint at the beach.
“Get a photo of a surfer walking past with his board, you’re skating and taking a break to paint. It was a really cool space.”
With street art comes a culture Jordan is particularly passionate about.
“How often do you walk along a blank laneway and think, gee it was great walking down that laneway,” he says sarcastically.
“But, put a bunch of art down there, add some fairy lights and all of a sudden, it’s a cultural part of our community, it’s a night walking street, it’s an attractive path to businesses, it’s a connection.
“If it doesn’t exist, what attachment do we have to the CBD, especially young people who don’t work in the CBD, they don’t own an apartment there, why would they come there?
“If you put street art there it gives young people a sense of ownership – this city represents my positivity – especially when we’re including Australian natives and things that matter right now, in this time and space in history.
“There’s no negative to having hundreds of large paintings in the city.”
And, the time, he says, is now.
“You want that change to be represented by creatives as well, not just by buildings and infrastructure.
“If someone doesn’t plant a garden no plants will grow. I feel like that with artworks. You’ve got to be proactively seeking opportunities and pushing to have murals included in the vision of Newcastle’s future.
“I think a city like Newcastle will benefit immensely from art tourism.
“Newcastle has the ideal environment – in the summer it’s like Byron and beaches, and in the winter its art laneways of Melbourne – we have the perfect mix of both.”
Make it big and make it colourful is his advice.
“Yeah, some of my friends think I might be colour-blind because I’m always wanting to add more colour in my designs,” Jordan said.
“They’re always telling me it’s so bright I need to turn it down, whereas I think it’s just vibrant.”
Big, bold, and bright isn’t always how the seemingly shy artist saw himself in his youth.
Surrounded by art as a child thanks to his Nana Joyce’s skilful paintings of Australian native birds on fine china, Jordan’s craft actually began with intricate drawings – a skill he maintains he’s probably best at.
“It’s been a learning curve figuring out how to convert my fine art drawings into murals,” he says.
“Most street artists come from three backgrounds: graffiti, tattooing or fine art. The different backgrounds will dictate what a muralist ends up facilitating.”
The conversion to large scale art reflects a coming-of-age as such for the 30-year-old, who has become comfortable in his own skin.
“To be a professional muralist there has to be a certain amount of cheek,” he says.
“You’ve got to feel some confidence and excitement for biting off something that hasn’t been done before.
“I don’t know if every artist could arrive smack in the middle of town and be like ‘I’m going to stand here all day and do a large-scale painting and interact with all the people that come past’. A lot shy away from that. It’s a cheeky art form to paint big in the middle of your city.”
Cheeky, yet relevant.
“The artwork must suit its home. Every suburb should develop its own identity and I think murals really help with that,” he said.
“A painting in Darby Street should always be different to Mayfield, which is different to Tighes Hill and Cooks Hill – the atmosphere, the feel, the colours, must all be their own.”
Perhaps it’s a lesson he learned travelling – Jordan has left his creative mark on more than 40 countries in the past decade.
He has installations in Malaysia, Thailand, Netherlands, Sweden, London and across Europe.
“I was trying to make art my career,” he admits.
“Not being university trained I was going to street art meccas of the world and painting.
“I’d arrive at a hostel and I’d offer to paint a mural and stay for a month. The stay would extend, and I’d see how long it could last. It became like a game; how long can this go on before I’d have to work a real job.
“Here I am a decade later and I’m still not working a real job.”
In hindsight these were all stepping-stones that have led the talented artist to where he is today – a creative in high demand for his iconic transformative pieces that are in some respects putting Newcastle on the map once more.
“Five years ago, when I came home after being overseas, people would stop me and say ‘why are you doing this, who gave you permission to do this?’, whereas now it’s already becoming more acceptable and now people want to stop and chat about the content or take a selfie with me,” Jordan said.
“Sometimes they just want to sit and hang out and watch while you’re painting, and that’s the shift in mindset in our city and the direction our city could go in if its open to creativity.
“Street art is a free experience, there’s no entry fee, no social standing – it’s for everyone.
“If you’re a 16-year-old kid visiting Newcastle for the first time you’re going to feel out of place, you don’t know the architecture, you don’t know the landmarks yet, but street art can make all ages feel a connection, any socio-economic group is welcome.
“It’s about connection, about being engaged in the city outside of economics and business.”
Jordan plans to put that connection on paper soon, with dreams to create a street art map of Newcastle that identifies each of the city’s murals and artists.
He will also host his first exhibition within his creative ‘home’ Playstate Curate on 3 December.
Where you can find Jordan’s murals:
- Marketown Shopping Centre, Newcastle West
- Corner of King and Union Streets, Newcastle West
- Corner of Bull and Bridge Street, Cooks Hill
- Elizabeth Street, Tighes Hill
- Hunter Street, Newcastle
- Warners Bay Shopping Village, Warners Bay
- Magnus Street, Nelson Bay
- Darby Street, Cooks Hill
- Corner of Brown and Withers Street, West Wallsend.
For more NW cover stories:
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, real estate, entertainment, lifestyle and more delivered straight to your inbox FOR FREE with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.