Print: MCW x Saltwater Dreamtime
Zachary Bennet-Brook (aka Saltwater Dreamtime) is an award winning Australian artist. He has gained international recognition for his unique & eye catching designs that has seen his artworks exhibited in a range of solo and group exhibitions and viewed by thousands globally. Zac strives to create a piece that is not only of the highest quality & aesthetically pleasing, but provide a contemporary representation of his indigenous heritage in conjunction with his love for the ocean.
We chatted with RAW Wollongong artist Zac to understand where the name originated from, what motivates him to create’ and what his creative process entails plus a whole lot more.
“My creative way is combining my Indigenous culture with my surf culture to create really unique and eye catching original artworks for all to enjoy.”
Let’s start by telling us what your artistic field is?
I’m a contemporary Indigenous artist, who paints on a range of different mediums.
Where did the name Saltwater Dreamtime originate from?
The name Saltwater Dreamtime represents my culture and what I do. ‘Saltwater’ has a few different elements as a proud Indigenous man of Torres Strait Islander heritage. These parts are known as the saltwater people and growing up in Dharawal country (Wollongong), I have always been surrounded by the ocean. As a surfer I also thought the saltwater part was relevant as I spend a lot of time in the water.
The ‘Dreamtime’ part comes from the term ‘Dreamings’ in Indigenous culture which means to share and tell stories. Within all of my work I tell and share personal stories. By putting those 2 words together, I thought it had a nice ring to it and represented me, my cultures and my artwork.
Where did your love for art & the ocean begin?
Growing up in Wollongong I have always been at the beach or involved with beach activities from an early age. It is something which I’m still strongly connected to today and try to get to the beach either for a surf or to just watch the waves roll in at least a few times every week. My love for art started at a young age as well, my Mum is a High School teacher and one of the subjects she use to teach was drama. So my sister and I were always encouraged to be creative, either painting or drawing, playing musical instruments or dancing.
What was the first piece of inspiration or advice that motivated you to ‘create’ art?
I can’t really remember back to the first piece of advice which motivated me to create. I think growing up in a creative family we have always had opportunities to paint or draw on something and having positive feedback, which any parent provides there child with just motivated me to keep doing it. It was not until much later in life that I started to pick up on things like winning little art shows and gaining bigger commissions and attention for my work which inspired me and kept me motivated.
Your Indigenous style is unique, colourful and eye catching. Where did the theme/style derive from? Step us through your process from concept development to completion?
For me I always try to paint on a black surface as I find it allows the bright and vibrant colours I use in my work to really pop out and be eye catching. With the style in which I paint, dot art it is a traditional Indigenous technique but I thought I would approach it differently and set my self apart from others who paint in a similar style through the colour choices I use. I remember being young and seeing artwork which was bright and vibrant it always made me stop and have a close look and that was something I wanted people to do with my work, so I took that bright element and added it to what I do.
My dot art style was a lot of trial and error as well as chatting with different people in the community and elders until I developed my own style which represents me and the dreamings I tell through my work. So a step by step guide really differs as I try to break the norm with a lot of my work and put it on different mediums such as surfboards, or team up with brands and companies to create collections and collaborations. Generally when I start a project I have a little design in mind which will work in nicely. A black background is usually the next step then after that I start to lay the design and colour down. Just doing it by feel and look which allows it to be authentic and free flowing.
What material do you use for your works?
So the paints I use are a combination of Dulux and Taubmans sample pots. I find the exterior house paints work on almost anything I paint from canvases and surfboards, to football boots and walls its nice and versatile and I can often get a great range of colours. I often use Posca Paint pens as well in my work for finer detailed sections, as well as spray paints. To physically paint my work, I have a collection of different instruments I use to create my various sized dots as well as brushes and at times my fingers.
Where do you source/seek your inspiration from?
I gain a lot of inspiration from my Indigenous culture as that’s the style in which I paint as well as the ocean, I can sit and watch the waves and patterns on the sand which all inspire my work. With regards to actual people who inspire me, I don’t really have any one person I look up to I rather get inspired by things from a range of different people and creatives.
For example I always love looking at photographers works to see the composition and placement and elements in there work. Muralist for the scale on which they can paint, tattoo artist for how precise there work has to be and musicians as I listen to a lot of music when I paint and I love how they can be creative and tell a story through song. So for me personally I really get inspired from almost anything which resonates with me.
Where do you believe the most inspiring work is coming out of at the moment?
That’s another hard question haha, really anywhere that people are pushing the boundaries and constantly creating. I always love jumping on Instagram and seeing different creative people I follow from all over the world doing amazing things, which inspires me!
You mentioned that you find inspiration through Instagram. Who would be the most recent person you discovered?
Yeah I definitely get inspiration from stumbling across new artists on Instagram. I find it’s such a great platform to showcase your work to such a wide audience. I have been interested in POWWOW Hawaii for a few years now. It is a large art week in Hawaii where a heap of different artist from around the world get selected to head to Hawaii to paint murals and take part in a real creative art week. When I was on the POWWOWWORLDWIDE Instagram page I cam across Kevin Lyons; who’s art definitely had me pumped! His style is so unique and individual, its just really eye catching.
If you could meet any artist alive/or deceased who would it be and why?
I was recently asked this exact same question and I said Bob Marley, however now that interview has been done and this is a new one I’ll choose the second person on my list who would be Tupac Shakur. Between all of the swear words and media shining a negative light at times on his life, I feel like he was before his time as the music which he has made still rings true today. I feel he is an amazingly creative person.
What does ‘creativity’ mean to you?
To me creativity means having the ability to express yourself in a way where there is no right or wrong way. Its about using your imagination, surroundings, life experiences etc and being able to turn them into something original and unique.
What motivates you to ‘create’?
The unknown drives me, I never know who might see my work or what opportunities could be coming up or around the corner. So because of that I always give 110% with everything I create and put out. Turning my hobby of painting whilst I was at Uni studying in to my full time job definitely drives me as well. After spending 5 years at Uni doing a teaching degree and once graduating getting offered full time teaching work, to decided I would chase my art dreams and turn my painting hobby into my career was definitely scary, but it drives me to succeed.
What advice would you give upcoming artists?
Firstly, be passionate about what you love and wish to do, no matter what it is in life. Secondly develop your own personal style and technique which best represents you personally. You want to create something that stands you apart from what everyone else is doing, and at the same time you want people to instantly recognize your work, style and flair.
You are an award winning artist with many successes. What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment to date?
I have been lucky enough to showcase my work to people from all over the world and have been commissioned to paint up artworks for a range of high profile people. For me my biggest success and accomplishment is being able to wake up and do what I love everyday. I’m always stoked that I can share my work with different people from all over the world, and have an opportunity to highlighting how unique and amazing Indigenous Australian culture is.
Check out more of Saltwater Dreamtime’s work at;
Facebook: Saltwater Dreamtime
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