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Art

Brilliant indigenous art on surfboards, canvas, footy boots, and more!

We’re always on the hunt for great Aussie talent to showcase and we’ve found just that in the work of Zachary Bennett-Brook. This brilliant artist from Wollongong creates art that combines his love of surf with his Indigenous culture, in an incredible way.

Painting on everything from canvases to sneakers and surfboards, Bennett-Brook has developed an entirely new style of work that’s just as eye-catching as it is meaningful.

We asked him a few questions about how he got into painting, how he developed his style and what he’s up to now.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from? How you got into art?
My name is Zachary Bennett-Brook and I’m a 25-year-old Torres Strait Islander man born and raised in Wollongong (Dharawal country) on the South Coast of NSW, Australia. I create art works which combine my surf culture with my Indigenous culture, together forming unique and eye catching works on surfboard, skateboards, canvases and much more. Growing up I have always had Indigenous art around me and a bit of a creative streak. From a young age I was encouraged by my mum Michelle to push my creativity, which has lead me from scribbling in the back of my school books in class to painting on surfboards, walls and canvases. Over time, I have experimented with different mediums to develop my own unique style and fair.

We love the fact that you incorporate your Indigenous heritage into your art. Did someone teach you the basics in the beginning or did you develop your own personal style from the get-go?
I pretty much picked up the paints myself and never looked back haha. I’m pretty lucky that I was able to teach myself and develop a style, which was still true to my Indigenous culture and surf roots but different enough to stand out from the pack. Now that I’m a little older I now go into schools and use my teaching degree (I actually have a degree in PDHPE teaching) and share my knowledge and teach the future generations about Indigenous art and culture. I’m always thrilled when I go into schools and inspire kids to be creative and develop a style which best represents them.

When did you decide to get into painting surfboards?
I started painting on surfboard a few years back; I’m pretty sure it was in my first or second year at University. I was doing a commissioned painting for a local primary school and was becoming a little impatient with the paint not drying fast enough. As I was waiting for it to dry, I noticed I had one of my old surfboards laying around in the garage and thought it would be cool to combine my Indigenous and surf culture together and infuse it through my paintings. I started painting on the surfboard when sections of the commissioned work I was working on were still wet. When the surfboard was finished I put a few photos on social media and got a really good response, so I thought it was a really unique and original way to show off my culture while doing something I loved.

Tell us more about your creative process. How much time does it take to turn a regular surfboard into a work of art?
Each board is slightly different depending on the condition when I get them, however usually it’s about a 5-day or so process to transform it. If the surfboard is snapped I start off by putting it back together and stripping all the wax off. After that, I build up a few layers of paper mache-type coating which covers both sides of the board—it makes the surface nice and even to paint on and allows the paint to stick and last a lot longer. Normally that takes a day or 2 to do both sides and let it all dry. From there I spray both sides of the board with a black spray paint, which acts as a base coat, then it is ready to get creative on. Painting the design on can take anywhere from 1 day to over a month depending how much work and other projects I’m completing at the same time. I normally try and have a few different jobs going at the same time so I can switch between projects while paint is drying.

Your work is super intricate. Do you plan a lot of the design before actually painting?
Before I start, I always have a rough plan in mind and a colour scheme I think which will work nicely with it. I usually work with a black background, then 3 colours and a white. With large murals, I sometimes use chalk to outline a rough design to make sure I have the scale of everything correct before I start. But with works such as canvases, surfboards, skateboards, football boots etc., I normally just go for it. I have been painting for a while now, which allows me to envision what the end product will look like and I work towards what I have planned in my head. It’s sometimes a strange way of working especially when I have numerous jobs and projects on the go, but it seems to work well not sketching things down so I have stuck with it.

What are you working on at the moment you can tell us about?
At the moment I have around 6 different projects I’m working on which are all slightly different, with smaller commissioned jobs on the go as well. Some are large quantities of painting for hotels, where I’m painting over one hundred canvases for hotel rooms. Other projects are limited edition collaboration works where I’m combining my artwork with other creative people to showcase both our works in a different light through infusing our styles together, and I’m also doing a few exciting things with the fashion and surf industry. So it’s a sweet mix of different things to keep it all nice and interesting.

Brilliant stuff! Keep up to date on Zachary’s work on Facebook, Instagram and over on his website, here.

Another beautiful timber deck by @larkskateco which I splattered a little paint on.

A photo posted by @saltwaterdreamtime on

A few of my surfboards which were featured in an interview I recently did with @hypefreshmag thanks guys!

A photo posted by @saltwaterdreamtime on

Im stoked to share that I will be collaborating with @oarsgalore on a limited number of sweet hand made oars and paddles. These vintage style oars look amazing and I cant wait to get busy painting on a few more.

A photo posted by @saltwaterdreamtime on

A few more hours work and this beauty of a surfboard will be finished.

A photo posted by @saltwaterdreamtime on

Its a wet and windy one out today! Glad Im inside and warm working on this new artwork.

A photo posted by @saltwaterdreamtime on

Zachary Bennett-Brook
Zachary Bennett-Brook
Zachary Bennett-Brook
Zachary Bennett-Brook
Zachary Bennett-Brook

About the author

Rachel Oakley is an Aussie writer based in NYC with an obsession for the creepy, cool and quirky side of life. She’ll remind you she’s a vegan every chance she gets. Her IG is filled with doggo pics: @patty_pottymouth