It was some sage advice from a friend three years ago that motivated artist Mitch Gobel to change his life, and the result is an inspirational story. For young, peninsula born Gobel was finally on the path he was destined to travel and following his life’s work making art and caring for the environment. He is now a prominent artist in his own right and founding director of MGRA Wildlife and Habitat Conservation. Peninsula Essence talks to Mitch Gobel about his colourful journey and a future that looks bright.
Where did you grow up and did the area have any influence on your art?
I grew up on a small acreage in Tyabb and moved around to different places on the peninsula. Growing up on the peninsula definitely inspired most of my early work, the colour pallets of the beaches and cliff faces around the coast there are beautiful. I almost always draw my inspiration from nature.
Were you really into art at school or is it something that came later in life?
Yeah I actually won the art award for my graduating year at Tyabb Primary School. It’s the only trophy I was ever awarded and I still have it. I spent a lot of time drawing as a kid, it’s not something I do anymore but I believe it created the foundations for my art now. It was always a great ‘off-switch’ for me growing up. I’ve never studied art since primary school though. I don’t like to pay too much attention to what other artists are doing or have done. I’ve found that by just doing what comes to mind naturally rather than being influenced by others is how I’ve developed my own style. A wise man once said ‘Comparison is the death of Joy’.
When did you move away and why did you choose the area you are in now?
I moved to Byron Bay in September 2015. Since then I’ve relocated to Noosa and I’ve been here since September 2016. Noosa for me is a great place to focus on my work, it’s pretty quiet around here, there’s not much going on for young people, unlike Byron, which is just insane… It’s beautiful here and the perfect place for me to focus on my art, I plan to be here for another 3-5 years and then I’m going to move back to Byron. It’s a crazy little place but I love it so much. Outside of the major cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, I think it’s really the creative hub of Australia. I’m sure most creatives could appreciate the energy there. It’s a very unique type of beauty, very cultured and accepting. Byron lets you be you, if you choose to be.
What sort of art do you do?
I usually describe it as colourful, abstract art using resin. Resin is essentially liquid plastic, transparent until it’s mixed with different colour pigments. It dries rock hard and looks like glass so you can actually look inside the artwork. I use a lot of glitter and metallic pigments too, which makes the artwork sparkle and glow in the right light. I love what I do; it’s my idea of the-perfect-kind-of-pretty.
Do you have any mentors of people who inspire you?
To be honest I’m usually inspired by musicians or anyone with a story. Anthony Kiedis (The Red Hot Chili Peppers) has been one of my biggest inspirations mentally. Following his journey in and out of recovery has been really inspiring for me.
Are your family artistic?
My Mum was a ceramic artist and she occasionally painted, nothing like the style of my work but she survived off her pottery business for about thirteen years.
What are you trying to achieve with your work?
Lately I’m just trying to grow in myself, to push myself to be better, create better, and be more inventive. It’s always an education for me. Not paying too much attention to what other artists are doing means that I’m usually creating something unique. Creating gives me joy, I’m always trying to capture that love and excitement that I achieve when creating and then be able to show it to others. I strive to make work that makes people think.
You live a very different life from most people. What is your life like on a day-to-day basis?
I work for myself so I get out of life what I put into it and everything that I do benefits me personally, it’s about much more than paying the bills. I don’t wake up to an alarm anymore, I don’t answer to anyone else anymore. I’m creating the life I want through my art and as lovely as that all sounds it can still be really stressful, I don’t have a pay-check coming in every week and if I make a mistake I have to pay for it (and I’ve made plenty of mistakes). It’s been a rough road at times but I’m getting better at making it all work smoothly. I do what I have to do, to make it work.
Have you won any awards or accolades for your work?
No, I’ve only entered one art competition, which I was disqualified for on some minor technicality – Once it was framed my artwork was a few millimetres to big or something. My art for me isn’t about being the best, or looking the best, it’s about me being happy with what I create. It’s an expression; I don’t need or want an award for that.
When did you have your first exhibition and what was that like?
My first solo exhibition was at the Mossgreen gallery in Armadale, VIC. I think it was in 2014. It was an amazing event, focused on raising money for the Wildlife Warriors Hospital charity at the Australia Zoo. The event was a huge success raising $25,000. That was my introduction into my art as a career; I’d only sold one or two artworks prior to the event so it was kind of like jumping in the deep end. I was terrified for weeks and weeks leading up to the exhibition. That taught me not to worry so much about the future and to embrace right now.
What sort of medium do you work in and has that evolved or changed much over the years?
My resin work has changed a lot since I started in 2012. There are a lot of people doing resin art now but back then it was a really modern art form and not many people knew how to do it or even knew of it as an art form. Everything I was doing was a learning curve. I actually nearly gave it up, after a few months of my work not advancing how I thought it should, I became really frustrated with it and didn’t create for about eight months. When I finally got back in the studio I had a new perspective and the rest is history.
It is very hard to make a living as an artist. What do you attribute your success to?
Self-belief and hard work. It is hard to make it as an artist, there’s a lot of competition out there. Much of what I do to make it work isn’t artistic at all, business management is a huge aspect to what I do and obviously how I support myself financially, it has to be a big part of any artist’s career. I learned a lot about business management through working for other people.
Do you have any advice for other budding artists on how to stay on the path and follow their dreams?
Not many days go by when I don’t think about how lucky I am to live the life I do now. I owe it all to self-belief, to taking a chance on my art and myself. Taking up my art full time was one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences of my life. I knew that no matter what happened, I just had to sort it out, I had to make it work. I wanted it bad enough and I got it. It’s no easy road; you have to be able to ‘think outside the box’. I’ve been doing this professionally for three years now and I see so many amazing creatives out there with insane talents who just don’t apply themselves, they don’t believe in their work… I’m here saying that the future you dream of is totally possible, if you want it bad enough and you should! – This is your life! There’s a whole new level of existence out there, you don’t have to be working your ass off to make someone else’s dreams come true, you just need to be creative and motivated. Use your fear to fuel your fire! Believe in yourself! And you’ll find there’s no such thing as failure in this life.
What goals and dreams do you have for the future?
I want to better understand myself. I want to find contentment in not living my life as perfectly as I think I should. I want to continue to be happy and I want to grow. I know that my art will flourish as a result of that. I want to be me and I want to stay sober.
What is your philosophy in life?
I don’t just want milk that tastes like real milk – I want real milk.