From street graffiti to great-scale walls

From street graffiti to great-scale walls

Up and coming artist Jayden Thomas shows off his talent on a wall out the back of his Newlands home.

Making your mark on the world as a young person is undeniably confronting. Abbey Palmer learns how creative freedom has liberated emerging artist Jayden Thomas.

In the middle of an exercise science course and a rough breakup, 23-year-old Jayden Thomas was forced to reassess the role art played in his life.

Art had always been a large part of his identity growing up, but it wasn’t until he had to pull himself out of a dark place that he realised it was a direction he wanted to pursue professionally.

He made the move from Wellington to Whangarei for a year to live with his uncle, whose creative background inspired him to  perfect street art.

“He actually supported me to get back into graffiti which kind of sparked the flame for me to get to where I am now.”

Moving back to his hometown, he enrolled at the Learning Connection, an art school in Lower Hutt.

But depression and anxiety took hold, and it took a number of attempts before he started the course.

“The fourth time, the day I stepped into those grounds, was the day my life changed pretty much.”

Thomas said the course helped him develop his skills, building on the foundations he had laid while a graffiti artist.

“Initially I didn’t really have a goal for going into studying art, I just wanted to find different kinds of categories where I could express myself.

“At the start I wasn’t in a very good emotional state so it was cool to be able to be exposed to so many different forms of creativity.”

Through word-of-mouth, Thomas began reaching out to local artists he looked up to and managed to land a few collaboration gigs where he could “pick their [artists’] brains”.

One was with New Zealand artist, Graham Hoete – known as “Mr. G”, on a project in Seaview called “Arohanui Ki Te Tangata: Goodwill to all people”.

The piece was a wall mural of the view from Seaview over Wellington Harbour.

“It was a chance to learn tips off someone I look up to and learn a lot of knowledge and tips from how he paints, and also just a lot about life in general.”

Thomas said he had also recently been given the chance to auction a painting to raise money for Polynesian and Maori Youth suicide awareness.

“It was an honour to do that. It was a silhouette of a hammerhead shark and I used patterns from Pasifika and Maori nations. I chose the hammerhead shark as a symbol of strength, the colours I used were a sign of rising up from a dark place and knowing that there’s light at the top.”

Thomas said he hopes to eventually have an exhibition in a gallery.

“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, especially if it can help other people.”

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