Adam Maidens: miner, cockie and artist from Cobar, 2013

Adam Maidens at Sprout Café in Dubbo
Adam Maidens at Sprout Café in Dubbo

Interview: Adam Maidens, Artist

This is Adam Maidens.

Adam is based in Cobar and is getting his fledgling art business off the ground. He creates the most amazing art and as you’ll hear, he uses a fairly unconventional ‘palette’ and ‘brushes’.

His scenes range from rural to Paris street-scapes to portraiture to musicians.

On a Friday about three weeks ago, I was having breakfast with a friend at Sprout Café in Dubbo. (Do yourself a massive favour; your taste-buds and wallet/purse/money-belt will thank you. If the accoutrements continue to talk with you, I suggest seeking professional assistance and possibly lay off the cinnamon.)

My position right at the back of the venue was not smart: all the sound of a happily busy breakfast crowd was washing my way like an uppity surf swell. I just about had my earphones plugged in to let The Clash take over noise delivery services when I heard the young barista talk with a man whose back was to me, and I heard these individual words: ‘my’ ‘art’ ‘shear’ ‘comb’.

My interest was more than piqued.

I put the earphones down, asked Joe, Mick, Topper and the other one…….Paul — to take five, and cautiously approached the speaker.

One hour and one pot of very good chai later, and all I wanted to do was to kill about another five pots of chai and talk through the day with Adam Maidens. But we had by that stage recorded this interview.

What a classic, classic guy.

1. Art. Check him out here: https://www.facebook.com/adammaidensart – Facebook page has since been removed. Adam’s new project is the Dudley Dog book(s) about a sausage dog who loves to travel.

2. Mining. Also covered in the interview: the guy works in an office. 600m+ underground.

3. Farming background. Born on the land and you should hear the world and political perspective that has given him. Maybe not what you’re thinking. Or maybe so.

4. Critical communication. If ever there was a role model for how to critically assess mass media, Adam Maidens is your man. We covered all this after I switched off the recorder, but you could purchase one of his creations or have something commissioned by Adam, if only to discuss media ownership and media content production with him.

What a breath of fresh air.

Meeting Adam came at precisely the right time. Coming towards the end of a fairly wild 12 days on the road, and starting to think about my future directions (geographical, career-wise, metaphorical). This meeting was made in heaven.

Thank you, Adam.

Check out Adam’s art and eloquent speechificationing:

*** Audio file will be removed by the end of February 2020 ***

Bill Quinn: Overheard Productions [name] is all about the fact that I tend to overhear things, and about ten, fifteen minutes ago, I overheard Adam Maidens say something. Adam Maidens, what did I overhear and why am I talking with you?

Adam Maidens: Hi Bill, we’re just here in Sprouts [Cafe] and Wasim the owner has some artwork here, and one of the pieces is my artwork, and the young barista asked me what it was about. It’s a close-up of a hand with a shearer’s comb, and it’s something that I drew back in 2005 with black texta. It’s my first print that I’ve ever had printed, and it’s a privilege that it’s up on the wall here.

BQ: Tell me more about when you did that drawing. Did you have somebody pose for it?

AM: No, actually it was an old photo that we had. I don’t know exactly where it came from. My family background has always been farming, and I grew up for many years with shearing involved. It just resonated with me that I wanted to do a picture that represented what my grandfather used to do a lot of.

There’s no trace lines or lead pencil or anything – it was just a one-off – so if I buggered it up, I buggered it up!

And it turned out fantastic and successful.

BQ: Do you do a mix of originals straight out of your head, things off photos, or things you’re actually looking at as you’re drawing?

AM: It’s been a wide mixture. I started off when I was younger doing scenes from out bush of photos that I’d taken on the family farm – it could be machinery or anything. But I’m quite diverse: Paris pictures to close-ups to cartoon characters. It’s a great way to practise and learn certain techniques. It’s a very wide variety of artwork; I’m not confined to one medium, that’s for sure.

BQ: Speaking of mediums, the tool of your choice is something that I wouldn’t have picked, but tell us about what you’re drawing on.

AM: For years it was always just black texta, black felt tip pen, and I suppose it was very black and white: everything was not much colour, and I don’t know if it was a time in life that it was something it represented: I was just pretty simplified.

But now after the brilliant use of the iPad, I downloaded a very basic and cheap app and started off using my finger and then moved up to a very simple stylus that I got off eBay for 50c. And it’s just been a beautiful way I could draw and add colour for the first time. And be able to mix paints. Very simple, more so than having to go out and buy paint and mix it because I’m not trained in any way.

And again, it’s like a texta, it’s a one-off. You can rewind a little bit, but not too much; you have to plan your artwork. But the use of colours just changed me completely; it gives me the chance to try something new each time, and they’re coming out really beautiful.

BQ: What you’ve said is something that resonates a lot with the world of independent music, because what’s happened is that the means of production are in the hands of the workers. So you’ve been able to, very cheaply, have a way of making your art and then distributing it.

AM: Yeah, it’s been fantastic. First it was just friends and family, they’d email and say, “That’s great; you’ve never used colour before”, and encouragement from mum and dad. Now being in a digital form, I’ve had a few printed on canvas just for myself at home. And it’s brilliant way how it’s coming out, the application allows you to use texta or water colour. And when I’ve had it printed on canvas, it’s amazing: it looks like it’s been physically painted on there.

I’m really surprised with it and how far we’ve moved along with technology and something so simple. Originally I downloaded it for my little nephews to be able to draw without having to worry about textas and everything, and then when I had a little muck around on it, I was like, “Wow, I think you can really get some great results from this”.

It’s fantastic.

BQ: I mentioned before the resonances with folk and independent music, and there’s another one when you mentioned what you do for a day job, a more mainstream job.

AM: Surprisingly, when you see some of my artwork, I don’t think many people associate what I do. I’m in mining; I’ve been mining now for nearly 15 years. And when I say ‘mining’, it’s not necessarily at the coalface. I used to be mainly administration, but I changed over, I wanted to get away from paperwork, and wanted to have a go at operating machinery, etc.

And at the moment for the last six years I’ve been underground, 630 metres my little hut is below the surface, and I look after crushing the rocks. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but it’s a process and we’re all part of a bigger team. I look after sending the dirt to the surface, and also I’m the magazine keeper, so I look after the explosives on a daily basis.

And luckily the lifestyle gives me four days on, four days off, so a lovely lifestyle to be able to just walk away and not have that paperwork or stress of phone calls. It’s unique; it’s like a giant rabbit warren. Pitch black. It’s four days and we’ve got a great group of people. It’s fantastic.

BQ: When you said ‘magazine keeper’, I thought maybe you meant you did the PR or put the magazine out there about what the place is doing! I thought I’d found a fellow write, but no no, he’s blowin’ stuff up!

Is there ever a point, maybe late at night, when you think, “Oh my god, I actually am 630 metres below the surface”?

AM: Yeah, until I went to Melbourne this year to visit friends, and I went in the tallest building in Melbourne, and forgive me if I’m wrong with actual numbers, but say it was 300 metres. And you’re so far up and looking down, and everything below looks like ants, and I thought, “Hold on; I’m double this, but down”.

And that’s when it hits you. Because you go down either in a car, or we call it the ‘cage’, but it’s just an industrial lift. And then some of my friends down there are a lot deeper; they’re up to a kilometre and further down.

It’s just a surreal and completely different world. You try not to think about it, I suppose, but when you do see things like a reference to the Empire State Building or Centrepoint Tower, and you realise if you turn them upside down and add a fair few bit more… It does play on you.

We’re lucky. In my little hut we’ve got a refrigerator, air-conditioner, a kettle, microwave and WiFi access there as well, so it’s a really crazy experience to have those facilities but to be a long way away.

BQ: Is it a place where you can find a bit of quiet now and again and create a bit of art?

AM: Yeah, I have been lucky enough; my most detailed piece of art of the Paris cafe scene, that was surprisingly drawn over a couple of nights on my crib break on night shift. Everyone parked up to have lunch, and I don’t normally leave my area; I’ve still got to monitor screens during my lunch break. Some people might have a sleep or read a magazine or have a chat, but I work alone so I just put some music on and started drawing away.

It’s a fantastic little solace, I suppose, being so deep down and using a unique piece of technology, it’s a bit crazy.

BQ: I’ve suggested to Adam that he should start hitting the folk festivals to show his artwork. Adam, thanks so much for joining us.

AM: Thanks, Bill. It was a privilege that you were listening!

BQ: Ha! I didn’t listen; I just overheard!

*** Audio file will be removed by the end of February 2020 ***

Image courtesy of Adam Maidens
Image courtesy of Adam Maidens

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