With his upcoming brand of ethical menswear incorporating his unique designs, 2016 has been a hectic year for Adrian Doidge. His hard work is about to pay off soon though, with the release of this original clothing range, and the journey behind this business is an amazing one. This is a longer interview, but when considering how to publish this I found the entire journey worth sharing, unchanged. It is really worth the read to the end to hear how Adrian’s amazing brand, Zenism is coming to light.
- What mediums do you work in? Photography, painting, sculpture, music, writing, video/sound installation etc
Like most creatives I have played with it all. Paint, pencil, collage, photography. There’s so much easy access today it’s hard to be committed to just one.
I’m a graphic designer and creative, and my specialty is in visual communication and identity (brand) design for ethical and community minded businesses. Each job that I do comes with a set of challenges which are based on resources, time and how the design will be used – whether that be for myself or a client.
I’ve spent the past two years using pencils and inks to create logo and identity ideas for my friends and clients, then using the usual Adobe suite to bring them into reality and get professional results for print and web.
Lately I’ve been really excited to start looking into the creation of my own brand, Zenism, using all of the above. It’s a lifestyle brand that will utilise the skills of craftsman and artisans across Asia and the Pacific to create products for active men who long for simplicity in their lives. I’ve been playing with men’s bamboo T’s as an entry level lifestyle product, and it’s my first serious attempt at fashion/garment design. It’s been really exciting to get my head around this new medium.
- Have you studied your craft or are you self-taught?
I studied illustration and graphic design through the QCA here in Brisbane after a summer course at NABA, an arts college in Milan.
I started out drawing and illustrating when I was a kid (and remember it being the only thing that I got a lot of positive reinforcement for), began painting in primary school with the encouragement of some great teachers at Kimberly Park Primary, and went on to learn a bit more in high school through friends and teachers alike.
After that I started painting and illustrating on the side, even while I was traveling and living in Japan. I was lucky enough to have some supportive friends who bought my work while I was living there, and I participated in a few local exhibitions in Osaka and Seoul in collaboration with friends and artists. That’s when I decided to start taking creativity seriously and went to university when I was 26.
- Where are you from and how do you think that has influenced you?
I’m from Logan City, a great spot for anyone who can’t decide if they want the city life or the coast life. My parents moved around the area a couple of times when I was growing up, but I often tell people I grew up in Daisy Hill because that was the fondest memory I had of growing up in Logan (but we never actually lived there). I think coming from Logan has influenced me in very subtle ways which I am only beginning to realise in my older years. Ways that influenced my artistic direction and choice of expression without me realising it at the time – because I was always trying to get away and disassociate myself from the area.
Being pretty queer, I didn’t always have an easy time growing up in Logan, so expressing my thoughts and feelings through art was always therapeutic. When I was young it didn’t only manifest as art but also in the character I built myself to be during my early 20’s. Growing up in Logan attracted me to a certain form of bright and colourful imagery coupled with shockingly dark content and meaning. It sounds dramatic but I found a voice in painting and drawing which was more effective than fighting or arguing with my bullies and trolls.
Being from Logan gave me the itch to get away. In the face of the neigh-sayers I had the feeling I had to get away and find a place I could feel I belonged. I moved to Brisbane as soon as I could and worked hard to save money so that I could move to Japan for a while. Growing up in Logan we were always taught Japanese in school, and I remember it becoming this mystical wonderland that I had to be a part of and understand. Living in Japan was an amazing influence on me and my creativity also. But as far as I ran, I ended up right back here. Most of my work as a designer has now taken place right here in Logan City.
In reflection I now see that Logan gave my artwork a hint of the carnal and the lewd, an ability to laugh at myself and not to take things too seriously. It gave me a bent towards equality and egalitarianism, an acceptance for all types of people, and a sort of zen rationalism… It is what it is. Haha.
- If you work in more than one medium, what do you prefer and why?
I prefer to paint and draw. It makes my heart beat faster and slower, I lose track of time and place, and everything seems clear while I work and think in colour and texture. It’s a description which seems completely at odds with what the status quo values, but it is a perfectly valid form of communication and problem solving to me.
Art to me is a form of connecting.
- What made you decide to become a creative artist/work in a creative industry of choice?
I chose to become a designer because of the yearning to tell a story. I’m not always the best with words, so my creativity in the visual allows me to tell a story in a different way. The inspiration to finally just do it came to me after struggling to make ends meet all my teens and 20’s, then while living in Japan and observing how all areas of life there seem to make room for the arts, I had the epiphany to make creativity my life’s work.
- What influences/inspires you?
I have so many, and every artist should. There’s something to be said for a good art publication like Juxtapoz (although it seems to have become quite generic lately), it’s good to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the arts.
I really enjoy the work of:
- Masami Teroka
- Tomokazu Matsuyama
- Tadanori Yokoo
- Takashi Murakami
- Paul Binnie
- Fernando Vicente
- Stephen Sagmeister
- Jessica Walsh
- Inkahoots design studio
- Gonkar Gyatso
- Evan Hecox
- How will you know when you’ve achieved your dream as an artist?
I’m currently trying to get my own brand, Zenism, off the ground. The premise of the brand is that we provide economic opportunities for artists and craftsmen of the Asia and Pacific region by providing access to the market through the brand. All craftsman who are engaged throughout the process will make living wages, be completely ethical, and lessen the impact on the environment from more industrial manufacture chains. Maybe when the brand is moving enough that I can leave my corporate design job behind and focus on Zenism full time, I will consider myself having achieved my dream… for now anyway, as that is the nature of dreaming. Haha.
- What do you consider success in your industry/for you personally?
It’s going for it regardless of bad reviews and trolls, and only relenting when you’ve achieved what you wanted from the project. It’s having something thoughtful and provoking to say, and getting people to hear it. It’s helping others and having a passion for what you’re doing, but that doesn’t always mean giving it away for free.
Passion on its own doesn’t pay the rent.
- Have you collaborated with/worked alongside anyone? What can you tell us about that process?
I have very rarely completed a project without the help of collaboration. Everything I do, particularly as a designer involves collaboration with producers, printers, clients etc. The only thing that I can say about collaboration is to be willing to communicate and listen. If you aren’t listening to others, you aren’t really communicating.
- What can you tell us about the struggles of being an emerging creative?
It’s tough to get around the tired philosophy that if you are doing real art it’s because you are passionate about it and it can’t also have a monetary value.
I believe if creative work is done for free, it should be the artist who is being empowered to make that choice, not the client deciding for you. I have this argument with other artists all the time, because they are also helping to perpetuate this draconian perception that art must be a labour of love and passion, not money. No, no, no, no!
That behaviour devalues everybody’s work, and you end up with a system where only a lucky and elite few are able to charge money for work rendered. Even though the client is benefiting from the work you produce.
It is difficult, but when you’re starting out it can be good to sit down and make a plan for how you will progress from doing art for free, into doing art to make a living. Think of yourself as an apprentice. You might spend your first year entering into work for nothing, and just being credited and attributed. Then in your second year you might add in the cost of materials to that. In your third year you might add in the cost of the time you spend on a piece. By the fourth year you should begin considering adding in a value for experience, skill and technique.
A doctor doesn’t just become a doctor because he wants to make money, they become doctors because they want to help heal people and to be rewarded for their efforts. The same can be said for an artist.
When you’re starting out, of course you pay your dues and get the experience you need. But after a while it’s okay to charge money for your labour and effort. Art is just as important to the human condition as medicine, the building and finance industry. Because what would life be without it?
- Is there anything you’ve done in the past that you wouldn’t do again? Or would?
I would definitely live in Japan over again. I would certainly spend all of my life savings on studying and accomplishing my goal to be a professional creative. It’s the best investment in my life that I have ever made.
I wouldn’t forget to make better quality recordings of my work. During all of the moving I’ve done over the years I’ve lost hundreds of works. It makes me quite sad to think about.
- Can you tell us about your style? What makes it meaningful/unique?
My visual style varies constantly, depending on the audience. But I would say that the style is always a bit tongue and cheek, and always existential. If it doesn’t slap you in the face or make you smile or encourage a discussion, I haven’t created what I set out to.
Zenism is going to be a part of that dialogue as well.
- What is your philosophy as an artist?
I don’t make stuff just to be pretty or on trend. My philosophy as a designer is to always have something to say, a story to tell, an opinion or observation. It’s important to me that my design creates a conversation that extends beyond whether you like something or dislike something. I believe that art and the visual landscape is supposed to help us talk about issues beyond the ordinary and mundane. If it’s a logo, how will it show personality and what the business represents? If it’s a shirt, what is the feeling and mood it conjures up? If it’s a piece of marketing for the education industry, how can it contribute to a more constructive and realistic discussion about what the education could accomplish for the student’s future?
- What are you focusing on right now?
My focus is always on pushing Zenism forward.
Over the past 8 – 12 months I’ve been laying the ground work with my associates at Daksha Ethical Style, to get the basics of Zenism down pact. Now I’m in discussion with pattern makers who are helping me to translate my designs into shirt samples which will then go into production with a small bamboo garment business in Thailand. In August I met with the bamboo people to create the spring/summer “sesshin”.
I’m really enjoying working with small groups of artisans and craftsmen to get the brand off the ground. As soon as Zenism is able to get some autonomy and independence, it can start helping more artisans and craftsman across Asia and the Pacific to gain their own freedom.
- When you are designing are you conscious of yours/your audience’s biases?
I am as conscious as I can be. I think there is a certain amount of intuition involved in design which helps me to create things that my clients will like, and there’s certainly an inner urge to get praise and approval directly from the client. But I also have to be aware of how it will communicate to their audience. Sometimes this means that I have to sell the work a little harder. Sometimes what the client wants and what the audience will better respond to are very different.
If I can’t sell it and the client thinks that the work isn’t speaking to their audience, that’s when I have to re-evaluate who I/we think the audience will be.
- What is your process for getting the design right for your client?
I usually work on a three draft system, with a consult on either side. I find out in the first consult exactly what the client is looking for, and I provide them with a detailed timeline of how that project will be accomplished. I think this is really important as it gives the client confidence in an otherwise mysterious creative process.
In this three draft system we are able to identify how the work should appear and what the purpose is, then we create and refine from there. I make a point of taking detailed notes and sketches at each progression of the project, just to be sure that we are 100% clear on what is needed, and also to cover myself if the project goes south for one reason or another.
If we haven’t got the work to a point where it’s ready on the third draft, it usually means that the communication has broken down. It then becomes imperative that the communication is mended before moving forward. Being open and communicative is the most important and distinguishing feature of my design work.
If you’d love to know more about Adrian’s work you can find him here: