Street Art Explosion - Wendy Dixon-Whiley

Sat, Dec 3 2022
This week we get to unveil the epic street mural created by the extremely talented Wendy Dixon-Whiley. We had a chat with Wendy to ask a stack of questions about the process, the end result and her experiences at Adelaide Fringe. You can see Wendy’s mural on the corner of Solomon St and Rosina Street in Adelaide City. Street Art Explosion wouldn't be possible without the support of our partners Porter's Paint and Pirate Life.
Artist Wendy Dixon-Whiley Painting stands in front of her mural.
What’s your origin story, when did you first discover you had this talent?

I guess, it wasn’t really me actually, I was just conscious of the fact that I wanted to draw all the time and did the usual things as a kid and drew on the walls apparently. It was one of my favourite teachers when I was very young, back in early primary school, noticed that when I’d draw things I’d bring in unexpected stuff. She’d say, why’s that apple have blue on it, and I’d say something like, that’s because the light from the window reflecting on it. We reconnected recently and she said, that’s when I know you were going to be an artist. So other people picked up on it (my art), and nurtured it I guess. I had another teacher around the same time who decided she was going to keep some of my art in case I ever became famous one way, which is sweet, but I don’t think she’s sitting on a fortune.

What has been your favourite part about doing this mural?

I met some cool local dogs, that was fun. There were some regulars that would come by and visit me which was really great. But if you want to talk about the mural part of it, and not random people’s dogs, once I got the hang of the boom lift it was lovely and relaxing being up there in the sunshine, listening to podcasts, when the weather was actually good.

What has been your inspiration? I can see there are a lot of Adelaide icons. Can you elaborate on that? 

I guess when I pitched the angle ages back, that was what I went with. I’ve been known for more of a ‘freewheeling’ style in the past and I wanted to try something a little bit different but at the same time I thought Adelaide Icons has been a little bit done to death, not that that’s a bad thing, but I thought, I’ll start off with that and then kind of weird it up a bit. When people actually pay attention and look at it closely they can actually see things getting a little strange the higher up you go. I guess I wanted to just give a nod to South Australia given the location and put a bit of myself in there as well. 

How do you start your process when it comes to creating a mural or other art?

Depending on what I’m doing, sometimes I’ve got a picture in my mind starting out and usually that’s the case with murals. I’ll have a vision in my mind's eye and start sketching out a few ideas and see what works, when people say, why didn’t you put this icon from South Australia in the mural? There’s a reason, it looked bad or it didn’t work on that scale. Then I just go from there. With murals at least I don’t actually do mock ups or grids, which makes it very hard to do mural proposals because people just have to trust that I’ll do it right. So I freehand it, because I find the more I try to plan, I find the more contrived it looks. 

Do you have a fond Fringe memory?

I have a lot actually, my first consciousness of it was when I was in high school, the art teacher had all the posters from the 80s and 90s in her art room. That was really cool, as a naive country kid who was very sheltered and didn’t get to go to galleries or anything like that. I was just really drawn to these posters, the 1992 and 1994 winners really stood out to me, if you look them up you’ll probably see why immediately. So Adelaide Fringe already had this mythical status with me before I even came to Adelaide. Then when I moved up here in 1997 I have all these memories of starting uni in the late summer, seeing Fringe shows and the street buskers. 

What has been a career highlight for you since becoming an artist?

Well honestly, being invited to take part in projects like this is great. It’s really easy to get bogged down in your studio or at your desk or at your office and you can get a bit isolated, for someone like me who is a bit of an introvert it’s nice to get out and interact a little with people. It’s nice that people ask questions on these public engagement projects. I also did a residency in Italy before covid that was a real highlight as well. 

Have you ever had a show at Adelaide Fringe? What was that experience like?

I’ve had several actually, almost every year I’ve had some kind of Fringe solo exhibition or something similar. This year I don’t, but that’s because I’ve been a bit preoccupied. My first time participating was back in I think 2014 or 2015 at the Little Rundle Street Art Project. It was a huge collaborative thing with heaps of artists pulled together to pretty much cover Little Rundle Street in street art, if you go down there some of those murals are still there. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to receive the Fringe Artist Fund Grant twice, I’ve also been a finalist for the Adelaide Fringe Poster Competition and I’m determined to take that one out one day! 

To see more of Wendy's Work click here.  
Artist Wendy Dixon-Whiley Painting
Special thanks to Kambitsis Group, Prime Space Projects, Wilson Parking, MRS Property, Wolf NightLife, and STRGRP.