Aerosol artist and muralist Jerome Davenport, aka Ketones6000, grew up on a sheep farm in Wickepin, in wheatbelt country about 200km south-east of Perth. Despite training as a chef, his street art led him to WAAPA to study theatre production and design, where the experience of working with elaborate sets inspired him to create large-scale scenic works. In 2015 he was a finalist in the prestigious Black Swan Prize for Portraiture (now renamed The Lester Prize) for his painting of West Coast Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui; his murals can now be found in the UK, Europe, North America and throughout his home state. In 2019, he co-founded artist agency Blank Walls, to give emerging and established street artists the opportunity to collaborate on commercial projects and events. We spoke to him about his creative process and how he finds inspiration from people, history and nature.

Creative Beginnings

I dabbled in art as a child but I never pursued it in high school as I wasn't that interested in art history and I was never very good at writing essays. But I loved creating. One of my grandmothers is a painter and the other grandmother used to do a lot of crafts, so I had a bit of exposure when I was younger. You could say they planted the seed.

Becoming an artist kind of fell into my lap. I heard about the design course at WAAPA but the only work example I had was my graffiti and I wasn't sure if they would accept that, but actually they quite liked it. They could see the development of style, execution and prior planning. So, I got into university with a graffiti background. Going to WAAPA was probably the last thing I thought I would do, but it prompted my move into art, running my own business and then starting my agency, Blank Walls.

A Love of Local Stories and the Land

Jerome Davenport, aka Ketones6000, cofounded artist agency Blank Walls.

I'm inspired by the people around me, meeting new people and hearing their life stories. I love to celebrate history and the heroes of our communities within my work. I think it's really important. That's where my love of portraiture comes from. I'm also passionate about conservation, thinking about the generations to come and giving them the opportunity to see what we have. I want to put endangered species and native flora and fauna on a pedestal and conserve what we have for future generations.

Learning and Teaching

I've always been self-taught. I did reach out to a few people in my younger years, but I never really had a mentor. That's what led me to create Blank Walls, to give young up-and-coming artists an opportunity to develop their skills. Blank Walls looks after the things that artists don't want to deal with – admin and so on – and we give them the opportunity to paint, create and design. If I can give someone the chance that I never had, then I feel like my job is done. But it's taken a lot of work. And I'm not sure why I put myself in that boat because now I'm doing the work that I don’t really enjoy! But that happens when you have to combine business with creativity; there’s a lot of admin. 

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Ketones6000: How I Work

In the lead-up to planning a commission, there's a lot of back and forth with the client to land on a concept. If the work will be in a small town, there might be community workshops and travel to the location. And then there’s a few weeks to develop a design. Then you have to plan the installation day: you do your large materials order, and you need to organise your equipment, spray guns and things, and get all that shipped in or take it in the car. And then I generally work 12- to 16-hour days painting. So, it’s 6am to 6pm on spray cans on the mural, and then I do 6pm to 10pm admin for Blank Walls and my own personal work.

In the Studio

Ketones6000 says his creative process is a mix of hand sketching and using Procreate on the iPad.

I have a converted studio in my home. At the moment, it looks pretty chaotic. I've been painting murals for the last nine months straight, so I haven't had a huge amount of time to get into the studio. But I generally try to keep it pretty clean, although I'm not sure what clean is when you’re talking about an art studio. I think creatives are generally pretty messy. In the summer I was using the studio as my office base as well as for painting and storing my equipment and materials. In the winter it’s quite cold so I work inside the house. Because I haven't been home in the last few months, I basically just had a roaming desk.

My Creative Process

I used to do a lot of hand sketching but now I use Procreate on my iPad for my main concepts. I find it really simple to use, as I’m not usually the best with technology. But it’s great for getting the concept across to the client with relative accuracy. That would be my go-to tool, then spray paint. I also use a lot of acrylic paints and exterior paints, plus rollers and brushes.

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Developing an Idea

My ideas depend on the brief and the style of the piece itself. Today, I'm working on a historical piece, so I like to go to historical societies, the museum and libraries. I love to work through old photo archives. The sepia tones are so crisp, and they really give you an opportunity to delve into that era. I'll also take photos, scan images and then use them collage-style on Procreate. I work in a hyper-realistic style, so I love to work from real photos, whether I take them myself or collect them from a source. 

Working With Communities

Jerome Davenport, aka Ketones6000, works with the community when producing his murals.

Connecting with the community prior to doing the mural is a huge part of my work. It's great that they want you to represent them and I try to do that as best I can. The rural communities can be quite conservative and they love to portray what they see around them. I can really deliver that with the way I build my concepts and work with them to create the final piece.

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More Than Art

You can never please everyone, but generally people are pretty astounded at what can be achieved with the materials you have at hand. I always think I can do a bit better – you always have a little bit of self doubt as an artist; everyone's their own worst critic. 

One of my favourite pieces was a commission by an elderly couple in Mount Barker who asked me to paint the side of one of their buildings. I painted their grandkids on a go-kart racing down the hill. I ended up doing a photoshoot with their young grandsons and getting them to enact the scene. I really enjoyed working with them and seeing the vision come to life. And it had a lot of sentimental value to them and the town itself.

A Creative Heart

For me, it's just being able to express myself through my art. Being an artist is an uphill battle from the word go. There’s no real pathway to follow. You just need to create daily and be inspired by the things around you and try to show that through your work. There's creativity in all aspects of life and I think people don't understand that. They just think, ‘Oh, I'm not an artist, I can't paint’. You don't have to sell work to be an artist or to be creative. If you get enjoyment out of doing something, that should be enough.

What To Try 

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