David Booth, AKA Ghostpatrol, cut his artistic teeth in the creatively fertile Melbourne street-art scene of the early ‘00s. Now a regular and prolific fixture on the Australian art scene, he is involved in educational projects involving getting kids to fall in love with art along with a diverse range of commercial and public art projects.
As someone who didn’t know art could be a career, and hadn’t even met another artist until his early twenties, David Booth has done an incredible job in finding his own special place within the world of art. Having recently branded The Melbourne Comedy Festival, projected his art onto the Parliament House of Australia and completed his latest exhibition called ‘Drawing is Magic And I Believe It!’, David isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
David’s child-like joy of making art for art’s sake is tempered with the early realization that art comes with a very practical, yet magical, side. “The art that I make now, or the way that I draw is very connected to what I did as a young kid. I just never really stopped. I was just into making stuff and drawing. I didn't have to answer to my art-making, it was just play and it has always been that.” Having cut his artistic teeth drawing on recycled dot-matrix printer plans and diagrams brought home by his engineer father, David experienced first-hand that drawing is an essential part of building the world. “Sometimes we would go and stand on his [father’s] drawings, we would stand on a bridge that he'd made and I'd just know that, ‘Yes, you can draw something and make it become real,’ I guess I just believe in that power.”
With the main themes of David’s work being joy, world building and his deep connection to nature, his creative output is almost always overwhelmingly positive. This refreshing positivity feels quite unique in an age of pandemics, climate crisis and culture wars, almost as if it comes from another time and place – and it does. “I didn't go to art school, or feel the need to validate my work or rationalize it too much. I just try to let it be its own thing, instead of trying to make it fit an institution or commercial gallery thing too much. Through Instagram or institutionalized art I feel like there’s a set parameter for viewing, selling, and making art. They seem like a lot of rules to me. But because my values formed as a teenager around punk and skate culture that "rules suck", I just do my own thing. And I just feel so lucky that by trying to live that, I get opportunities anyway.”
This punk ethic and attitude to art not only stops David from overthinking his work, it also allows him to focus on what is truly important when it comes to producing art. “I feel like we focus on the endpoint. What is the product? Where is the value? When really, for people that haven't spent any time in a flow state or in deep states of play as an adult or connected to play, that is the best part: the process and the journey.” David freely admits he’ll make work only to discard the results, something he shares with millions of children letting their imagination run wild through art. “I want people to understand it's the joy of making and letting go, bending time. I need to lean into the journey. I feel optimistic that any achievements I've had in the past, they don't really matter anymore. Losing track of time while playing music or drawing where you have nothing to show for it, I don't know, that's just my favorite part.”
Ever the realist, David understands you can’t make art in a vacuum. Instead, he views his artistic freedom as a privilege he can leverage to further his and others’ creative independence. “This is my privilege, to rearrange the universe where money or time is valued differently. It's very malleable, so I can play with that a little bit because I know some people think, ‘How did you make that big exhibition?’ or ‘How did you get to do that?’ I fund it myself. I don't ask for permission. I don't ask the government to help pay it for me. I just work hard on some other jobs that pay really well that aren't my proudest moments so I can fund the projects that I'm passionate about, or so I can have the flexibility to work on the things that maybe don't even get paid.”
Offsetting underfunded projects such as community art murals or working with public schools has helped David arrive at his place as an art educator. Sharing his love of process and art as magic is a passion for David. “I love introducing that idea to young people in schools because the word ‘magic’ is powerful, but also I want to empower young people to draw something and then make it come to life.”
“I feel like art and the value of creativity has been stolen a little bit from our culture. If you don't feel like you are good enough, or that you're going to be professional, or it's not going to be worth money then you shouldn't do it. I like to inject my own idea of that and to let kids reclaim that, because it's really sad that some people don't know that they can be looking after their minds and mental health by doodling and drawing with friends without it having to turn into about why it is worthy. It's worthy because it's innate to be human.”
While his work is created predominantly outside of the digital realm as a canvas, sculpture or mural, David has discovered Procreate’s advantages in his creative journey. “I originally did very little digital work because when I did do digital stuff, it just didn't look or feel like me. It seemed to slow it down if anything, plus I was losing my own style. But when I used the Apple Pencil with Procreate, it just felt so much closer to what I would do in a sketchbook, except suddenly I was able to redefine things and not have to deal with my mistakes so much.”
“I was able to use Procreate as a good drafting tool to perfect a sketch, so that when it went to the light box or through another set of translations before I did it at large scale, I had much more confidence in my sketches. It was much more balanced and I was more confident that I'd done a good job instead of dealing with the wonkiness and mistakes of doing it all manually. I really love that, that I could just really go deep on the drawing, and be comfortable doing it.”
David also has a deep love for short, looping GIF animations found all over the internet. Having recently mothballed his website dedicated to these short loops, David hasn’t given up his creation of these mini-animated artworks. “I used to do it all by hand making really simple gifs. I’d use my phone sometimes with Image just like an onion-skin layer to do it, but then sometimes I would just do it all by hand on a lightbox and just scan it all in.”
“In Procreate, I found I could refine and make it neater while still looking hand-drawn. I could keep the aesthetic that I like, that messy, dithery, blinking animation style. I could make loops quickly without trying to make something screen-ready or totally pro, but I could still refine my animation.” David resonates with how Animation Assist brings the elements of play and joy into this process, “It's very playful and I like to show that to the kids, how you can just use four images and run it really fast, just to show them that simple process as well.” Making art and animation accessible to a new generation of artists is something we share. When it comes to advice on how to develop a process of your own, we’ll gladly leave the last word to David, “It doesn't have to be perfect, it really is just about having a play.”