Daniel Mead – Street Artist | Painting the town makes for good business

Daniel Mead – Street Artist | Painting the town makes for good business

Few artists have a resume as visible as Daniel Mead’s.  Murals and street art by freelance artists Daniel, and Tessa Petley dot the streets and landmarks of Dunedin – the street art capital of the South.

Their many and varied canvasses have included Chorus boxes, power transformers, bus shelters, the George Street Underbridge and the old St George jam factory wall in London Street.

Daniel isn’t one to brag about his impact on the city’s street art scene but admits he has made his mark.

“I can’t go anywhere without seeing something I’ve done over the years – it’s taken a while to get used to.”

High-profile works by Daniel and Tessa include a 25-metre-by-eight-metre mural on the cruise ship passenger terminal at Port Otago. The mural, of a flying humpback whale bearing the historic ship, the Elsie Evans on its back, was a recreation of an illustration by local illustrator David Elliot.

Daniel says an 18-metre long ANZAC mural on the Mosgiel Returned Services Association was also “really well-received”, and caught the attention of the Gore RSA, which has commissioned a mural depicting the wars New Zealanders have fought in, from the Boer War through to the Afghanistan conflict (pictured).

Daniel and Tessa also take on private commissions, painting murals and canvasses for art-appreciating Dunedinites.

Daniel began painting murals and street art in Dunedin in 2009. It was slow-going at first, but demand has been picking up steadily since about 2014, he says, when the Port Otago A Shed project – a 25-metre mural series depicting some of Dunedin’s major attractions – was painted.

Nowadays the pair have a list of projects they’ll be hard-pressed to finish before winter, when the weather drives them indoors.

All this busyness made them realise they had a bona fide business on their hands, Daniel says, and they turned to Markhams Otago for advice. “They’ve got a good reputation and they’re not your average accountants, they understand creative businesses.”

Associate Paula McKay made “the numbers really easy” to understand and is a trusted and valued advisor. “I have saved so much time I’d otherwise have spent scratching my head. It was a never-ending loop of not knowing where to go. Now I can just get on with other projects.”

Just what those projects are can vary widely, he says, and that’s what he loves about his work. “Every job throws up new challenges and each one is a puzzle that needs to be pieced together.”

Trying to establish exactly what clients want can be tricky. “Some are really helpful and really into their ideas. Others don’t know what they want.”

Some projects carry the extra weight of community expectation, such as the Gore RSA project, which was spearheaded by returned serviceman and documentary maker Corporal Aaron Horrell. “Painting subjects like war can be touchy. It does affect people who have had family and friends involved in these things. It adds additional pressure.”

But, so far, so good. Clients are “usually very happy”.

“If I can get the message across so people instantly know what they are looking at, I’ve definitely got something right. It really does give a good sense of self-worth.”

While his to-do list will keep him in Dunedin for a while, Daniel says he’d love to travel with his work and leave his street art in other corners of the globe.

He’s proud of his very visible legacy to the city but won’t be drawn on a favourite work. “I feel like each new project is my favourite. My next one always has to be my best job.”