27 October 2023

Artist Jyi 'Jyiro' Westaway fostering the next generation of street artists

| Kellie O'Brien
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Artist Jyi Jyiro Westaway

Illawarra artist Jyi “Jyiro” Westaway has a passion for depicting animals in murals, and is passing on his passion to the next generation. Photos: Supplied.

While some artists have their artworks adorning living rooms and hallways, Jyi “Jyiro” Westaway’s street art is more public as it graces wheelie bins, outside walls, garage roller doors, chimneys and vehicles.

The Corrimal artist dipped his toe into art 15 years ago, before transitioning to full-time artist seven years ago.

While it was beautifying household wheelie bins and painting pet portraits that got him through COVID, the past 12 months have been focused on teaching street art to students at 12 Illawarra high schools.

“I would always draw from about the age of seven,” Jyi said.

“Then it just progressed from there and I picked up spray cans and went through that little bit of a phase and then I was lucky enough, I had a friend in the youth centre, and he pushed me in the right direction with it.

“At the moment, I’ve been doing a lot of murals and street art workshops in the high schools throughout the Illawarra.”

Jyi usually reaches for spray paint, acrylic paint with brushes and paint markers, but has noticed a trend with paint markers among students.

“Definitely with the kids at the high schools when we do the skate decks, we half use spray paint and then we go over it with paint markers.”

READ ALSO Painting the town: Shellharbour graffiti hotspots become works of art during mural festival

He said the idea for the school workshops came from a customer in the education system who wanted their bins painted.

“Probably a year later, she asked ‘Have you ever done any workshops?'” he said.

“With some of the students, we paint skateboard decks and then they get to take them home.

“From start to finish, we’re in the room for about half an hour or an hour and work on a design they want to do and then later we prepare them and then paint them.

“At some schools, we were doing their bins as well.”

As far as Jyi knows, no one else is decorating bins in the region, which he has been doing for the past couple of years.

“It was an idea that started towards the end of COVID,” he said.

Household bins have been adorned with Australian animals, pet dogs and cats, native Australian flowers, cartoon themes like Mario and Shrek, and footy team logos.

“It’s just whatever idea they come up with,” he said.

Along with the bins, pet portraits also kept him busy during that time.

“That got me through COVID actually, because people weren’t going out, they weren’t doing anything, so they had money to spend,” he said.

He laughed that pet portraits were easier than human portraits because pets couldn’t talk.

However, it’s bigger projects that have taken his attention now and what he’s focused on.

“I’ve got a school project next week, but that’s a wall and it’s going to be an underwater-themed mural,” he said.

“That’s going to be with the kids though, so it’s more me instructing.

“The last school holidays I painted at another school, Woonona East Public School, and did all the toilet doors with different themes because they had four sets – junior boys, junior girls, senior boys and senior girls.

“All of them had different themes, like one was The Hungry Caterpillar book, one was quotes, one was superheroes.

“And I’ve got a mural coming up for church as well.”

It’s the mural work and incorporating animals that’s his real passion.

“I started getting right into beach themes and underwater themes, so I’ve done a couple of them in the last 12 months as murals, as I just really enjoy the animals,” he said.

“I finished one recently for someone’s sunroom.

“Earlier on in the year I travelled down the far South Coast, down Bega way, and I worked for a whole week on a few different jobs down there,” he said of doing murals and bins.

“I want to do more of that.

“Country towns like that, they love it, but they don’t have much of it.”

READ ALSO Colour, creativity and collaboration: Shell Cove community celebrates inclusivity with marina murals

He said there had been a great rise in the popularity of Australian towns incorporating murals into their streetscapes.

“It was a lot harder when I was younger as it was more frowned upon but now it’s everywhere and more accepted,” he said.

For now, Jyi is happy with the diversity of the bespoke projects he’s working on.

“That’s what I liked about it, because if I was stuck doing the same thing every day it gets pretty tedious and boring.”

To have a bin beautified, mural painted, or pet portrait created, contact Jyi via Facebook.

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