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Cover artist: Aaron Billings

Anything from bees to lurking demons could go through the mind of artist Aaron Billings while he’s drawing. His artwork features on the cover of the 2013 program for Signal creative arts studio. We spoke to Aaron about his artistic process and inspiration.

Embroiderer, illustrator or screen-printer… how do you describe your practice?

I am basically a self-imposed slave. I like setting myself tasks that require hours and hours of patient devotion, like typesetting, embroidery and drawing. I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere and draw in it whenever I can.
The world is so f**ked up: bees are being killed so companies can make cheaper soap, people celebrate the anniversary of colonialism in Australia every year, the Amazon is being forested for soybeans. I like to escape all this and crawl into the magic cave of drawing.
Where do you go in your head when you’re drawing? Where do you draw inspiration?
I go into a pretty meditative state – my friend Julia who I draw with heaps says I make a really strained breathing noise like an old man gasping for air. I had never noticed before; I guess maybe I slow down my breathing when I am working.
I get inspiration from mountains mostly. My name means mountain of God and also has two As at the start, which look like mountains in capital. Some things I think about when I’m working might be: how important bees are, how many demons are hiding in the bushes outside my house, what I will eat later on, shamanism and how good wind feels.
How long have you been making art? Give us a sense of your history as an artist.
In primary school I built this huge city out of toilet rolls with this kid called Billy; we had never spoken before then and I think after we finished it we possibly never spoke again. I also used to make heaps of gumnut jewellery to sell at the local market.
How did you come to illustrate the cover of the Signal program?
I did a series of drawings about cells and the community when I stayed overnight at Monash University last November. All the drawings had hidden inspiration messages in them taken from pop songs. In the drawing for Signal you can find a bit of Arthur Russell in there.
How can people find you?
My blog or around West Brunswick, probably collecting driftwood from the creek or petting neighbourhood cats.
Find out more about Signal creative studio