The Big Issue Portrait project began in 2014 when I had the idea of making a series of works about the wonderful people that sell the Big Issue magazine - its vendors. I spoke to the staff at the magazine, hoping to get permission. The idea was embraced, particularly as any exhibitions were likely to happen in 2016, which happened to be the 20th anniversary of the magazine being sold here in Australia. The first issue was sold in June 1996 in Melbourne.
I met with many vendors, on the streets and at the fortnightly breakfasts where the new issues are launched. I selected people to work with, based on my access to them, and on their desire to take part. Most of the people I worked with were from Melbourne, but I also worked with men and women from the Geelong area, and travelled to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. We would meet and talk and I would make some quick drawings which I then worked on back in the studio.
With each remarkable person I met and worked with, I was touched by their story. Each has their own and it deserves to be told. I learned a great deal with this project, particularly not judging people by their situation.
I see the Big Issue portraits as an acknowledgement of a group of people in society that are not often noticed, let alone celebrated. The drawings and paintings portray the vendors with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
The Big Issue magazine, and its vendors, are held dearly in the hearts of many people, here in Australia and in other countries around the world.