Jesse Dolman

jesse dolman artist

This is the first offering in a series of artist profiles that will be featured in the People section of Le Sunshine – it’s a closer look at Byron Bay’s most creative characters.

Like most folks in Byron Jesse Dolman has a few jobs, but painting is his passion. It leaches across into his job as a chef – his flare can be found in every dish. I dropped into Jesse’s place one Sunday afternoon to get my surfboard painted, it had a blue spray but I’d been bored of it for some time, it was  in desperate need of some colour.

Jesse Dolman Artist Jesse Dolman Artist Jesse Dolman Artist

His old fibro shack backs onto a swamp in Suffolk Park, there are a few lizards, Wesley and Garth, who sniff around the long grass and fallen branches for scraps and insects. “The grass is so lush here, there’s so much water – but it turns into a swimming pool when it rains.” Jesse explained.

Jesse Dolman artist

We cracked a beer and he showed me some of his sketches, his style has shifted erratically over the years but these days there’s a common figure that runs throughout, it’s grotesque but recognizable – and mostly naked. There’s a powerful contrast between this simple, sketched figure and its technicolor vomit.

Jesse Dolman Artist

He uses vivid speech bubbles to contain repeated patterns and varied textures. The shapes spew out of some orifice or other and as they draw the eye they de-emphasise the human figure – human waste becomes a strangely appropriate canvas.

Jesse Dolman artist Jesse Dolman artist

“I don’t plan my paintings out much, but at the moment I’ve been drawing a lot of bananas, I hope you like bananas.”

We chatted as we squatted under the towering gum trees; Jesse had my board on the table and hadn’t hesitated to dive in with paints and pens.

Jesse Dolman Artist Jesse Dolman Artist

“I’ve been doing a lot of work for the band Zeahorse recently, painting posters and album covers, it was heaps of fun but I’m stoked to have more time to chill right now.”

Jesse has a kind of nonchalant calm that can be infuriating. He splashes paint and doesn’t think twice, such freedom of expression is rare. While creativity can’t be forced, being open to chance is a choice and whether through luck or through willful spontaneity, Jesse is in no hurry, he lets his inspiration find him.

“I arrived at Splendour but couldn’t get in. I was just hanging at the entrance and this lady in a fancy car wound her window down and offered me her husband’s lanyard. I was stoked; I could go everywhere; backstage, the works. Then I found an envelope on the ground with a whole pile of drinks tickets. I didn’t even catch up with my friends, I just stumbled around trying to drink four beers at once.”

I’d told Jesse to go nuts on my board; I’d figured that the crazier the image, the more inspirational it would be for my surfing. I watched a man’s face appear, pudgy and with a pained expression, he began spewing bananas.

Jesse Dolman Artist Jesse Dolman Artist

“Oh man, I was at work the other night and there was a big table of chicks on a hens night leaving in a cab. I’d just knocked-off so I ran outside and jumped in, I just wanted a lift into town. Then next thing I knew I was back at the house they’d rented and were making me cocktails and the works. These chicks were crazy and I was having a ball, but then they demanded that I strip. I wasn’t too sure about it but they’d shown me a good time so… they put Fifty-Cent on the stereo and I gave them a little show. It was pretty weird but super fun. I’m glad they weren’t from round here.” Jesse said with a laugh.

Jesse’s pad is typical Byron. Creaking floorboards and worn furniture invite you to throw your shoes off and recline. There are paintings everywhere, hung on the walls, scrawled on the fridge and even a traditional old landscape got the Dolman treatment.  A drum kit and guitars dominate the lounge, his housemates are in a band. The windows are wide and all you can see are trees. Most of the action happens out on the back deck where old rugs and candlesticks and a terracotta fireplace form a jumble of effortless vintage charm.

Jesse Dolman Artist

Jesse Dolman artist

Jesse Dolman artist Jesse Dolman Artist Jesse Dolman Artist

The figure on my board was taking shape. I was worried the blue and white lines would make a difficult canvas but by placing the main figure at its base the lines, and eventually the bananas, radiate outwards. More colours were added, and another face emerged below. Eyes were sunken in deep purple, there was stubble on sagging chins – a mess of bananas represented the revulsion of unfulfilled dreams – it’s hope, being regurgitated with violent, manic, pleasure.

Jesse Dolman artist

Jesse’s work is on display at the 19 Karen gallery on the Gold Coast.

“I’m having a solo show in March. They’ve been good to me, most of my work is still up there, but I’ve got a lot of work to do before the show next year.”

Check out Jesse’s work on his tumblr


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