Damien Lange has been creating ocean art paintings and installations since 1986 using mixed media such as torn fabrics, acrylics, wood, wire, metal and carved surfboards, screen printing – most being repurposed or rejected materials.
Born and growing up on the Gold Coast, Australia in the rise of the surfing industry and culture – doing artwork, design and screen printing surfboard decals and stickers for the surfing industry since 1979.
Now based on the Sunshine Coast since 2003 – have now opened Moffat Beach Ocean Art Gallery exhibiting some of his works for sale or available to custom design from his studio with works going Australia wide and overseas.
IN THE BEGINING
The love of the ocean and surfing possessed him at a very early age – apart from the family being posted to different locations every 2 years due to the air force, their return home was on the Tweed Coast on the QLD and NSW border – this drove Damien to ride his bike with kneeboard under arm for 8km up and down hills to surf at D-Bah, Snapper Rocks, Greenmount and Kirra at 4am any time he could.
It was here while surfing in the beautiful clear aqua waters of the Tweed Coast he quickly experienced dolphins, turtles, whales, sharks, rays, birds, octopus, and large schools of fish.
Damien recalls: “It was common place while surfing that I would see large pods of dolphins with their babies coming so close to check me out while I was underwater checking them out – seeing their eyes under water – I had some sort of unspoken connection. Also, the massive schools of pilchards – so thick yet all schooling together and moved as I swam into them they stayed synchronised turning instantly like I had a force field around him, this totally fascinated me”.
LEARNING A SKILL
Damien left home at the age of fifteen during the beginning of the booming surfing industry on the Gold Coast. With the surfing culture in his blood, he was discovered by a major surfing industry screen printer (Bill Pryor Screen Prints) – who recognised his talent and needing someone also to employ and train up.
Damien quickly fell in love with screen printing and was trained in all facets of printing mediums – the processes from art, design, preparation, film, colour separations, production and printing – majoring in design, concept ideas and then printing surfboard decals, stickers and t-shirts.
START OWN BUSINESS
After many years’ experience under his belt in the industry, the owner sold the business which is now – Rhema Graphics, which is still the major leaders in this industry. It was at this time Damien decided to go it alone and set up his own business in a shed at Kirra offering art, design, offset printing and screenprinting to the surfing, churches, and night club industries on the Gold Coast.
Damien always loves pushing boundaries in anything he does. One example was that even though he had a one colour offset printing press – he started doing blends of multiple colours on 1 colour posters and flyers – no one else was doing then or does today – it was doing things different that attracted more business.
It was at this time where Damien met his wife Tania, who was also a graphic artist. It wasn’t long until they merged together, offering the industry a unique service of designing clothing, catalogues, brochures, leaflets and artwork for printing. Like an agency but on a personal approach.
Through word of mouth, repeat work business grew quickly into one of the largest textile screen printing businesses on the Gold Coast at that time. Dealing with some of the largest surf labels at that time like Billabong, Mt Woodgee, Hot stuff, Tavarua, Town & Country and Moh Australia to name a few.
To put this into perspective – Damien recalls “These were experimental days in where everything was NEW and fresh, inks, techniques, textiles etc and you just worked on things until you figured it out how to do it – or not – and then JUST DO IT WELL”.
In 1986 Damien did his first watercolour painting of 2 dolphins for Tania’s birthday – being pregnant with their first born. “I had to do this when she wasn’t home-so stressful that I even forgot the dorsal fin on the bottom dolphin”
It was here that he fell in love with painting as a different medium than drawing, graphics, airbrushing, and screenprinting which he was use to – with it also came the flip side with painting – he then started to understand the frustration of not being able to achieve the colours that were in his head so therefore he had to experiment until he was happy.
Reading statements from famous artists say it all:
- “Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment” – CLAUDE MONET
- “Art is never finished, only abandoned” – LEONARDO DA VINCI
“What no one tells you is that creative people are their worst enemies and critics. Also, the lack of rest and all the wrestling you have until a piece of art is finished – you know when a piece is finished when it happens.”
WITH CHANGE COMES LEARNING
As the graphic industry kept evolving with new technology so did Damien’s hunger for learning new techniques and mediums as they surfaced to stay on top of the industry. The purchase of their first computer back in 1990 was $15,000 – which you can buy now for about $100 – was the start of countless hours self-learning computer graphics and combining hand drawn art with computer generated art.
This was the start of manipulating images, scanning, colours, film separations to get different results, also experimenting in the darkroom. Anything to create a new look and technique.
During this time Damien would produce ocean art in watercolour and pastels and sell his works and exhibit on the Tweed Coast and Currumbin Galleries. Loving this side of art but lacked time to do it due to work and being a young active family.
Back in 1996 the internet had starting to come to life for business and revolutionised people and businesses globally. Unfortunately, the only people doing web design back then were geeks (no offence guys) but everything on websites lacked design, so after hundreds of hours later in the wee hours of the morning before everyone woke up and a 4.30am surfing session allowed Damien to retain a graphic approach and edge to websites instead of conforming to the normal static design themes of that day.
FINDING THE EDGE
Both Damien & Tania took pride in the services they offered their clients with word of mouth and good old fashion quality, service, and price – “If you say a job will be done at a certain time then YOUR WORD IS YOU BOND – no science here!”
Through the 15 years that their business ‘CityGraph.x’ operated, they went from working out of a home garage to purchasing a large factory in Burleigh Heads adding an eight-colour automatic screen printing machine and staff printing hundreds of shirts and swimwear a day.
WINDS OF CHANGE
A change of direction with their business in 2003 with Damien having a “burnout” from 4 hours sleep a night for 13 years. Re-evaluating things they decided to sell up and relocate to the Sunshine Coast. This move proved one of the best things they did not only for a better lifestyle personally but mainly because of the age of their 3 children.
When they saw Moffat Beach for the first time, they knew Moffat Beach would be their new home – “Seeing the surfacing resident turtles at Moffat was the final full stop of our decision and that’s why the turtle became my business symbol/logo till this day”
For his Moffat studio, Damien had an idea to create an art piece of a school of fish that came out of the wall – layering 200 hand cut fish from old fence palings. – He mentions “I was incredibly happy with the final piece and felt THIS IS ME!!” – One thing led to another and it wasn’t long before customers referred his work for this piece that soon he started making and selling these wooden fish bait balls installations to places around Australia.
GETTING CREATIVE AGAIN
This has now stirred Damien’s creative pot again – and with all 3 of their kids now having families of their own, Damien has the spark and time back to experiment more into wood, steel sculptures, torn fabrics, layers and bending woods, sand, screen printing, carving surfboards.
Damien exhibited 4 large wooden schools of fish installations at the Hollowway Gallery at Moffat Beach on 7th May 2016 with all 4 pieces selling.
Today, they have set up “Moffat Beach Ocean Art Gallery” in the Moffat Beach industrial estate exhibiting some of Damien recent works for sale. From this studio he also runs Sunshine Coast Business Cards from the studio where offers graphic art, printing, and website services.
2017 – Opening of our Ocean Art Gallery in Moffat Beach, Queensland, Australia
2016 – Group exhibition in Holloway Gallery – Queensland, Australia
2015 – Started working with timber and producing and selling fish sculptures and installations
2005 – Started using more mixed mediums like resins, crackle, torn fabrics and more texture-based art including rust and patinas and sowing into papers.
1996 – Started computer graphics and website design.
1989 – Most work was watercolour and pastels on torn paper, exhibiting and selling at Griffith Table Craft Art gallery on the Tweed Coast.
1988 – My first experience with painting using watercolour.
1986 – Started offset printing to own graphics business.
1978 – Traineeship in screen printing in the surfboard decal industry.
Already a self-taught graphic artist