Andy Firth is a self-taught Australian artist of the social generation, known for his signature canvas the human skull. Capturing the gentle intricacies of lives once lived, Firth’s work has captivated an engaged audience of over 2.5 million people. With international demand at an all-time high, his clientele includes Joe Rogan, Slash, Jason Momoa, Chris Brown, and Nikkie Tutorials.
For the past decade, Firth has remained widely anonymous under the title ‘Jack of The Dust’. Until now. Established in a home garage in 2013, his operation’s alluring namesake is an 1800s Royal Navy term that represents Firth’s revival of characters, cultures, and the stories that surround them.
Each remarkably original piece is hand-made in Australia by manipulating mixed media such as acrylic, clay, and cinema-grade urethane resin imported from the U.S. to resemble skin, steel, stone, and bone. Firth’s imagination-fuelled surprise-and-delight approach to subjects and styles serves to ignite wonder, nostalgia, and belonging.
Due to overwhelming demand, Firth’s artwork is now only attainable through 4-6 public releases per year, delivered globally. As he believes feel-good art should be accessible to everyone, although the creative process takes 4 months, pieces remain at an accessible price point.
Firth has now grown Jack of The Dust to a full-time crew of 15 and operates from two Burleigh Heads warehouses spanning 7500 square feet on Australia’s Gold Coast. Jack of The Dust exists to crack through the limits of imagination on an adventure, where the human experience is never truly dead and gone.
We bring to your attention an interview with this talented artist.
· How can you describe yourself in two words?
Bubbly and optimistic.
· What qualities do you think an artist should have?
From my own experience, I think having independence, drive and self-awareness are the most valuable qualities for any artist to succeed. When you learn to take responsibility, it gives you more control to overcome the obstacles in your way.
· You have already achieved a lot in your profession, has popularity changed you?
I constantly try to keep myself in a state of change, so I do believe I have grown drastically through this experience. I direct the attention and popularity towards my artwork, though I’ve found that I have a greater belief that anything is possible. I’ve entered the art world with no experience or formal training and managed to achieve a certain level of success with the odds stacked against me. So, with where I am at, at this point, I remain humble and grateful for the popularity as it allows me to continue working as an artist.
· In any business, there are turning points. What were yours?
The biggest turning point was back in 2013 when I received my first sale when I was working as a boat builder. I was a couple of hours into my shift and I heard a chime come from my pocket. I pulled my phone out and saw that order’s confirmation. I was blown away that, without any interactions, someone had ordered artwork from me! I had no idea who this person was, but when I finished work I went straight home and packaged up the skull and dropped it down at the post office, and sent it off!
· What prevents you from living, and what helps?
Nothing prevents me from living! It’s an amazing gift to be alive, and every day is a new chance to grow and explore the unknown. I try to almost live my life in reverse and imagine myself as an old man in my 90s or even 100s looking back to how old I am in the present. Imagine if you were 100 years old, and you looked back on your life through your 20s,30s, 40s… what would you say to yourself? More than likely, it would be I wish I did this, I wish I did that. Asking the question now instead of then allows you to take action. You can’t change the past, but you can create the past by what you do in the present. That’s what helps me live.
· What are you dreaming about?
It’s funny because I feel like I’m living in the dream I had when I was 26 years old (I’m currently 36). So, I guess currently I’m dreaming about where I could be in 10 years from now! It’s uncertain, but the idea of the future is very exciting to me. I’m also exploring wall-mounted art, so I’m dreaming about all kinds of subjects for those.
· How did you get your first success?
I feel like my whole career has been thousands of small successes… baby steps, as opposed to large millstones. In saying that, my first success was that $199 order on my big cartel website that only cost me $10 a month to run. While it’s not a huge accomplishment on its own, it did open the door for thousands of orders to follow.
· How much time do you devote to creativity?
I try to devote 50% of my work week to creating new artwork (20-30 hours per week). There are a lot of other tasks inside of Jack Of The Dust that needs my attention, so I’ve found that balance is key.
· How do you deal with work-life balance as an artist?
Sacrifice has always been a huge part of Jack Of The Dust’s success. In the earlier years, I worked 40 hours a week as a boat builder, 15 hours at the video shop, and spent any remaining time on my artwork. This left little to no time for my personal life. When I transitioned into working on Jack Of The Dust full-time, I took on my first studio, which I had to live in for 2 years to make ends meet. There wasn’t much balance then! I’ve been operating Jack Of The Dust for about 9 years now, and it’s only been the last few years that I have been able to bring back more balance to my personal life, like shooting hoops, which has been fantastic!
· Does art help you in other areas of your life?
Yes! I feel like being a creative person helps me come up with solutions to issues that may arise outside of artwork. Creativity helps you see options that others may be blind too.
· Do you have your own motto?
Yes! “You can’t change the past, but you can create it by what you do in the present.”
· What would you never do in your life?
Play the victim.
· Tell us about your methods of overcoming creative blocks.
Sometimes, when I’m split between ideas for too long, I remind myself that doing something is better than doing nothing. It’s all too often that people get choice paralysis and end up choosing to do nothing until they are 100% certain of the concept. But at some point, you’ve just got to hit go.