Most people who do Zac’s degree work as PE teachers, not artists, but sometimes life has other plans, and nothing ever goes to waste if you can imagine a new life for it.
“I was working on a commissioned artwork for a local primary school when an old surfboard in my studio caught my eye. From there everything clicked into place.”
That may have been the first board he painted, but it wasn’t the last. Zac has gone on to paints hundreds of boards—many rescued from local surf shop’s graveyards and surfer’s garages, too damaged to ever ride the waves again. He also paints on board fins, skate decks, footballs and canvas, always in a style that combines his love of the water and the world around him with traditional Torres Strait Islander imagery and techniques.
It’s a unique combination of interests and influences that gave him his artist’s name—Saltwater Dreamtime—and has gotten him national attention. Under this guise he’s won accolades from RAW Artists and sunk new roots into the local community.
“I always feel relaxed when I’m painting. My mind clears of life’s distractions. It’s also a way for me to feel connected with my heritage. Many things in Indigenous culture are passed down through generations, so it’s great to have the right skills to share my knowledge and passion with others.”
As well as making his own art, Zac runs painting and Aboriginal cultural workshops in schools throughout the Illawarra, where his teaching degree comes into play.
“All the classroom management skills I learned during my degree are getting a workout in those workshops. It is always handy to have a few little tricks up your sleeve.”
It may not be where Zac thought he would end up when he started his degree, but he couldn’t be happier.
BONUS: RAWartists Media interviews Zac...
- ZAC BENNETT-BROOK
UOW Bachelor of Physical and Health Education, 2013