The Great Green Hope Australian artist Bill Hope is bridging the gap between the cannabis world and the art world, one illustration at a time

Like a love child between the art of Salvador Dali and the music of Daft Punk, Bill Hope’s artistic creations are wild and lavish experiential worlds. Hope’s work varies in content, but is centered on the human experience—whether that experience is imbued with cannabis influence or not; many of his works are also figurative, narrative and with realistic rendering. Hope recently won the grand prize in the annual High Art competition by Natural Cannabis Company, which includes a cash prize of $15,000 and maximum exposure with an art exhibit, packaging designs with his work on them and the possibility of being exhibited at Art Basel Miami.

CULTURE had the chance to talk with Hope about his art practice, his award-winning artwork, his creative influences and his country’s stance on cannabis.

“The [medical cannabis] laws [in Australia] are slowly relaxing and I think that’s a good thing. The stigma is really going away and I think people are opening up to the idea of full legalization.”

What, or who, got you interested in art? 

Growing up my family was very creative and our house was filled with art books so it’s something that has been around as long as I can remember. I knew when I was a kid that my grandfather was a very good painter but it wasn’t something ever presented as a possible career. I once asked my dad if he’d ever had concerns about me pursuing art, and he said he just assumed I’d be fine and that he should leave me to it. I understand myself to be one of those very lucky people who just knows what they want to do.

In the recent High Art competition, you were chosen as the “Overall Winner.” Your piece, Blob Towe,r is fantastical and psychedelic. Can you tell us how you came up with this work?

The original idea came from a friend at art school, Louise Zhang, who is now a brilliant sculptor. She was making these bizarre sculptures from latex, expanding foam and spray paint, and I just loved the aesthetic.

What is your process for a piece of art like this?

I usually work on paper and plan ahead, but this time I started digitally, and this allowed me to just get lost in the details and forms and not worry about the final result too much. This became a much more instinctive form of drawing and took me down some strange imaginative rabbit holes when working late at night. I started just on the line work, then slowly built up detail and experimented with different features and characters. It was a very flexible process of chopping and changing visual ideas until I got to the final result.

Is this typical of the kind of work you create regularly? 

Haha, nope! My usual work is usually less psychedelic and a bit more realistic in form. People really responded to this one though, so I’ll probably do more like it.

“I love the idea of plumbing ones subconscious through drawing. I think good art is a fine balance between a kind of mental/technical rigor and the willingness to let go and leave a certain amount to the subconscious.”

Do you make your day-to-day living off of your art?

I am a full-time Commercial Illustrator. I’ve been represented by a studio most of my career which really helps with getting work. But once you’ve worked long enough you just pick up some momentum. I do all kinds of drawing but I haven’t had to go back to my day job yet so fingers crossed.

What inspires your art practice?

Everything really comes into the mix. When I have an idea of the kind of work I want to make I kind of just keep a section of my brain open to influence over a period of weeks or months collecting ideas until the concept feels at a point of maturity that it’s time to start drawing. I could make some weird pregnancy analogy but I won’t.

Music really helps, and looking at art books. Trying to stay off the internet too, I think an inspiration overload can lead to generic work. Just what is physically around me is always going to make it in there too. I’ve just moved in with my girlfriend so she’s in everything now.

Do you have some upcoming shows, projects or pieces that you’re working on?

Oh sure! I have a show in a couple months on the 19th of June at the Sheffer Gallery in Sydney.

How do feel about the medical cannabis laws in Australia? 

The laws are slowly relaxing, and I think that’s a good thing. The stigma is really going away, and I think people are opening up to the idea of full legalization.

Does cannabis help your art practice or life in any way?

I’ve smoked a bit in the past, but when I work, one glass of wine is about my limit before the work’s quality begins to suffer. I’m very open to the idea of using substances to come up with ideas but in practice I try and stay as sharp as possible. That said, my exposure to quality weed has been pretty limited so I wouldn’t be adverse to the idea.

Do you think your work is usually imbued with a kind of alternate reality of sorts? Blob Tower certainly feels that way. Additionally, do you think cannabis would help or hinder viewing your work?

I love the idea of plumbing one’s subconscious through drawing. I think good art is a fine balance between a kind of mental/technical rigor and the willingness to let go and leave a certain amount to the subconscious. I’m really not sure if viewing my work high would be better or not. I think it quite possibly would or at least it’d be a worthwhile experiment, I’m sure some of your dedicated readers could conduct in their spare time.


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