Ten years ago he was made to scrub his drawings from the old Paeroa skate bowl. Today he’s being paid to paint a mural at the town’s new skate park at Railway Reserve.
Paeroa street artist and house painter Reuben Levien, says his interest in art began as a 12-year-old mimicking skate board brands in vivid on the old Norwood Street skate bowl afterschool.
“It wasn’t really tagging, more cartoon stuff, but I had to scrape it all off,” he laughs.
Going on to achieve excellence in NCEA art at Paeroa College, he practiced his artwork on everything from friend’s cars to flat fridges, and set a goal to one day become good enough that his customers would cover the cost of the spray paint he used to do it. Being contracted to paint the skate park mural has exceeded this goal and inspired the budding artist to promote his work more widely.
“This is the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life, it’s a dream come true for me and it’s not over yet,” he said.
Three quarters of the way through a vibrant mural featuring everything from his own psychedelic designs to characters from The Simpsons, Reuben has enjoyed interacting with local skaters throughout the project.
“The kids have inspired a lot of the designs and they’ve chosen a couple of the cartoons. They run over when I arrive and help carry the paint,” he says.
Paeroa Ward Chair Paul Milner said it’s great to have such a bold and colourful piece of artwork to brighten up the well-used skate park, but it’s even greater to give a young local artist an opportunity to shine and earn some money at the same time.
“Who knows where this might lead for him?” he said, “I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about his work. There’s so much talent right under our noses in the Hauraki District.”
Reuben credits growing up in Paeroa for a large part of his creativity. With no movie theatre, shopping malls or other entertainment on tap, local kids had to find their own fun. In his case, that meant rainy days listening to music and painting pictures. His teenage bedroom is still covered in wall to ceiling art.
“Even now, people ask me what there is to do in Paeroa and I always say, I do art, which is exactly what I would do if I lived anywhere else. If you’re bored, you’re boring,”
Although Reuben enjoys his regular job as a traditional house painter, he admits it’s been difficult at times to keep his creativity in check with so many big blank walls beckoning.
“I’d love to be able to do my art full time, this project has inspired me to promote myself more and see what happens.”