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Meet the kid from the sticks who became a T-shirt artist of international acclaim

Visit Ballarat

18 Feb 2021

Filed underMade of Ballarat

The Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age, Blink 182, Ballarat. 

What do they have in common? Ballarat local Travis Price, the artist behind some of the most iconic bands and brands the world over. 

“I have a joke with my Melbourne friends that we have 30 hours a day in Ballarat where you just feel you’ve got time,” Travis admitted. And, looking around his studio, he’s certainly made full use of every minute. 

Posters for Queens of the Stone Age, The Pixies and Blink-182. T-shirts for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder and so on. Then there’s his prolific contribution as a proud and committed Ballarat resident. Add husband, father, guest university lecturer, public speaker, not to mention designer for numerous streetwear labels – and you wonder how one person can produce so much of such merit. 

mockup of blank three frame poster on the floor

In fact, his work was displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria to celebrate 30 years of Mambo. Yes, Travis has illustrated many t-shirts for this iconic Australian brand. 

So where did it begin? Travis recalls lying on the lounge room floor, drawing, when he was about five. Fast forward a few years and he’s skateboarding. He really wanted to be surfing but the “closest beach was hours away”. From here, he developed a fascination for Santa Cruz and art like the Screaming Hand. 

Before long, he was waiting for skateboard magazines to arrive from the US in the post. Or spending his time filling a box with inspiring swing tags and “things you’d cut out”. After all, that’s what a kid with an interest in art did before there was the internet. 

Studying at the University of Ballarat, Travis met his future wife, Renee. Still, like a lot of kids from the country, the big city beckoned and he had a stint in Melbourne, working as a graphic designer, before returning to Ballarat and the love of his life. 

While happy to be living in Ballarat, Travis credits “a quarter-life crisis” with really turning things around. At the age of 30, he left his full-time job to focus on freelancing as an illustrator and has never looked back. 

Travis describes his style as eclectic. This was particularly evident with his very popular Ballaarat poster series. “I’d bought an old French poster for my wife for her birthday. I really love the simple colours. There’s something about those posters that makes you feel happy. So I started to wonder, well how would it be if you did a version that was celebrating Ballarat in a retro but kind of contemporary way? That’s how it all came about.” 

According to Travis, Ballarat had just come out of the 90s when everything was about heritage. “I think we were looking backwards a bit too much and we needed to find a balance.” This was the inspiration for the poster’s headline: The Past is History. “Yeah, it’s a double meaning. The past of Ballarat actually is history with the Eureka Rebellion and everything. But also that line is about looking forward and saying that, while we’re in a historical city, we need to start living a contemporary lifestyle.” Something that has certainly eventuated ever since. 

It also seemed logical to Travis to feature a woman in the Ballaarat poster campaign. A decision that in hindsight makes even more sense now. 

Sofles Marvel Stadium

“Within the arts community of Ballarat, we have a contingent of really strong women. At the end of the day, they’re doing all the heavy lifting, with pushing things forward and creating all these opportunities in Ballarat.” 

In addition to spending thousands of hours on his computer, designing hundreds of t-shirts, Travis is fast becoming recognised locally for his paintings. After all, he has completed a number of murals on the walls of key local destinations that are a must-see for urbanites, art lovers or just anyone visiting Ballarat or passing through. 

In fact, Travis recommends a unique way where you can combine his street art with food and drink. 

“You start with breakfast at Webster’s Market and Café. Then you lunch at the Hop Temple. With dinner at Mr Jones.” Each of these establishments boasts a Travis Price mural. There is also one more at Redan, home of the Ballarat & District Trotting Club. “You could do those three on a Saturday, then off to the harness racing the same night. Now that would be quite fun”. 

Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.