Mr Derek James Carter or ‘DOER’ is an artist who grew from his roots in the graffiti world of Sydney, Australia in the 1980’s, to become the highly respected multi disciplined artist he is today. The whole time remaining true to his roots whilst being unafraid to learn, grow and branch out, both artistically and collaboratively.
“Art is basically a journey, you can call it what you want it is very subjective and sometimes I feel it is spiritual and other times just a lot of work but it is my life path and that is how it is.”
(A recent picture below of Derek in the wild)
So get to know Derek and get schooled on graffiti history by reading the Art Talk below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Doer – 1986 (The birth of the ‘DOER’ tag)
City, State n Country you’re from and were you currently reside?
Grew up in Randwick in Sydney New South Wales Australia and currently reside in Coogee which is basically the next suburb.
(Pictures below by David Slezak of Derek out painting)
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, girls, school, crime… ANYTHING man.
* age 5 – beginnings:
Had a close friend who was into electronics named David and I would collect skeletal remains of birds and basically dig up at my local park looking for horse shoes and anything unexpected. We would both show each other our discoveries.
I remember being impressed by a battery powered torch he made in a matchbox. I kept some of the bird remains in a matchbox too, they were quite handy.
* age 10 – continuations:
My aunty Betty saw I was interested in drawing and got me a book on how to sketch at 8 so by ten I was doing renditions of things in the world like drawing our TV set or cars as close as I could to realistic. It was more about problem solving, I was perplexed at how to draw every single leaf on a tree and I tried too only to be frustrated by the complexity of it. It was interesting and kept me occupied.
* age 15 – getting serious:
Started a huge series of pastel drawings in art class that seemed to be about looking into the human body. They were not realistic but an attempt to imagine the body inside and out in an almost cartoon form with all sorts of connections that I imagined were possible.
This was around the time I realised you could be an artist and that seemed really cool.
* age 20 – young adult:
Got accepted into art school on a low income scholarship at 19 so I was blown away by how much was going on and had gone on. In our first year we covered western art practices from way back all the way to the 90’s.
Remember going to tripped out parties and playing chess in cafes, seeing art performances and just being generally blown away by art.
* age 30 – adult mode:
This was when I had my family, two girls and strangely I really concentrated on graffiti and doing more complex work as opposed to my years doing quick stuff.
Was still doing quick illegals but in 2004 stopped tagging then 2007 in my early thirties stopped illegal work altogether.
Don’t make it happen, let it happen.
Brian Eno, David Bowie, Pantha du prince, Phillip Glass, Public Enemy.
Favorite TV show(s)?
I used to love Robotech, Mr Squiggle, I pretty much stopped watching TV at 17 but got a small dose of Seinfeld, Simpsons, It is funny if something was really popular I wouldn’t watch it.
It was years later that I watched Seinfeld only after it was on reruns. You couldn’t have a conversation without Seinfeld being mentioned and I never knew what anyone was talking about but eventually caved and really liked it but everyone had moved on by that stage.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
Blade Runner, Koyaanisqatsi.
Favorite books and comics?
The Fall by Albert Camus, Bill Viola Writings 1973-1993.
Most of my mates would show me comics and I loved them but never collected them, Sandman, Tank Girl, about five years ago I got into The Punisher.
Why the name ‘DOER’?
We had to study Shakespeare in our first year of high school and I remember sitting there with my mate Glen and I was wanting an OER ending so I was like BOER, nah, he was like SOER, mmm maybe and then I went DOER and was like that is it.
That was the power of Shakespeare right there.
Favorite other artists and why?
Really like the video artist Bill Viola and the photographer Bill Henson, really love the mood of their work. I look at a lot of graffiti and there I am influenced by Seems from Sydney, Jcee and Tudor also the Fab4 crew.
Unique was a big influence in the late 80s for me, Phase2, Vulcan, Mode2 and Lee. I tried to reproduce a mural by Lee in the late 80s in Randwick and also a work by Fab4 the classic lady with a gun in Randwick.
Forgot to mention Rexzy, Soul, Paze and Zero too they were amazing artists.
I dig Shida, Twoone, Does, Sofles, mainly all these artists are very creative also I can’t leave out Lister I like his energy and that is inspiring.
Worst aspect of the art hustle?
Maybe things can get too commercial and lack the enthusiasm and interest to get it wrong as well as right.
Best aspect of the art hustle?
Everyone is trying to get noticed and do something different, there is always a surprise around every corner.
Do you consider your work as ‘art’, ‘design’, vandalism, re-hashed crap?
When I was bombing it was about getting up and that was plain crazy, every day was an adventure and you always had a pen down your pants ready to tag. Getting chases doing throw ups was something I did and I only wanted to do trains until I was eighteen.
When I finished with trains at 19 I was super happy to move into street bombing and art. So I did trains from 86 to 92 and then went streets from 93 to 04 and I was happier doing that but all the while I was making art too.
Admittedly I am a scatter brain, I tend to be happier doing lots of different things. Have exhibited a lot too but not so much in the street art scene just in artist run spaces with computer based work, multi-media.
A lot of what I do is pretty crap but it is genuine and I am normally really inspired.
What I love is to create and really I can’t help it.
For me art is basically a journey, you can call it what you want it is very subjective and sometimes I feel it is spiritual and other times just a lot of work but it is my life path and that is how it is.
In the graffiti scene there is a friction between what seems to be a desire for recognition – namely placing stickers and art all over public spaces – and a reluctance to be interviewed, set up an online presence and all of those other ‘normal’ art hustle things…
Care to explain and elaborate this for those at home?
When you are doing stuff on the streets the less people know about you the better.
After 2007 and being all legal I was more open about who I was only because I didn’t have anything to hide. Now I consider myself an artist and you need to be known in that context if your not necessarily a highly prized target of the police.
If you are purely streets it doesn’t mean you can’t have a show but less is more. People will imagine your some kind of SuperMan and the more peoples imaginations can linger on who that crazy mofo getting up is the better.
If I was getting up now and I was younger I probably wouldn’t do interviews or shows but I would bank on the fact that I can’t do this stuff forever and be looking for opportunities.
Today you don’t have such a personal recognition from the cops unless you are notorious and people get up and have shows just look at Lister. He turns up on the front cover of the Sydney Morning Herald and then plasters his name somewhere illegally. He still gets busted but times have changed they really have.
But if you were Kewl or on that level just keep doing your thing and charge your untrackable late 90s era mobile at seven eleven while posting photos with a trail of aliases and fake I.Ds.
The thing is it depends where you are operating from and what you want, or are wanted for.
Describe the method of making and materials used for an ‘DOER’ work? (dot point all o.k.)
* your traditional graffiti?
With stuff I do that is more old school it is usually with some old crew mates, but we are all getting on and live miles apart so this is becoming a rarity.
It is pretty simple some cans and a short talk about where stuff will go. My mates will bring outlines and I will just make something up on the spot.
(Picture below of a piece by Derek aka ‘DOER’)
* your more figurative work?
This requires reference material usually to provide structure.
Some of my painting buddies would laugh at me because I would bring lots of loose drawings and pictures in a folder that I copied bits from to create the work. A lot of the drawings were referenced from google images and were on brown paper bags, kind of became a joke.
(Picture below of some figurative work by ‘DOER’)
* your works on canvas?
Works on canvas are more rare I usually work on paper but it depends on what sort of frame of mind I am in.
Most of my canvas work will get worked over with new work until I gift it or sell it.
(Picture below of some works on canvas by ‘DOER’)
* your sketches?
Now it just lines everywhere, my latest obsession is using loose lettering structure to be worked over with shapes and more lines.
(Pictures below of some sketches by ‘DOER’)
* your digital work?
My video work has usually been archival, so I walk around and video random stuff, other imaged based stuff can be collages of photos or video stills.
(Picture below of a digital work by ‘DOER’)
When and why did you first start making art?
When I was eight the idea of drawing things around me became a fascination.
I would also do narrative work to illustrate a mutiny or something like that.
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
Seeing Koyaanisqatsi really blew me away and made me all set to see what I could discover and unearth in art.
I was about sixteen at the time.
What are the best and worst parts of living and being an artist in Sydney, Australia aka Convict Town?
I love the way Sydney is forever changing and can never make its mind up at what it wants to be, it sounds annoying but it is kind of a land of changing attitudes and focus.
The thing is it is exciting to be able to morph and then somethings just never change but really Sydney is the capital of renovations and new apartment blocks. Even places like Malabar and La Perouse that looked like they would never change are now seeing apartments looming like the ones at Little Bay and that’s just the beginning.
So I love it can change but wish it wasn’t going so hard at it.
(Picture below of ‘DOER’ in Redfern, Sydney – 1991)
What are your thoughts on the general Sydney scene today?
Admittedly I am out of the loop, family man and all but what I do see is artist run spaces doors closing for apartment blocks then someone pops up unexpectedly and you get a show or a place to decorate, what I see is great spaces popping up on the fringes and lots of regional opportunities too like Cementa.
Two years ago I was in a show in Lawson and it was really good so I think Sydney is getting tougher but money can only go so far before there is a retraction or slow down.
Not everything can be bought and renovated.
What does an average day out getting up involve for you?
When I was getting up back in the day it was all about wondering the streets usually going from one night club to the next tagging on the way, or hitting the bus stop, then bus, then getting on the city circle for some train action.
I Remember back in the late 80s me and Punish would skip school and hit layups usually hitting Lavender Bay, running up the tracks at North Sydney to hit a lay up usually with tags and throw ups.
How, in your opinion, has the rise of platforms such as Instagram impacted the life of a street artist, and the scene in general?
For me Instagram is great, people will tell me about someones new piece or tags and I will already know about it from Instagram, then when I finally get out I see it in real life if it is in Sydney.
Back in the day though it was all about just being in your face now people and me included are glued to phone screens. I went for a bike ride the other day and you have to be careful because people don’t know your riding past as they are looking at their screens.
What matters though is seeing stuff in general but say the scene oversees you see that on your screen like right away and that is cool just to see what is happening all over the world pretty much instantaneously.
There are plenty of artists I would never have known about if it wasn’t for Instagram or Flickr.
What do you think the general public’s perception of graffiti is and why?
People just love a decent effort, last year I painted the front of a home which was a first, it wasn’t the entire facade but it was prominent.
Also peoples views are pretty varied, I painted a house in QueensPark which is a pretty conservative part of Sydney and people rang the council claiming to be the home owner complaining of graffiti on their home. I mean it was the most placid thing you could imagine, more aimed at kids.
Tagging always gets a bad word but it is where a lot of people start and some stay, my opinion now is can you show it off to your kids? If you show them a throw up or a two coloured fill piece they may think it is pretty cool when they are younger but when you show them a full coloured mural and they like it you know that it will end up in the photo album rather than the spares box.
Please go into detail about your friendship and artistic collaboration with one of Art Whore’s dear friends, ‘BIZE’?
We went to school together and would paint together I always loved hanging out. We hung out a lot in the nineties drawing and going to exhibitions.
Bize had a pretty serious run with art he was getting in lots of shows and I met a lot of artists at that time through Biz. Bize also had a great series of comics and we had a lot of fun running around the place getting into mischief.
We would compete too on video games to see who could get the highest scores.
There is only a couple of photos of our graffiti that we did together that survived, I remember one that got buffed the next day and we were pretty cut but that was the life of doing graffiti.
Biz was always about the straight up hip hop culture he always had KrsOne on rotation and I loved that because I was always a fan of KRS too but I stopped following his albums and Bize kept me updated.
Biz was always encouraging me to exhibit and back in the day I didn’t feel confident to exhibit it was all about graffiti for me. Now I am older I don’t mind galleries and a couple of years ago me and Bize were in a group show together and that was great to think he always had faith in me to do that kind of work and finally I had the confidence to share my voice in that context.
(Picture below of a collab sketch by ‘DOER’ x ‘BIZE’ x ‘KABS PSK’ x ‘Ksone’ x ‘Marktronics’)
How has your friendship with ‘Zap’ aka ‘ZAP Galaxy’ impacted your personal and artistic development?
Me and Zap met when we were twelve, I stole my first spray cans and when I hid them he saw me and when I left he proceeded to do his first piece with my paint. It said ‘Shazam’ and I was pretty cut but we become great friends.
Zap was notorious he was a local character and I had seen him a lot earlier when I was hanging in Coogee.
At that time I was a very quiet kid and I hated attention so I was trying to be as invisible as possible but it was hard because at that time I was only about 9 years of age and all the older kids hassled you trying to take anything you had. If you had two dollars in those days you were like a player and everyone had just lost their pocket money on some games machine. It was pretty standard to get rolled.
Zap was like a hustler, stealing bikes, stealing tools off worksites and at that stage I just kept my distance. But when I turned twelve I was little more ready to hang out and we would ride our bikes and go tagging.
If it wasn’t for Zap I would have stopped graffiti in 1998, he literally hounded me to keep painting and we did some great collaborations in the late nineties that were pioneering. A lot of straight graff heads thought we were crazy but I had already had hassles since the early nineties and didn’t care about being labelled weird. Every piece was great fun and we would always laugh at our efforts, we laughed because we wanted to do the craziest piece possible and it was the best fun.
Every now and then I see Zap and I am like thats it I am finished I’ve had enough of this and he is like your not stopping we have a wall to paint over this place or that and there I am painting again. We talk too about art and design, furniture or politics it is always topical and I guess we are very similar our birthdays are only two days apart too. Recently we were talking about some of the old heads who have died from drugs and alcohol and talked about all the old criminal activities from back in the day that went on and we were both pleased to still be around painting and that we didn’t take those other paths in life.
(Pictures below of some ‘ZAP’ x ‘DOER’ works)
Back in the Day Questions
Please describe the sights, sounds, smells etc of the late 80’s n early 1990’s graffiti scene in Sydney.
In the 80s you basically got hassled by older kids you were punched in the face if you got smart and had anything of value stolen.
For some reason I took so much shit to be a part of graffiti and thankfully I had a growth spurt and become the guy who people would think twice about messing with. I was never like that but had to hold my own from all the morons who kept trying to stand over me and then I stood over them. I was always aware though that it was a vicious cycle and I was always cool with people and never hassled anyone, I was a pacifist and was all about the art and surrounded myself with creative graffiti artists.
The nineties was when I had grown tired of crime and the bong smoke filled rooms and I let my crew know that I was sick of it. I got labelled a ‘fag’ and weirdo so just moved on from big crews. It was crazy bombing and the culture was tough you were just a machine painting and tagging it was mental. My crew then were jet setting doing over luxury stores, hotel rooms, cocaine, all the while doing panels, getting into fights I was always painting and avoiding drama.
Luckily crime never appealed to me, it frustrated me, by the time I was sixteen I didn’t want fancy clothes or shoes all I wanted was paint and I excelled in stealing paint primarily.
In the late eighties I did around three pieces a week and had around fifty to one hundred cans at any one time and in the nineties I kept the pace up until 93. When I went into street bombing there were lots of abandoned buildings in Sydney from the recession so it was great to paint more art based work, it was graffiti but it lost that hard edge it became not about getting up but about discovery.
I painted with Dephi from EPS for a couple of years and we did some pretty tripped out stuff. I joined EPS crew which was very eclectic and was started by my good friend Mr Eks. I had become a loner but I had some mates who accepted me for who I was and when the crew folded I was sad. In 2004 we had a revival and did some interesting murals. The nineties were really when I matured and even though I felt sad to lose my old mates I was bravely going into new territory and most importantly being creative.
(Some pictures below from the ‘DOER’ archives of that late 1980’s n 1990’s life)
What did an average day out getting up involve in those pivotal times?
I remember being with Sie in the late eighties maybe 87-88, we would meet before school and take the day off going to the city circle before peak hour, then take a break going back after peak hour until lunch time.
I never had any money as my mum never had any and I would watch enviously as Sie had two dollars and would get some salami from the deli and a bread roll for lunch. All the while I was starving and then back to the city circle till around four by this time we had got a few tags up and then home time and I could eat something.
I know that back in the day there were major limitations placed on writers due to available tools (spray paint colors, nozzel limitations, having to hussle shoe repair places for paint etc) in the early days – please explain these limitations, and how they were dealt with.
All paint was good for something, some cans for outlines others only for fills a lot of the paint we racked was different, we had rust guards, easy sprays, duplis, it really depended and what stores were not too hot and we just had to make do.
Easy sprays were good for thin lines if you put paper under the nozzle, duplis were good for fills, spray pacs fills touch ups were great for everything but were coveted for outlines mainly.
Kade found that glen 20 nozzles would give you a fat cap on an easy spray so any knowledge was used and styles changed a lot from the 80s to 90s with different cans. Tuxans were good all rounders too and highly sought after and the rarity was Buntlak.
After 93 I would do over garages and that was a decent hustle, also white goods repairs were pretty good for paint. Garages became my primary source of paint for a while as nobody bothered doing that. Every garage had some paint and it was all random so seeing what you could do with the paint was cool. The main garage paint I found was watery metallics and they were so cool for arty effects and tonal gradations.
Worst memory from back in the day?
Doing legals, I hated legal walls and one day we got offered a wall in Bondi Junction in the late eighties and I just hated it. It looked so bad and I found it embarrassing.
I didn’t start doing lots of legals until 1998 and that legal in the junction really made me not want to do anymore though I did a couple in the hall of fame days.
Best memory from back in the day?
Painting murals in abandoned buildings in the late 80s.
A few buildings were abandoned in Bondi Junction and we did some great walls with full backgrounds and characters this was my favourite time in PSK crew.
Funniest memory from back in the day?
When I was sixteen I was given a joint by my mate Dice and we laughed for hours we went to a Chinese restaurant and were laughing the whole time it was the first time I had smoked weed and probably the best time.
Odds n Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I remember they were so important, when I was young I had some cool toys but I was obsessed with launching them into space so heaps got melted from failed launch missions. Usually there were fireworks strapped on some cool toy and I thought I was Nasa.
My Mum lost her job and I had to rely on my Dad’s $5 a week payment for child support which got me a Star Wars figure a week and eventually I had a whole bag but they got lost in a moment of absent mindedness. This experience actually made me so sad that I started disliking toys, I felt they became something that could eventually lead to disappointment. It started my whole less is more attitude, but I thoroughly enjoyed toys but it was something that was just a little out of reach until Christmas and I would get a cricket set, and I really disliked sport so I got a lot of weird messages but I made do when I started art.
Art was like the best toy ever because you could create it and you could make it all up.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
I remember a girl Lisa from Primary School, I didn’t quite understand what all the strange feelings were and I was obsessed with war movies where the prisoners would make an escape tunnel. So I would imagine her and I escaping school in a tunnel and having a secret place we could hang out. I guess she always naked in these scenarios and I never quite understood why until I was older.
I never had a girlfriend in my school but there was a girl Diana who had a crush on me and she would follow me around smiling, we almost kissed but someone walked in on us. I always tried to get away from her I just didn’t understand that stuff.
When I was quite young I kissed a girl and we were mimicking our guardians really, lots of writhing it was all very innocent really.
Does sex change everything?
Once you have kids definitely, kids are the best they make you responsible.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I was dreaming about graffiti, an old mate found some old photos and we were spinning out at the styles and I was like that is crazy how did we come up with that?
I dream about graffiti a lot, usually I find some old dead train yard and I think back to being there and hoping to find a piece that might have survived over the years.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
I tried Hash, Pot and Ecstasy once, I felt very comfortable on ecstasy but coming off it was so odd that I never wanted to try it again.
Hash was the most disturbing drug I took, a mate of mine was dealing and he would pop in for a smoke and I would lie there hallucinating that I was being eaten alive by strange beasts.
Eventually if I smoked dope I thought aliens were in my brain so it got pretty messy, at first most drugs can be ok but it can get messy after a while.
I don’t think acid would have agreed with me and some of my mates got really fried on acid so I never went there. So really I never tried pure psychedelics.
What does ‘lad’ culture mean to you and why?
To me its just more conforming, but conforming to crime and Nautica caps.
I am not saying you should grow dreads and a beard but it would pretty good to do something different.
People are social animals and there are ladders to climb and people to impress, its not that I am doing much better than some of these lads maybe they are onto it. Kerser is a mad rapper and he is doing well but I am always looking for something unexpected and a group of lads can make me think I am in a time warp but the lads were in LaCoste and Fila.
I have mates who were lads back in the day and they still are and I get along with them but these guys are open minded and don’t mind that I am different and they are different. I guess what matters is how open minded people can be, can they imagine what it is like to be someone else and for me can I imagine what it is like to be a lad. But essentially it is that something unique that you possess apart from what you conform to or think you are.
I know you also produce music – what release do you get working in music as opposed to your other art?
I make video and normally the music is for the videos, I don’t make a lot of video or music but it is something I sometimes feel compelled to do. I love to see what will happen. I love music I get lost in it and to create it is fun.
Me an Zap made a lot of music in the late 90s and it was just great, it was even crazier than our graffiti.
I didn’t touch it for years and found I had some new video work that needed sound so I embarked on making music again. It can take a while to make a piece work but when it comes together it adds a lot of dimension and mood.
My last few exhibited works have been sound pieces controlled by a micro computer. Usually an electronic voice controlled by scripts reads off text files and intertwined will be soundscapes to break it up. These pieces are more orchestrated in the way the work is controlled and so far they have been well received in galleries.
Any collaborations in the works?
I am open for anything, most likely there will be some more collabs with Zap but I hope to get a spot with Atome soon. Me and Stet are a little overdue for a wall too. I would love to paint with Shida too but that is currently just a dream though Zap has contact and we were hoping to get him on a wall but got Lister instead as he was available at the time.
I like Joe40 too but at the moment I have limited times I can paint so it is who can be bothered waiting for me to get time and is keen.
Any major projects you want to hype man?
I would love to have a 30 year graffiti exhibition next year with a very eclectic mix of work. Basically bringing lots of my different works together would be great, I feel it would be a great show. Most likely with Zap as we both started at the same time. Music, Video, photographic reproductions of graffiti from the past and more recent works as well as computer based works, a total eclectic mix up of old and new.
Zap has some crazy video work that I would love to see exhibited too.
- Derek James Carter – site
- Derek James Carter – Instagram
- Derek James Carter – twitter
- Derek James Carter – Soundcloud
- Derek James Carter – blog