Words and photo by Dale Campisi
You probably know Josh Pringle’s work without even knowing his name. His Keep Tassie Wild artwork can be seen on car bumpers, jackets, t-shirts and walls around Hobart and beyond, and his distinctive style is in hot demand.
Josh, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Tasmania in 2015, was always headed for a career in illustration. “I drew constantly as a child. I have creative parents and they always encouraged me to be creative, too,” he says.
“My dad is a blacksmith, so I grew up around people who make a living from making their own stuff.” In fact, Josh was selling his drawings as a ten year old. “I used to go down to Rektango (the ever-popular Friday night party at Hobart’s Salamanca Wharf) and sell my comics for ten cents.”
“As a teenager I got in to punk and the DIY aesthetic, Robert Crumb and MAD Magazine,” Josh says, all of which are clear influences on his style. “Punk was really formative for me,” he adds. “It made me feel like I could do anything, that I didn’t need anyone’s help. It really shaped everything I do now. It’s why I started a gallery in my parents’ garage when I was 16. I didn’t want to make money from it; I just wanted somewhere to hang out with my mates! But from the money we did make we gave about $800 to charity.”
Josh says he enjoyed his time at the University of Tasmania’s art school on Hunter Street, where he majored in sculpture, but acknowledges that some students find it challenging.
“You’ve got to approach it in the right way,” he says. “For me that meant a couple of gap years. I had a year off after college, and so I had a real thirst for knowledge when I started uni. The teachers pushed me in all kinds of directions, which was great for me, even though I had a pretty strong idea of where I wanted to go. I had another gap year during my studies and so I was thirsty again when I returned for my final year.”
Since graduating, Josh has pursued work as a freelance illustrator and as a gardener. “I split my work 50/50,” he explains. “Having a second job is massively important to me. I don’t see it as a failure. It gets me out of the studio. I love gardening.”
His Keep Tassie Wild designs came about through his passion for bushwalking and the environment. “I realised I wasn’t doing anything to save the environment. I didn’t volunteer, I didn’t donate money. I knew my work appealed to young people so I thought, I’ll make a poster. At first it was a picture of a tent. Then, a couple of years ago, I drew the waratah and it took off. The intention was to raise awareness and raise money.”
It’s paid off. Since 2016, Josh has raised more than $8,000 for environmental charities through the sale of Keep Tassie Wild merchandise, which includes stickers, patches, pins, t-shirts and hoodies. It has also led to commissions from the Wilderness Society and Tasmanian Land Conservancy, as well as tourism companies, which he encourages to donate to environmental causes.
His use of Instagram has also been key to his success as an illustrator. “I use it to look up other artists, and it’s how artists and clients find me, too. I used to keep a blog. Instagram is much easier!”
But success can also come at a cost. “Quoting is hard, but learning to say no is really important – particularly when a job doesn’t pay appropriately. I also like to help out friends in bands and charities I believe in. All those things contribute to burnout, and so right now I’m not taking on any new commissions at the moment.” Instead, he’s dreaming up new ideas of his own as he sweats it out in the garden.
Visit keeptassiewild.com to shop or donate and be sure to follow @keeptassiewild @joshpringle on instagram!
Find out more about the Bachelor of Fine Arts at utas.edu.au/fine-arts or call 1300 363 864.