Raise a glass with Sindy Sinn: Aussie music’s favourite illustrator dude

When I was asked to research Sindy Sinn, I was hesitant to chuck it into the search engine given it sounds like a ripper porn name. When I eventually got to a private space and did so, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a dude who basically designed for all of Newtown’s bars, bands and burger joints. That’s a whole lot better than porn.

Sindy Sinn is a full-time workaholic illustrator dude. When he’s not doing designs for top bands such as The Rolling Stones, Misfits and The Rubens, he’s designing for venues, businesses and painting his own murals on the side.

He’s in the merch, he’s in the banners and he’s in your burgers. This guy is everywhere. I was lucky enough to pick his brain on his work, the creative industry and what happened to his first car.

This article and more are available in print in Happy Mag Issue 7. Grab your copy here

Sindy Sinn
All images courtesy of Sindy Sinn

If you’ve been to Newtown you’ve seen some of Sindy Sinn’s work. Hell, if you’ve ever been to a rock gig you would’ve seen something by him.

HAPPY: After looking at your website I realised pretty quickly you’ve designed half of Newtown. What’s your journey been like up until now and how’d you make your start?

SINDY: I’ve lived in Newtown for the last ten years or so. It’s an awesome spot, with good people and good beer. I got my start a million years ago working with local bands on gig posters and it kind of exploded on me, but it all started with music. One of my first big Newtown jobs was doing murals and merch for heavy metal burger bar Mary’s, which became branding and festivals as they’ve expanded. My art studio (Snake Eyes Studio) is located inside the Young Henrys beer brewery in Newtown, a local institution that supports lots of music and events. So I’m completely immersed.

Sydney has a great art scene though. There are lots of incredible artists, each with their own angle. And I’m flattered that people associate my work with beer and Newtown. A combination of hard work and having awesome mates has gotten me where I am… and beer, lots of beer.

HAPPY: You seem quite busy, so when you’re not being an illustrator dude, what do you do?

SINDY: I’m a total workaholic. I love working and I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing a project come to life. I think that to make it as an artist (or any creative) you need to enjoy the actual process. I often stare at the same piece of work for days on end, so you gotta love what you do.

The other side of work though is the life-balance and knowing when (and how) to switch off. At the end of each day, my beautiful girlfriend Beth and I will unwind on the balcony with a beer, hang out, watch TV and actually enjoy being at home. We also go to the beach a lot and try to get outta town camping when we can. But throughout the week, I’m usually juggling illustration and mural projects. I work long days and put as much into my work as I can. I also try to schedule some time to work on my own projects, for example; I run a kidswear brand called Nightcrawler Co. So there’s never nothing to do.

I also play drums! I’ve always played drums, mostly just as an outlet but always with bands that are lots of fun. I’m currently playing in a band called The Persian Drugs with a couple of Newtown ratbags… we’ve got a new album coming out this year.

HAPPY: What band would you love to design for, but haven’t got the chance yet?

SINDY: I’ve got an infinite list of bands that I’d love to work with; Queens Of The Stone Age, Rob Zombie, Red Fang, Mastodon, Metallica, The Bronx, The Hives, Turbonegro etc… fuck, I could list dream bands all day. Music is a huge part of my life and influences everything I do. I’ve been really lucky to have already worked with some incredible bands and there’s no better feeling. It’s surreal!

Growing up, I had White Zombie posters on my walls and would relentlessly trace Iron Maiden’s Eddie and Motorhead’s Snaggletooth. I remember carving Twisted Sister and Van Halen logos into my school desks. When an amazing band has amazing artwork, it stays with the fans forever… so be a part of that is fucking crazy.

HAPPY: What’s the best job you’ve ever worked on? One of those jobs where you lean back in your chair and whisper under your breath, “fuck yeah”.

SINDY: I’ve got some exciting news about upcoming band artwork that I can’t tell anyone about yet and it’s KILLING ME. But also, over the last few months I’ve worked on some rad murals around Australia. As the walls, budgets and pressures get bigger… I find myself muttering “fuck yeah” with a hint of excitement and terror.

Young Henrys and Jameson flew me around Australia painting murals to celebrate their collaborative whiskey. General Pants had me onboard the installation of their new Brisbane city store. And I find myself in Melbourne every few weeks working on bigger and bigger walls, High Tea Screenprinting in Footscray recently gave me full creative control over their factory walls.

Other than all that, I always get a kick out of seeing people wearing t-shirts that I’ve designed. I’d never go up and say anything, I don’t want to make it awkward, but I definitely get a buzz from it. Beth is pretty bored of me pointing at things saying “I drew that”. But I still think it’s funny.

HAPPY: Who is better to work with, musicians or venues?

SINDY: Haha. Each has their pros and cons. Bands are definitely ‘cooler’ to work with and there’s more street cred associated with bands. But some bands can also be superannoying to work with… they often don’t know what they want, until they’ve eliminated everything that they don’t want. Or a bass player will chime in with something stupid like “I think everything should be orange”.

But all in all, I’ve mostly had good experiences. Luckily as the bands and budgets get bigger, the trust has gone up as well. Bigger bands have managers and agents that take care of all the boring stuff. But I do get a massive sense of pride seeing a band playing in front of a stage banner I’ve designed. For example after seeing The Rubens play, I saw hundreds of people lining up to buy shirts that I’d designed… which give me warm and fuzzies.

But venues are usually easier to work with. The venue manager is usually some super chill dude who lets you go for it. They pay their bills on time and they usually have a beer with you at the end. I recently did a massive Lemmy tribute mural at Max Watts in Melbourne… I’m looking forward to seeing it pop up in photos.

HAPPY: Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who wants to become an illustrator?

SINDY: Work hard, don’t worry about what people think and establish a style you like working in. Don’t copy stuff, don’t overthink things and don’t be afraid to swear in meetings or get paint on your clothes.  Find a process that you enjoy, then do it a million times… put everything you do online and figure out how to sell it.

Being a freelancer involves a lot of business shit that nobody tells you about. Make your own rules and stay positive.

HAPPY: Why do you think some people aren’t prepared to pay for illustration/creative work?

SINDY: I think some clients presume that because creating artwork looks fun, that it doesn’t need to be paid for. Typically when you first start out, you’ll get walked all over by clients who want stuff for free. But with time you learn to recognise red flags, and to pick and choose projects and clients that are good for you.

I’m lucky to have clients who appreciate the time and effort that goes into their artwork. And I always try to help out clients as much as I can… I’ll put them in touch with my favourite screenprinters and suppliers to make sure the job gets brought to life properly.

When it comes to artwork, like anything, you get what you pay for. A bigger budget means more time and consideration can be spent on the project. I have a feeling that my aggressive branding scares off most of the pelicans.

HAPPY: Do you do any art outside of your usual illustration work?

SINDY: Digital illustration work keeps me more than busy. But outside of that, I also paint a lot of murals. It’s a nice add-on to a project, particularly with bars and places with big empty wall space. Every now and again I’ll be a part of a group exhibition, which gives me a good opportunity to get out of the studio and go have a beer with some fellow artists.

I try to grab a beer with other artists whenever I can… building a community, swapping war stories and sticking up for each other is important. I think next on my list of artistic experiments is to try my hand at some lino-cutting. I reckon lino-cuts look sexy as hell, but I don’t know if I’m ready to cut my hands open doing it yet.

HAPPY: Does adding business onto your passion drain the magic at all?

SINDY: I can see how that could happen, but not really. I still get excited by new projects and always have something fun on the horizon. Being a professional artist can definitely lose its sparkle if you’re working on a tight deadline or feeling stressed or rundown. I try to stay super positive and don’t let things bother me too much.

With experience you learn to handle all that shit. If I’ve had a crap day, I’ll turn off my computer and go home. Or better yet, Beth and I will go up to Earls Jukejoint (our local) and have a couple negronis. A negroni will turn any frown upside down.

My advice for anyone feeling drained by their passion would be to shake everything up completely. Kill your clients, clear your schedule and your mind. Go for a walk. Listen to some music. Write down everything you love and hate about your projects. Not all artists are cut out for professional commissions, focus on what you love doing and do it.

HAPPY: How much of your art is influenced by other illustrators, or is mostly based out of your taste in music and movies?

SINDY: I’m inspired by old school heavy metal posters, ’80s cartoon and traditional tattoos. In 2018, it’s easy to follow a million amazing artists on Instagram and see their processes and day to day workings. And I definitely get inspired by their work and successes. But when I’m sketching or working on a new project, I start with some really rough pencil sketches and slowly refine them into something workable with Sharpies over the top. I try to keep things simple but with an added element of weirdness… avoiding the obvious decisions. I keep lists in my phone of little ideas, captions or taglines for artwork. So if I hear a lyric or a line in a movie, I write it down for later.

Here’s a fun-fact, I fucking HATE sketchbooks. I mean, I love them… but I’m scared of making them messy. So I do all my sketch work on A4 and A3 wooden clipboards with loose-leaf paper. I like sketching rough then tightening stuff up digitally.

HAPPY: Do you get free beers from venues you’ve designed for? If I see you at Frankies can you hook me up with a big sausso pizza?

SINDY: Haha, I’ve definitely enjoyed a free beer or two. I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with amazing bar clients and hospo-pals. So every now and again a couple shots will work their way onto my side of the bar, or the odd tab mysteriously vanishes. But I’m obviously always happy to pay for drinks and give back to the bars that support me. Gotta even out the karma with the beer gods!

If you see me at Frankies, come say hi and we’ll grab some frothies together… my shout.

HAPPY: Given you’re a beer lover, what’s your favorite brew?

SINDY: I’m a sucker for the Young Henrys Newtowner. It’s my regular, day-to-day favourite.  And there’s something special about a Reschs longneck on a hot day. The silver bullet! I also really like the Grifter breweries Bright Eye. And Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale.

Basically anything that’s simple and refreshing, not too heavy or hoppy usually. Some nights I’ll give a whiskey a bit of a push… Jameson Caskmates is my go to.

HAPPY: What was the last dream you had?

SINDY: It’s interesting you ask this question, I fucking hate people talking about their dreams. Haha.  Nonsensical stories about nothing that someone made up while they were sleeping is the wooooorst. It pushes my buttons. I also don’t really dream much myself, maybe that’s why it annoys me so much.

HAPPY: On your website, you said you had a Toyota Hiace that karked it the day you got it, what happened there?

SINDY: I’ve always figured the best way to get to know someone is with a quick burst of general questions about cars and movies. So I took that same approach to the ABOUT ME section of my website. I bought a 1978 Gold Toyota Hiace from a mate out west. While driving it home on the freeway, there was a huge clunk.

Essentially, the engine mounts had fucked out and the engine fell out of it, which isn’t fun on a freeway. Had the thing towed home and it sat there until I eventually sold it as scrap metal. But it didn’t kill my buzz on vans. I still love vans. I had an old van for years that my friends nicknamed THE OFFENDER.

sindy sinn

HAPPY:  Advice to your 16-year-old self?

SINDY: In a couple years time, you’re gonna wanna buy a 1978 Toyota Hiace… don’t.


This article and more are available in print in Happy Mag Issue 7. Grab your copy here