Design duo depicts diversity of Dee Why
By Adeline Teoh
From school murals to garage doors — and now a B-Line bus stop — the artists known as Geebs have spent a decade making their mark around Sydney.
A date for most couples would be a trip to the movies or dinner for two — but not artistic duo Debbie and Gillie Drummond. The pair met around 18 years ago and spent their dates “going out to paint walls,” they recall. “That was our thing and that's essentially how Geebs was born.”
Geebs is a combination of their teen nicknames ‘Gui’ and ‘Debs’ and represents a decade of collaboration that spans public artwork, from a striking rosella mural at Rozelle Public School and the walls of inner west Sydney terrace houses, to businesses such as Mitre 10 and Collaroy eatery Sloppy Tee’s.
It was during those art dates that the two found common ground with shared influences including classical 1950s animation, tattoo art and low-brow culture.
“I grew up watching a lot of cartoons on TV and reading comic books,” says Gillie of his early influences. “Drawing and building things at home were what I would spend most of my time with — until I got introduced to graffiti!”
Debbie, whose mother was an artist, was never far from markers and paper in her childhood. As a teen, she became involved with the graffiti scene and, by the time she met Gillie, was already painting murals. “It struck me then that I could never be a person working in a 9-5 job.”
“We actually worked in cartoon animation studios for a moment in our lives,” says Gillie. “I'm a tattoo artist myself — and Debbie had a brief time tattooing as well. We take a lot of inspiration from the simplicity of retro cartoons and the bright, solid colours from traditional tattoos. The way of solving a complex idea by using shapes that are easy to read from a distance is one of the ways we incorporate this into our art.”
The pair started Geebs “as a way of blending the things that we both shared in common,” they explain. “So instead of painting individually together, we would create the whole concept as a duo, working and adding to each other's ideas organically from start to finish. When we paint a mural we can both do everything. It's pretty fun and it feels like we are one.”
One work of theirs you might have seen more frequently than most is A Place for Everyone, which graces the Dee Why B-Line bus stop, thanks to a commission by Transport for NSW. Given the theme of ‘cultural diversity', the pair drew on the people they knew in Dee Why to create the design. “It really is that diverse, [there are] more people from different ethnic backgrounds than any other area in the beaches. So, we thought, ‘let's try and represent as many nationalities as we can in one single image, no birds, no plants, no nothing just people’,” says Gillie. “The intention was … to identify and celebrate the cultural differences.”
The bus stop design is a little unusual as it’s monochromatic (at the request of Transport for NSW) but otherwise, Geebs’ signature style is better described as vivacious.
“We get a lot of comments about how bright and vibrant the colours are, and that people feel joy by looking at it,” notes Debbie of their other works. “We just want people to have a break from all the visual noise and the concrete feel that surrounds us. Like breathing fresh air but with your eyes.”
See more of Geebs’ work at www.geebsart.com