Dunedin's Ed Sheeran mural creator makes plans after newfound success

trending 19/04/2018

Dunedin artist Tyler Kennedy Stent is the man behind the city's controversial street art mural of singer Ed Sheeran.

Already well known in local art circles, he hit the headlines while painting the high profile mural street, which was part of Dunedin's marketing push around the English singer's three southern concerts. 

It also gave Stent a new set of fans, and he now plans to use that newfound fame to get off the grid for a year by living in Nepal, voluntering to help improve the life of an earthquake-affected family.

The 20-year-old's first love was writing - he wrote his first book when he was 8-years-old - but found he was better able to convey his ideas through paintings and drawings.

"I used to keep a little diary and I used to write stories, and then illustrate them with little watercolour stickmen", Mr Stent says. 

"And somehow that progressed to this."

The $8000 project was initially criticised as a waste of money, but opinion changed when people saw the final work, with the mural becoming selfie central over Easter.

Even Ed Sheeran snapped a photo with it, as his first stop after arriving in the city, sending the image around the world to his millions of fans.

"It's a good feeling to see how everybody's kind of come around to liking it," says Stent. "It was great seeing the queues outside the mural and stuff."

Stent uses watercolour paints for the majority of his works, something he chose to stick with for the large portrait of Sheeran.

While an unusual choice for street art, it allowed him to blend his grungy intimate style with the unpredictability of watercolours.

"When you take that control and you flaunt it, I think you get some really wild atmospheres and ideas conveyed through that."

The young artist packed his watercolour set while travelling overseas, where he struck up a collaboration with photographer Lachlan Bylhouwer.

Stent continued painting photos after returning home with images from Nepal.

"Throughout this whole process he was sending me photographs and I was painting them", Stent says. "And that is how my career started, was painting the Nepalese people."

He feels a strong bond to the family Bylhouwer stayed with, despite having never met them himself - but that's set to change.  

Stent plans to spend a year living in Nepal himself, investing the profits from his last two art shows back into the family that inspired him.

"As well as painting them, I'm also painting myself. I'm also painting with the intention of manipulating the audience into feeling a certain way."

There's a few more projects to complete before he flies off, including another major piece of street art.  

And while Stent says the project is still under wraps, he admits this one will showcase a subject closer to home.

"I'll drop the hint that it's a Dunedin artist who I'll be painting," Stent teases.

"It's not Six60, although I'd love to do one of them. I think they deserve a mural for sure".

Newshub.