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Street Art in the Heart of Sydney

Home > Sydney > Art | Exhibitions | Places of Interest | Street Art | Street Performers
by Manny Diaz (subscribe)
Freelance writer and street photographer
Published February 12th 2014
Find Picasso and Michelangelo in the streets of Sydney
Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay art, Sydney art, Sydney artists, Sydney art lessons
The chalk art of Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay in Sydney.


Sydney is full of surprises, and a most pleasant one are the busking artists. What are busking artists or buskers? Buskers are street artists. They could be dancers, singers, musicians, and painters. Well, under the painter category would be artists that do not really paint, but they draw or create images with the use of different writing tools, from charcoal to chalk, pencil, and ballpoint pen.

Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay art, Sydney art, Sydney artists, Sydney art lessons
Pepe Gaka in action at the Circular Quay in Sydney.


Busking is regulated by the city council. Buskers need to obtain a permit in order to showcase their art. As with most artists, buskers are struggling financially. They rely on donations from the people who appreciate their art.. or from those whose generosity simply got piqued.

Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay art, Sydney art, Sydney artists, Sydney art lessons
Street artists, or buskers, rely on public support for their art.


Don't get me wrong. Buskers are not beggars. Beggars ask people for money but they do not do anything to earn what people give except appeal to their generosity. Buskers, on the other hand, create art. Street artists are faced with hard choices of finding a job that pays (and in the process let go of their art) or pursuing their passion for the art (and starve in the process). Many of us will think it crazy, but for the love of art, buskers are forced to rely on donations from the general public and maybe sell their artworks. The busking permit from the city council, however, prohibit selling of anything on public land.

Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay art, Sydney art, Sydney artists, Sydney art lessons, chalk painting
Feel free to chat with street artists, they welcome conversations about art.


Perhaps even more crazier is the fact that most of these buskers, while themselves struggling, are not keen in making money out of their art. They give away their art, satisfied with having people that appreciate their work. When and if they sell their art, they usually do so with the intention of donating the proceeds to a charity. This can come as being incomprehensible, but that is what Pepe Gaka and James Kite are telling us.

James Kite, ballpoint pen artist, panoramic drawing at QVB, pen drawing
A ballpoint pen drawing by James Kite.


James Kite

In one corner at the Sydney CBD, usually around the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), you will see a street artist armed with a ballpoint pen drawing panoramic images of anything from notorious Australian outlaw James Kelly to scenes from Bondi Surf Bathers' Life Saving Club. His art is impressive and particularly notable is his use of ballpoint pens. This means that he depicts life in black and white, but adds colour in monochrome. Such is a difficult feat to achieve, made even more difficult by the fact that any mistake you make with a pen cannot be erased.

Read more about James Kite, his art, and his daily struggles from his website. Please click here.

Pepe Gaka, Circular Quay art, Sydney art, Sydney artists, Sydney art lessons, chalk painting
The amazing chalk art of Pepe Gaka at the Circular Quay


Pepe Gaka

Yet in another corner of a public space, this time at the Circular Quay, you'll find Pepe Gaka. He is a professional street painter who recreates perfect reproductions of any painter on huge canvass using chalk. Once done with his work, he donates them to charitable institutions. He claims to have no formal education in the arts, but has through years of drawing and painting, perfected his skills. This March, he will be starting to teach art in the community centre at Ultimo. Surprisingly, the costs (which included an art kit he personally selected and assembled) of the art classes per term are quite cheap, and class sizes are very small at maximum of 6 students. Make up classes are also available at no extra cost, and he has a working with children check.

Read more about Pepe Gaka and his art from his website. He is also in Facebook and Twitter. Please click here.

Of all corners in Sydney and any other city in the world, the one I love the most is that little corner where the street artist thrives, where art is made and continues to be created and recreated.
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Why? Art is the expression of the human soul
Where: Sydney CBD and the Circular Quay
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What a fascinating article with great images.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|4834) 1530 days ago
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