What This Modern Australian Artist Teaches His Son About Creativity

Updated 10/22/18
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Living in our modern world has its advantages (Uber Eats for one), but the ubiquity of technology means it’s important to think about how it might impact us negatively, too. The way devices fit so seamlessly into our lives allows for more time spent plugged into Netflix or gaming apps, and less focused on more traditional creative endeavours. Yep, there’s no denying entertainment is easier than it ever has been before. It may not seem like a big deal but unchecked, this lack of balance could be problematic for even the most creative adult. Now think about kids, and how early they’re introduced to online life. It’s not a stretch to imagine missing out on self-directed play could prevent them from fully developing important skills like original thought and imagination.

Happily there are parents out there committed to ensuring their little ones get a fighting chance at reaching their creative potential. One such dad is contemporary Australian artist Elliott Routledge aka Funskull. Routledge and his son Hunter recently teamed up with iconic Australian brand Bonds to create a limited edition board short collaboration featuring his signature smiley face graphics. The best bit? They come in both adult and mini sizes. (Because twinning with your kid at the beach is never not cute.) We hit the street artist up for his thoughts on fostering imagination in little ones, and why "weird ideas" are important.

Keep scrolling for our Q&A.

Courtesy of Bonds

Pictured: Bonds x Funskull Boys Boardies in One Atlantic Velvet ($30).

What does creativity mean to you?

It means not restricting yourself to anything. Letting your imagination do the rest.

How do you think about your own creativity in terms of your job?

I have no idea! I guess sometimes I must switch it off and concentrate on the more logistical and business side of things, but otherwise it’s just a part of who I am. My whole family is creative, so that part never feels like a job.

Being a professional creative, and a parent, what are your thoughts on creativity as a skill that can be learned vs a talent? Do you think it is something that can be developed or is it innate?

I believe creativity is something everyone is born with, it’s just the journey and environment you experience that determines whether your creativity grows or fades a little. It’s both a skill that can be learned again and a talent some people have held onto.

Why do you think it is important to foster imagination in kids?

Kids need the freedom to explore and expand their imaginations. It’s so important for their development and wellbeing to be able to express themselves in any imaginable way possible. 

Courtesy of Bonds

Pictured: Bonds x Funskull Mens Boardies in Light Blue Happy Face ($50); and Boys Boardies in One Atlantic Velvet ($30).

How do you think modern childhood has affected creative development?

My kids are growing up in a world filled with technology and the internet. As parents we try to straddle the line between allowing them to embrace those things, but also encouraging them to experience and engage with the physical and playful, real world.

I think technology has become a tool for parents to manage their kids in certain situations. Go too far over the line into allowing them to get sucked into iPads and phones, and their creative development gets restricted. At that point, they’re not imagining or thinking, they’re just consuming content. It’s all about balance.

How do you encourage original ideas and creativity in your kids?

I throw out the weirdest and most abstract ideas and concepts to see what my kids can do with them. Everyone is different in their parenting style, but I’m compelled to encourage both abstract thinking—the weirder, the better—and physical activity. 

How do you celebrate creativity in your home as a family? 

We do a lot of storytelling. It seems to be popular in our household. Not sure how we celebrate it, apart from laughing and group high fives.

Courtesy of Bonds

Pictured: Bonds x Funskull Mens Boardies in Dark Blue Happy Face ($50); and Boys Boardies in One Atlantic Velvet ($30).

What attracted you to working on this collaboration with Bonds?

Bonds is an iconic Australian brand to me, and a name I grew up knowing, so to have the chance to collaborate is special to me. They have a fun aesthetic, and the idea to design boardies which speak to both adults and kids at the same time was great to work with.

What did you take away from the experience of working with your son?

It made me so proud to see him work with me on this. Seeing him take it on with so much enthusiasm makes me believe even more that he can create and achieve anything! I’m so excited for his future and to see what he does. 

What do you think your son enjoyed most about working with you?

He’s always had mixed opinions about my "work" in the way that I have to leave him every day to paint and things like that, so for him to get the chance to be included, maybe made him understand and enjoy it more. Plus, there were jelly snakes on the shoot. Always a bonus.

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