Interview With Aaron Godina aka Salty Vibes

Aaron Godina Featured Image

Hi Azz, for those that don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself and explain a bit what you do?

My name is Aaron Godina, and I am a self-taught illustrator/artist from Melbourne Australia. 36 Years young. I went to university after high school but really just went surfing and dropped out. I worked as a plumber for years after that while developing my style of art until it was at a point where I was happy for it to be seen in public.  My works involve vibrant colors and stylized characters, most involving the surf culture and occasionally pop culture. I have branded my works under the name “Salty Vibes” as I found the name to be a fitting metaphor for my works.

Between art, design, and illustration, is there one that you favor? Is there one that occupies more of your time?

Definitely art occupies more of my time, I always have a number of commissioned pieces on the go. The illustrations are my favorite though, as it’s always pleasing to be able to complete a work in one sitting; whereas the larger art pieces I do can take a few weeks and I get impatient waiting for the end result.  It also seems the more I do of one discipline, the more I want to do the other!


Do you think that by doing both personal work and illustration for other people/businesses, the two strengthen each other within the Salty Vibes brand?

My belief is that by keeping my style consistent, it allows my artwork to be recognizable as a “Salty Vibes” piece whether it is a personal piece or for a client. It also allows clients to have confidence in the appearance of the work.

Are there any other sources where you draw direct inspiration or influence besides the ocean/surf?

I always admire the work of artists who are true to their own style. It takes a long time to develop and there are lots of copycats out there. Anyone who can make a living out of his or her passion is a major inspiration.

Are there any creative processes that you go through, like brainstorming for designs or working through paintings to get to a certain concept?

Quite often I will get an idea pop up in my head and translate it straight into a piece of art/illustration. Other times I will do multiple drafts before I am happy with a concept. I always start my works with a focal point and work out from there.

Surf check1

What are your mediums of choice to work with? Are there any new ones that you’re looking to get in to?

If I’m working on large-scale painting, I use acrylic paints with paint pens (Posca’s etc) for detailing, on canvas or timber board.  For works on paper I prefer gouache and inks, but occasionally use watercolors and pencils. I always like to try new stuff and lately have been painting a few surfboards, so using materials that can last is important. I always experiment on a personal piece to make sure it works. I’m keen to try out some of the new brands and styles of paint pens, as they can really speed up the making of an artwork, dry quicker than acrylic paints and eliminate the mess and clean up.

What were some of the biggest issues that you ran into with networking early on? How did you eventually get through them?

It’s hard to put a price to your work without a profile. I guess that is a common issue with artists and always have been. Once people see a commission piece I have done for someone else, they have an idea on what they will be getting with confidence and it goes from there. Sometimes having a unique style can limit the opportunities but it can also work the other way. I’m still trying to work out how to get through them!

Are there any methods that you initially did to get clients for illustration? Is there anything that you prefer to use today?

Starting off, I did a lot of work for free/contra deals and still do. Sending out prints and samples of work. I have a catalog of personal illustrations, which I have done, which allows me to present a range of works to possible clients. Quite often these are modified and licensed to a client instead of going through the whole design process. Social media is great for getting clients as they can see a piece and contact me directly from there.

It seems like a lot of people are moving into freelancing either by the desire or independence or by lack of consistent employment. I think a rude awakening in this is that people can sometimes get mixed up with the newly found free time.

Are there any routines or systems that you follow to keep consistency in your day-to-day activity?

There is always plenty happening in our household, with kids, work, renovations and other projects on the go! I still work a day job a couple of days a week to supplement our income and generally do my artwork “after hours” That way I have no distractions. As the freelance work ebbs and flows, I structure my routine on a week-to-week basis, depending on the workload at the time. It’s important to be flexible as I feel that for me, having too much structure can hinder the creative process. If I’m feeling inspired I will run with it as long as I can, pulling all-nighters etc. On the other hand there are times where I will have a few days off if I’m feeling particularly uninspired.

Colour Surfer 2b

Are there any tools you use to manage your time?

Not particularly, I just keep a diary with my current projects so nothing gets left behind.

Are there any strategies you’re using to promote your work?

I find social media particularly Instagram is a fantastic way to promote artwork. Getting involved in group shows and displaying works in galleries and surf shops is a current goal of mine. I have a goal to have a piece of artwork on display in a number of key coastal towns around Australia this year.

Wrapping it up, what I’m focusing on with Sole Imperial is how the creatives that are doing original work are contributing to the overall culture and influencing others to create work.

 Is there a strong creative/surf community in your area? If so, could you describe it?

The creative culture in my area (Melbourne Australia) takes itself very seriously, and the art scene in Melbourne is possibly its greatest attraction. The coastal towns surrounding Melbourne, (Torquay, Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula, etc.) are tight knit core surfing communities with strong roots in the surf industry with many major brands originating from them. (RipCurl, Quicksilver, etc) I find that my works are a bit different to what is currently popular in the Melbourne and coastal surrounds, which may explain why I get more interest in my work elsewhere. Having said that, the contrast from what is around locally does create interest from those after something a bit different.

Do you see yourself taking the Salty Vibes brand in any new directions in the near future?

I always like to try new things. Large-scale murals, different materials, collaborations with other artists are all things I hope to do in the future. To be able to create enough income to do what I love 100% of the time is the end goal!

Any final words?

As a creative person, there are many different ways to do things. When I was young it seemed the only way to have a career was to go to university etc, but I now realize it is about creating your own style and finding your niche and working hard at it. I received (and still do) a lot of rejection and criticism amongst the positive feedback for my work, so hang tough and keep at it if it is what you truly want to do.

Thanks for having me!!


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