The winding path to creative success

Photographer – Matty Smith for Nike

Tracking his journey from Melbourne Grammar student to professional artist, David Morton (OM 2009) emphasises the role of learning from every experience. 

“I wasn’t really a model student when I was at Melbourne Grammar, but I think I was always open to growing and developing,” David says. “It helped that I had the whole Visual Arts Department behind me. My teachers were the people who taught me things like how to process film, basic graphic design principles – these are skills I still use today.” 

David began his career in the competitive graphic design field, which meant his own artistic projects remained in the “hobby” category. Then, when he took on an assistant role at a photography studio, the new environment challenged him to learn a much broader range of artistic skills. It also led to bookings for campaign shoots in Mexico, Bali and New Zealand for the lingerie brand Intimo.

“I was dropped in the deep end with that role,” he explains. “That was where I learned how to do things like build sets and design lighting, even how to take care of the energy in the room during a shoot. This work started paying for my art, and the skills I was learning also started feeding into what I was making.” 

Having hit a “ceiling” in this role, David shares that the next step in his career wasn’t immediately obvious. “I felt a bit lost as to what I wanted to do,” he says. “My art was the only thing that was making me happy at the time, so I decided to try to make a real go of it.” 

Applying for a dedicated studio space at a Footscray arts collective gave David the creative boost he needed. “That was the best decision I ever made,” he says.

“Having that connection with other artists is so important, especially when it means working alongside and learning from people who are different from you. That’s how you grow.” 

When David’s big break came, it was the result of an informal project: decorating bollards across the Melbourne CBD with his signature paste-up collages. “An art director happened to see them and got in touch with me about two years later,” David explains.

“He wanted to pitch me to Nike to create murals for the interiors of Nike’s new Flagship Australian store at Melbourne Central. I was in Berlin when I got the news, and it was kind of surreal. These are the kinds of jobs you only dream about.” 

Working intensively over four months in 2019, David created the interior murals that are now seen by every person who visits the CBD store. “Having your work out in the physical world is big,” he says. “It’s very different from sharing it in the digital space. Sharing in person is completely different.” 

When asked for his advice to Melbourne Grammar students with an artistic career in their sights, David returns to the value of learning and self-development. “It’s tough at first, but if you persist, it will pay off,” he says. “Learn from everything, and use everything you learn. None of the knowledge you gain is ever wasted.”

You can view more of David’s work at: and @david_cmorton