Street artist Alvaro Barrionuevo never imagined life would lead him to the Surf Coast.
But fate had a plan for the Argentinian creative who came to Australia in February last year to enjoy a relaxed holiday in Byron Bay.
He was there to catch some waves before catching a plane back overseas where work opportunities were waiting.
“My idea was coming for two months and visiting some friends, do some surfing and then go to Europe because I had some projects in Germany,” he explains.
“But within two weeks of when I arrived comes the COVID and all that changed.”
Alvaro, who goes by the street art name BOSAK, was granted a bridging Visa and, together with some travelling companions, made his way south to the Grampians to work at a wildflower farm in Laharum.
Word spread that there was a professional artist in town and he was soon in demand to paint colourful murals – transforming water tanks, shipping containers and blank walls at locations including the flower farm and at the caravan park where he was staying.
Five months ago he made the move to Torquay to explore the Great Ocean Road area and it didn’t take long before his talents were recognised here too.
The gifted yet humble artist says he has been warmly embraced by the Surf Coast community and it’s where he plans to stay until the time is right to return home.
Alvaro quickly got his first commission to paint a mural at Mexican inspired Bell Street eatery, Alisitos, after being introduced to owner and local restaurateur, Anthony Gist.
Glowing word-of-mouth recommendations from Anthony and others soon generated more work and his biggest project to date has been a large-scale mural at Bells Brewery.
“For me the Bells Brewery mural was a really nice project representing a sunset at Jan Juc,” he says.
“The owners were great and it’s nice to connect with the people and with the area.”
Alvaro says he is also revelling in the opportunity to explore the local environment through his art.
Many of his works are inspired by a respect for nature, with marine life, birds and plants featuring on many of his eye-catching and detailed murals.
His artistic process involves taking a photo of the location for the mural, then drawing the artwork on the image using a tablet before showing the client exactly what their commissioned work will look like.
He then creates the artwork in situ – a process that can take up to two weeks depending on the scale of the project and uncontrollable forces such as weather conditions.
Alvaro also enjoys bringing smaller projects to life such as the majestic jellyfish mural he created on a garage door at a residential property in Jan Juc.
Each and every time the results are captivating and he explains they have the added benefit of helping to ward off unwanted graffiti.
Alvaro grew up in the picturesque riverside city of San Isidro which sits about 28 kilometres north of Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires.
He attended a Waldorf school, founded by Rudolf Steiner, which he says nurtured his imagination and encouraged an early interest in art and working with his hands.
He is the youngest of three children and creativity certainly runs in the family – his dad is an architect, his older brother an actor and his sister a makeup artist.
At the age of 17 he painted his first mural and what began as a hobby soon developed into a profession he was able to combine with his graphic design studies.
Now aged 26, Alvaro says he never tires of seeing how street art can transform a lifeless space into one of inspiring beauty.
“It’s amazing because it really changes the atmosphere, you know,” he says.
“You do the first lines and people sometimes wonder what you are doing and then they come back the next day and it is nice to see the happiness on their faces.”
His coming projects include murals at the Westgate Indoor Sports stadium, which has local Torquay owners, and another at The Red Bird in Newtown.
Alvaro says while he misses his parents, siblings and friends back home, he is grateful to have found himself living in Jan Juc during his extended stay in Australia.
“I love the place,” he says during our chat at Swell Cafe.
“It’s been one of the best things and I’m very grateful to this country that gives me the opportunity to stay and understands my situation – it’s amazing.”
One thing is certain, Alvaro will leave his mark on not only the people he meets here but also with the art he leaves behind.
Discover more by following Alvaro’s journey on Instagram @bosak__