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On the cover // Nick Hills AKA HILLS HOIST

When the latest edition of [R]evo released this week you might have noticed something about it was a little different and certainly very rad? For the first time in the history of the mag we’ve had page one graced with a piece of illustrated artwork.

It’s a completely custom piece which was produced specifically for the front cover by an extremely talented artist called Hills Hoist. What makes the cover even cooler is that ‘Hills is in fact a long time [R]evolution reader himself and he absolutely bloody shreds on a bike! Let’s find out more…

Art // Nick Hills  Socials // @hills.hoist  Photos // Josh Christian  Socials // @photobyjoshchristian

Alright my man so let’s start with an introduction; who is ‘Hills Hoist’?

Hills Hoist is a dude by the name of Nick Hills. 33 years of old from Hobart, Tasmania. Art nerd and mountain bicycle enthusiast.

Were you born and raised down there on the pizza slice shaped State?

Yeah mate, born and raised where the grass is greener and the water’s cleaner ha-ha. Tassie is my home; I think it always will be. I love it to death.

Well, I guess you’ll be there till death then! That said, there are certainly worse places to live. The riding, the food, the landscape, man we love Tassie… Anyways what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, the cover interview – so if you had to pick would you say that you’re an artist that happens to be a gifted rider, or, a rider that happens to be a gifted artist?

Ha-ha gifted? I appreciate the kind words but not so sure about that. I don’t feel gifted at either of them. I’ve spent my entire life unintentionally obsessing over both my artwork and my bikes. I’ve worked my ass off to get to where I’m at now days which is still so far from where I want to be. Still a long journey ahead. I guess there was more focus on riding earlier on and more focus on the art side of things now that I’m a bit older and beginning to fall apart ha-ha

I think most of us can relate to that last part mate. Hey do how did you get into art?

My mum is very creative, she has always drawn, painted and made jewellery so I think I picked it up from hanging out with her. I became attracted to illustration throughout high school having had a very supportive and encouraging teacher and friends. From there on out I just became fascinated with some certain illustrators and the amazing work they produce so for many years I guess I just wanted to be able to create some cool shit like they do and over time I’ve explored different mediums and avenues to develop my own way of doing so.

Your art has a very ‘signature style’ to it, how would you describe the Hills Hoist style?

Thanks a bunch, I really appreciate that. It’s forever evolving. Style comes with thousands of hours of practice, passion and failure in my opinion. I never went to art school, I’m self-taught to an extent. I think I put it down to a mix match of time spent studying other illustrators along with practice, trial and error. The hardest part is trying to keep it consistent. I always struggle to describe my ‘style’ but I guess my process is generally an idea based on a human activity that I find humorous, then I’ll illustrate it using over exaggerated animals within those scenarios. I put my flavour on it throughout working on it somehow. I don’t know how ha-ha.

Compared to just grabbing a sheet of paper and scrolling over it with pens, what is your process of creating digital works?

I’ll always have a sketch book so It does always start as a rough sketch on paper, then it gets uploaded into Procreate on my iPad pro, refine the sketch, outline it and colour it, then I’ll go to town on detail until I’m happy with the way it looks. I never have a solid image in my head of a final outcome. My pieces change and evolve throughout the process of making them.

That’s quite the process. No wonder each of your pieces turns out looking so unique. Alright let’s talk bikes, what got you into riding?

Primarily I have a heavy BMX background, I always had BMX bikes as a young fella. My cousins and I used to fang around building jumps out of anything and everything. Through high school two of my best friends raced which led to the three of us getting into dirt jumps, parks and street riding. BMX was massive for me for a long time but the Hobart scene started to get a little quiet around 8 or so years ago so another friend of mine talked me into giving downhill a go and I’ve never looked back. As for my style… I have no clue ha-ha. Both BMX and MTB the same, I just like to go as high as I can, as fast as I can. Keep it minimal, try make it look nice and have a bloody good time doing so.

Cheers to that! What’s your current MTB set-up?

My latest bike is a fully blacked out Kona Process X which I’ve decked out with a hand selection of parts from Fox, Shimano, Funn, Chromag and a few other bits and bobs.

You’re bike looks so dialled. Tell us a bit about how you like to set it up?

It’s dialled when it comes back from the shop ha-ha. Shout out to the legends at Cyclingo for keeping it that way for me. I’m not really good at bike maintenance.  I like the front end higher which might be from the BMX background. I have it set up mullet also which I find delicious. It’s a mean machine.

Living in Tassie you’re obviously spoilt for choice of trails and places to ride. Where’s your go to shred spot these days?

Trail wise my favourite place to ride is the SOHO trails in my home town. All hand built by the locals, steep, loose single track. Amazing dirt with a hand full of jumps. I spend some time at Derby and Maydena bike park also. Amazing spots!.

Alight, let’s talk about the golden goose, the main event, the ‘pis de resistance’ that makes this edition of [R]evo so god damn bad ass, your front cover art! Give us the low down on it?

Oh man, I got to say, this has been one of my favourite projects to date and I’m so grateful you guys chose me and trusted me with it. I’m stoked! When you guys approached me with the idea of the first ever illustrated cover I got super overwhelmed and was very unsure if I was up to the task but in the end I came to the conclusion that I’ve dedicated a large portion of the time I’ve been alive to bikes and drawing so I felt confident to give it a go.

Epic! And are you stoked on how it turned out?

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. As an artist, when you are given full creative direction with zero guidelines it will always make for the best outcome possible. I thank you guys so much for giving me this opportunity and rolling with my idea.

You’re actually a long term reader of the mag too, eh?

Yeah I am. When I started working on ideas for the cover I pulled out my stack of mags that I have from over the years to get the ideas flowing. I decided to take a different approach to the usual cover shot though obviously ha-ha.

That’s awesome that you were already a [R]evo guy and then this whole thing came along. Let me ask you about your motivation with the ‘scene’ that you ended up creating for the artwork?

My way of thinking is “how can I make this as different to every other cover I’ve seen but still keep it within the subject of mountain biking”. From there I started thinking about what’s important to me when it comes to riding bikes. It’s the adventure with friends, the shuttles, digging trials, the banter, the trips, the camping and the missions. The things that bring us all together as a scene when we aren’t upon the pedals. The MTB lifestyle side of it. From there I needed a good shuttle bus reference. My dad had this sick dark yellow land cruiser when I was a little boy, he bought it brand new and he drove it like he stole it. I’ll forever have memories of that thing buried up to the windscreen in mud so I thought that would be a rad homage to pay to him.

The little critters in and around the bus are all animals I’m fascinated by, more or less based off my friends. A crew as such. There are a few little hidden gems in there that are relevant to myself and my mates but the rest of you will have to use your imagination!

Oh yeah, there’s so many new little details that we keep discovering in it. One of my favourite parts is actually the masthead that you recreated to look like a busted up ‘ol inner tube – that is so sweet! So clearly there’s an insane amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into a large custom work like this. How long did it take you to create this cover and was it pretty smooth sailing or were there some hidden surprises for you?

Yeah, you’re not wrong! According to my iPad, once the sketch was uploaded through to sending the final render off to you guys I spent 37 hours and 28700 pencil strokes on it over one month.

Jeezus that’s mammoth! Was it relatively smooth sailing as it came together?

There are always small snags along the way, things don’t look how they should, colours don’t work. That type of thing. All in all, I had a ball drawing this one. I’m super nervous about how it will be received by its audience. If you like it or want to know anything about it, please feel free to hit me up and let me know! I’d love to hear from you so hit me up on the socials. You can find me on Instagram at @hills.hoist or @nh.ills. I also have a website which is hillshoist.bigcartel.com. There is some merch, prints, original drawings and stickers up for grabs over there. Cheers! [R]