Colouring the City: Vans the Omega

Joel Van Moore, most commonly known as Vans the Omega, has been painting friends and familiar faces all over Adelaide’s walls for more than twenty years.

When you ask Joel about his creative incentives and style, he says, “It is never ‘why’, but ‘why not’ for me. Expression is what we all feel compelled to output.” Amen! The experienced painter draws inspiration from nature and hasn’t stopped painting since he stepped in his nanna’s art studio. No doubt, you will be spotting many more colourful canvases painted along the city’s streets in the near future, but for now here is a little about what the mural artist most likes to paint, some challenges he overcomes, plus more.

When did you begin painting or become interested in painting?

I was painting from the age of three and didn’t ever stop. I was exposed to my nanna’s art studio from day one and got to play with a lot of materials as a very young kid and just didn’t stop. Graffiti became an obsession in the mid-80s and I was scribbling around my school and neighbourhood from 1985, before I finally did an all aerosol piece in 1990. I always felt such an attraction to colour and letters, and graffiti filled this void for me. It had a lot of culture behind it too, which I loved.

Why did you start painting on such a large scale?

Initially, it started off with graffiti. If it was bigger you could see it from further away and it gave the piece more impact. Later, when I started doing exterior large-scale works, it had to fit the architecture and scale of the building being painted, so the scale of the art just increased with the available walls given over to paint.

How many murals have you done around Adelaide & what is your favourite part about painting in Adelaide?

If you count graffiti pieces its way over 1000 in Adelaide. Mural wise I have painted around 100 odd pieces over 24 years since I painted my first commission at age 16 for Unley and Plympton RSL.

What is your favourite mural to date? Why?

Probably a work I did in Goodwood of a local guy who lived around the corner from me. John always intrigued me and I feel like I really captured him in the painting and spent the time to do it right.

What are your go to/favourite products to paint with?

I use Ironlak & Sugar as my go to spray paints and Taubmans Endure for exterior works.

Is there something you most commonly like to paint? Do you have a particular style?

My name and pictures of my friends are something I definitely paint most often. My style is really a collision of all my prior bodies of work over a 30-year span. I have heaps of drawings from 20-25 years ago that have all the elements of what I have refined in my work today.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mainly nature, architecture, my friends and skateboard graphics.

Biggest challenge as a mural artist?

To accurately communicate what you are trying to get produced as an artist and factoring in the elements and time constraints, along with expectations and weather conditions or mechanical failure while painting. Fatigue and mental strength play an enormous role in large-scale works.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had that you are most proud of?

I think any opportunity to do what you love and be successful in whatever way has been a blessing. I work very hard and do my very best every time so I can rest on this effort. Like most artists I am never satisfied and will strive to be better and grow with every chance I get.

Do you have any projects coming up? Or any future plans?

So many projects all over the place. As long as I am fit enough, I will paint outdoors. Joel has taken his craft to many corners of the globe, and was just recently involved in Wonderwalls Festival—helping bring together a collective of like-minded artists to illuminate Port Adelaide’s bare buildings with their brushes and aerosol cans. If you didn’t get the chance to head down to Port Adelaide during the Wonderwalls Festival in April, you can still download a mural map at and take a look for yourself!

Words & Images by Jessica-May Mason.

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