Posts tagged design
Stuart Smythe

Stuart Smythe, a New Zealand-born artist who now calls Bali home, takes No Cure on a journey of mind, body, soul and great design.

WORDS: ANTHONY THOMAS / PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID HEWITSON

“At the end of the day it’s our hands that record our thoughts and if it’s through a machine there are too many channels for it to lose purity.” 

This commitment to analogue creation is a pillar of Smythe’s work. Favouring pencil, ink and acrylic wherever possible, his abstinence from digital tools is an interesting decision for someone trained in graphic design. 

“You can’t replicate the energy and feeling of a hand-drawn line digitally. It just doesn’t translate,” Smythe explains.

His work permeates authenticity as a result. Many pieces in his portfolio sit as easily as contemporary illustrations as they do tribal sketches, an aesthetic directly related to Smythe’s affinity and experience with the environment. 

“Process for me is about feeling. Life is process, that’s all we have. Every thing is in constant motion; the places I visit and ideas for art come from that. Ideas mostly come what’s reflecting in my world or the change I’d like to see. Sometimes it’s direct, other times not.”

More often than not these ideas make their way into a concept pad. These books are the lifeblood of Smythe’s creativity, housing sketches, words, random thoughts and everything in between. They are a safe place for him to catalogue lightbulb moments. 

Where these books differ from those of many other creatives is ideas aren’t simply dumped and left to die. Rather than allowing them to become graveyards of untapped potential, Smythe leverages them when inspiration is scarce.

It is very much a dual process of immediate response to stimuli and slow-burn thinking to connect the dots, yet the work maintains stylistic consistency. He attributes this to growing up among the surf culture of Waihi Beach, a beach community to the south of Auckland. Even after moving to Sydney to study and eventually taking off to see the world, surfing remained a stable piece of his identity. 

“There has been times in my life where I have felt more comfortable in the ocean surfing solo than being on land havingto deal with rules and responsibilities,” Smythe says.

“I’ve lost more than one job because of surfing, but in the ocean there is no responsibility except being a good human.”

While that youthful abandon has since being replaced with a balance of oceanic escapism and human reality, one thing remains true; Smythe and surf culture are inseparable.

Purity is a concept that continues to emerge in his outputs, a trend that really gained momentum after relocating to Bali. Prior to this, Smythe was working heavily with graphites, a medium he found pulled him into a time consuming pursuit of perfection. The distinction between perfect and pure is important, in that one is orchestrated and the other is raw. 

Smythe recognised this and began to view imperfection as a more suitable vessel for representing the world – creation without consequence, as he puts it. 

“The only constant is change, and perfection doesn’t exist. We live in a chaotic world and I feel that working quickly portrays that energy in a simple piece and message,” he says.

Consciously separating himself from the rigid control design taught him would have been difficult in the western world, but Bali proved ideal for tapping into the more visceral depths of creation.

“Being in a third world country allows you to get away from preconceptions of what every body else is doing. It allows you to escape the saturation of corporate pollution and visual culture, instead being submerged in a dirty paradise of trash and beauty. A contrasting environment that constantly evolves in a much different way than a planned city, where people are surviving using their primal skills and not collecting material spam to impress peers. The tropics allow my work and mind to be free.”

It’s a perspective soaked in shrewd self-insight, but having being in Bali for three years now, Smythe is shifting his focus from introspection to focus more intently on what’s happening externally. 

“I have been enjoying trying to tell a story and set a scenario with natural elements and symbols. I almost see them as landscapes or a moment in a wondrous place. There is more out there than our eye can see and I try to feel that and put that into my art. I try to get in touch with what else might be out there,” he explains.

Ultimately, the questions his work addresses are existential in nature. How sustainable is our current consumption rate? Will this have an impact on us in the future? What is being done? Huge questions by any measure. Smythe doesn’t claim to have all the answers, either; he is much more concerned with subtle promotion of environmental awareness through use of natural elements. 

What’s most remarkable about Smythe is his willingness to neglect ego in favour of accepting he is part of a much bigger picture, poetically observing, “The world starts to look really beautiful when you see the details as a creation of something much larger than we are.”

www.stuartsmythe.com

 

 

STAYBOLD - MILAN CHAGOURY

Merchandise is a critical branding tool for bands but it is equally symbolic of community to fans – a wearable statement of belonging. Whether purchased with planned intent or in the spur of the moment, people embed memories of “that” show and “those” people into the fabric of those t-shirts. That is a really powerful thing, and Milan Chagoury has been helping bands channel that for years now.

INTERVIEW: ANTHONY THOMAS / PHOTOGRAPHY: KIERAN TUNBRIDGE


It all began when Milan fell in love with hardcore music in his late teens, a time when the scene started to gain some real traction in Australia, particularly along the east coast. There was something about the youth culture it bred that nurtured military-like comradery among those who associated with it. Bands like Carpathian, Parkway Drive, 50 Lions and Miles Away became royalty. A Sunshine Coast resident, Milan’s commitment saw him make frequent road trips to Byron Bay. His motivation was simple; the people and the memories they created together.

“I just loved the energy involved in the music. The album covers and merch were always very loud and appealing to me. It’s what got me into design in the first place,” Milan says, recalling how he dropped his journalism major in favour of graphic design. 

“I guess hardcore saved my life.”

Closer to the end of his degree, the designs he was producing for a small bodyboard brand caught the eye of Joel Birch, frontman of rising stars The Amity Affliction, who approached Milan to collaborate with the band. The resulting design proved popular among fans and led to the band’s management company, UNFD, asking him to service its entire roster. 

For perspective, this put a freshly graduated Milan in a position where he would be designing for one of Australia’s largest independent music agencies. While the learning curve was steep, it was a sink-or-swim environment he thrived in. Things snowballed. Under his alias, Stay Bold, Milan now counts prestige bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Deez Nuts and While She Sleeps as clients.

Having a vested interest in the music itself obviously helps give the designs enhanced character and relevance, however, it’s Milan’s tendency to put a dark spin on things that made him a natural fit for these clients. Much of the ideation is left entirely on his shoulders as formal briefs are few and far between. 

"It’s like firing an arrow into the dark and trying to hit a target,” Milan says, although it's obvious he hits the mark more often than not.

After the initial sketches are given the green light by the band, Milan develops them in Photoshop on his Wacom Cintiq graphic tablet. Once satisfied the foundations are solid, he jumps into Illustrator to really flesh out the design. Despite this somewhat niche client base, Milan’s fear of churning out stale work has seen him fall into a cycle of ongoing experimentation to avoid being pigeonholed stylistically. 

It’s hardly surprising his portfolio has aesthetic vibes ranging from old westerns to Californian summers, though more recently he has found an obsession in retro rock posters and vintage advertisements...

You can read the full story in our Latest 'Street & Style' issue out now.