In the Studio: Stuart Harrison

This month dot-art speaks to artist Stuart Harrison.

What opened the third eye of artist Stu, aka Beastly? A visit to New York in 1988 and a meeting with graffiti master Futura 2000? Exposure to the psychedelic artwork of Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin and other alumni of San Francisco’s famed Avalon Ballroom? His immersion in the UK rave scene of the late eighties and early nineties, where he designed visuals and handpainted backdrops for warehouse parties in Hackney, inspired by such underground legends as Spiral Tribe and the Mutoid Waste Company?

They all played their part, and their influence can still be seen in his vivid, kinetic and synapse-sparking street style artwork. Seeking to visually represent volume, rhythm and glorious chaos, these rolling, boiling images see energy and abandon collide, sparking excitement, exuberant confusion and the kind of mind-expanding insights, says Stu, “that you usually find during a sweaty night on the dancefloor, the ones that make you laugh and think at the same time.”
Many of his pieces take a Synesthetic approach, attempting to visually represent music.

Stu’s work has appeared in magazines including Mixmag, creating the Aphex Twin comic strip, and others now in the great newsagents in the sky, such as Jockey Slut and DJ Magazine. Select Magazine commissioned him to travel to Berlin and illustrate the dancefloor of the new Berghain night club, as no interior shots yet existed, due to a no photos policy. He has also designed streetwear for Nike and Urban Vinyl toys for Kidrobot, worked on album cover artwork for Warners and, in 1994, he was chosen by the V&A museum to be a consultant on the street style exhibition, curated by Ted Polhemus, about British street culture, his speciality being club culture, Acid house and Techno.
Larger scale artworks include murals in London nightclubs such as The Iceni, and an entire double decker bus.

Commercial clients include The BBC, creating all the animated assets for the BAFTA winning “Level UP” project. Other children’s media and animation clients include Youtube, My Little Pony ,Kellogg’s, M&S, Disney, Sony, Oxford University Press, B.T., Virgin, M.T.V., Wall’s, Mars, Channel 4,Asda, Clarks, Sainsbury’s, Nivea, Motorola, and the Transformers.

He has also been represented by agents in the UK, Europe, The US and Japan.

Can you describe your style?

Full of energy. Eye popping neon brain melting raved up psychedelic pop art.

Which medium do you work with and what do you like about it specifically?

I use big fat marker pens with a good ink flow ( bit stinky though so open the windows)and I get through piles of super smooth paper.Then I scan it and entire cyberspace ( mentally)

Can you talk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just go straight in? How long do you spend on one piece? How do you know when it is finished?

I hand draw all my work ( whilst being inspired by pumping dance tunes) then scan it in in hi res. Then I break out the photoshop and fiddle about lots .I love working this way as I can change the colours as many times as I want or get shut of elements if I look at it later and it does please my eye. Sometimes I’m in a maximalist mood, some days Mr Minimal. My work flow is akin to a Stream of consciousness -I do lots and lots of automatic drawings, leave them for 6 months, then come back and work up the bits that are still grooving.

When did you begin your career in art?

1984 when I won an art competition in Pontins Prestatyn.

Who or what inspires your art?

My Beastly work is inspired by streetart, club culture, pop art , psychedelia and graffiti.

Why is art and creativity important to you?

Because it calms my mind. I need to do it or I feel I’ve wasted the day.

What do you gain from being a member with dot-art?

All the fun opportunities it brings, to exhibit and meet arty types.

What does it mean to be an artist in the Liverpool City Region?

Its great because there’s more and more artistical opportunities happening all the time.

What are you working on at the moment?
A picture book remixing Irish myths and legends in a funny and contemporary manner that teaches Gaelic to children. And I’m trying to put together a regular artists members only social event at a fantastic central Liverpool location, bringing back a club from the 1930s.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Less is more.

Discover more of Stuart Harrison work on our online shop!