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THE JOURNAL

Detailed plans keep things simple for Melbourne artist, Stephen Baker

We can learn a lot about someone from the material objects they rely on. For artist Stephen Baker, his tools hint at a craft thatโ€™s both simple and complex, analogue and digital.

Keeping things simple doesnโ€™t come easy. You have to plan, refine, have a crack, then plan a little more. Artist Stephen Baker is the perfect example of someone who creates work that looks effortless, yet who works really hard to make it happen. He strips back the clutter in every area, from his workspace, to his processes, to his paintings. But, it wasnโ€™t always that way...

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โ€œI used to be one of those people who had a studio with every little inspirational thing in there,โ€ says Stephen looking around his workspace. โ€œYou know, little trinkets and figurines and stuff. But then I realised itโ€™s just a bunch of bullshit. Now I feel like I know what Iโ€™m doing more. It took years to get here, but now all I need is a functional space, not too cluttered, so I can walk in and I can just sit down and get to work.โ€

โ€œIโ€™m a sucker for heading to the pub on a nice day to have a beer, with sketchbooks out โ€ฆ Iโ€™ll have a whole show basically mapped out before I start painting on canvas.โ€

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That simplified approach to his studio also translates across into Stephenโ€™s art. But instead of that being a long, slow process, however, it was a lightbulb moment that made Stephen realise clean lines could be his thing.

โ€œI was doing lots of laborious line work and drawings, and it would take ages,โ€ he says. โ€œThen I got asked to do the mural at the Fitzroy Pool (a popular hangout in Melbourneโ€™s inner north); I had to simplify everything so it wouldnโ€™t take too long. People walking past as I was painting it were really digging it. Young people and kids, and even the older generation were really vibing the colors and simplicity. I thought, โ€˜this is awesome, I love this. Iโ€™m going to try to put this into practiceโ€™. That was a turning point that opened the door to more mobility.โ€

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Mobility is definitely a theme for Stephen. Rather than being restricted to the studio, all he needs to get work done are some Moleskine notebooks, pens, pencils and a sharpener.

โ€œIโ€™m a sucker for heading to the pub on a nice day to have a beer, with sketchbooks out,โ€ he says. โ€œIโ€™ll do weeks of sketching, and then itโ€™ll be all about scanning and coloring. Then, Iโ€™ll have a whole show basically mapped out before I start painting on canvas. Itโ€™s quite a โ€˜graphic designโ€™ style process.โ€

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For Stephen, the key is simplicity. In life, in art, in process and in the things that he carries with him. That, and a midday beer now and again to keep the creativity frothing.


THE STORIES BEHIND THE STUFF.

โ€œIโ€™m really simple, so a pen, my pencils, sharpener, eraser, a notepad and some music โ€“ thatโ€™s all I need to go to the park or pub and just sketch.โ€

โ€œFor pencils, I use a Staedtler. I mean theyโ€™re German, and anything German is pretty good.โ€

โ€œWith the pencil case I always go for red, and I know Iโ€™ll be carrying it in my bag so I want to be able to see it. Iโ€™m trying to get more colorful in what I wear these days, โ€˜cos Iโ€™m usually all black... itโ€™s a Melbourne thing.โ€

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  • A Journal Image