I had the honor of being able to conduct an email interview the founder of Bizarre Beyond Belief magazine, Stuart Pearce
My name is Stuart Pearce and I am an interdisciplinary artist, graphic designer and web designer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have always had that artistic gene but once I got into graffiti over 12 years ago it consumed me and became my entire life. I later studied studio arts at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec where I increasingly became an encyclopedia of art and design and grew my appreciation for all sorts of artistic practices, not just graffiti. I am the founder of Bizarre Beyond Belief and I do the vast majority of work myself from the journalism to the magazine lay-out. A lot of my friends are fantastic artists so they helped me out with the content at the very beginning but once they realized I was really making a push for something, they’ve been lending more of a helping hand with getting content elsewhere and conducting interviews themselves.
2. Who or what inspired you to create a magazine?
Well, the magazine came out of left-field to be perfectly honest with you. My original intention was to create a podcast about graffiti stories. I thought to myself that I have loads of hilarious graffiti anecdotes and I’m sure all of my other friends do as well. I thought I would sit down with them, record and let them just go on and on about different hilarious stories. That’s why if you see most of the questions directed at the graffiti artists in the magazine, they’re all story based questions. So that the reader could understand what they go through in this peculiar artistic sub-culture. I realized that the podcast would be a little too difficult to maintain by sitting down with the graffiti writers for a number of reasons, mainly that graffiti artists are very erratic and hard to get to commit. Also, I figured people would rather see pictures that accompany words and not just hear some stranger’s voice. Furthermore, as an artist myself, I remember sending in pictures, information, videos or whatever to sites that I admired and wanted to be on and would hear no response. I thought to myself, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” and the magazine was born.
3. What makes Bizarre Beyond Belief different from other art magazines?
Hm, I’m not sure, to be honest. Maybe someone who’s read it might think that they’ve seen something exactly like it. But for me, it’s the fact that the art ranges from all over in all mediums, from heavy metal music to graffiti. There’s no watercolor landscapes or anything like that. Also, as a Canadian my goal is to implement about 50% Canadian content in each magazine and that I definitely haven’t seen come out of Canada. There’s lots of fantastic artists here that people don’t get to see, so I mix them in with artists that art internationally known and that will hopefully have the reader put Canadian artists on the same level as artists from all over the globe.
4. Who is the magazine aimed for?
People that enjoy art and other unusual sub-cultures. It’s obviously not going to be for everyone, nothing is, but this magazine aims to get a number of different artistic practices to look at the things they enjoy and also glance over the things they may not normally see and in turn don’t care about. We might have a jeweler in the same issue as a street artist and the jeweler who knew nothing of street-art, might read the other artist’s interview and say “Damn, that’s really cool, I’ll look into this some more”. It’s about spreading the love. It’s hard enough to make it in this world as an artist, musician, designer, etc… without receiving recognition so I’m trying to do that with all walks of life who create and inspire.
5. Why an online magazine?
Free, gratuit, gratis, in whatever language you say it, that’s the primary reason. Art as a visual stimulant and as an educational tool, should be free. Obviously artists need to make money so original works, prints and commissions should be well compensated for because they need to live just as anyone else. As a graffiti artist and a person involved with community art programs such as mural projects, I’ve seen the excitement and the power that free art brings. Also, people are generally “afraid” (for lack of a better word) to go into galleries or exhibitions because it’s something unknown to them. Not to mention if someone were to see a book or a magazine that contains strange art on the cover, they more likely than not are not going to purchase it so I figure if it’s free and online, where people spend most of their time anyway,they can at least browse through, see if they like the content and if they do, read the interview.
Oh yeah for sure. It’s gone relatively smoothly I have to say. However, as I’ve said about graffiti artists in a previous question, because they’re unpredictable you never know when the content will actually come in. So there’s been times when I have been just waiting and waiting on their interview responses and pictures and have released the magazine weeks after I had set the date. But all things considered, it’s actually be a relatively smooth journey. Other than the huge amount of stress I put on myself to make it cool, fun, stimulating and pleasant to look at.
7. Would you encourage others to do the same?
I encourage people to do what’s right in their hearts. Life is stale and boring enough with this notion that you have to go university and you have to have a stable job and you have to have family and all that other stuff that his been indoctrinated in us since kindergarten. If those things are for you, then great, I wish nothing but the best and great health for you and yours. But if you’re looking for something different then don’t be afraid. Just make sure you’re putting your all into it. There’s no such thing as being a “part-time artist” or “part-time musician” if you want to receive recognition. Bands that play one gig a year don’t receive record contracts. They may have fun jamming out, but they will never be internationally known.
8. What is the best thing about creating a magazine?
The pleasure of meeting and talking to artists that I admired and had only heard about from different sites and books. The connections I have made throughout this journey are absolutely unbelievably and I’m proud to say that I am friends or I “know” a number of artists that I hold in the highest regard. And, because of this, I can travel to various parts of the world and I will have a place to crash at or have a person to drink with. It’s mind-blowing how receptive and open people are.
9. How do you choose which artists to feature in your publication?
It originally started out as artists that were my friends that I really respected and those who I’ve met through years of graffiti and then throughout the months it grew and grew and artists have approach me that I like and also those who’s work I love I have approached and they’ve been into it. There’s no definitive criteria really, it’s just those that catch my eye who I think would fit into what aesthetic I love or of music that I listen to or clothes I’d like to wear.
No way! There’s many forms of careers in painting. Being a successful painter and only living off the canvases you make is extremely difficult but not impossible. But artists need to remember there’s other things that they can do and still paint full-time. Mural work, being an apprentice, teaching art while still maintaining your practice and so on and so forth. It all comes down to what I said before, you can’t do it part-time or sporadically. You have to be full-throttle in your passion and live it 100%. No half-assing it. That’s of course if you want to make it a career. If you just like to paint in your basement for fun, then that’s cool too, but it won’t be a “career” if that’s the case.
11. Where do you think art is heading?
Art is in such a direction that nothing can stop it. There’s so much art out there and so many movements have been done of the centuries, but there’s also new movements forming and also those who pay homage to the practices of their predecessors are improving and developing those which may have been “lost” or not as widely practiced as once before. It seems due to globalization and the internet that there’s so much work to be seen because everyone has a website or flickr or tumblr and people can also get inspired from all across the world in a way never seen before. Aesthetics aren’t limited to time period or location. Furthermore, technologies now and the knowledge we have is so vast that it’s so much more accessible to create greater, larger and more powerful work.
12. What is your view of graffiti as art?
Graffiti is the explosive art-form to date. Unlike before, as said in the previous question, aesthetic is not limited to time period or location. People are inspired from all across the globe. Everyone across the globe is doing it and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. There is a lot of legal graffiti art, which is highly respected by both peers and the community, but there’s also a lot of beautiful illegal activity as well. These artists aren’t asking for the space, they’re taking the space, and that’s what makes it that much more powerful. Graffiti is based on a number of fundamentals and some of those being that you have to be quick, stylish and undetected. That means they have to create art at its highest quality with a number of stressful factors breathing down their back. I love canvas work, sculpture, installation and video art as well. However, this is all created in their own home without the scrutiny of thousands of people a day seeing it. As a graffiti artist, once your work is up, it’s judged. People who create in the home can create without critique until they’ve like something enough to post it or exhibit it. That’s like practising stand-up comedy in your bathroom without the audience. You can edit and edit and edit until you’ve reached a point you are proud of. Graffiti is immediately out there with a high level of judgement, stress and adrenaline attached to it. I don’t know if that answered your questions but yeah, I would say graffiti is an art-form.
13. Looking through your magazine, I notice that there is a lot of graffiti artists feature in it. Does your magazine aim to change people’s perception about graffiti
YES. That is one of the main reasons of the magazine as well. To show people that graffiti is not just a bunch of illiterate gang members marking their territory. The idea is to humanize these artists a little bit and for people to understand their back-story of where they come from and what they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Most of the graffiti artists I know that are active or not, are successful, intelligent and interesting and most of them, contrary to popular belief, are middle class kids from good homes.
Absolutely. One of the most impressive forms of typography as well. There’s so many levels and layers to graffiti lettering that people don’t know. Because you have to have the fundamentals of creating the letters, they have to be stylish or “fresh” and they also cannot resemble that of somebody else’s lettering or you are labeled as a “biter”. It’s typography on the fly in a sense. Many people sketch, which is still a relatively fast endeavour, but a lot of people make it up at the wall or train, which means they have to come up with an attractive letter product instantaneously that appeals to a wide audience. I love typography and I hold it in a high regard, but a lot of typefaces are almost exactly the same, this can’t really happen in graffiti, each artist has to have a new, creative and innovative style to their letters.
15. What category of art do you think that graffiti falls into?
It’s hard to say really. It’s its own category of art. Yes, it’s art and yes, it’s on the street. But it’s not “street-art”. These two terms are quite different. Maybe not to the naked eye, but to the artists involved it definitely is. If you were to tell a graffiti artist they’re a “street-artist” they would get extremely vexed. Letter-based graffiti and character-based graffiti are different but in the same respective category, however, stencilling and wheat-pastes do not fall under this category. They tend to be labeled “street-artists”. Graffiti artists always believe that in the hierarchy of art on the street that they are at the top and would definitely disassociate themselves with wheat-paste and stencil artists.
16. Do you think that graffiti artists get enough recognition as artists?
Not yet, but they will. We’ve already seen a massive shift in public opinion of graffiti art over the years. Community projects, businesses and corporations are all starting to use graffiti in one way or another. It could be for beautifying the neighbourhood or as a marketing campaign. We’re also starting to see big galleries and museums exhibit graffiti artists from the inside out. Places like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles presented a number of graffiti artists in their exhibition “Art In The Streets”. These artists are all slowly gaining their well deserved recognition and making a career out of it. Hell, they’ve paid their dues on the streets for years!
17. How would an artist be able to showcase their art in your magazine?
To get in touch! The magazine is quite backed up at the moment as we have many, many talented artists who are involved right now. But it doesn’t hurt to get in contact and shoot us over something about you and a link to your work. I love seeing new art and so do my other colleagues so it doesn’t hurt to let yourself be known. Also, it’s impossible to get anywhere if you don’t put yourself out there. You can’t be afraid of rejection in this game. You’ve got to stick to your guns and showcase your work. I’m not saying send your first portrait to every site on the net, but you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. How can we feature you if we don’t know who you are? And even if the mag is too backed up, we love blogging creative people so that’s always another way to be a part of BBB.
Damn, too many to name and I wouldn’t even want to leave a single one out. Definitely be on the look out for our new mags because all of them will be top-notch and of the highest caliber. There, you will see a crazy amount of talented and stimulating artists. Sorry for the shameless plug but I had to. Furthermore, keep up on your websites and blogs to see loads of great new artists every day that pop up and will inspire you.
19. Do you have any advice you would like to share with the readers?
I think I’ve sort of answered this question like four times throughout the interview, but I will say it one last time. Believe in what you do and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If you want to make this a career it has to be serious business, no dilly-dallying and giving it 100%. And never be afraid to ask for help or support from wherever you can get it. No one can do everything alone. People need help whether it’s spiritually, physically or educationally, everyone needs aid in some way shape or form. So keep in contact with those who you respect and surround yourself with dedicated people who crave success. If you shoot low, you’ll get lower. If you shoot high… well you know all the cliches.
To find out more about Bizzare Beyond Belief Magazine or to catch up with the latest issue, head over to their website http://www.bizarrebeyondbelief.com/