Matthew Stuckey is a graphic, product and interior designer, illustrator, painter, art director and owner of the (aptly titled) design studio ‘Be Friendly’. He’s also the creative mastermind bringing our Marion store to life! Matt’s bright, graphic murals mirror his energy and enthusiasm; and with original, fun, thoughtful and ethical design at the forefront of his practice, we think he’s the perfect fit for our latest store.
We spoke to Matt about which tunes inspire him while creating (from De La Soul to Iron Maiden), finding a sense of community in art, and the best place to get a drink in sunny Adelaide.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your background as an artist and how you got to where you are now?
As a kid, I always loved drawing. I studied illustration at university but I didn’t start getting involved in large scale painting or exhibiting until my late 20’s. I lived in Japan for two years and when I came back to Adelaide I wanted to do something to bring some of the creative energy of Tokyo back with me. I started organising live art shows and joining in little group exhibitions; I met a bunch of cool people and a bit of a community of likeminded people started to build. I started doing large scale paintings because I felt the city really needed more life, so it seemed like the logical application of my skills was to start painting big murals - they're a 24/7 sign of life.
You create a super broad range of multidisciplinary work, from illustration to design and large-scale painting. Do you have a preference of medium for your art?
To me the medium is not as important as the intention of any piece of art or design. I believe that the principles of good design apply all disciplines, so if I have a good idea, a really empathetic, mindful solution to a problem, the medium is just the tool I need to realise that idea.
Having said that, there is something deeply satisfying about painting a massive area with a spray gun though.
What’s one thing you wish you had been told when starting out in the creative industries?
It’s a business. Learn the business.
Were you born and raised in Adelaide? Can you let us in on any of the hidden gems of the city?
I was born here but moved around a fair bit as a kid. I have a lot of friends and clients in hospitality so I’m going to get in trouble if I pick a favourite… I would have to say that while a lot of great small bars have opened over the last few years (a few of my favourites are Udaberri for tapas and Old Fashioned’s, Pink Moon Saloon for the architecture; and Nola for the Whisky and fried pickles) you can’t beat The Exeter for a pint of Coopers Sparkling - it’s not hidden but it’s an institution and basically doesn’t ever change because it doesn’t need to.
Do you listen to music while making art and if so, what kind of stuff do you enjoy? Is there anything particularly conducive to a good atmosphere when creating?
It depends what type and what stage of a project I’m working on. When I’m starting a big mural for example I like to keep it upbeat with some party vibes like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, or some old funk classics. If I’m in the middle of a long project I listen to a lot of podcasts actually, it’s good to learn something new AND get your work done - multitasking. When it’s crunch time, I go with 80’s metal, some Slayer or Iron Maiden usually speeds things up.
What’s the most challenging artistic project you’ve ever worked on?
Physically, the Produce Progress piece on Ebenezer Place in Adelaide was the most challenging. It’s a repeating tile design which I achieved using stencils laser cut out of metal sheets, with two assistants to help me. Due to the location of the building we had to work on a scaffold instead of a lift which makes it a lot harder to see what you’re doing, plus all the climbing up and down carrying equipment for two weeks added to the challenge.
Logistically, the Minima Hotel Art Rooms were a challenge. I curated the project which involved commissioning 40 local artists to paint 40 hotel rooms. If you’ve ever tried to organise ONE artist, you’ll know it can be tough ;)
What feelings do you hope your work rouses when people see it?
When people see my public artwork, I hope they feel some connection to the work, the space and more broadly speaking to their community. I design my artworks to be very inclusive, so I just hope the audience feels somehow a part of the work.
Who is an artist that you would like to be compared to, if any?
Aesthetically I’m inspired by artists which strong graphic elements in their work, Kandinsky, Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Hokusai and Hiroshige - but I’m nowhere near arrogant enough to compare myself to them.
And finally, do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Always! I’ve been working on a social project called Positive Signs which I co-founded. I’m combining my public art and branding experience to create an ongoing series of works which look like an ad campaign, but instead of selling something they’re these big, bright yellow signs with positive quotes and cute illustrations. Through sheer visibility and the law of averages we hope to the project will help some people, somewhere, who are affected by depression and anxiety. The goal is to go nationwide, and international - so there is plenty of work to do!