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By Natalie Mell, Digital & Social Media EditorISSUE #026 A BRAVE NEW WORLD | Community

The 25-Year-Old Artist Behind Our Future Classics Designs Is One To Watch

Say what you will about social media, but it was some good old fashioned Instagram lurking that led the Archie Rose team to Stu Ballinger. Having landed on the theme that would inform our new Future Classics Bottled Cocktail range, the next step was finding an artist to visually represent our dystopian universe.

As soon as our eyes landed on Stu’s explosive digital works we knew he was the one. With a penchant for fantasy, Stu’s style has the futuristic edge that encapsulates our cocktails and the other-worldly dimensions they inhabit—and the results speak for themselves. From mesmerising pastel-hued clouds to a radioactive rainforest, Stu’s designs are so damn cool that they now decorate half the Archie Rose team’s desktop backgrounds, as well as our Bottled Cocktail labels. So if, like us, you’re enamoured by this emerging artist, read on to learn more about Stu Ballinger.

Name: Hi! My name is Stu Ballinger.

Age: I'm 25 years old.

Location: I'm from Horsham, a small city in rural Victoria.

Tell us about your career to this point: I started learning digital art after discovering Photoshop CS6 on a slow, crappy school issued laptop when I was about 16 years old. I was in Year 11 at the time and used all my spare time (and most of the time I should have been working on schoolwork) following Photoshop tutorials. After high school, I completed a Diploma of Graphic Design at Federation University in 2014, and then studied Digital Media in 2016. Since then, I have continued to learn while working day jobs, until recently when I went fully freelance in December 2020.

Why digital art? I've always been pretty techy and I loved to draw as a kid, but I was never particularly good at it. After seeing the cool stuff people were making with Photoshop, I decided that it looked fun and dove in. Learning to draw is really hard, and I didn't have the attention span for it, but learning photo manipulation offered a more technical approach to learning, which suits me and how I like to learn.

How would you describe your style? I'd describe my style as somewhere between abstract and sci-fi. A lot of my art doesn't have a subject, it's just an amalgamation of all the shapes and colours I like at the time. Sometimes it's just fun to present an image to people and let them draw their own meaning. I don't think every piece of art needs to have a deep meaning, sometimes things can just look cool for the sake of looking cool.

What inspires you? My source of inspiration is never really consistent. I was an avid reader as a teenager, specifically fantasy, so most of my early art was fantasy based. Nowadays, I take a lot of inspiration from music and whatever my friends are working on.

Is there anything you’re enjoying at the moment? I've been hopelessly addicted to the remake of NieR Replicant for the last week or so—it's hard to pry myself away from it to actually get work done. There's something about story-driven adventures that capture my attention and make it impossible to quit until the story ends. It's also been a great few weeks for music. I've been listening to the new Iglooghost LP, Lei Line Eon, on repeat for weeks. And of course, the new album from Porter Robinson will not be leaving my playlist for a long time.

Are there any platforms you visit to discover new creatives or find inspiration? The nature of being a freelancer is being active everywhere. My primary home will always be Behance, which has shown me my favourite artists and facilitated some of my biggest jobs. I have been really enjoying Twitter recently, I've been following a lot of artists from outside of my style and that sort of exposure has definitely been inspiring. Being able to chat with other artists is cool, too.

Which of your fellow creatives are you following at the moment? I'll always shout-out my best mate, Grigori Shevtsov, a Finnish artist who pretty much mentored me early in my career, and who I now work with often. Other artists I look up to are Gavin Strange, an English jack-of-all-trades who is one of the coolest people I know, and James White AKA Signalnoise, who makes absolutely insane '80s retro-style illustrations that are gorgeous and flashy. In terms of artists that are going to be the future, I absolutely have to shout out Noah Major and the rest of the FORM collective.

What's your mantra when it comes to creativity? Natural talent is helpful but not necessary. It doesn't matter if you show no aptitude for a new skill, if you dedicate enough time, focus and energy to it, you can get better, no matter what.

What can we expect from you next? Pretty soon I'm launching the first of a new personal art series, entitled Stargazer. It's my interpretation of some god-like figures in a space setting. It's some of the best work I've produced in my opinion, and I'm keen to show it off.

You can shop our Future Classics Bottled Cocktail range online and via the Archie Rose Cellar Door from 18 May.