With a name like "Bizarre Beyond Belief" what else would you expect from a independent art x culture magazine from Toronto. BBB serves us a daily visual fix to feed your eyes. I caught up with founder Stuart Pearce to feed your mind, check out the interview:
Can you tell us about yourself and the Bizarre Beyond Belief team? Where are you located?
Absolutely. Well, I guess I better start by telling you who I am. My name is Stuart Pearce and I am an interdisciplinary artist, graphic and web designer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I am the founder of Bizarre Beyond Belief and up until the most recent issue I did absolutely everything myself. There was no team until now to be perfectly honest. I did everything from the creative direction to the journalism, from the magazine layout to the blog upkeep. As the months went on and my friends started to realize I wasn't really clowning around, they started to lend a helping hand and get involved anyway they could. I should state that a lot of my friends have been artists in the magazine and on the site, so they did help in that way. However, now they are helping me expand the pool of artists and conduct some of the interviews for me.
What sparked the idea to start BBB as an online magazine?
Well, Bizarre Beyond Belief actually turned out completely different than my original intentions. In fact, I intended to make a podcast about graffiti writers and their strange and provocative stories. It was going to be called "Words Beyond The Surface." I've been doing graffiti for over a decade now and have always been a raconteur since I was young. I thought to myself, "I have a lot of hilarious graffiti stories" so maybe I should write them down or record them and blog them. Then I thought, "That can't just be me". I know so many writers out there have incredible stories that I thought people should hear about. I was going to sit down with graffiti artist and have them talk about the various chaotic events they get themselves into and post them to a site every week. However, I realized this became increasingly difficult to come to fruition because there's only so many graffiti artists in one city to talk to face to face and record but also graffiti artists are highly unpredictable and erratic. It became far easier for me to send out messages or emails to fish for responses than it was to try and organize a meeting with the equipment and discuss. I was also getting really into graphic design at the time and I figured maybe this would be a good time to try and put my layout skills to the test and I quickly realized pictures and words are a lot more stimulating than just putting on headphones and hearing somebody you don't know speak for a little while. Furthermore, as an aspiring artist myself, I realized how difficult it was to try and get on the sites that I loved and regularly checked. So I figured, if you can't beat 'em. Join 'em.
You feature work daily from across industries and of various disciplines, from design to fine art. Where do you look for inspiration. How do you know the work is "BBB" material?
Hm, well, there isn’t really any sort of criteria for Bizarre Beyond Belief material really. It's just sort of whatever sparks my eye. Since I was about 14 years old graffiti and fine art sort of took over my life and I began to look, study and follow art religiously. I realized when I was making this magazine I might as well just throw up on the site things of the day of surfing the net that really caught my eye. However, there isn’t enough hours in a day to post everything that catches my eye.
The Internet is saturated with graphics. What aesthetic trends, or sub-culture genres, do you see growing fresh around the world?
That's a very good question. We're in a period of art now where we say: "It's all been done before." We're at this point where people are trying to constantly improve but not reinvent "the wheel". Something that is huge in graphic and web design right now is "vintage" looking design, with the banners, badges and other insinuations to handmade qualities. I don't know if this will ever go out of style. It's probably my favourite stuff to look at because of its minimal and clean aesthetic and I think people can appreciate it even though it's made on the computer but pays homage to its roots. Also, take a look at how far graffiti has come. Not only is it becoming more accepted by the general population and corporations but the art form itself has even evolved tremendously. Some graffiti-artists letterforms resemble styles like that of Cubist, Constructivist and Minimalist art movements and no longer stick to that traditional form of lettering. It's bringing new light to old traditions. Though many of these art forms are decades old, they have not been completed on such a large scale, (i.e. on a wall or a train.) Furthermore, double-exposure works are a massive trend in photography right now and this is definitely nothing new. Photographers are using the technologies we currently all have access to and adjust and tweak old methods and to refine and manipulate the aesthetic. I don't know if I even remotely answered your question, but what I guess I am saying is that old habits die hard and the trends we have seen and will constantly in art see is new artists refining the strategies of history.
Your eyes must be dripping with visual overload. Recent BBB interviews include Simon Monk and Gwar. Has there been a artists that really blew your eyes...and mind?
Oh God, yes! Every single person that has graced the pages of Bizarre Beyond Belief magazine and website has taken my eyes and mind by storm. I don't think I could even bother naming one name because honestly, there is just so much exceptional work out there being created. There's such an unbelievable amount of talent in the world and it's something I am so thankful for because it's something I truly love wholeheartedly. However, it's a double-edged sword because on one side, it's unbelievably inspiring when rifling through magazines and surfing the internet but on the other, it can be extremely discouraging for new artists. The bar is set extremely high, there are millions of people out there producing and it's extremely difficult to make a name out there, especially if you don't know anyone in a position to help promote you or "have an uncle in the industry" so to speak.
Does BBB suggest one video that we must watch?
Infamy. If you haven't seen the graffiti documentary Infamy then you have to drop everything, except reading this article, and go watch it. It's probably the first graffiti documentary that not only shows you some of the largest vandals and graffiti artist face to face, but it also humanizes these people and sheds a new light on how people may perceive graffiti writers. People definitely have preconceived notions that they are all either gang members or low-class dirtbags that have no future or morals and hate their communities. This is in fact very, very rarely the case.
There are many emerging illustrators and artists competing for eyes to build their audience. Does BBB have any advice on ways to build a fan-base?
There are definitely a lot of things that need to be said to hungry artists but the main thing is that if you desire to be an artist, it’s not a hobby. You can't be a "part-time" artist. You either do it full-throttle and 100% and make it consume your life and become entirely OCD about it or you don't even worry about any sort of recognition or fame. This is of course if you want it as a career option. If you like to paint or doodle once a month, that's great too but you’re not an artist, you're just somebody with a general interest. Furthermore, just like writers, actors or athletes, you can't be afraid of rejection. Everyone improves and progresses. Eventually some of the websites, publications or institutions you admired will eventually take you on if you keep evolving and persistent. I am not saying tweet to every artist on the net or e-mail you favourite gallery every other day to get a solo exhibition, but if you do send out those feelers and receive nothing back, use that as motivation to improve and get better and then send a couple months down the road. Your next series is going to be better than your last and the one after that will be better than the one before it and so forth and so on. We live in a world over saturated with just about everything so it's no mystery why it's extremely difficult to gain recognition. You have to maintain focus and make sure that everything you're doing in your life will bring you to that next step in order to further yourself as not only an artist, but as an individual as well.
What's next for Bizarre Beyond Belief? What can we expect in the next issue?
There's hopefully going to be a whole hell of a lot going on with Bizarre Beyond Belief over the coming weeks and months. I'm definitely thinking of getting some more people involved to help me organize and promote things. Also, we're thinking of implementing some new aspects to the site, like a fan-art page or an "Artist of the Day" section. This is all still in the works, but as I've said, there's so much damn good work out there and myself or my colleagues can miss it and maybe if you don't send it in, we may never see it. So we'll keep you posted on that. Also, the newest issue is in the works and it will be an outstanding issue. I probably say that about every single one, because each one is like my little baby and I love them all in their own way. However, I've got a lot of exceptional artists that are involved with this new one and hopefully we can keep expanding.
Thanks Stuart. We will keep our eyes peeled, way back, for more Bizarre Beyond Belief! Ryan Maguire, AIB blog editor