Lowtide x Olivier Stein

Last week we hosted an exhibition for local artist Olivier Stein before he heads to Europe to further his passion as an illustrator and artist. We chatted to him after the show in reflection of the night, an experience he found to be very humbling. Read our interview with him below to discover the process that informs his expressive and vivid style - we're expecting big things from this guy in the future. Best of luck Olivier!  

Photos by Theo Richards. Scroll right to view gallery.

Introduce yourself and your practice

I’m nineteen and grew up in Auckland since the age of five. Before that I lived in France. I pretty much just love art as a whole. The process and the fun of it, which is mainly what I find going back through my art. I would say a lot of it is doodling. Rather than spending hours on one project, it’s just borderline therapeutic enjoyment. I try to capture movement a lot - emotion and personality. Whether it’s someone in the street I'm drawing or a random character that I have thought of. I just try to have fun with it. I work with a lot of ink and make a lot of mistakes. I often find myself drawing an ink line... well a bent one, and then make something out of that.

I left high school a year early and did a diploma in 2D animation, but in all honesty it was kind of a shambles. It would be a struggle for me to list the things I learnt there - other than learning how to work in a studio and follow a very strict cartoon production. I did learn a lot about myself after the two years. I really started thinking for myself and I realised what I wanted to do with my life -  that being art. Also realising that the world is my oyster (the classic) but it’s very true. I finished last year and I have now been working at Verona, a couple of bars and restaurants, and of course drawing and drawing.


Do you think the romanticism of growing up in Europe has had an influence on your art?

I don’t think so. I think about this a lot, and what surprises most people is that I went to animation college because I personally don’t watch TV, I don’t read comics, and I don’t watch anime. I am really affected by everything that has happened to me in my life, but I can't point to one thing and say “this inspired me”. In terms of France, I don’t think so. It all just happened how it happened.


Describe your creative process

I definitely realised that if I want to make something, if I really want to do this, I have to knuckle down hardcore. I’ve been slacking recently as I'm leaving to Europe, kind of relaxing, but there is definitely a ‘wake up, sit down with pen and paper as soon as possible, have a coffee’ sort of process. It’s just drawing all the time. I carry a sketchbook everywhere and I try to whip it out instead of whipping out my phone. And that's actually been a big thing - being comfortable with that. I was really struggling with it.  Like “Oh, I can’t take this out in front of people,” but I realised I had to learn to.


Why do you think you struggled with getting your sketchbook out in front of people?

I think it started from thinking like, ‘Oh, I’m not good’ but now I’ve practiced a lot and people are like ‘this is cool.’ I still struggle with the social norms around drawing in public and not speaking. My art has helped me a lot to realise I can just be who I am. I don’t have to worry about people being bothered.


Tell us about your exhibition 'Unsigned - Miscellaneous' and what prompted it

Me moving away prompted the exhibition at Lowtide. It was part me leaving and wanting to share who I am with friends and family, and these wonderful people I’ve met over the last couple of weeks. I was up at 2am one morning and it clicked ‘this is me.' I know some people enjoy what I do and I wanted to share it before I left. And this was the one space I knew I had to do it. I had to share what I do, and I did.


And how do you feel afterwards?

Fucking great! It was mind blowing. I remember two weeks prior to it,  talking to Benji from Lowtide, and then to the night - It blew me away! So many people came. It was packed. Half of the people I had never seen before. The fact that I could have me on a wall and build the space just to let people enjoy themselves. There was good music, a good vibe, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. Thats how it felt. The exhibition was quite prolific in the sense of different practices, mediums and application.


What mediums did you work with?

I used ink on wallpaper, the pink and purple monkey clown was using pastel, and the banner incorporated everything - oil, crayon, and pastel.


Do you have a favourite medium to work with?

Absolutely. Ink and pen on paper is my preferred. It’s so simple. You can do it anywhere, find the materials anywhere. The reason ink stands out to me is, as I was saying earlier, if you make a mistake, you have to roll with it. That has really helped me with the fluidity in my art and my eclecticness - working with whatever happens. And also its just black, bold and fun.


Referencing the prolificness , was there a process of curation to what you deemed “miscellaneous?” Is there more work that we missed out on? 

Spanning the past couple of years I’ve probably completed 30 A4 sketch books. I did pick what I deemed the best, while that’s naturally a very difficult thing to do. The reason I named it ‘Unsigned - Miscellaneous' was because its very scattered and hectic, because that’s what I do. I laid out all of the A4 pieces very sporadically because I didn’t want to dramatise or romanticise it. It was very important that I didn’t bullshit anything. I wanted people to walk away knowing or feeling like they knew a part of me. It seemed very sincere. Everything I’m doing I’m just practicing and having fun. It’s fun! I keep saying it’s fun - but it is! I do think a lot about the fact that in the 21st century with TVs, mobiles, advertising, even conversation, there is so much going on.  It’s bloody hard to wrap your head around it. There is always something going on. Sometimes I feel like what I need to start doing is putting together an organised drawing or painting. At the moment though all of my art it is definitely very accidental. It is sincere. I think things can be sincere without having to put meaning behind stuff. Art can either be the meaning or, straight up “it just looks nice“. I’m not a very wise, intelligent, research-savvy person, especially in the art world. I wasn’t like “I want the exhibition to be like…” or “I wanna draw a face on a piece of paper like so and so.” I never seek to compare or follow.


Are there any artists you do follow or look up to?

Everyone I guess. I think we are so lucky to be able to whip out our phone and look at a sketch that someone just did from the other side of the world. Someone that sells million dollar paintings and we have the ability to message those people. On a local and international level it’s exciting. They're accessible. In terms of creative influence it’s everywhere. Outside of Auckland even, there’s so much going on. In terms of seeing exhibitions, I have no idea what I will go and see. I want to see the music scenes overseas. Creatives tend to gather around music, and that’s awesome.


Whats next for you?

I’m going to Europe semi-permanently. It’s a one way ticket. I plan to live there. Not that I know where “there” is. I’ve got Germany and London in my head so far. When I did this exhibition I realised that I have two goals with my art; one is practice - which I now have so much more time for. The other is to have another exhibition and introduce myself again. If I can pull off what I did here at Lowtide, which was so life-fulfilling, in Germany or France (an old home of mine) that would be like nothing else.


Follow Olivier for the latest news and upcoming events //


> olivierstein99@gmail.com