Artist Spotlight: SketchStance

Artist Spotlight: an opportunity to shine a light on some of our favourite local illustrators, artists and designers. With the launch of our new Friends of Melodic Distraction supporters system, each quarter we’re taking on an artist in residence to do their take on ‘Friends of Melodic’. Each artist will make a design which will be printed for a new line of merch. To kick the series off we’re going right back to the very start, with a super talented guy who’s been with us every step of the way: SketchStance. 

Spawned from a fanzine and now defacing any offer that arrives, you’ll find the work of Liverpool-based sketch artist Russ on everything from t-shirts and posters, to skateboards and bog walls. You’ll certainly recognise his distinct and signature style not only across our branding, but also for the likes of some of our favourite local independent businesses (Lost Art, Mersey Grit, Legs Wine). Also frontman of DIY punk band Coughin’ Vicars, we find out more about Russ’ creative journey so far…

Hi Russ! Thanks for being a long-standing collaborator of Melodic Distraction, we have you to thank for our lovely logos and graphics. How did you first get into art?
Thank you, I think that logo’s arms have had a longer reach than we ever expected.
Hard to pinpoint when I first found a connection with putting pen paper as an expression.
I found writing hard as I struggled with dyslexia and drawing just came easier.
I always had sketchbooks like any other kid, drawing my favourite cartoon characters
Like The Turtles or Beavis and Butthead.
I’d say it definitely came at a later age when skateboarding and the whole subculture surrounding it took over my existence.
Seeing logos on board graphics or record sleeves in the magazines opened up a whole new world. I’d spend weekends studying the pages and covering my school books with band logos and graphics I’d absorbed.
I really appreciated the details and simplicity.
I hope that reflects to this day in what I do.

What’s your usual approach to art and illustration?
Making sure my motivation is correct.
If it’s a paid commission, you’ve kinda got to dance for the client, the clock and payment. It’s a pretty mechanical process.
In other instances I might see something or get a phrase in my head and I’ve just gotta get it out.
Pencil to ink to screen to t-shirt
voice memo to notebook to microphone to record.
These ideas are the purest.
I’ve created outlet channels for these via what I do with screen printing, skateboarding or the band.

What’s been your proudest achievement of your career so far? Have you had to face many big challenges?
I don’t think about it, I just bury myself in projects and feel grateful that I can scrape by month to month. It’s scary and liberating on a daily basis.
I guess I’m kinda proud that I’ve learnt how to be a semi confident screen printer through my mistakes. That’s opened up many doors for me.
I’m enjoying drawing characters again, which is fun too. Loads of room for micro detail.
The biggest challenge is keeping your head straight through the financial stress and not worrying too hard about things. Staying confident!

What’s your take on the Liverpool art scene? Where do you hope to see it in five years’ time?
If you mean art scene as in galleries, The Tate and Fact do a great job of employing and inspiring many people, but it seems like another world. I feel a bit outside from all that. It all seems very clinical and quiet.
It’s always a pleasure to cure a hangover wandering The Walker for free on a Sunday. The ever-changing architecture of the city is an exhibition in itself. The destruction/new build scene!
I’m more into the grassroots, it’s more approachable. You can meet like-minded people. Max put a night on last month (Shuffle) in a dis-used co-op funeral care building. It was great, all walks of life were in there and the ceilings were falling in above the blasting speaker and beers.
I’ve also been helping Future Yard set up The Future Walls Gallery. The objective is to create an approachable space for talented DIY artists to be celebrated, exhibit their work and hopefully sell a few bits to keep the lights on in their studios.

In 5 years time I’d like to think I’d be waking up to the sound of seagulls, crashing waves, morning sun and fresh ground coffee all in a custom made compound complete with a farm, skatepark and studio within distance of a coastal island. I’ve got a bit to do before then, so I better get cracking the whip on myself…

Why do you think it’s important to collaborate with local independent businesses?
They give you more freedom of expression in graphic terms.
You can take chances on smaller limited runs.
Independents in general put out better products. They don’t need to use broad strokes because they know their customers.
Be it food, drink, skateboards, records, radio shows, gigs, exhibitions – if you’re a smaller business, you are closer to your output so great care and consideration goes into everything.
I respect these values.

Also frontman of Coughin’ Vicars, can you tell us a bit more about the project? Do you cross the disciplines of art and music often and if so, how?
Coughin’ Vicars are just about 1 year old as a live band, minus the two years we lost in covid. It’s a great outlet for musical creativity obviously, but we also put a lot into the graphics and presentation of the band through screen-printing gig posters and merch.
It’s spiritually very engaging. Once a week I go to a room to meet 4 other humans and we create these songs. It’s good to have that ritual communion, it keeps us active and sane.
We’ve been playing out of town a bit recently and it’s been great to see other cities and scenes.
Our first two Lockdown tapes have been pressed to vinyl and people seem to be responding to it well.
Come see us live again.
Gigs are fun.

What track/album do you currently have on repeat?
Album: Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
Song: Zounds – Demystification

Are there any other local artists on your radar at the moment who we should be aware of?
Yobs, Good Grief, Memori, Nudist, High Time, Polexia, Torture and the Desert Spiders, Dawn Rayd, Bovver Baily, Tits Up, Codebreak, Piss Kitti, Motive, Gyp, Deathtrippers, Big Break.

What else do you have planned for the next year?
Finish Coughin Vicars’ first full length.
Book loads of exciting new exhibitions, keep supporting the right people and create a massive multi-character Sketch Stance piece.

Follow SketchStance below to keep up to date with Russ’ work. In the meantime, listen to Coughin Vicars’ latest single here and catch them supporting Tokky Horror at Q U A RR Y on Sat 26th Nov!