The Journal

Detailed plans keep things simple for Melbourne artist, Stephen Baker

We can learn a lot about someone from the material objects they rely on. For artist Stephen Baker, his tools hint at a craft that’s both simple and complex, analogue and digital.

Keeping things simple doesn’t come easy. You have to plan, refine, have a crack, then plan a little more. Artist Stephen Baker is the perfect example of someone who creates work that looks effortless, yet who works really hard to make it happen. He strips back the clutter in every area, from his workspace, to his processes, to his paintings. But, it wasn’t always that way...

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“I used to be one of those people who had a studio with every little inspirational thing in there,” says Stephen looking around his workspace. “You know, little trinkets and figurines and stuff. But then I realised it’s just a bunch of bullshit. Now I feel like I know what I’m doing more. It took years to get here, but now all I need is a functional space, not too cluttered, so I can walk in and I can just sit down and get to work.”

“I’m a sucker for heading to the pub on a nice day to have a beer, with sketchbooks out … I’ll have a whole show basically mapped out before I start painting on canvas.”

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“That simplified approach to his studio also translates across into Stephen’s art. But instead of that being a long, slow process, however, it was a lightbulb moment that made Stephen realise clean lines could be his thing.

“I was doing lots of laborious line work and drawings, and it would take ages,” he says. “Then I got asked to do the mural at the Fitzroy Pool (a popular hangout in Melbourne’s inner north); I had to simplify everything so it wouldn’t take too long. People walking past as I was painting it were really digging it. Young people and kids, and even the older generation were really vibing the colors and simplicity. I thought, ‘this is awesome, I love this. I’m going to try to put this into practice’. That was a turning point that opened the door to more mobility.”

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Mobility is definitely a theme for Stephen. Rather than being restricted to the studio, all he needs to get work done are some Moleskine notebooks, pens, pencils and a sharpener.

“I’m a sucker for heading to the pub on a nice day to have a beer, with sketchbooks out,” he says. “I’ll do weeks of sketching, and then it’ll be all about scanning and coloring. Then, I’ll have a whole show basically mapped out before I start painting on canvas. It’s quite a ‘graphic design’ style process.”

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For Stephen, the key is simplicity. In life, in art, in process and in the things that he carries with him. That, and a midday beer now and again to keep the creativity frothing.


“I’m really simple, so a pen, my pencils, sharpener, eraser, a notepad and some music – that’s all I need to go to the park or pub and just sketch.”

“For pencils, I use a Staedtler. I mean they’re German, and anything German is pretty good.”

“With the pencil case I always go for red, and I know I’ll be carrying it in my bag so I want to be able to see it. I’m trying to get more colorful in what I wear these days, ‘cos I’m usually all black... it’s a Melbourne thing.”

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