How illustrating his favourite songs led Ardneks to work with his dream bands

24 January 2019
Reading Time
3 minute read

Illustrations by Jakarta-based artist Ardneks are the combination of a multitude of references. Viewers will spot this – only once they make their way past the psychedelic colour palette that saturates his works – as references to manga and anime juxtaposed with design elements from record sleeves of the 1960s and 70s begin to pop out. For Ardneks, his works are just a natural accumulation of the stuff that fills his life, from his teenage interests to creating works for the likes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Mac DeMarco that he is today.

Following a childhood of reading manga comics and filling his school notebooks with replicas, the illustrator’s relationship with music hit him in high school. “Obsessed by record jackets and those psychedelic Fillmore East posters, I thought how cool would it actually be to be the person to make them. I decided I wanted to become a visual artist who specifies on music-related projects,” continuing his creative career by studying graphic design, “to sort of elevate my illustrations” he tells It’s Nice That.

After studying for a while, however, Ardneks dropped out and made it is his prerogative “to make real work”. With a group of friends he’d met through local gigs, they decided to start their very own creative project, Studiorama. “We’d gather all these local indie bands for gigs and I was in charge of handling all visual needs from posters, merchandise and art direction.” At the start, Ardneks’ style was “still replicating the acid-fuelled Fillmore East style,” and in doing so he hit a bit of a brick wall. “It just wasn’t unique enough as many psychedelic masters had already done it so much better than me,” the illustrator explains.


Ardneks: Celestial Broadcast, Marquees Tropica

In order to combat this, Ardneks spent a good two years developing his own style and way of working. Starting from scratch, he considered what his own approach to “colour palettes, figures, shapes and lines” would be, in the hope that people would recognise his work as his at the very first glance.

No project of the illustrator’s demonstrates this temperament better than Marquees Tropica, a sort of memoir the illustrator has drawn of his life so far through the songs that have soundtracked it. “I wanted to reimagine and connect my relationship with music in more of a personal way,” Ardneks tells us of the beginning of this process. “I had this idea of choosing one song from each stage, putting it on repeat and start drawing anything that comes to mind until it’s finished, a reimagining process of my state during those stages. I believe everyone experiences various phases in life so I’m hoping when they see this series, read the narratives and listen to the songs each is inspired by, they can relate to it and have a nostalgic trip down memory lane.”

The first example of this is a piece titled Celestial Broadcast inspired by The Jesus and Mary Chain song Just Like Honey, depicting “a boy who thinks that the first few lines of Just Like Honey are about a dream encounter with the goddess Saraswati… I was a rather curious teenager.” Another illustrates Ardneks’ favourite song of all time, Space Oddity by David Bowie, featuring a drawing of a “girl who accidentally pours some coffee into her bowl of colourful cereal and thinks she’s found answers to the mysteries of the universe because it resembles the galaxy.”

In launching his own project depicting his love of music, bands ended up getting in contact with Ardneks asking him to do the same for them, “after that it just sort of took off,” he says. “To be honest, I still can’t believe it myself."


Ardneks: Future Shores, Marquees Tropica


Ardneks: Hyperventilation Cherry, Marquees Tropica


Ardneks: Moonage Oddity, Marquees Tropica


Ardneks: Strawberry Letter, Marquees Tropica


Ardneks: Sunflowermilk Vibrations, Marquees Tropica

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

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