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Sponsored / The Converse Lovejoy Art Benefit

The irreverent spontaneity of Stefan Marx’s markmaking

Photography:

Martina Borsche

The Converse Lovejoy Art Benefit commissioned 49 original artworks that are on auction now via Paddle8 to raise funds for Artists For Humanity. It’s Nice That has teamed up with Converse to introduce some of the amazing artists contributing to the benefit, and to take a look behind the scenes of the great work that they do. Next, It’s Nice That catches up with Hamburg-based illustrator Stefan Marx.

With a cool, almost-30k-strong Instagram following, the charismatic pen work of German illustrator Stefan Marx has gained the attention of fans and brands worldwide — and he makes it look very easy. His casually hand-written typographic prints and line drawings have the insouciance and personality of David Shrigley and Mr Bingo, though unlike those two his creative foundations are in skate culture.

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He began illustrating as a teenager, when as a skateboarder he found that among the labels catering for that subculture, there was room for something altogether more irreverent. Plus he could save money doing it himself. He started drawing artwork on t-shirts and when his friends asked where they could buy them, so was the genesis of his own label, Lousy Livin’, founded in 1995 and still thriving today. Since then his career has clearly taken leaps, but he remains embedded in the skate scene, designing boards, apparel and more for labels large and small, including Cleptomanicx, Hessenmob, Azita, Ayume Lifeforms and Landscape.

Stefan moved to Hamburg in 2001, where he’s still based, and quickly became a name in art and illustration, turning his hand and innate sense of humour to large-scale canvas paintings, room installations, sculpture, ceramics, products and record covers, for labels such as Playhouse, Mule Musiq and Smallville – for which he has produced artworks for close to a decade. He’s also taught drawing at the Bauhaus School.

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By his late 20s, Stefan’s reputation was also established enough to have the first of dozens of zines and books published. Esteemed publisher Nieves first released zine I’m Starting to Feel Okay in 2006, a mixture of energetic colour and black-and-white image and text works using watercolour and pen. The images, including a face with prismatic disco balls for eyes, and a brazen middle finger in blotchy yellow paint, the zine holds fast 11 years later as a comedic and compelling representation of Stefan’s practice.

Soon after, in 2007, I Wait Here For You Forever as Long as It Takes was released, also by Nieves – a 96-page tome dedicated to Stefan’s personal drawing diaries. The culmination of two years work combining painting, drawings and written pieces, it shone a light on Stefan’s personality and spontaneous approach, as well as being an honest and emotional record of the artist “going through life writing and drawing down the lowlights”. “My work is based around my drawing practice, and I work in my studio but also outside of the studio, all the time but mostly while travelling,” he tells It’s Nice That.

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Stefan’s artwork: Philippines, 2016

A DIY creative upbringing and a candid, highly personal subject matter give Stefan’s work the charm that has drawn so many fans. Now in his late 30s, he stays true to his background and has defined an instantly recognisable aesthetic. His latest work, a black-and-white painting of a landscape in the Philippines, is the evolution of a drawing once made for another Nieves zine, he explains.

“It’s a rework of a drawing I did while travelling the Philippine islands. The original was inspired by my travels, and being on a certain ‘island-time’ mode, which I don’t have so much back home in the European time sphere. It was made on a small beach; I think I liked the composition of the palms and rocks, and how these were embedded in the landscape of the island, with water and mountains in the foreground and background.”

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The sketch has been developed by Stefan specially for Converse’s Lovejoy Art Benefit, giving the artist a chance to explore the detail and composition in a larger format. “It’s based on contrast. I drew it originally as black on white,” he says, “but for the canvas I inverted it and painted the black on white too, but the ‘drawing’ is made from the negative space.”

Compared with the whimsical improvised original, Stefan says the painting has a different energy though depicting the same moment in time. “A simple line with mistakes and a non linear stroke can set a feeling of spontaneity. In this case I was on island time, so the drawing is very slow and accurate. The canvas was made in my studio with a brush, so has a different surface and gesture.”

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Stefan relished the open brief and creative freedom from Converse, taking the viewer with him to his “island mode” in a charmingly simple and joyful artwork.

All 49 original artworks created for the Lovejoy Art Benefit have been showcased at the Converse World Headquarters in Boston for the past year. Now they’re available to buy via online auction house Paddle8. All profits raised from the auction will be donated to Artists for Humanity, a Boston-based not-for-profit company whose mission is “to bridge economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design.”

Visit the auction page here to see the full selection of artworks being auctioned for Artists for Humanity

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