Aug 2 2015
Liam Friganiotis, The Adelaide Set
Azzurro 'Azzy' Batic is an Adelaide-born graphic designer / composer who has recently returned from a hiatus in Brisbane. Azzurro's weird, wonderful and ever so slightly twisted art style has made appearances within a number of local companies and establishments, most notably, Headspace and Spats Cafe's latest menu. Azzurro's most recent milestone, however, was the publication of his first colour therapy book, aptly named, Asylum. Asylum is full of incredibly detailed and intriguing artwork that is an absolute joy to fill with colour.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what was it like to grow up in Adelaide back then, has much changed?
I grew up in the hills of Blackwood and little bit out in the Riverland. I can’t comprehend how much everything has changed lately, it’s like a whole era ended without anyone noticing and now there are no rules or guidelines and nobody know’s what the hell’s going on so we’re all just kinda winging it. I spent most of my childhood playing Crash Bandicoot and reading. I miss Tamagotchis and old school Britney and hate modern minimalism just so so much.
When did you really start to get into design?
Very recently. Last year I started a freelance graphic design agency, then scored a few big design jobs, and now I’m going back and actually studying it. It’s like a Benjamin Button-esque reverse design career.
What inspired you to pursue it further and make a career out of it?
In year 12 I went through a tough time being a hopeless angsty teenager and channeled my feelings into a series of elaborate doodles. I was lost and obsessing over a crappy relationship so it was all pretty dark and personal stuff. I decided to enter them in a completely random art competition, took my angsty teenage love interest with me to the opening night and came face to face with my work blown up to A1 size for everyone to stare at. WHOA. It was my first exhibition and I don’t think I realised what I was getting myself into. Not only did I put my heart on my sleeve but I then had to personally show my muse and overhear others around us discuss what the hell we must’ve been going through. Art can be so powerful, I can’t even really look at those pieces without cringing internally but at the time they meant something so special and raw to me and other people seem to really like them. It took effort not to pass out when I actually won the competition. It was like a chapter of my life ended and a completely new one started in this hectic fateful night. I decided the whole thing was so thrilling and terrifying that I really wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I used the prize money to buy a kick ass printer-scanner and got started kicking ass. Those two lost teens standing in an exhibition hallway are ancient history now but I still get to pour my heart onto paper and make sweet moolah doing it.
Would you say that design runs in your family?
I’m the only designer in my family but I have super creative musical younger brothers and a fashionista younger sister and we’re all really close and they’re so excited and supportive of everything I do. I can’t wait for them to get active in the Adelaide arts community.
Are there any other designers or artists that you draw inspiration from in particular?
I work in a bit of a creative bubble, but when it comes to looking for inspiration from other artists I look locally. Rene Campbell, Ashley Hart, Steven Papas, and Jasmine Steer are some awesome very new Adelaide artists and I got us all together for an awesome exhibition earlier this year at Spats. I think the interesting thing is that so many new Adelaide artists seem to be communicating a similar message and I think we need to connect and realise this. In high school I interviewed an Adelaide art giant who bitched about younger Adelaide artists and that only made me more interested in finding out who they were. It was really awkward and I knew it wasn’t the direction Adelaide art was going. I’ve been secretly stalking Adelaide art legends Peter Drew and Jake Holmes for years now but they don’t know I exist, it’s really cheeky. I draw inspiration from them because they always seem to be outdoing themselves with bigger and bigger projects and seem to be 100% no drama just art. There are some rockstars around here but for the most part everyone seems keen to connect and join in the communal experience art has brought and always should bring.
Does the Adelaide art scene differ much from that of Melbourne and Sydney? Would you say that artists have a different attitude / perspective here?
Everyone in Sydney and Melbourne is a creative and when everyone is doing it, its harder to stand out. Creatives have an advantage here- we’re a small town and very up and coming. Everyone knows everyone and it’s creating a pressure cooker of creativity. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just getting started here but I feel like there’s this surge in arts taking Adelaide by storm, old and new generations alike.
How would you best describe your art style? How has it evolved to the point where it is now?
Its like a psychedelic Where’s Wally without the Wally and with dopey looking aliens. What started as insane doodles has evolved into an obsession with crispy clean line art and colours so intense and vivid you can almost taste them. I have a lot to learn though, I still don’t really know what I’m doing but apparently people don’t seem to mind that.
What inspired Asylum?
Years of being bounced around every department of the psychotherapy industry, finally ending up in group therapy where we built a massive mosaic and I realised being creative was the solution to everything and that the way we view sanity is so robotic and ignorant of this. Even new approaches to mental health are a little out of whack. Why should everyone fall somewhere on an ever-fluctuating spectrum of depression and mania? That can’t possibly be it for humanity and couldn’t be doing us much good because for as far as I can see there are still plenty of unhappy people walking around. There are no spectrums or rules except to do what you can to stay happy and surround yourself with people who are happy. I dumped my psychology honours degree halfway through because I started to feel like the discipline is making up words when it needs to and then studying these words and in turn trying to oversimplify and categorise the human condition which is such a complex state of existence. Art is an absolutely huge and in some ways forgotten factor in human life and we won’t get much further as a society if we don’t take that into consideration. Every single person comes pre-packaged with creativity and I think now’s a good time for the world to fall as deeply as possible into that because we’re lacking insight and fighting over the shittiest things. Asylum is a testimony to the power that creativity has when it comes to blowing everything out of the water. The word ‘asylum’ carries such a negative connotation but in this case it means peace and creating a sanctuary for yourself. Thinking creatively has changed my life and I get so much enjoyment out of it so I wanted to provide others with the tools to do so too. I would’ve been happy to sell just one copy if it meant just one person was getting my messages. Maybe I could be completely wrong and spewing BS, but I guess then the book wouldn’t have sold as well as it has.
Was it a difficult process to design and illustrate the entire book from scratch? Was it rewarding to finally finish it?
The production process was all-consuming and for a while it was my entire waking life. Whoever said publishing a colouring book was easy clearly never published a colouring book. But once I finished I didn’t know what to do with myself. Now I wanna make another one. I don’t care if adult colouring books go horribly out of fashion, I love them and I get to watch an influx of selfies and instagram pics from people loving Asylum. It’s been a completely positive experience for everyone involved especially me. You get people saying its a fad but this book’s different. It’s cheeky and psychedelic with this darkly sobering undertone that’s impossible to miss once you get colouring into the fine details of the art. Shiz needs to change.
Do you have any advice for young designers looking to further hone their skills?
Don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks, get your stuff out there. As soon as you start seriously looking for an opportunity you’ll get three. Start now and don’t ever stop. Once people ‘make it’ as artists they can easily forget how big and juicy that initial nerve barrier was. My advice to artists scared to make that first leap of faith is to kick that mofo down. You CAN make a living out of this. It costs you nothing!
Have you ever pulled a push door? How has it changed you as a person.
Every time I go to a church. I’ve taken it as a sign
What was your first haircut like and how did it shape you into the person you are today?
My first haircut occured under traumatic circumstances. Until age 5 I violently defended a terrible mullet up until someone on the Wiggly Worms playground asked me why I had girl hair. It was gone the next day. I still violently defend my hair which I regularly bleach the absolute shit out of but like to think my mullet days are well and truly over. And I never looked at Wiggly Worms the same way again. I’m so thankful that I was able to learn and grow from this experience so early in my life.
The Adelaide Set Top 5:
Spats Cafe, followed by the Elephant Walk in Melbourne Street. They’re classics. VILIs always goes down well, Seasonal Garden Cafe in Hahndorf, Cafe de la Paix in Blackwood and Trouble and Strife on Goodwood Road is a funkalicious newbie. 21 Junk Street down South is so so awesome. Oh my god I love food.
Favourite sporting team?
Favourite place to relax?
Driving in my car, or sitting on the toilet.
Rainbow Beach in QLD where I lived for a while. If you can imagine a windless, white sand beach with huge roaring waves and towering rainforest-infested sand dunes littered with four wheel drives under a literally rainbow tainted sky, yeah.
If you were Mayor of Adelaide for the day, what change would you make to the city?
More right turns. also there are still some big ugly blank walls around the place just saying. It’d be so unbelievably cool to see an art piece that extended across multiple buildings on our skyline, viewable from a long distance. I think our city is tight enough for that to work.
Read the original article on the Adelaide Set website here;