Lexington, KY-based Robert Beatty is a graphic designer and music producer that creates abstract, ambigious, psychadelic art both visually and audibly. Most notably, Beatty is known for designing the cover for Australian Psych-Rock band Tame Impala’s 2015 chart-topping album, Currents. The band commissioned Beatty to create an album cover that would be eye catching and appealing when viewed on mobile devices; the way most listeners access new music these days. Since it’s release the album has spent 28 weeks on the top 100 charts in the U.S. Singles “The Less I know the Better” and “Let It Happen” have been listened to over 40 million times on Spotify alone.
At an event curated by Lexington’s 21C Museum Hotel, I was fortunate enough to learn more about Robert Beatty’s works of art. Admission to the museum is free and open 24 hours a day to the public so prior to the talk I snagged a drink from the Lockbox Bar and checked out the installations scattered throughout the lobby. Around twenty to thirty people were in attendance to hear Beatty speak on his creative style and his September ’16 released book Floodgate Companion. The image below was projected on a screen in the room where the event was held.
In a November 2015 Pitchfork Unsung video Robert speaks about his coming to be as an artist. He grew up on a farm in Lexington where he stayed inside, drawing and watching cartoons. His style now represents, in my eyes, many influences.
The “melting” quality that some of his pieces have is somewhat Dali-esque. Robert rarely uses any sharp edges or corners in his work. Most images consist of soft, curved lines that flow freely about, and almost seem to fall off of, the page. He uses classic airbrush techniques when digitally creating his images that give them layers upon layers of color. You can see the influences ranging from metal to melancholy, and from Nintendo to Afro Funk/Soul/Jazz.
The now 34 year old artist’s online portfolio begins with a piece for his own solo electronic neuro-rock project Three Legged Race, done in August of 2002. The most recent piece listed is Floodgate Companion. In between there is a plethora of images to ponder upon. Works done for friend’s album covers and tour posters, food magazine covers, sculptures, and so much more.
A sculpture titled “Egg Timer” consists of an ostrich egg, leather, brass, hot glue and spray paint. An image of the egg is then featured in an album of Three Legged Race’s titled Persuasive Barrier.
Floodgate Companion was published this year in September by Floating World Comics. Of the book Robert conveys, “I wanted it to be something someone might find in a cafe or a vintage bookstore and have no idea what it is. Then they would pick it up and still have no idea what it is.” “Down to it not having a dust cover, but looking like it might once have.” As you flip through the pages you’re left to wonder what world the book came from. And you can start to imagine stories as to what the images could mean.
Of the title Robert disclosed,”I receive a lot of spam emails. I save a lot of them and look through the (cryptic) messages and pictures. I guess this is my way of dealing with the flood of images and messages that I receive. By creating more images.”
And when questions are asked about the attention that has been brought to him and his work by doing the Tame Impala cover, he adds “I don’t really like to focus on work that I’ve already done. I’d rather be creating new work.” Whether it be film, musically, or graphic design; we look forward to whatever work that might be. Check out the playlist below from some of the projects Robert has been involved with.