An Interview with NOICE

Global pandemic, murder hornets, and now an infestation of frogs; thanks 2020! Thankfully the frogs are mostly vinyl based and created by local sticker artist NOICE. Belfast Beyond chatted to him about online sticker trading, all things amphibian, and sticker-bombing Electric Picnic!

Will you introduce yourself?

Hi there, I’m NOICE and I’ve been making art and sticking it on walls for the last 4 years. 

Do you have a background in art, or have you worked in any other mediums?

I’ve loved creating things since I was a kid. In school I enjoyed art class but I was more interested in making stuff on MS Paint than using paints and clay. After I left school my creativity took a back seat for a while – most likely because I was stressing about uni and finding a job. It was only after I started learning to use Photoshop that I started to get into a creative flow. Since then I have become pretty adept with design software – this is how I create most of my NOICE work.

I want to create bigger pieces of street art so I’m currently experimenting with paste ups and spray. Watch this space!

Where did the name NOICE come from? And how did you get into street art/sticker art?

Hmmm, the origin story of NOICE isn’t too exciting. Me and a few friends loved going to music festivals and one in particular (Electric Picnic) had a magazine that they created and distributed every day during the festival. We wanted to try and do something to get into the festival magazine and thought we could stickerbomb the festival site. The night before the event, I drew a little froggy fella in my sketchbook. I really couldn’t tell you why I wrote NOICE in its mouth, but I did. I printed loads of them on my home printer and stuck double sided tape to them on the bus down to the festival.

Once I got back from the festival, I wanted to keep making and distributing stickers. I began to notice other artists around the city and online, this inspired me to start developing my style and creating more stickers. I made an Instagram and a few people asked if they could buy some stickers so I created a shop and started selling sticker packs. Since then I’ve been developing my style and connecting with so many people through street art, it’s been great!!

Do you have any influences, artistic or otherwise?

I take influences from all over the place, but mostly from artists that use bold iconography and simple designs to create strong images and statements. I have real admiration for classic street artists like Shepard Fairey and Keith Haring, they are both super influential in their own right. I really enjoy Clet Abraham’s work, he’s an Italian artist who makes minor alterations to street signs. He’s actually got a few pieces in Belfast, one outside Kelly’s Cellars. I get a lot of my inspiration and ideas from looking at what other artists are up to on Instagram. I love seeing a sticker artist grow and develop their style over time.

From your initial idea, to getting your design on a sticker and onto a wall, how does your process work?

Sometimes a design comes to me really easily because I see something that inspires me and I quickly jot it down. Other times I just like to mess about on Photoshop/Illustrator until I find a design that I like. Sometimes I start a design and then forget about it for weeks… or sometimes years. Then I rediscover it with a fresh set of eyes and turn it into something.

I use a few different methods to make the stickers themselves. When I started, I would print simple designs on my home printer and stick double sided tape on the back. Nowadays I print directly onto sticker paper, or I get them printed locally (big shout out to Windsor Photoprints). A long term goal is to get myself a vinyl sticker cutter so I can do all the production myself. Eventually… 

Then finally I stick them up. I go out for a walk or get on my bike and explore, looking for other pieces of street art I can stick a NOICE beside, or looking for a new spot. Sometimes stickers get taken down on the same day, and there are some that have stayed in the same place for years. Once I’ve put a sticker up, it’s in the public domain and people can do what they want, I don’t really mind as there are many more where that came from!

You collaborated recently with Raveface; are there any other artists or creatives you’d like to collab with?

A local artist called Sam Finnegan recently did an interesting Elizabethan-style take on the NOICE concept and it came out great! I’m very open to collaboration, and love talking with other creatives and getting their perspective on my brand/style. Hit me up on Instagram if you’re interested!

Do you have a favourite artist, or piece of street art in Belfast?

It’s tough to pick but I think my favourite piece is the Conor Harrington piece on the side of the Black Box – I think it’s called ‘Dance by Candlelight.’ It shows two colonists fighting over a dead animal with a third man sitting staring blankly. I love how he blends together photo-realism and graffiti styles.

I enjoy local artists who make really huge and super colourful pieces like Friz, Wee Nuls, and Emic. If you wanna get a really good feel for the calibre of street art in Belfast, take a trip to the area around the Sunflower Bar. There are some really incredible pieces by local and international artists that have a huge range of styles and messages. 

There are a few random pieces I really enjoy, like a really hard to reach tag at the top of the Halifax bank building in Shaftesbury Square. I’ve also seen a load of cryptic celtic symbols appearing around the city. I’d love to know what they mean…

The sticker art scene in Belfast, thanks largely to yourself, has grown quite a bit over the last year or so; do you think it will ever take off in a bigger way, like it has in other cities around the world?

I don’t see any reason why not! The street art scene in Belfast has had a recent resurgence in popularity. Artists are being contacted by local businesses to paint their walls/shutters, and more and more activist groups are using stickers and guerrilla art to spread their message. Seedhead Arts are a local collective that support the growing scene. They organise Hit The North Street Art Festival in Belfast every year where artists gather around North Street/Kent Street and paint huge pieces. I’m really glad to see they are going ahead with the 2020 edition of the festival. It’s such a great buzz and the result is lots of fresh, exciting art on the streets!

There’s no lack of creative output and passion in our city, and we can see so much more art on the streets than there was a few years ago. The street art scene has already taken off in a big way and I hope to see this trend continue.

Earlier this year, you exhibited some work with Take Up Space, a group working to end the negative stigma associated with mental health. Are there any other social issues you’re aiming to bring attention to with your art?

Working with Take Up Space has been an extremely fulfilling experience for me. Take Up Space is the first time I have ever displayed my own work in a gallery. The support that these people have shown has contributed in a positive way towards my own mental health and has given me a renewed ambition to keep creating. 

My day-to-day work is in the arts & events industry. I have worked to develop arts & crafts activities for young people, and would love to incorporate street art into that. Sticker art gives people an accessible way to express themselves and display art in public spaces. I would love to take street art classes with young people and see what sort of ideas they come up with!

Your sticker featuring Arlene was one of my favourites 🙂 Will we ever see her on another of your designs, or any of her political ‘friends’?

Hahah thank you, she’s great. Ive always said I don’t want to get too political as the imagery I use is quite innocent and fun. However the Arlene Frogster design has been extremely popular, so I’m going to be releasing some more political satire stuff! Keep an eye out for Jacob Rees-Frogg around the streets of Belfast…

How has Covid-19 affected your output? And do you have any plans for when the lockdown is fully lifted? 

Like many others the last few months have been pretty tough, and at the start I didn’t really have any motivation to make anything. But over the last 2 months I have been creating a lot and going for long walks to slap stickers around the place. I’ve also been trading like crazy over lockdown. Sticker artists from around the world have been trading over lockdown as a way to connect with people and bring the world closer together in a time when we feel quite isolated. I’ve linked up with loads of other artists in Ireland and the UK, as well as Germany, USA, South America and beyond. It’s nice to know that my art is on streets across the world, and it’s a great feeling to introduce an international artist to Belfast and share their art with the city.

Don Dildo, Burnex, Mutie, Pelastk, Zombie Art Squad, Xiao, OsA, Scab Salad, The Martians, and NOICE

Finally, is there anyone you want to shout-out, or anyone we should check out online?

There’s heaps or artistic talent coming out of Belfast. I’ve already mentioned a few, but that’s only scratching the surface. FGB is one of the most prolific in Belfast, he works with spray, stickers, paste ups and more. His style is super positive, and he’s got loads of art up around the city. FREE FACE is a sticker artist from Dublin that I am really enjoying at the minute. He hand draws most of his stickers individually which is really impressive. Also check out Glen The Frog from South Carolina if you enjoy frog-based stickers. 

I’d like to recommend the Seedhead Arts Street Art Tour to anyone that’s new to street art in Belfast, it’ll give you an insight into how Belfast has changed over the years and the creative response to those changes. 

Finally, a big shout out to Another World Belfast, a local charitable organisation that does incredible amounts to help homeless and underprivileged people in Belfast. They have worked with local artists and creatives to get their message out to the masses. If you live in Belfast you’ve definitely seen their SHOW SOME LOVE spray on the streets. Check them out online and donate if you can!

Make sure to give NOICE a follow on Instagram and go to their online store to buy some froggy stickers to adorn your own walls with!

All photos courtesy of NOICE

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