Robust Worlds - Emotional Planet

Wooden Wand- Briarwood

Secret Circuit- Afterlife

Real Estate - Easy

Raglani- Husk

Outer Space Akashic Record

Midday Veil - The Current

La Big Vic - Cold War

La Big Vic - Actually

Idiot Glee - Paddywhack

Idiot Glee

Idiot Glee -Tour Poster


Ga'an - cropped

Flower Man - Slowmo Matterade

Burning Star Core - Challenger

Burning Star Core - Challenger

Boomslang Music Festival Poster

Acoustic Division12" Sleeve

Possesion film poster

Robert Beatty: Mindscape Visionary

By Christian J Petersen

Robert Beatty‘s body is in Lexington, Kentucky, but his mind is surfing on a melting rainbow high above the astral plane. His electrifying work immediately dispels the popular myth that the art of the record cover is dead. In fact, he is one of the greatest creators of music-realated art. Beatty is also a musician, simultaneously working on numerous eclectic projects (including Three Legged Race and Hair Police) and has made many music videos for himself and others. Put simply, Robert Beatty is a renaissance spaceman. He was kind enough to visit our dimension for a short while to answer our questions about his life and work.

What did you like drawing most as a kid?
Robert Beatty: I guess I was drawing typical kid stuff. I started out drawing things from Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, then The Simpsons and things from Mad magazine — pictures of Alfred E. Neuman and Spy vs. Spy. I used to make up tons of cartoon characters and fake comics, but never really made actual comics with any of them, just covers and characters. Then I got into Monty Python, Ren & Stimpy and Liquid Television and it all went further out from there.

Do you remember the first record cover that really made an impression on you?
Honestly it was probably a Weird Al tape or something! It would have definitely been a cassette, not an LP. I do remember seeing the Robert Williams painting from Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction on the bus home from school one day. It totally scared the shit out of me but made me want to know more about everything. As far as when my tastes started to develop more,  all of the early Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention records that Cal Schenkel did were a big deal for me. I feel like things that were really elaborate and enveloping were the ones I spent the most time with. All the early Boredoms records, Cornelius’ Fantasma, Daft Punk’s Homework, a lot of the stuff that the Designer’s Republic did for Warp Records. Artwork that had tons of personality and you could really get lost in while listening to the records.


How does your technique of creating music compare to that of making art?
They are both very intuitive and improvisational. I’ll just start with an idea and work with it until I’m happy with it. Sometimes I am looking for a specific end result and sometimes I’m just seeing where the work takes me. This applies to my music and my art.

How did your distinctive airbrush style develop?
I have always been huge fan of airbrushed stuff and just decided to see if I could emulate it in the computer. It started out kind of rough, but eventually I started to get the look I was going for. I’ve developed the process over several years and it probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else if I tried to explain it.

La Big Vic - Cold War

Do you ever feel typecast by this style?
I am definitely getting to a point where I am more excited about a project if someone wants something that isn’t in the airbrush style. I love it and I love doing it, but it gets old if that is all I do. I am working on a few covers right now that I think people will be surprised by that are all in different styles. Everyone always mentions the Burning Star Core Challenger cover as one of their favorites when coming to me to work on a project. That was really the first time I attempted the airbrush style and it seems to have made a big impression on a lot of people.

What influence does the natural world have on your work ?
I am a huge fan of artists like Ernst Haeckel and Karl Blossfeldt who took things from nature and made them seem otherworldly  They were very good at emphasizing the geometry and patterns of plants and animals to turn them into something abstract. Cordyceps and similar fungi seem so alien and amazing to me. I try to emphasize changes between states of matter in my work as well, so that’s where much of the organic feeling comes from things melting and cracking open and transforming into something new and unknown.


When art is used for practical purposes, it can lead to it not being taken seriously as “real” art. Instead it becomes “graphic” art. What are your thoughts on that?
This is something I think about quite a bit. I’m not sure how I feel about this just yet, I’m still developing my thoughts. I do so many different things and I’ve had a relatively great amount of success based solely on work that is commissioned or many people would view as commercial. I do view all of the work I do as my own, but when it comes down to it, the record covers are part of someone else’s work, so it is hard to resolve sometimes. I haven’t really felt any prejudice for my art being “graphic,” but I’m also not afraid to try anything and have a pretty diverse body of work, so maybe people are just confused. I would definitely like to spend more time working on installations and doing more art that is my own, but it’s is much harder to get the exposure when it’s not on the front of a record cover. I’m not too worried about it. I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I’m always trying to find what’s next and push myself to do as much as possible. I would recommend everyone read Gary Panter’s Rozz Tox Manifesto; it has been a great inspiration when dealing with this. I’d like to know if he still agrees with everything he said in it, as it was written in the early ’80s.


Do you consider your work psychedelic?
I consider psychedelic to mean anything that can transport you to somewhere else or make you feel something you don’t normally feel. It seems to me to be heavy handed to say anything you do is psychedelic, because it’s up to the listener/viewer, but I don’t mind my work being called psychedelic. What changes one person’s life might be total garbage to someone else and that is perfectly fine. I also don’t necessarily like the associations with psychedelic drugs, which I have never done (which seems to surprise people). If a work of art can transport you to another place without any substance it is very powerful.

Why have you never taken psychedelic drugs?
I’ve just never been interested in trying them. I’ve got enough going on in my head already, I don’t need help. When you make music and art that is out there, many people assume the only way you’ve gotten to that point is by doings lots of drugs. So many people think noise music is only to be enjoyed when messed up. I’m sure psychedelics have made an impact on me second hand as I am influenced by art and music that was made by people under the influence of them. I have nothing against people that have done them, but I also know a lot of people that regret doing them. My view is complicated for sure.


Is it important to be into the music to create artwork for bands?
I can’t say I’ve been 100 percent behind all of the music I’ve done artwork for, but I also have never turned anything down because I hated the music, which is definitely a possibility! Luckily I’ve had the good fortune to do artwork for some of my favorite records of the past few years.

Your work would seem to lend itself perfectly to animation. Is that something you would like to pursue? 
I’m obsessed with animation, but I’m not sure I have the patience for it. I’ve done some very minimal things in some videos, but nothing too substantial. I’d like to try to do more, but we’ll see.

What are the best things about Lexington, KY? 
Lexington is kind of a mess but I love it. It’s beautiful, it’s cheap, there are amazing people doing amazing things. It does have it’s downsides being a pretty small college town, but I’ve been a ton of places and I am always happy to come back here. Really, it’s just a lot of people doing their own thing because they can afford to and there’s no pressure. There are also a lot of people that only care about the UK Wildcats.


Describe the art scene there.
There are a couple of amazing galleries here — Institute 193 and Land of Tomorrow — that have completely changed the art scene in Lexington in the past few years. Before that there was never really anything I felt like I was a part of, but they do great work and done so much for Lexington. There are a lot of amazing and diverse artists all doing great work. The mayor is also very supportive of art and comes to openings all the time, which doesn’t hurt.

If you could go back to the future and make the artwork for any existing album, what would it be?
Probably a record I love that has a terrible cover. Spacemen 3? All of their record covers are pretty bad.