Legendary Manc artist Stanley Chow hopes to "bring joy" with star portraits including Alan Partridge

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His work is instantly recognisable and can be seen all over Manchester.

Illustrator Stanley Chow is one of the most recognisable artists in Manchester. You can find his work in public spaces all over the region, including the Great Northern, Hotel Football and, most recently, on the CityLink walkway that connects Piccadilly to the Etihad and Co-op Live.

Stanley’s career began thirty years ago, DJing and designing posters for local venues like Night & Day. Things really took off when he was asked by The White Stripes to design a cover for the band’s album Icky Thump. Elsewhere, he has also worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, McDonald's, and WWE. 

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Until May 30, you can find a collection of his work at The Edge theatre and arts centre in Chorlton. It features 30 portraits of famous actors, musicians and other pop culture figures. 

We spoke to Stanley about his work, the process he uses to create them, as well as some advice for artists looking to follow in his footsteps. 

Mancunian Illustrator Stanley ChowMancunian Illustrator Stanley Chow
Mancunian Illustrator Stanley Chow

With a range of characters it was tricky to pick the final 30 images in the exhibition. The line-up includes iconic characters like Alan Partridge and Columbo, Seinfeld writer Larry David, film director Spike Lee, as well as the cast of Succession or – some of Stanley’s favourites. 

He said: “In the end it became just a lucky dip - how many pictures can I fit in. Looking back, I was thinking I was disappointed that some didn't make it, but hey-ho, that's part of the process.”

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The process of creating the portraits in the first place, however, is much simpler, Stanley says. He starts by gathering photos of his subject, looking for the details that make them unique.

He explained: “On every picture that I see, it's just searching for little quirks in their faces, just tiny things that you wouldn't instantly see, but hopefully I've caught it and I'm just trying to bring it all into one picture.

“You put all the detail in and then take it all out again. That's how I get my style. I try to put things in and then take things out. Hopefully with the things that I take out, I can still retain the likeness of the person that I'm illustrating. The style is to keep it simple. With simplicity, you have to put it all and take it out afterwards.”

I am one of the many Mancunians who have a Stanley Chow print on their walls at home. His range in portraits and designs means there is something for everyone and he has been in the industry for 30 years. It’s this universal enjoyment that people get from his work that makes it so special. And he hopes that his art can “give people a little smile. That's all it is.”

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He said: “Art works in mysterious ways, I guess. It does different things to different people. It can inspire people to want to do more art. I know I do art just because I love it. I hope the takeaway is that art makes people happy. That's all it needs to do for me. As long as it gets a smile and an appreciation of what art is.”

Stanley Chow's exhibition at The Edge theatre and arts centre in Chorlton. Stanley Chow's exhibition at The Edge theatre and arts centre in Chorlton.
Stanley Chow's exhibition at The Edge theatre and arts centre in Chorlton.

Finding joy is also the advice he would give to young creators embarking on a career in the arts world. He told Manchester World: “The important thing about art is that it is joy. The stuff that you illustrate has to bring you joy. You have to enjoy what you do, as opposed to illustrating things that you think other people like. That's the important thing.

“Also, when you're starting out you have to live life, you have to try and get the balance, not that it's the be all and end all. You have to give your life balance as well. You have to try and find joy in life and then bring that into your art.”

The exhibition, A Random Selection of Stanley Chow Illustrations Featuring People from Film, Stage and TV, will be on display at The Edge theatre in Chorlton until Thursday 30 May. All signed, framed prints on display are available to purchase at The Edge. 

Stanley will also be doing an ‘in conversation’ event at The Edge on Thursday May 30. More information, including how to get tickets, can be found on the theatre’s website.

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