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Stanley Chow: From chip paper etchings to celebrities’ favourite artist

By Karen Connolly

YOU will have seen Stanley Chow’s work everywhere. It’s iconic, striking and always relevant. His graphic portraits have included a host of well-known faces from the world of music, film, television, politics and sport – anyone from Barack Obama to Dolly Parton to Nina Simone (more of that later).

One of the latest added to the collection recently set social media on fire with people sharing and asking where they could buy it.

The portrait in question was of Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham and within minutes of the image being posted on Stan’s social media platforms, the Mayor was using it as his Twitter profile image.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

Stan says: “I was really moved by Andy Burnham, as was most of Greater Manchester, for how he stood up and fought for the people who needed financial help most during the pandemic – the forgotten people.

“No one has been speaking on behalf of us so vociferously and I’m proud to have him as our Mayor.

“I just wanted to show my appreciation for what he’s doing by designing this portrait.”

The response to the image has been so overwhelming that Stan has also produced mugs along with the print, with sales going towards the Mayor’s charity.

Born in Manchester in 1974 to parents who had emigrated to England from Hong Kong, Stan says his love of drawing came from when he lived above the family chip shop.

“My parents would be busy with customers so they’d sit me down with a biro and some chip paper to keep me quiet. I’d just sit there and draw all day.”

His love of drawing never left him and when out in town he’d entertain himself by sketching his friends who included Elbow’s Guy Garvey.

Wonder Woman by Stanley Chow

What he really wanted to do though was become a fashion illustrator and spent a few years working for teen magazine like Sugar and Just Seventeen.

“I got sick of doing the same thing all the time,” he says, “and something I couldn’t see myself doing for ever. So I needed to get out and do my own thing.”

Using a computer changed the way he worked and he could send work out digitally after moving away from drawing and painting.

He became a full time illustrator in 2006 with most of his work being portraits.

He has also recently done one of Marcus Rashford – Stan is a lifelong Manchester United fan – and explains his work is influenced by the Panini football stickers he collected in the 80s.

But, back to Andy Burnham who credits Stan for making him look cool.

He says: “I’m so grateful to Stan for making me look cooler than I am and for his incredibly generous decision to donate proceed from this portrait to the Mayor’s Charity.

“This winter is going to be a tough one for many people and the OneGM campaign, supported by the Charity, will be crucial to those who need it. In particular, we will be working hard to support people who have been sleeping rough and the proceeds from this will be a massive help with that.”

The portrait took Stan around four hours to complete and he explained the process.

Marcus Rashford

“I work from two or three photos and amalgamate them together in my head.

“Every picture has its own nuances and I bring them together into one portrait.

“Recently Andy has been seen wearing his glasses a lot so I decided to accentuate those – he’s also got a dinky nose and the glasses sit quite low down. They’re always very distinctive.”

Stan admits he’s been delighted with the response from this particular portrait, especially from Andy Burnham who says the artist is amazing and embodies the Manchester spirit.

He says: “Time and time again I’m blown away by the selflessness and generosity of people living and working in Greater Manchester.

“I must be the luckiest Mayor in the world to lead a city-region where so many people are ready to step up and play their part.”

Stan says he likes to keep his work relevant and is always reacting to people in the news but he does have some particular favourites from his collection that he’s done over the years.

Nina Simone

“If I had to choose a favourite,” he says, “I think it would have to be Nina Simone. That one ticks a lot of boxes for me and the fact it was used on the cover of one of her re-issued albums was incredible. When I saw it I thought it was perfect – they’d used it how it was meant to be.”

Stan has recently completed a series of children’s books for Penguin with the first two – ‘Who is Martin Luther King?’ and ‘Who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?’ available now.

To order an Andy Burnham print or mug visit www.thestanleychowprintshop.com

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