In Conversation With :  
Natalia Stuyk
Visual DJ

London-based video artist and director Natalia Stuyk merges 2D and 3D techniques with photographic elements to create a signature style that incorporates rhythmic motion, infinite loops and over-saturated colour schemes, and has led to collaborations with artists and brands such as Throwing Shade, Annie Mac, Crystal Fighters, Nike and Stella McCartney.

Engrossed in both the music and fashion industries, Natalia is fast becoming known for her immersive live event work where she produces interactive installations and multi-sensory experiences that embrace new technologies in an attempt to push away from traditional digital video techniques.

We managed to catch up with Natalia to find out how she developed the idea of Visual DJing and what new technologies will mean for artist-audience interaction in the future.

What did you study at University?

I went to Edinburgh College of Art and studied Visual Communication, focusing mostly on hand-drawn/traditional animation. When I graduated I had no idea how to use software and now I’ve been using software for so long that I can’t draw anymore.

Being a Visual DJ isn’t exactly a traditional career path. How did it come about?

It’s an additional part of creating videos. I think if you work with musicians the topic of live visuals will naturally come up.

Does any advice from your time studying stick with you today?

Once a tutor told me that artists are like hunters. That constant need to hunt for visual nourishment. The same tutor also told me to stop jumping through hoops because I went through a stage of just making the crowd-pleasing stuff and that definitely sticks with me now - if I’m not being challenged or learning something new I have to move on to something else.

What was your first piece of paid commissioned work and how did you get it?

It was for Kenzo right after they’d re-branded. Mat Maitland had never made a video before and he’d seen some of my green screen work so he just emailed me to come into the office.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?

I am working on a few installations - my work is naturally gravitating towards real life things and away from videos for a traditional screen. It’s a refreshing transition to get to work in events, especially when you see how people are engaging with your work in a more immersive way, not just scrolling past it on their phone or watching alone on youtube.

What is your go to technique for those times when you’re lacking in inspiration?

If I lack inspiration I don’t work at all, I tend to go outside or see friends or go for a run. I don’t try and push it because I get frustrated and feel like I’ve wasted my time.

Which recent advancements in technology have influenced your creative process?

I’ve been working on a VR piece for a few years now and I definitely don’t think I’ll ever finish it. I’m aware and super interested in all that stuff but it hasn’t filtered into my approach to work yet. I’ve been getting more into coding and 3D modelling but only because I’ve needed it to express interactive ideas to clients, but it’s nothing new.

Is your creative process different when you’re working with traditional video compared to multi-sensory projects?

Not really, I always have the idea first and then work backwards, which involves a lot of problem-solving and sketching things out and writing lists. I like to know exactly what route I’m taking to reach the end product. Even with personal video projects I still create animatics down to the very last detail.

Are you generally given creative license based on your style or do clients come to you with more specific briefs?

It’s a weird one because usually when clients don’t know what they want they tend to be less ambitious and less likely to let me take the lead. When you get a creative client who you can easily communicate with it seems there’s more freedom to add my own personal touches on things.

What are some of the most exciting aspects of working with brands?

I’m not sure, they’re all different. Generally speaking there’s usually a creative agency in the way of you & the brand so it’s usually even more convoluted than it needs to be. I much prefer working with other artists or direct with a client so that communication is easier.

In what ways do you think people will interact with visual art in the commercial sphere in the future, away from things such as traditional music video?

I think there’s a general shift across the whole industry towards experiences, whether they be online (VR hangouts, for example) or in real life. And that’s really cool because they’re shifting more value onto human interaction, which I think has been totally neglected since social media took over. I can’t name you a single thing I liked on instagram today, but I remember countless exhibitions and experiences I’ve had with friends over the years.

What advice would you give someone looking to tread a similar path being a visual creator?

When I started out I worked with a lot of far more successful creatives than me, and it took me a while to realise it but I got taken advantage of massively in terms of people taking credit for my ideas and running with them. You think that because you’re junior that’s just how it works but it doesn’t. So I would say try not to be too naive, if something doesn’t sit right then don’t do it.