When Canadian artist Sterling Larose finally decided to start posting on TikTok, he didn’t think much of it. But then he shared his process for directing, editing and animating a music video for Canadian alterna-psychedelic rock band Meltt and people took notice immediately. Sterling’s bold experimentation with maximalist color palettes and tactile collage art takes abstract concepts and fully illuminates them on screen. Somehow each work of digitally-mixed media feels incredibly tangible.
The music video is a frame-by-frame animation using physical and digital tools, plus a lot of committed hours. In conversation, Sterling tells me how his style evolved slowly through periods of organic play. But as the video plays on my phone screen, Sterling’s work feels right on time. His psychedelic wonderscapes are a perfect (and beautiful) contribution to our world’s chaos.
Sterling grew up in Nanaimo, a city on the east coast of Vancouver Island in Canada. At 18 years old, he bought his first 35mm film camera and learned to develop his own pictures. “I really like physical things. I like doing things with my hands,” Sterling says as a statement of fact. When he moved to Vancouver for film school, Sterling took up a DIY approach to music journalism, messaging bands on Instagram and asking to shoot their concerts for free. Shooting live music turned into directing music videos, and combining a toolbox of creativity.
As a film photographer turned collage hobbyist, he took his affinity for scrappy magazine clippings and applied it to video production. “I wanted to make movies. I used to like listening to music and closing my eyes and visualizing whatever I wanted. And you know, like, pretty trippy, weird stuff. Like Strawberry Fields Forever.” With the Beatles as his soundtrack, Sterling’s imagination ran wild.
There are no presets, filters or shortcuts in Sterling’s world. While many musicians opt to throw money at a music video to make it a grand scale Hollywood production, Sterling is hands-on and patient. When I asked him why he gravitates towards such a meticulous process, his answer retains the same crafty spirit of his youth. “It comes from me wanting to elevate projects that didn’t have the budget. One thing I could do is invest a ton of my time into projects where there wasn’t money to, you know, pay other people for their time.”
As an artist, Sterling has trained himself to be adaptable and resilient. After filming the music video for ‘Within You, Within Me’, Sterling printed every frame onto a piece of white paper. Then he spent weeks painting each frame by hand with the materials he found while raiding an art store (not literally, but insatiably). He’s more than detail-oriented – Sterling lives inside each frame, scratching away at the imagery, making colorful marks fraught with friction, and even dipping sheets of paper in watercolors. Each paper frame is scanned back into a digital format with his Epson V600, originally purchased to scan his film negatives. And the editing continues.
Sterling’s videos are quick and dynamic. Watching them, you sort of get the sense that he’s taking you on a roller coaster ride before you even know that you’re at a carnival. “I brought a three minute video to a colorist once and they told me I had more cuts than the 30-minute TV episode they just did,” Sterling laughs.
In some ways, his style was a necessary innovation that enabled him to execute enormous visions, no matter the cash flow. But that being said, his best work emerges through partnership with clients who trust him wholeheartedly and have the means to call in a world-class team. That’s the kind of project that spells F-R-E-E-D-O-M.
“I like where I’m headed. I feel like I’ve found my groove,” says Sterling. He moves with a fluid trust, joining hands with every interest and influence that he has to paint captivating stories in motion. Why not combine all your passions for a truly unique splendor? That’s always an option.
So which video are you most proud of?
“I really love Sink or Swim by Snotty Nose Rez Kids. It was just a lot of fun. I got to do one of my favorite integrations of mixed media that complimented the clean visuals. I’m really proud of that video.”
What inspires you?
“Anton Reva has done tons of really great visual collage stuff. His stuff is absolutely bonkers. Anton has been doing it forever. He’s constantly putting stuff out, like true art pieces one after another, which I think deserves way more credit.”
What’s your dream project to work on?
“I was a huge Beatles fan as a kid. It’d be a dream to work with Paul McCartney – that would be incredible. I’m also a huge Elton John fan.”