Exploring your inner-self and expressing what you find in there
I’ve been drawing my whole life essentially, from an early age of 8 or 9 I kind of knew that it would be my future. My earliest drawing or artwork that I remember was a stick-figure drawing of the Backstreet Boys (my favourite band at the time) at 5 years old, the majority of my drawing throughout my childhood until high school though was almost exclusively fan art of Dragonball Z (laughs). In my first year of high school I ended up missing out on close to half a year’s worth of classes due to my Chronic Fatigue, I almost always would be in the library reading graphic novels and of course drawing. I consider this quite an important period in my life as a self-taught artist as it’s when I began drawing “realistic” things as opposed to cartoons etc. This was also a pretty important year as it’s when my metal journey began, forever changing my life and my original artwork going forward (for anyone interested my 5 initial ‘gateway’ bands were Disturbed, Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Lamb of God and Pantera (yes, sometimes I cringe at my old self too)).
In my final 3 years of high school is when my love for metal really began seeping into my artwork. In painting class was where the metal came through the most, I painted a lot of political stuff but probably most memorable was a series of Nazi Zombie paintings. Looking back on them they are quite in bad taste and I’m a little embarrassed about them, they bordered on a Cannibal Corpse album cover look, mutilated zombie corpses, crucified nazi zombie generals etc. Despite the subject though even featuring the dreaded swastika I managed to receive the highest marks for them, I imagine more for the technical aspects of the paintings. Straight out of high school I studied fine arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, I stayed there for 3 years before quitting and not doing my final year. While there I got really into conceptual art, mostly doing video works and performance works. In one of my performances I locked myself into a chicken cage that I could only just fit in along with a chicken as well for 3 hours straight did this 3 days in a row so I was in there for a total of 9 hours, without talking, food, water. I loved making these artworks, I loved the freedom allowing me to just do straight-up weird stuff, I decided to leave though due to the challenge of getting a job afterwards and not completely loving the culture surrounding contemporary art, which I found not so much elitist as it is disingenuous.
As soon as I left art school I got straight back into drawing and illustrating, this is when I thought of doing artworks for metal bands. Over the course of a month or so I had done a handful of works I was really happy with and basically just tried my luck shopping around my designs to any bands I could get in contact with. I mostly used Facebook messaging, the majority of bands that allow messages though did not ever see the messages which is totally understandable but I managed to get incredibly lucky and had German metalcore band Caliban replying to me and loving one of my designs enough to put it on a t-shirt.
Being quite young and at a very early stage in my career if you will I’m not too keen on pinning myself down to a single technique or relying on one, I’m wanting to always try new things and mediums, I occasionally dabble in sculpture and recently got into watercolour painting which I’d love to incorporate into my metal illustrations at some point when I’m confident enough. That aside, over the course of my drawing life I feel I have developed my own unique drawing style, it’s a loose, Scribbly but also quite beautiful style. I believe it was born out of my sometimes impatient nature of wanting to get works done quickly as I sometimes lose interest in things quickly haha. I do have something of a process which I use for a lot of my metal illustrations, which I believe allows them to be created as organically as possible. I usually try to avoid doing many small concept sketches or I really just avoid that kind of pre-planning altogether and begin the final design straight away. I start with a focus on just one element, say something like a skull, after completing that I basically analyse everything about this skull from its positioning on the page, to how big it is or what angle it’s on etc. from this I will come up with what subject could work well with the design and add that on. So I basically just rinse and repeat this method, adding elements to the design one by one and extensively analysing in between. I love this method as I never know how the final design looks as I don’t pre-plan, it just feels like the design grows organically before your eyes rather than it already being manufactured before it’s started. It’s not always easy coming up with a amazing design but as long as you’re meticulous and always mindful of what you’re putting down it’ll be in good hands.
I try to stay as traditional as possible, so pens, pencils, paper at the moment, I’d also soon like to get back into painting and incorporate that medium into my designs so that my body of work grows with more diversity. I use Photoshop but only really to clean up the scans of my work or sometimes fill in the background with white or black, all the lines in my work are hand-drawn.
My philosophy would be to never be 100% satisfied, either with a specific artwork or your whole body of work. Always push yourself when you have the opportunity, always be moving forward and not becoming complacent. I’m at an early stage in my artistic life where I still haven’t completely found my ‘thing’, and I like that as I’m constantly searching and trying different styles and subjects, trying to find myself. Because that’s really what art is partly, exploring your inner-self and then expressing what you find in there.
Metal music is an incredibly important part of my life and has been for a good 7 or 8 years now. A lot of days I’m listening to metal music for 6-8 hours a day, it’s an absolute constant in my life, some days I’m even more likely to listen to metal than I am to make myself some dinner. The art I make isn’t just to make some money on the side, the art I make is born out of a love for the music, a tribute or a way of giving back. I’ve never played an instrument before so I want my art to kind of be a way of contributing to the genre or the larger culture in some way. So that I’m not just a consumer. Right now I’d say my latest illustration (the wolf savaging the man) best defines my technique. I’d like to describe it as rough, dark and twisted but with that subtle touch of humour which I’ve always thought a very important thing to have in one’s art.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.