Interview with Killustrations artist Bjoern Goosses
Born in the small town of Wesel in the year when Elvis Presley died and AC/DC released „For those about to rock”, Bjoern Goosses has always been a thoroughbred artist, expressing himself through music, poetry & imagery. After taking the first muscial steps by covering death metal classics in a schoolmate´s moldy basement in the early 90s, Bjoern became a member of Germany’s Melodic Death Metal pioneers Night In Gales. With this band he didn’t only release 5 albums and toured Europe and Japan, he has always been responsible for the lyrical and visual elements as well. This aspect has distinguished him ever since and finally made the self-taught artist launch his own design studio Killustrations around the turn of the millennium. Slowly the whole „artwork thingie” changed from personal needs to a multifunctional and globally operating design studio.
Apart from Night In Gales Björn is an active musician in THE RULES (Actionrock/Kick-Ass-Rock) and THE VERY END (Massive German Metal, third album „Turn Off The World” is set for release by Steamhammer/SPV on November 23rd, 2012) Killustrations focuses on cutting edge designs for the music industry. The client list reads like a ‘Who is Who’ of today’s metal scene – including renowned labels like Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Metal Blade, SPV, Candlelight or Earache as well as festivals like the Party-San, Summer Breeze or Death Feast Open Airs and of course numerous music acts like Six Feet Under, Dew-Scented, Sodom, Aborted, Zyklon, Amon Amarth, Norther, Undertow or The Very End, just to name a few.
Though Killustrations mostly does cover artworks and merchandise designs for the international metal scene, Bjoern Goosses’ has never limited his art´s purpose to any specific genre, and his multidisciplinary works have appeared on most diverse products and numerous publications from various genres from all over the globe. So far clients from more than 25 countries have hired Killustrations, hailing from Germany to the USA, from Brazil to Norway, from the UK to Dubai or from Australia to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
A few of Killustrations’ works were already honoured by awards such as the Danish Metal Award „Metal cover of the year” for Anubis Gate’s „Andromeda Unchained” in 2007, or the Classic Rock Society UK Award for „Best album cover 2008″ for Magenta’s „Metamorphosis”.
HMA: How did the passion for the arts started and what is your background?
Bjoern Goosses: The passion for everything art-related – be it visual, audio, culinary, literary or any other kind of art – started pretty early. I wasn´t exactly a spoiled rich kid, but already as a kid I was lucky to learn what quality is about
without taking good things for granted. I´ve somehow been raised with a sixth sense for things beyond normal. I´ve at least always been bored by mediocrity. This shouldn´t sound vain, but I suppose I already knew as a kid it´s better to have a few great things instead of having many not so good things. When it comes to graphic art I think I was into cool imagery ever since I can recall. Yet this doesn´t mean I was the typical drawing nerd. I mean, I DID draw some imaginary cover artworks here and there, or the notorious band logos on my school books. And right, I did enjoy arts class more than math – but I was never a really good painter, nor did I have this explicit urge to draw or paint all the time. I liked it very much, but I also liked watching the A-Team, ridin´my BMX bike or eating cake. I wish I would have followed the classic path for a longer time, then I could incorporate more traditional techniques in my digital artworks nowadays. But it is how it is, and finally my passion for imagery led me where I am now, sitting in front of my PC, typing this interview…
HMA: “Night in Gales” and “The Very End” are your music main projects, do you also manage all of the visuals?
Bjoern Goosses: Actually I just quit Night In Gales, as things have come full circle for me with the last album „Five Scars” and the live shows promoting this album came to and end as well. So besides my easy-come-easy-go rock act The Rules I focus on The Very End right now, who will release their new album soon. But yes, I have managed all the visuals of all bands I´ve ever been in. Actually this was one of the reasons I started Killustrations. The first Night In Gales cover features a classic Andreas Marschall painting, who was one of my favourite artists back then. He did awesome pieces for Running Wild, Sodom, Obituary and especially Blind Guardian – well, I don´t think he even needs an introduction. But whatsoever, he more or less visualized a concept that I had in mind for „Towards The Twilight”, and it came out cool. The artwork of „Thunderbeast”, Night In Gales´ second album, was also based on one of my concepts. This time realized by Thomas Ewerhard, who became a friend over the years and wo still is a respected and succesful colleague nowadays. By the time we released „Nailwork” I thought ‘Hey, why should somebody else realize your ideas?’. So I bought a computer, checked out Photoshop and did my first artwork ever, which is the „Nailwork” album from 2000. I never planned this as a long term project, and for quite a while I only did artworks for Night In Gales and some friends´ local bands here and there. It really all came along very slow, but Rome wasn´t build in a day, and I haven´t been in a hurry, either.
HMA: Is Killustrations a creative digital agency and what services to the industry do you provide?
Bjoern Goosses: I think Killustrations can´t exactly be described as an agency, cause I work alone. But right, my works are 100% digitial at the moment. I plan to work with broader methods in the future, as I´m really interested in sculpting, welding and stuff… I also try to shoot as much as I can myself, and I prefer to always destroy the dress of „The next zombie top model” myself usually. But after all it ends up in a digital artwork, so… But I don´t really see myself providing a service you can book. I do some wicked little custom made pieces of art – but beyond any industry requests or market standards. Of course you gotta make those who buy your art happy if you want them to come back to you sooner or later. But the customer ain´t always right, you know? Killustrations ain´t WalMart. However, if the project sounds interesting, I do graphics for small, simple things like stickers or flyers as well as elaborated full package artworks or stagedrops for bands or apparel design, whatever… I don´t want to limit myself to any kind of category of purposes my art is used for. I have even worked for an educational project of the EU recently. Of course I wouldn´t like my art to be used for any projects standing for doubtful political or religious views or the like. Though most likely my works aren´t suitable for such things anyway. I´m curious what projects the future may bring for Killustrations, and whatever they will be like – I hope they will help me taking the next step and reaching the next level as a creative human being.
HMA: A lot of the time to have a great source of inspiration will get the job done successfully. Is it just a job or a lifetime passion?
Bjoern Goosses: A good mix of both I guess. I don´t live to work. I work for a living. And Killustrations pays my bills. So I of course have to do artworks once in a while, even if I´m maybe not in the perfect creative mood. But finally I was lucky enough to make my passion pay my bills, whch I am very grateful for. I can´t afford a big house, a fancy car or other expensive things, but I am my own boss and do what I like. As long as Killustrations keeps the fridge filled and my car fuelled, it´s all right.
HMA: How do you summon your creative powers?
Bjoern Goosses: That´s something that can be a real pain in the ass. I mean, if you don´t have a basic flow of creativity, you shouldn´t have an art-related job anyway. But damn sure I also have my ups and downs, blockades or simply uncreative moods. Sometimes I think too much about an artwork before I start and waste precuious time with that. Sometimes it´s better to start without really knowing what to do and let the creative process do the rest. Whenever I present a written concept to one of my clients, I say that this is just 50%, the other 50% comes when working on it… In general I try to build up a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. For me a silent room with a tidy workspace, low volume music and a good cup of tea can even be enough at times…
HMA: What’s on the operating table right now, what are you currently working on?
Bjoern Goosses: Just finished the album art package for my own band The Very End. Damn! Yet another job I won´t get paid for… During the next weeks I will work on album art for Final Depravity (Thrash hopefuls from the Ruhr Area), Magenta (AOR/Prog from the UK), Motorjesus (Heavy Rock from Germany) and many more interesting acts. Autumn and winter are usually more busy than spring and summer. Maybe I am not as lazy then haha…
HMA: Do musicians give unachievable directions in terms on what can be done in a budget?
Bjoern Goosses: Definitely! Some people think that with Photoshop, you can do a Hollywood Blockbuster style image for a fifty bucks. I know budgets are tight in the music scene these days, and I always try to do my best, no matter if there´s a big or small budget. But sometimes you simply gotta draw a line. It´s not cool to do half a dozen revisions if you get paid with an apple, you know? But after all I usually have very nice clients, and the work flow is really smooth. If I get stressed out, I just take a look on clientsfromhell.net for 5 minutes and realize how lucky I am with my clients most of the time. A blow job could help you relax and focus on your art again, too.
HMA: Would you say that to be a good graphic designer, is it necessary to be a good painter?
Bjoern Goosses: As I consider myself as a suitable graphic designer but can´t draw or paint well, I´d say no. But it surely helps!
HMAW: Is there one particular skill i.e. lithographs, digital illustration, graphic design, website design, typography, photography that you are exceptionally keen?
Bjoern Goosses: Hmm… I think I´m doing ok in retouching things, combining different photographs, doing digital collages so to say…
HMA: Do you use image libraries for your creative arsenal (assets) as well as collaborating with other artists?
Bjoern Goosses: Of course I use stock photo agencies every once in a while. I can´t afford flying to the USA to shoot the Grand Canyon if I need it for a landscape scenery for one of my works. Also I seldom find rotten body parts in my backyard. The trick is to incorporate these elements into your own art, to adapt and assimilate them. To make them your own. Just like in music it´s very hard to come up with something really new. Most of the time it´s „just” a good new interpretation of what might have been existing before. And it´s ok to follow some masters´ paths. You just should leave your own footprints on these paths…
HMA: In art you have a variety of styles, schools and categories. What would your style and techniques fall under and why? Can you talk to us about your techniques and the symbolism behind the different design elements?
Bjoern Goosses: My technique could probably be described as a digital collage. Creating more or less photorealistic scenes/images from scratch, combining different elements from various sources to a homogenous, stringent whole.
HMA: Art and design influences that have had an impact in your career?
Bjoern Goosses: There are so many great artists out there, and probably one is influenced by way more things you can imagine. On the other hand even your favourite artists don´t necessarily influence your own work. When I first discovered HR Giger fo example I was totally flashed, yet my style is so far away from that. I don´t have a favourite style of visual art, either. It all depends on the specific image. A badly drawn teddybear can send a shiver down my spine if it has soul, while the most elaborate, multi-layered Photoshop work can leave you numb. It´s all in the eye of the beholder, and it´s all in the moment, too. A piece of art can trigger something inside of you this day, but can leave you indifferent the next day. A melody of a deep song can influence one of my artworks more than 1.000 paintings, too… This is really a difficile topic. What brings up an artist´s inmost feelings? Drugs? Life? Love? Loss? Dhiarrea? I really don´t know. But sometimes you shouldn´t think too much about the origin of art, but simply enjoy it instead.
HMA: Cool design/digital illustration tutorials for our readers?
Bjoern Goosses: My best tutorial has always been „Trial and Error”. Surely some basic techniques don´t need to be discovered by yourself, as there a re good tutorials for all kinds of levels. But then again… The more you get told from the outside world, the less unique your works might be. Not inevitably, but maybe. Once in while I buy a magazine or watch some video tutorials, the ‘Video2Brain’ tutorials for example. Yet I think it´s both fun and chellenge to discover most of your techniques on your own. Maybe I just envy those who studied graphic design, while I am a complete self taught, haha… But after all you gotta chose for yourself what methods suits you best. It´s the result that counts.
HMA: Real pleasure meeting and thanks for this interview.
Bjoern Goosses: You´re welcome! It was a pleasure and an honor. You do´t often get the chance to give an interview as a graphic designer, and I really appreciate it! I hope i will finally relaunch my website killustrations.com soon, but for now this will forward you to my facebook page, which ain´t so bad, either. So come by, drop a line or two and enjoy those happy little designs for happy people haha! Cheers!
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