Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mini-Interview Thursday: Kris Verwimp

I first became familiar with Kris Verwimp while checking out the Swedish Viking Metal band MÃ¥negarm. After delving into this genre of music more and more, I began to see Kris' work frequently. I looked him up and found he lived in Belgium. I saw that he had an impressive and extensive list of accomplishments. Kris has done a huge number of record covers, T-shirt designs, exquisite logos and various graphics. To name just a few of the bands he's worked with: Absu, Hordak, Immortal, MÃ¥negarm, Marduk, Thyrfing, Vital Remains and Wolfchant. Kris continues to keep his plate full, working at a prolific rate and improving his skill all the while. He has a book entitled 'The Seventh Serpent' which is available in the Store section of his website. I am honored that Kris agreed to this interview.

Mike Sutfin: When I look at your artwork, of course I take in the physical beauty and skill involved, however to me your ideas are incredibly cool. Your compositions seem to compliment the bands to perfection. When ideas come to you, are they often inspired by folklore or history? If so, can you please elaborate on one instance where this happened?

Kris Verwimp: Well, probably the reason why my CD cover artworks compliment the bands so much is because I mainly get my inspiration from listening to the music. I always ask the bands that I work for to send me some samples of their songs, or even a rehearsal tape. Then I try to take enough time to get into the whole thing ( music, lyrics, titles, etc... ) and then I usually get to a point where I try to imagine what the cover would look like. Sometimes I even imagine myself walking into a music store and asking for the latest CD of the band in question. Of course, then I try to imagine how the cover would look like... It's never really easy to find the right composition for a band. A cover needs to be striking and interesting to the casual music buyer. People need to notice it for some reason, so the composition is really important.
My covers can be very different in subject or style. That's because I always try to adjust my works to the musical style of the bands. When it concerns Viking or Pagan metal bands, often the subjects are about mythology or history of course. And that's what interests me personally the most as well. I really love historical paintings. So it's not so difficult for me to imagine a historical scene. It's not easy to name one case in particular, but one of my most inspiring efforts was probable the Absu "Tara" artwork. You must know that I almost never travel, but in 2000 I had planned a two-week vacation in Ireland with some friends. I was going to visit some ancient sites, of which one was the hill of Tara ( a legendary place where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned for a period of more that 5.000 years! ). Then, some days after everything was arranged I got a letter from Absu, informing me that their next album would be a concept album about Tara ( imagine my surprise about the coincidence)! Of course, this was a very inspiring situation and I immediately thought of some plan to make this really special. When I finally arrived at the Tara site, I gathered some samples of soil and leaf tissues . I even took some soil from the ground where the "stone of destiny" stands. In times of old there used to be two stones... driving through them with a chariot would lead you into the Celtic underworld "Cythraul"! I also spent enough time at the place to get into the atmosphere. It was really an amazing experience... almost feeling the ancient kings whispering in the wind. I even did some sketches at the site. Afterwards, when I got back gome, I mixed the soil with acrylic paints and started painting the artwork with this mixture. It went remarkably well. There was a difference though, between the actual Tara and the Tara described in the music. So I chose to paint an imaginary version of Tara... Tara the way I think it could have looked 5.000 years ago in that dark and distant past... I'm still glad that I had this opportunity to create a painting that has a true physical and mystical connection to both the band Absu and it's musical and lyrical vision and this ancient site that I was able to visit.

MS: That is an amazing story. This is the best interview ever! Second Question...having inquired myself, I know you choose not to sell your original artwork. I think that is very admirable. Can you explain your reasons?

KV: I'm afraid that the reasons are not always easy to explain to people. Each of my works reminds me of a part of my personal history and also represents one of the many worlds that I've been to in my imagination. Each one is special to me... I really can't imagine selling my works and not being able to look at the originals whenever I want to. I could never create any artworks just to sell them. My motivation has always been to transfer music to illustrations in the best possible way that I can think of. To create something on paper just by listening to sounds and to be able to share this vision with other listeners at some point... that's what drives me I guess.

I also believe that art can never be about money in the first place. I don't think money can be the inspiration. I have a daily job ( it has nothing to do with painting or art in any way ), so as long as that provides me with a steady income to lead a normal life, I choose to hold on to my originals ...

MS: It's inspiring to see you have kept your integrity and honor. Not only does it show in your work but it must be good for the soul. Last question...I think you've illustrated more record covers than anyone on the planet! Do you know the exact number at this point?

KV: Haha! Really, this is the most difficult question... I've lost all count to be honest! I've worked for more that 100 bands and I did more than one cover for a lot of them. For manegarm I did 6 covers; for Absu 4 covers, Sear Bliss 5, etc... not to mention Marduk , Suidakra, Thyrfing, ... the list goes on and on. Sometimes I even wonder myself where I ever found the time to create this many covers...

KrisVerwimp Website
KrisVerwimp MySpace

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oil Slicks and Inky Darkness Sketchbook #2

At the San Diego Comicon 2006 I introduced my second book/zine of black and white sketches and ink drawings. The title 'Oil Slicks and Inky Darkness' comes from my love of coffee (a good black cup has an oily look to it's surface) and working late at night. Then there's the double meaning, a reference to Oil paints and India Ink. I have a lot of time to think about stuff. I still have some copies of the book left which are available in the STORE section of my website. If requested, I do these quick sketches inside the book's first page. Here's 3 recent attempts:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mini-Interview Thursday: RK POST

Here is the first of several mini-interviews I have planned. Thursday is the 4th or 5th day of the week and Im asking 4 or 5 questions to people I've met along the way. I hope to quickly introduce people I dig. One of the greatest things about my job as a freelance artist is meeting and/or working with incredibly talented people from a variety of fields. Thru that process perhaps I get to know these people more than the average person and that's why I felt these short and sweet discussions would be interesting. I hope you enjoy them! There will be more to come...on Thursdays only!

RK Post Interview May 24, 2007

Randy Post and I first met at Northern Illinois University. A state school located in the middle of a corn field know as Dekalb, Illinois. We both studied under the mighty Mark A. Nelson who was not only an important professor and friend in our lives but an accomplished professional. The first time I met Randy he was showing around his Road Kill photo-album/reference guide in Mr. Nelson's classroom. Since then, he came up thru the ranks working on all sorts of products related to the gaming industry. TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons soon brought him on board as a staff Illustrator! He had full access to the clandestine headquarters located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and later Renton, Washington. Other interesting projects include concept design work for the Aliens vs. Predator movie and over 100 Illustrations for the Star Wars guidebook on Alien races. Randy now works on video games full-time at Sony Online Entertainment in Seattle while simultaneously working on choice freelance jobs. Lastly, he has a collection of his work titled 'Postmortem' which can be found both online and in finer book stores.

Mike Sutfin: When we spoke at the San Diego Comicon 2K6 you mentioned all your new color work is done digitally. Is this still the case? What are the advantages of working on the computer?

Randy Post: Pretty much everything I do is digital now...nature of the beast.  With all of the moving I have done lately, it has become a necessity....I don't have a place to paint.  Biggest advantage is portability.  I work on my laptop a lot and I can pick a spot and work there.  Change it up.  Speed is good too.

MS: When you say 'nature of the Beast' are you referring to the video game work you are involved in?

RKP: Nature of the beast...the industry the way it stands now.  Illustration or video game work.  Having a final digital render saves so much time in the end and the tools to do the work start to finish are getting much better.  It is fast, clean, and requires little set up. 

MS: Any disadvantages?

RKP: The biggest downside is not having a physical piece of work when you are done.  It seems to be a shortcut that seems removed from the traditional way of doing things.....or at least from the way I came up.  Digital isn't going away and will always be a valued asset in any illustrators skill set.  There is the quandary.

MS: What was it like to be a TSR Staff Artist and stand among some of the best Sci-Fi Fantasy artists like Brom, Jeff Easley, Todd Lockwood and Allan Pollack?

RKP: It was amazing at TSR, I was essentially a nube learning how to paint when I was hired.  Granted it was the last days of Rome when I was there and there only a few of us around.  Fortunately, when Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR, they maintained the staff illustrators and beefed our numbers up a little.  It is pretty much a thing of the past, but I will always look back fondly.

MS: Cool, I was so inspired and motivated the few times I got to visit you guys at TSR. Last question...There might be a person reading this blog who is interested in a career similar to your own. Are there any words of advice you give to someone interested in working on video games? What software is important to master? Any classes you might recommend?

RKP: As for video is generally a salaried position and depending on where you are at, stability is never guaranteed.  The pay is usually pretty good though.  Can't beat having benefits either.  The industry has come leaps and bounds and the need for genuinely talented artists is necessity.  Photoshop as an art tool is a must...that has always been a constant.  Painter is a plus.  As for 3-D, knowing both Maya and 3DS Max covers most studios.  There are a few good schools across the country, I used to work next to DigiPen...and Nintendo sponsored school completely devoted to video games.  Hope that helps some.
RK Post Myspace
Contact RK Post:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Burnt Offerings

I was asked to contribute to Refill Magazines exhibition of Skateboard graphics cut into wood using laser technology. Over 50 artists are involved including Aaron Horkey, Fafi, Bigfoot, Usugrow, Pushead, Vernon Courtland Johnson VCJ, and Jim Phillips. Each deck is limited to 50 copies. The show opens April 5th 2007 in Sydney Australia. Openings in LA, NYC and a tour of Europe are being scheduled. For more information and complete list of artists check out:
Refill Seven Myspace

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Azeroth or Bust

Here lies my second installment of Illustrations for Upperdeck's licensed trading card game 'World of Warcraft'. Blizzard Entertainment created what seems to be one of the most addictive/successful online games in existence. Now when Warcraft players are somehow torn from their home computers and forced to leave their homes...guess what? Now they can play the Warcraft card game! You don't even need electricity! Just a pile of cards and maybe some nachos. I have never actually played this game but when I see any kind of screenshot or video clip I feel the urge to try, but I most likely wont. I'm more of a stand-up-Galaga-at-the-arcade-with-a-Skateboard-leaned-up-against-the-machine kind of guy (preferably Pinball Pete's in Ann Arbor Michigan)...
World of Warcraft TCG

Friday, May 18, 2007

I ride for Peet's Coffee & Svenhard's Raisin Snails

Above, my favorite breakfast. Below: So, I had my phone in my pocket, I quickly got up from a table at dinner the other night, I feel my phone press into the corner...crack. I didn't really wanna pay for a new one so I made it look like the classic Black Flag cover. Trying to be more positive these days. The glass is half full and all that baloney. Apparently, from this picture, we can see I like the classic punk logos.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Apprentice

Everyday Marlon requests this spot in the loft I built. I think he thinks he's helping me work. He likes when I sing Misfits songs out loud. The people next door probably don't...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ride the Lightning

In March, 2007 Foundation Skateboards released their very metal influenced skate video 'Cataclysmic Abyss'. Since I am very much into Metal and I skate, I guess they thought I was the man for the job. I was asked to come up with a cover concept as a sort of homage to Frank Frazetta. The first sketch I did was more humorous and skateboarding involved. The chick in the picture was originally wearing elbow-pads and Knee-pads and riding a skateboard in a kneeling position(shown above). I was also planning to do a full wrap-around cover. We ended up sticking with the traditional fantasy composition you see on the DVD cover. Not sure which version I would have liked better? Either way, this is on my top 5 list of favorite projects. Tod Swank is an ex-pro skater who now owns Foundation Skateboards and he is the coolest. I thank him for asking me to be part of this project. Tum Yeto staff artist Nathan Bell who is also the proprietor of Pony Attack helped me out along the way as well and designed a cool limited version of the DVD that looks like a 7" record. Check out these two new decks with the DVD cover split across them. Then last we have a picture of Foundation Flow dudes Sean and Chris with the two decks. (Note: Click on images for larger view)