Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mini-Interview Thursday: Kris Verwimp

I first became familiar with Kris Verwimp while checking out the Swedish Viking Metal band Månegarm. 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, Månegarm, 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