Posts highlighting some of extreme music’s most talented graphic artists, photographers and designers.
It’s been ages since I’ve featured an artist on here, so I figured I should go through my list and pick someone whose style and subject matter falls a little outside of those typical of the genre. Argentinian artist and illustrator Santiago Caruso definitely doesn’t fit the mold of your usual album cover artist. He produced the striking artwork for October Falls‘s upcoming album The Plague of a Coming Age, but aside from that he hasn’t really done much metal-related work. His portfolio is still quite impressive however; he has created illustrations and covers for books, including an illustrated version of H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Dunwitch Horror, and has produced several other album covers and layouts. He has also done numerous exhibitions of his work in the US and in Argentina.
While the usual skulls, zombies and other horrific elements do make some appearances, Caruso’s subject matter isn’t restricted to the usual metal fare. Surrealist elements show up quite a bit, and in fact Caruso is part of the Beinart Surreal Art Collective. He’s also got an interesting section on his site titled ‘Historic’ which contains his artistic interpretations of things like Easter Island’s original appearance and ancient Egyptian burial practices. Pretty cool stuff.
I’m always a sucker for artists who give glimpses into their creative process, and Caruso delivers with some unfinished sketches that appear alongside the completed works in a few sections of his site. It sort of looks like he begins with rough digital sketches that map out the basic design, colors and shading, and then he slowly adds in details and finer lines to complete the image. It’s fascinating because the textures on some of the close-ups almost look like watercolor with the way that the colors bleed into one another, while others look like they were done with pen and ink. Caruso’s style is an interesting departure from some of the other digital artists I’ve featured whose finished works strive for a more polished, realistic look.
Caruso has a Shop section of his site in which he states that pretty much any of his works can be sold as a print. I’d imagine that if you search around you can find some of the books he’s illustrated for sale as well.
Thanks to German black metal band Infestus‘s latest album E x | I s t, I’ve discovered yet another dark and fucked up artist whose style suits my tastes perfectly. French artist Eric Lacombe‘s specialty seems to be horribly disfigured portraits and distorted figures. Whether working with acryllic paint or simple ink and pencil, his figures often feature huge, cavernous holes where eyes and mouths should be, and his rough, fragmented strokes sometimes make his subjects’ faces look burnt beyond recognition, or worse.
Polish artist Andrzej Masianis bears some similarities to other artists I’ve featured recently both stylistically and in terms of subject matter, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to feature him on this site. He came to my attention as a result of some recent cover artwork he did for the Temple of Torturous label’s reissues of Greek ambient black metal act Spectral Lore‘s first two albums. While browsing through his portfolio some other paintings looked really familiar, so I’m sure Spectral Lore isn’t the only band that’s utilized his services.
What really made Masianis’s work stand out for me is the extreme detail he puts into his drawings and paintings, giving them a very unique, creepy appearance. Also, many of his drawings and paintings seem to center around themes like the apocalypse, and the way he depicts such scenes of battle with clusters of celestial beings really reminds me of some of Doré’s etchings. Masianis also seems to do a lot of fantasy art as well, with scenes from series like Narnia and The Lord of the Rings popping up frequently.
Unlike a lot of the artists I’ve featured, Masianis has a pretty strong internet presence. Not only does he have an official site, but he’s also on Facebook, MySpace and DeviantArt. Both the official site and his DeviantArt have pretty extensive galleries of his artwork. He has some paintings for sale from his official site, but the store is all in Polish, which makes things a bit difficult for those of us in the US.
Since I already posted about Cynthia’s Hell survey I should probably give some attention to her actual artwork. Cynthia is the creative force behind ThornyThoughts Artwork, and lately she’s contributed artwork to bands like Urfaust, Self Inflicted Violence, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Aosoth, and a few others. She’s designed some pretty sweet band logos as well.
Cynthia’s style is easily recognizable – her works are often in simple black & white and seem to be either etched or sometimes drawn with ink. As with Saint John’s work with Inkshadows, this style works perfectly in the context of black metal, so its no surprise that ThornyThoughts has become one of the main providers of artwork for Urfaust’s releases and merchandise. It also helps that Cynthia’s imagination yields some particularly disturbing imagery, both beutiful and morbid at the same time.
Cynthia was nice enough to provide a little insight into what inspires her and her artwork (and name-drop some excellent bands, a few of which I’d never heard of):
A great source of inspiration is probably failure and the chaos in my head. It’s a mistake to give everyone else the fault for things going wrong. In reality you should work on your own mistakes as well. So what I’m doing is (as long as it’s a personal work) a kind of self reflection or a trial to ‘ban’ the horrors and endless questions of every day life onto a medium, maybe kind of a self-therapy. It’s processing negativity by turning it into productivity through ‘art’.
Of course I find inspiration in music, art, graphic novels, books, films, conversation and dreams. As long as it moves and touches me, gives birth to feelings and visuals inside me, I’m happy with any genre.
If you need ‘proper’ examples: the islandic/swedish BM Band Skendöd inspired me with the album Vanskapt as it meant a real musical ‘illustration’ of a dark time in my life. Listening to it and feeling understood was largely satisfying to me and inspired me to do something similar – processing and banning my personal abyss onto a medium like I explained above. I admire people who have the gift to illustrate a whole train of thoughts and feelings with its ups and downs. Other examples in music I admire are Ikuinen Kaamos: The Forlorn, Self Inflicted Violence: A Perception Of Matter And Energy, Slumber: Fallout, Skogen: Vittra, Totalselfhatred s/t …and many more in other genres.
In art I admire since I was a little kid Hieronymos Bosch, Käthe Kollwitz and Zdzislaw Beksinski and Enki Bilal.
ThornyThoughts currently doesn’t have an online store, but you can buy original etching prints of her work by contacting Cynthia. She also mentioned that Viva Hate Records will be releasing poster prints of her work for Der Weg Einer Freiheit, with each personally signed by Cynthia.
If you’re interested in her work, check out the ThornyThoughts page on MySpace for several galleries of her prints, shirt, album and logo designs!
19th century Belgian artist Félicien Rops (1833-1898) worked with a variety of different techniques, but he’s rather unusual in that he is most well-known for his drawings rather than his paintings. His work tends to be very symbolic and often contains erotic and Satanic images, which is likely why some black metal bands like Conspiracy and Ayat have begun utilizing his artwork on covers of their recent albums. Women are also very frequent subjects of his works, although his paintings tend to focus more on depicting landscapes.
Rops was strongly influenced by Charles Baudelaire, and through his relationship with Baudelaire he also became associated with several other literary figures as well as the Symbolism and Decadence literary movements.
Belgium’s Rops Museum, located in Namur near the artist’s birthplace, has a great website discussing Rops’s various techniques and displaying both his works and some interpretations of what they represent. ArtInThePicture.com also has some info and a gallery of Rops’s work.
Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski is an artist whose name I ran across in the links section of some other artist’s page, and at the time I didn’t think he had any relation to metal whatsoever, other than perhaps as a visual inspiration. His work is so unbelievably cool and so completely metal that I kept coming back to it. After finding some more information about him I learned that Beksinski’s paintings actually have been used by several bands, including Nightbringer, Leviathan and Blood of Kingu. His unique visual style has also probably served as inspiration for numerous other bands and artists in the genre.
Beksinski was quite prolific and moved through numerous styles over the course of his life. He is perhaps best known (certainly in the metal world) for his output during his “fantastic period,” which lasted from the 1960s through the 1980s and saw Beksinski producing paintings featuring dark, disturbing and surrealistic imagery. His art depicts alien landscapes, strange decaying textures, and mysterious hooded or skeletal figures. The disturbing, otherworldly nature and skeletal elements of his work often causes Beksinksi to be compared with H.R. Giger. Beksinski himself said of his painting during this period that he wished to paint “in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams”.
Unfortunately, Beksinksi was tragically murdered in 2005 over what sounds like a petty disagreement with a teenage aquaintance. In his later years he had shifted to a sparser, more abstract style and also experimented with digital art and photography manipulation.
Beksinski fortunately has several websites dedicated to his work. His (extremely well-done!) official site is located at http://www.beksinski.pl/, and is one of the only sites I’ve been to where the embedded music is actually a good thing.
There is also an extensive gallery of his work at the Dmochowski Gallery site, especially useful if you get tired of the flash browsing on the official site.
You can also buy Beksinski limited edition art prints from The Belvedere Gallery. At $395.00 each they are kind of expensive, but having a Beksinski print in your house seems worth the money to me!
Finally you can buy a few cheaper prints as well as some books on Beksinski from Amazon.com. The Fantastic Art of Beksinski seems to be a good representation of his work.
It’s been awhile since I’ve featured an artist, but this one should be worth the wait. A friend of mine turned me on to the work of American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, whose artwork is not something you forget once you’ve seen it. Witkin is generally known for using people with various physical deformities or abnormalities in his photography, as well as corpses and other body parts. He apparently travelled to Mexico in order to more freely have access to corpses and such, because obviously that sort of thing is frowned upon here in the states.
Witkin’s final works are an astounding combination of beauty and perversion. Aside from the striking imagery and subject matter, many of his photographs are highly symbolic, often recalling religious scenes or classical paintings. Witkin also frequently scratches, pierces or otherwise damages the negatives in order to give the final image a distinct, old-fashioned look.
Witkin’s work has not escaped the eye of the metal community. One of his more famous photographs, “The Kiss,” which depicts two halves of a severed head kissing each other, was used as the cover art for Pungent Stench‘s Been Caught Buttering album. His Man Without a Head photograph was also used as an album cover, although I can’t seem to remember who. Any of you deathgrind fans out there know which band that was?
Witkin doesn’t have a website but he has published several books of his work. Here are a few to check out:
• Witkin (1995) – a great hardcover containing a huge number of Witkin’s photos
• Joel-Peter Witkin (photofile) (2008) – a paperback with 64 of Witkin’s photos
• Joel-Peter Witkin (2007) – a great introduction to Witkin’s work
Finally a metal band woke up and used a painting from one of my favorite artists, Francis Bacon. Seriously, how can an artist who did a series of paintings of popes screaming in agony not have his art used in some fashion by the underground metal scene?
Francis Bacon was a highly successful Irish figurative painter in the 20th century. His artwork is known for its abtract, distorted figures and tortured imagery. He painted a series of works depicting screaming Papal heads or torsos, and other themes included crucifixions and grotesque self portraits or portraits of friends. H.R. Geiger has stated that Bacon’s work was a strong inspirational force behind his creations for the film Alien.
Anyway, the winner (unless there are other bands using Bacon’s work that I’m not aware of) is Prosanctus Inferi, a death metal band who will be releasing their first album Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitation later this year. Their album cover uses a portion of Bacon’s Head I painting. Check out the cover art below.