Tuesday 29 May 2018

INTERVIEW: The Art of NerdGore

Over the course of the last 6 years not only are we striving to cover great music but to cover the wider community involved in the music we adore. It's not just bands, its label people, engineers, and very importantly its artists and illustrators too.

I love a great album cover and visiting the local record store in my teens every Saturday made me notice album covers even more than I had before.  More recently one of my favourite album covers was also for one of our favourite bands at THE SLUDGELORD, none other than Grizzlor and their fantastic debut full length “Disastroid”.   The artist responsible goes under the moniker of NerdGore, a truly gifted individual with an insane eye for detail in his work. And I am beyond pleased that he accepted an invitation to talk to us. I truly hope you all enjoy

Could you introduce yourself and offer a quick bio?  What media do you work in?

My real name is Rich, but I ply my trade as an illustrator under the moniker NerdGore. I grew up in the UK but moved to Australia about 5 years ago. I currently live in a rural town called Bellingen on the East Coast with my wife, three kids and a collection of various animals. My route to becoming an illustrator has been some-what unconventional, given that I had such a shit time at art college that I promptly dropped out, gave up drawing and tried to become a horror writer instead... it wasn't pretty. I didn't start drawing again until I came to Australia and couldn't get a 'normal' job, I posted my efforts on instagram and was blown away by the response and it has just kind of snowballed from there. The vast majority of my work is produced very simply with paper, brush and ink. For colour work, I prefer watercolour over inks, but I also do digital colour with photoshop.

Could you highlight some of the musicians/bands who you've created artwork for and what that process is like?

I'm lucky enough to have worked with bands like Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste, Exmortus, Gatecreeper, Ohhms, Grizzlor, Clowns (Aus), Ratlord (Ger) and others. I would say that nearly all the bands I work for have given me very loose briefs like 'something satanic' or 'a bunch of undead warriors' and this really works for me. I usually respond to that with working drawings and thumbnails and between myself and the client we hammer out a decent working rough. I then light-box my own rough onto larger paper and produce the tight pencils. I normally go back to the band at this point as it's still easy to make changes and then once they're happy I ink directly over the pencils and produce the final illustration. A number of the bands I've worked for, I've already been a fan of and know their music, but if the band is new, I'll always listen to some of their music to get a feel of what sort of illustration might suit them.

Grizzlor, "Disastroid"

In what ways does music influence your creative process? Do you have "go to" bands or albums when working?

I have a slightly odd approach to listening to music whilst working. When producing pencils, I always prefer listening to punk or thrash bands (Early Graves, Venom Prison, Power Trip, Bloodlust, Barbarian, etc) so that I stay fast and loose and don't get too obsessed with detail. Then for inking, I like to slow it right down and listen to a lot doom and sludge, much heavier music (Dopethrone, Chrch, Elder, Hollow Leg, Sunburster, etc) because it requires a bit more patience and a steadier hand. Then again, I often reach points where I overdose on metal and just spend periods listening to old Fat Wreck Chords albums from the early 90's. The pop-punk scene, along with skateboarding, exploded in the UK right when I was a teenager and it was my first proper music love; listening to Snuff, Propaghandi or Lagwagon is like wrapping up in a warm blanket haha.

So when a label or artist commissions you to start a fresh piece of work, what is the process for you? Do they come to you with pre-conceived ideas at all?

As above, it is generally a loose brief but most bands have a good idea of what they want and just allow the illustrator to fill in the details. I did have one experience where the brief was super tight and detailed and it was probably my least successful piece of work. It caused a lot of redrawing and tweaking and made it hard to keep a lid on all the changes. I'm sure there are illustrators that excel at this type of brief, but I think my best work comes when I have freedom to use my imagination a bit and invent some characters or worlds.

Are there any artists, visual or otherwise, who distinctly influenced your style, medium, or process?

The absolute single biggest influence on me as a person, let alone illustrator, would be the British comic 2000ad. I'm the proud owner of a near complete collection (they recently passed issue 2000...), have Judge Death tattooed on my leg and it is absolutely at the top of my 'people-I-want-to-work-for-bucket-list'. 2000ad is fairly legendary these days and its cultural significance is well documented, but for me personally, it was an art training course. From the age of 8 I was copying whole pages of art from my heroes (Mike McMahon, Simon Bisley, Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry, Colin McNeil, etc) and it's most significant creator, Pat Mills, shaped many of my opinions towards authority, religion and the environment, although I didn't really appreciate it at the time.
In terms of process, my first exposure to how comics were made was from Conventions in the UK and I would hang around at the art booths of all the 2000ad guys. In those days, it was much more informal and you could watch them doing stuff, have a long conversation with them and show them your art work. I got great advice from guys like Henry Flint, Siku, Greg Staples and Peter Doherty and it pretty much meant I was set from an early age to pencil everything and then ink using brush or dip pen. I still work like that now.

Who are some of your biggest influences within your field?

Instagram is running shit hot at the moment with amazing artists. It's actually quite scary how many good artists just appear out of nowhere each day on Instagram, definitely encourages you to keep raising your game. One of the guys who impresses me time and time again is Scott Wygman, he's an awesome dude who recently did a killer cover for a GWAR comic book and his work is steeped in Heavy Metal and RPG gaming, but also draws influence from Anime and stuff like Calvin and Hobbes. It's hard to exactly describe his style and it is very unique, but one scroll through his feed always encourages me to loosen up and stay imaginative (check him out @darkwizard­_bezerker).

The most metal artist I know, is without a doubt Daniel Shaw(@shawillustrations). His work is incredibly detailed and dripping with everything that is cool about underground metal illustration, from decaying skulls, to vomiting priests, to haunted graveyards; this guy can draw it all. His work really influences me to push the detail and never settle for short-cuts and just draw the fuck out of everything. Lastly, the grand-daddy of all Metal meets Gaming illustration; Skinner. This guy has been a massive influence on my work. When I first moved to Australia and was sitting around doing nothing, a feature in Pork Magazine on him was the thing that got me back at the drawing desk. He definitely influenced me to just draw shit that I loved or found funny and make art for the enjoyment, rather than to spin a buck.  

You're quite obviously a big metal fan. Was album artwork always an aspiration for you? What were some of your favourite covers growing up, and do you have a favourite from your own portfolio of work at all?

I am a big metal fan, but I would say that I'm a late convert. I was much more into punk as a teenager and came to metal in my mid-20s. Because of that, I don't have that deep connection to a lot of metal album covers that you would forge as a teenager. However, there are a lot of parallels between a lot the fantasy stuff that influenced me as a kid and heavy metal. One of my single favourite pieces of artwork, is Michael Whelan's painting Stormbringer which I remember vividly from my dad's Michael Moorcock collection. Of course, this later became the cover to Cirith Ungols great album Frost and Fire but I knew it first from the Elric book. Alongside that, I used to hang out in video shops as a kid and the amazing covers always stuck in my mind. Stuff like Deathstalker by Boris Vajello blew my mind and also influenced many a heavy metal album cover. Then, as always, it comes back to 2000ad... so many of those artists started out doing album covers; Simon Bisley's Mortal Sin cover and an near unknown Kev Walker doing Autopsy's Mental Funeral cover.

As for my own work, I think the original Corehammer t-shirt I did is possibly my favourite. It was early on when I started getting commission work and it took me ages but the response to it was great. Corehammer is a blog and facebook group that focuses on Tabletop Gaming and Hardcore Punk music and by doing that shirt, I got to meet a whole bunch of cool people who I've stayed in contact with. I've since done a bunch of shirts for them (and their sister arm DungeonPunx) and we are always planning all sorts of stuff from zines to RPG supplements.

There have been several blogs and articles calling attention to appropriated or "repurposed" artwork, generally taken without credit to the original artist, specifically in the world of "music artwork". Could you speak a little about the current attention to this issue and your feelings on artistic credit in general?

I'll try not to get too ranty here, haha. I really don't like shit like this and, to me, it ties in with the rise of digital art. That's not to say digital art is bad, just that it has provided a whole set of tools that make it easier than ever before to rip people off and make money off someone else's hard work. For years, people have been influenced by other artists and my drawing board has a ton of art books around it so my all my art heroes are within reach if I need a shot of inspiration. But, actually copying artwork directly and re-skinning it as something new is fundamentally wrong and entirely pointless. With stuff like this, it just confirms to me that a lot of people aren't interested in learning how to draw and that speed has overtaken everything. Personally, I think a lot of time saving and cheats that can be done with photoshop, etc skips out essential steps that make you a better artist; sure, Google Sketch Up can do perspective for you, but if you learn how to do it, then only your imagination can limit you. The end result might not be perfect but it will have a ton of personality and character and that is way more important.

Do you still have anything left that you want to achieve in your chosen art form? Maybe a group you would like to do a cover for, or another artist that you would love to collaborate with?

I feel like I've only just scratched the surface to be honest and there is heaps I'd like to achieve. As for an ultimate art goal it will always be 2000ad and more specifically Judge Dredd. If I could work on even just a one-off 5 pager in 2000ad, I would die a happy man!

Finally, where can fans view and purchase your work? Feel free to promote any musical/film/literary/etc. projects you're involved in as well.

The best place to find me is on instagram @artofnerdgore  

Thanks for having me!

Artist info: facebook || Official