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Symbiotic (Ink)

Updated: May 21, 2022

The Inspiration

Wow, what a summer. I'd say the past few months have been an existential kick in the teeth but that might be closer to the literal truth than I'm comfortable with. Our personal crises always have a way of forcing us to rethink our lives and what we want them to look like with our time remaining, and that's certainly been true for me. From changing my diet and running more often to identifying and calling out unhealthy relationships to feeling a greater urge to connect with creative people in my area, the changes have come quickly. (I've also become a fan of Rich Roll, his podcast has been immensely helpful to me through this process and has introduced me to some great books to read.)

But probably the biggest and most exciting shift to come from my recent experiences is a complete change in the art I'm making.

(Check out the finished color art for Symbiotic here)

I'd been poking around at political-themed fantasy art earlier this year (see here and here), which is fun for me but has an incredibly short shelf life as far as its relevance in the world. Maybe more importantly, I realized that art was also completely disconnected from all personal emotion and experiences. I'd even managed to strip my own opinions out of most of it, focusing on lampooning the news media instead.

But I'm feeling enormously excited now to dive into some art that is closer to my metal heart, and it involves returning to a creative style I started in early 2019 and hadn't had the chance to fully expand on. It pulls on all the things that sit at the heart of my creative influences, from HR Giger to comic books, heavy metal, industrial music, and science fiction and horror movies, but it also adds in a special sauce involving an intense personal interest in industrial factories and machinery. (More on that in future posts.)

This drawing was the first one in that new direction, and it feels like a solid starting point for more of these. I have three other larger drawings in this style that I'm working on at the moment and the goal is to just keep scaling these up over time and jam more and more detail into them.

The Process

This drawing began with the central figure. I really didn't have a lot of other ideas for what would go around him, just a mental image of the dude himself. His hands came next, and originally his left hand was clearly a gun but I really wanted to allow this image to be whatever it needed to be without forcing anything onto it or trying to have it make sense, so that changed pretty quickly. As the lower industrial city developed it felt right to connect the two and let that left hand just be...whatever it is. That also helped with my goal of making everything in this drawing feel connected, almost like there's an ecosystem in there where all these different elements are depending on each other for stability.

I also allowed the image to become packed full with almost no negative space. For me that felt like a reflection of the chaotic days of my life in which it was made, and I felt excited by how my eye was forced to scan around the page in an almost endless loop with no real resting point.

I used my go-to tools for this one: Winsor & Newton black Indian ink applied with a combination of Speedball 102 crow-quill pen and a brush. I attacked all the linework first, then went back through each section and filled the solid blacks with the brush.

The new drawings I began immediately after this are more deliberate in their composition, and even though they're just as dense, I think they're less chaotic and surreal, and that makes me appreciate this one a bit more for being a true reflection of my headspace when I made it.

I have a lot of new art in the pipeline, I'm taking some new commissions, and it looks like I'll be back on some kind of regular posting schedule. I'm also nearly done with the color art on this one and will share some behind-the-scenes process stuff for that in two weeks. See you then!


PS: I've been on the fence about keeping an element of music journalism on this site. I had such a great time on my old music blog that I wanted to keep it going in some form or another, but my relationship with music had become kind of depressing lately and it wasn't clear to me what the best path forward was. I suddenly have a lot more clarity around that topic though, and I want to do more album write-ups and possibly some Top 10 lists, specifically for old school metal music, so expect a new article in that vein next week.

Going forward, I'm also going to turn on comments for these posts, as I genuinely want to connect with those of you who have chosen to follow this blog and hear from you and chat with you about art, music, and life stuff.

Quite a few new subscribers have turned up since my last post, so welcome to all of you. Leave me a comment sometime about your summer, the best metal album of 2021 so far (how about that new Bonehunter album...) or anything else you feel like sharing.




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