Gyula Havancsák: Hand of Doom

Prepare to meet your doom as you read this amazing interview with the mind numbingly talented interview with Gyula Havancsák.

-How did you get your first paying art jobs?
I was studying computer graphics in Eger, Hungary and that is when and where I have received my first paid commission for a hungarian band called EVENSONG.  They were signed under a record company in the Netherlands so after all, my first work went abroad from Hungary.  While looking at those images I think I was only beginning to try opening my wings.  But the music, I liked their music a lot, the music they played is somewhere halfway between Emperor and Arcturus.

-Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
When I was introduced to computer graphics, I was mainly working with scanned drawings.  Mostly lined drawings were rendered on paper, comic book style.  Because I used to love comic books and cartoons, I even studied to learn to make cartoons; so this is how this current style of mine came about to be.  Obviously, I used photoshop for coloring.  Back then I was drawing fantasy cards, later I began to draw the lines in photoshop, too -leaving the scanner out of the picture.  I made some CD covers using this method.  However, later as I soaked myself in photomanipulations, I started to mix a variety of media, such as tracing, using sections of photos, using those as the basis and then painting the missing and needed elements.  Sometimes for the photography I find it satisfactory to use a couple of lamps for lighting that I will need to work on… Nowadays, more often from the very beginning I only draw or “paint” the whole picture. One thing is for sure, that I usually foresee, imagine the whole completed picture, I plan it on paper or in my mind, gather notes.  Then I put together the imagined picture, or paint it in photoshop.  Obviously, some improvisation occurs time to time, the image itself can come to life too, then it evolves, but when I sit down to a picture it will 70-80% of the time will turn out how I dreamed it, so I follow it…

-Who are your artistic influences?
There are so many artistic influences…long time ago, when I daydreamed to become a mask/make up designer or a rock musician, back then of course the influence was Derek Riggs with the IRON MAIDEN covers; Hugh Syme who is the creator for the covers for RUSH, MEGADEATH, FATES WARNING; Dave McKean; Travis Smith.  Or there is the unforgettable H.R. Giger; Zdzislaw Beksinski, Wayne Barlow… But I always admired the great icons of classic art: Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, A. Durer, Boch, Brueghel, Gustave Dore…and my favorite figures in hungarian art are: Zichy Mihaly, Benczur Gyula…Munkacsy, Szekely Bertalan.

-What words best describe your artistic style?
At times it’s ethereal, at times it’s gore.  At times it is too sterile, but at times it is crude…

-Tell us about your studio space?
Currently my office is full of books, it is a small half-room located next to my living room.  It has no windows and there is a small cubicle in it, which I utilize as my work station.  I use a MacBook so I can easily change my location and I use the tablet as a drawing board, or simply place it on my lap.  In my office and in my home I surround myself with a lot of books on art and music CDs.  The art books are very important to me,  often I immerse myself in them…I get inspired and I get all fired up by looking at my favorite artists’ work…I have a few McFarlane action-figures in my possession which I love.  An Alien and Bram Stocker’s Dracula and the Wolfman… and some other ones too.  I have several bass guitars and electric guitars, and an acoustic guitar in my room.  Then I also need a couple of lamps, cameras, and the stands for these.

-When you create art for a band…Do you listen to their music during the process?
In case I receive some mp3-s from the clients, then obviously I listen to those while drawing.  Only if it will assist me in the work.  Often I listen to soundtracks of movies, ambient style stuff.  Anyways, there is always something new and exciting that gets stuck in my music player.  Now the absolute winner for me is the new Symphony X. :)   Jeff Waters, Schmier, Dan Swano sent me their current records’ few songs, so I was listening to those throughout the whole process of working with them.  The latest Annihilator record is one of those records that I listened to so many times, it is one my most favorite bands since I was a child.  On occasions the TV is on in the background, this tool is especially handy when I need to make a hate-filled cover,  like the HEADHUNTER.  But, for work I need to be relaxed and calm so this does not work on a regular basis.

-Take us through a typical day.
There are a variety of typical days.  Because I also work at a computer games company, my day starts with rushing to work.  If the opportunity arise, I buy breakfast on the way to work.  I take a tram to take the underground train so I could finally walk 10 minutes to work.  Public transportation is okay, it gives me uninterrupted free time to read 25-30  minutes, back and forth.  So, everyday I get to read about an hour.  If the book is really good, the commute becomes a joy.  Recently I have read a Brueghel and Bosch biographical novels but it is not rare to read scientific or philosophical  books, and I read poems, short stories…At the same time, I also like to wonder and meditate on the current work I put my efforts into, the preparations while commuting.  I compose the image in my mind, I think it through to its details, I imagine the mood of it…I take notes.  On the way to work when it comes down to the actual walk-to-work, I listen to music.  At the company I work, a great group of graphic designer collective surrounds me.  We live and work similarly…we show each other our work we have done the night before, or just have completed something, or have just fulfilled a commission.  It is possible that we inspire each other.  So once I get home from work I greet my now expecting partner, we talk..watch news…the everyday things.  Before I get to start on some CD cover work that I do in the evening or at night, I practice bass, play music for an hour…or less or more.  Then I work, then I might watch a film, then work again and I get to sleep around 3 in the morning.  Lately I try doing it earlier…

-How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final
On each occasions, I need to know what the band wants.  If they even have a plan, or a concept regarding the cover.  In case they have exact ideas, for example Chris with GRAVE DIGGER, they tell me in detail what they would like and later I send them a rough-draft.  We discuss this, then I begin to put the picture together.  Once the rough-draft is accepted or compromised, I work, then for next, I show them the work at its 80% completion status.  This is when I take new ideas, wait for responses, feedback, so a dialogue would born about the details.  It is of course a very different and unique experience to work with everybody.  With Schmier, we spoke on skype to discuss the DESTRUCTION cover and often I sent more rough-drafts until a solid composition developed.Then we talked about this and that, then newer ideas came, we discussed them…after agreeing on things, I continued the picture as planned.  The next night we did the same, crawling inch-by-inch to the finishing line.  At the creation of the booklet practically he left it all up to me, there is where I really broke the cover concept independently into its details.

There is  another method for creating the work I do and have done.  Which is, that the band leaves everything to me, accepts all my ideas, my synopsis.  At these, if it is worthy, I make sketches, but sometimes I just sit down to the computer and do it in one sitting, then I wait for the band’s feedback.  Before I even draw a line in any project, I look for reference pictures on the internet…let that be a costume, landscape, texture, or a nude, some kind of pose…anything.  If it is necessary I take photos at home.  If the topic requires it, I read up on the subject…but I never begin empty-minded.  When I work on the front cover, which could be a painting or a photo-based picture…and the band or the record company okays it, then I cut the given text and place it in the CD-booklet template.  After everything has found its best place, I think about possible illustrations…I might use a promo photography of the band as a background…Basically this is how it all goes!

-What materials do you use?  How much if any is done on the computer?
There is a paper notebook I use for traditional hand drawn sketches, then I photograph it so that could be utilized as a digital base, once it’s digitalized, I color it, complete it.  If I begin the work in photoshop, I skip the whole photo-thing. When I do use photographs, I use textures, all kinds of pictures and…Wacom tablet…and the brushes of photoshop :)

-Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Yes, I use reference materials but they come through my mind.  Well, I carefully look for them and choose references, or photograph the elements, but if I am in the mood, I draw it by hand with momentum.  These times there is no direct reference.  On these pieces of mine, the painted quality is apparent and obvious.

-Do the bands give you any direction?
It’s various.  Some clients are very eager to give directions.  Some wanted to sit down next to me and tell me where to put and draw what and how.  Fortunately, this is rare…It is more usual that they express their opinion and make small changes when they see how it is developing to a newer and newer phase, well, afterall they trust my decisions…

-Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
It will require lots of ideas, patience, ability to compromise… flexibility…It could become dangerous to be too artsy-fartsy, because the product must meet the clients’ taste…otherwise the working relationship will not be long.  You must also be able to bring self expression into the pictures, otherwise the artist, you, could find yourselfs in crisis…or could just easily burn out.

-What are you currently working on?
I will start the work on my friend’s cover. This is a one-man project and it is called TARRANIS.       I am also finishing an Anne Rice’s bookcover. It is titled “The Queen of the Damned”.

-Do you have any dream projects?
Yes, I would like to have more time for putting my own ideas into actual artworks, to create my own art.  I have been writing music and my goal is to bring that to a level that is the most expressive and in its best shape when it will be recorded…and possibly that will be the hardest thing of all the music making process…I want to make music videos…well, I have been developing a strong concept about this, but for videos, one needs so much free time and tranquility and I don’t possess that in my life as it is now.

Let’s stick with cover design; I would like to design CD covers for FATES WARNING or KING DIAMOND, KING’S X, SPIRAL ARCHITECT, DANZIG… these bands are very kin to my heart and I would work with them, with honor and joy.

-What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
My favorite bands, not in order: Ulver, Annihilator, King’s X, Fates Warning, Bjork, Death, Arcturus, Spiral Architect, Symphony X, Candlemass, Black Sabbath, Limbonic Art…ahh, and many more!  Nowadays I listen to the newest Symphony X, Bjork, soundtracks (Carnivale, Dracula, Kpax)…the new Burzum touched me deep inside, the latest Vreid was a usual guest in my musicplayer too…the latest Mr. Big…

-What artists would you like to see on MBA?
Hugh Syme, Dave McKean, Travis Smith…Wayne Barlow…

Check out more of his work at: hjules.com


About Vertebrae33

Through hard work and dedication, Vertebrae33 has established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting illustrators on the scene today.  He has received much acclaim as of late for his innovative designs, attention to detail, and wholly unique, raw style.