Brian Mercer: Hand of Doom

MBA presents: Brian Mercer

How did you get your first paying art job?

To be honest I really don’t remember what my first paying gig was. I remember just getting involved with the things I liked. Basically throwing my hat in the ring and just making things. I also remember it being a bit more innocent and wide-eyed. I really try to keep that spirit going to this day.

Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
No. I like to think it has evolved or it keeps evolving. As I get older I think less about style and more about pushing my abilities into something I’ve never done before. I sometimes think the word style means falling back on something rather than pushing forward.

Who are your artistic influences?
My mother is an artist so I got early encouragement from her. My father is a carpenter and would never admit to be an artist but he is. My younger brother ( is also an artist who always amazes me. It
wasn’t a hippie commune growing up but there was always something getting made or built around when I was younger. Other than that it was pretty typical stuff. 80′s skateboard art and zines along with comic books. Plus the album covers from my parents record collection. I would just hold Mountain’s Rising album while listening to it and think it would be cool if I could make an album cover.

Tell us about your studio space?
My entire house is kinda my studio space. It depends what room I feel comfortable working in at the time, surrounded by records, books and weird things. It kinda gets hairy when I have multiple jobs going and there are
drawings all over the house. A bit of controlled chaos.

Once the weather breaks is when things really open up. We have a decent plot of land with several gardens on the premises. If I get jammed up on something it’s kinda cool to take the dogs out and just decompress in a comfortable space.

My print studio is two towns over from where I live. My brother and myself built it over a decade ago and is in a constant state of upgrade. The dream is to build my own shop in the next couple of years at my place.
Being able to whip something out when its 20 feet away from me is the goal instead of driving two towns over.

Take us through a typical for day Brian Mercer?
I’ve always been a night owl. I usually work in the middle of the night and early morning. There’s less noise and distractions. So I tend to sleep late. A really bad habit but it gets the work done. If  I have a heavy
work load there is no sleep involved.

Usually it starts with me rough housing with my dogs Geezer and Angus. Then it’s emails and orders. After that lunch and the hockey scores. Once that’s done I try and do something that has nothing to do with making art.
Usually its finding out what I’m cooking for me and the Lady, a book store, a record store (yes they still exist) or a trip that may get the creative juices going. Then it’s dinner and everyone gets settled. Once that happens I throw the baseball cap backwards and draw all night.

I find having a day and bringing something to the table works better for me than just being on lock down.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
It’s never the same. It really depends on the project. After conversations with either a band or a promoter I just start sketching things in a sketch book until I’m ready to carry it over on to Bristol board where I ink it with brush and pens. Colors are usually done on a computer along with color separations if it’s for a poster. Tracing color separations is by far the most tedious part of the process if it’s an intricate design.

What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
Art pencils. Sketch pad. Canson XL Bristol board. Micron pens .01 to .05. Pilot brush pens. Indian ink and brushes. The computer is used for colors and some arrangements but as of late it’s used less and less.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
I use some photos for reference and have started taking some photos to use for images. I tend to have something drawn in my head before I even attempt sketches. The challenge is getting the idea or concept out on paper. I would get pretty neurotic about this “approach” but I’ve been dropping all of that silliness and just getting to work.

Do the bands give you any direction?
Yes and I have no problem with that. It cuts down on some of the leg work. In all of the projects I take on I want to represent that band as best as I can. It’s their baby. They should get what they want. The only time it get’s bad is when they say “We love your work. We want to do something like (insert another artists name).”

Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
I guess just to get to work. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself when you think a project goes bad or maybe not in your best interests. Worry more about the process rather than the end result so you can build your art skills and you evolve. Some good advice that was given to me by a wise cat over a decade ago. “If your gonna get into this to be a millionaire stop now cause your into it for the wrong reasons.” That and “Don’t be a dick.”

What are you currently working on?
I have posters for Mastodon/Opeth, Saint Vitus and Lucero on board. Plus several other ones. I’m always doing merch work for several bands big and small. A couple of album covers are going right now. The goal for 2012 was to keep doing what I’ve been doing more aggressively but to broaden a bit. I would like it to be more than poster, poster, t-shirt, album cover. It’s fun but I not only owe to myself but to the people I’ve been working with to offer more. I’m in the midst of re-vamping my web stuff and several other projects. It’s gonna be a blast.

Do you have any dream projects?
B L A C K  S A B B A T H!

What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
There are way too many bands to list as far as favorite of all time. The new Orange Goblin is awesome. I heard the new Saint Vitus while I was touring through texas and it’s really really good. The newest Graveyard and Greenleaf records are on rotation. The new Lamb of God when I’m driving FAST.

When I’m drawing it’s a lot of country, jazz and ambient stuff. I like to have more background music going while I’m drawing rather than something that is dominating my ear.


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.