Spend some time with Viral Graphics…
How did you get your first paying art job?
I believe our first paid job was an Aidan Baker CD release and probably a couple of local shows. Local shows came about via promoters or bands we associated with.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
Not exactly. For a short time during our earliest period, we also used computers apart from analogue tools to provide the visuals. Now, that has become almost completely stripped away and we only use the aid of technology for layout and printing purposes. We strived to approach the essence of our art and found out that it was pure, analogue and of a more timeless nature, something which is of course reflected in the way it is created. The whole transition came about by recognizing the context of the stuff we like against a status quo of mediocrity, botch jobs and production line values. We wanted our art to be a honed through time, practiced and serious craft apart from an outlet for our internal vision.
Who are your artistic influences?
Although we both come from somewhat different backgrounds and angles, there some sort of cross-section of influences in our work. Specifically and randomly -
Alex: Austin Osman Spare, Gustave Dore, Frank Quitely, Joe Coleman, Philip K. Dick, Mike Mignola, Jack Kirby, Aaron Horkey, Nick Blinko, Alan Forbes.
Kon: Mucha, Dore, AOS, Alfred Kubin, M.C.Escher, Albertus Seba, Samuel BEckett, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Robert Crumb, David V. D’Andrea, Alan Forbes, Vania Zouravliov, Aaron Horkey, Dennis Forkas Kostromitin.
Depending on the work we are doing, some influences shine through more than others. These influences slowly get digested in time, making our own personal vision a product of learning and love as far as influences are concerned – as opposed to copying and mimicking.
Tell us about your studio space?
One of us is currently living in Athens (Greece) and one in San Francisco (US) so there is no studio space per se. Just our rooms and minds I guess. Hopefully in the future we will be able to have an official Viral HQ, but for now we’ll see what we can do when half a planet away. Saying that, the work is continuing unhindered and constantly.
Take us through a typical day.
Think, Pencil, Ink, more or less. Lots of music on top. Talks about a ‘Red House’ live version leading to manic scribbling, brainstorming and notes. Both of us prefer the late (or early) hours for work.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Both of our work processes shift depending on two factors – the type of work and the time in which it occurs. Meaning that our methods change progressively according to the work presented and according to ‘where we are’ at that point in time. Generally, we first decide through a very natural process if one of us will do the design or if it will be a collaboration. Brainstorming comes next and then a very rough design is made. Both of us prefer to not complete the whole design in pencil, rather let the ink do the talking progressively and on the spot. We prefer to work to the size of the medium in which the art will be presented in. Stippling can be very demanding when it comes to printing some times and there’s no need to compromise any detail in the process. Then the image is scanned, colored if needed (sometimes digitally, sometimes with other mediums like watercolor if the final form permits it) and sent off to the client.
What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
Micron pens mostly and various brushes,pencils and ink. As mentioned above, computer work is kept to the minimum – layout , scanning, possibly coloring and all the emailing back and forth of course. Nothing against computers, especially if they are used well and with purpose, but we like to keep it to a minimum. It’s not even something forced – we just work better with an analogue set of tools.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Both. And even when a reference is used for accuracy, it is still filtered through us. We prefer to use reference as an idea mostly, to comprehend what we are trying to depict – and of course because it’s extremely hard to remember how everything is drawn. As time goes by and experience is gained, reference is needed less and less, but it always helps.
Do the bands give you any direction?
Sometimes they do sometimes they don’t. There’s no rule as to what works best. Some people give strict direction yet have essentially no idea what they want. Others give a brief open guideline, because they prefer the interpretation of the creator. Sometimes strict directions work too. Ideally, each band that contacts us knows and appreciates our work enough to trust us to create the appropriate artwork. A mentality that lies somewhere in between strict and loose seems to be what works more often: “Draw us a skull signifying winter, but do your thing” usually works better than “Draw us a purple skull, with 7 diamonds placed below the left eye and the reflection of other skulls perpendicularly aligned with the falling snow etc etc”. Finally, the most satisfying work is something that ends up being viewed by both sides as a collaboration. A vibrant rewarding passing around of ideas and extremely simple and to-the-point communication.
Do you listen the band’s music when you work on their project?
If it’s available at the time, we absolutely prefer to do so – at least during the thought process. It’s the most definite way to capture what artwork the band really needs. At the time of drawing though, the ‘playlist’ will definitely change quite a bit. It wouldn’t be too weird if you saw us drawing a black metal record cover while listening to Kraftwerk, or a poster for Nebula while listening to the Brainbombs. Whatever works!
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
You will not become rich, as everybody else has probably already said. But if you truly have a passion for whatever it is you do, your life will be more fulfilling in many ways and in the end there might be a way to ‘survive’ off it too – with tons of work of course. Do it because you like drawing shit, not for any other reason. Finally, don’t steal and stay away from sleep.
What are you currently working on?
We just finished Swans, Melvins Lite and Fucked up screen printed posters, another collab tshirt for cav.empt/Bounty Hunter, artwork for Awe, an Aleister Crowley related project for Utech records involving field recordings in Cephalu, the Monomaniac 7″ comp cover and are currently working on: High on Fire poster, Graveyard poster, The Osedax artwork and last but not least we are building up to finalizing the 2nd issue of our Bacteria fanzine, featuring amongst others Aaron Horkey, Arik Roper and David Welker. Speaking of Bacteria, after being overwhelmed by the response to the first issue (which included David V. D’Andra, Justin Kamerer, Simon Fowler, Jeral Tidwell, Matt Putrid and more) we are seeking to make #2 even better and the submissions so far have been literally melting our minds and inspired us yet again.
Have you ever turned down a project?
Do you have any dream projects?
We’ve said before and we’ll say it again: Neurosis.
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Way too many to list and across a very very wide spectrum. We were asked to make a mixtape of stuff we like here: http://www.cvltnation.com/cvlt-nationartist-series-mixtapeby-viral-graphics/ You can probably get a good idea from there. Again, we have different backgrounds between us, but converge on many points.
Any advice for artists that want to work with bands?
Try not to do work for free – appreciate your work so others will too. And make each new artwork better than the last.
Who would you like to see featured on MBA?
Check out more work from Viral Graphics