Alison Lilly: Was Only A Dream


I was a big fan of Alison Lilly’s work as soon as I saw it…she employs the right amount technicality along with looseness that makes the work give off an overall ethereal vibe.

How did you get your first paying art job?

I got involved in doing this type of artwork through friends in bands of the Vancouver
hardcore/metal scene. They liked my work and asked me to do some custom illustrations for
an album cover. The first project I completed was for the Vancouver band ANION for their
Carrion King LP cover.

Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?

I was involved in mural and graffiti art about 12 years ago, that played a large role in the
progression of my illustrative style. I always enjoyed exploring different mediums and
methods within my personal arts practice such as Digital collage and mixed media painting for
solo and group art exhibits.

Who are your artistic influences?

To name a few: Suehiro Maruo, Arthur Rackham, Francis Bacon, Jenny Saville, Bernie Wrightson,
Gustave Dore, Albrecht Durer, Francisco Ribalta, Austin Osman Spare, Pushead, Egon Schiele,
Mario Bava, James Whale, Georges Franju, David Lynch, Park Chan Wook.



Tell us about your work area or studio space?

My studio space is not in my home, although I do work from home sometimes on smaller size
drawings and illustrative projects. My studio space is great, I prefer working there because It
helps me focus and I am free to create larger scale paintings if I choose. (see studio pic below)




Take us through a typical day.

For the last year and a half I have been apprenticing tattooing in Vancouver so most of my days
are spent at the shop, either tattooing, drawing or painting. Most of my band commission work is
done in the evenings at the studio.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.

It really depends on what I am working on, but for most projects I begin the research process by
gathering reference materials. I use found photos and sometimes use my own photographs and
models to help me get the specific imagery I am looking for. I also use literature if it is a particular
subject of interest. Next I create a series of sketches outlining different approaches to the piece.
This serves as a good way to really figure out my options in terms of composition, and be able to
give the client at least a few different versions to choose from for the design. After I am happy
with the design and the preliminary sketches are approved I get to work doing a final draft of the
piece, which usually includes an inking process of some kind, adding black and darker values etc.
If the image is a one colour design this is usually my final step for the design before scanning. If
the work is in colour I will then continue on by adding colour washes and painting more detail into
the piece.


What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?

I love mixed media and I mostly use pencil, ink pens, ink with brushes, grounds and gessos to
build texture, acrylic washes and watercolour.

I hand draw or paint every illustration. I mostly use photoshop to prepare images for printing, like
posters or t-shirt designs. I do enjoy digital photography and collage, but it is not something I do
a great deal of. I have used photoshop to add colour in past works, but I prefer to use hand
painting techniques to add colour to my pieces.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?

Both. I use a lot of reference materials for concepts and ideas and I like to have photo references
when I am painting human figures, organic shapes and animals. The imaginative aspect mostly
happens during the initial conceptual process of a design, when I am laying out the composition. I
write a lot of notes to myself on sketches, I find this really helps to organize the work and
remember interesting ideas I might use in future pieces.

Do the bands give you any direction?

There are a few bands I work with on a continuous basis. Often when I have worked with a band
more than once I am usually encouraged to have free reign to create my own vision for the design
or project, or they have more trust in my artistic vision.

I also really enjoy it when bands come to me with their own ideas and when those ideas are
unique , It is a rewarding experience, because it can be challenging going out of your comfort
zone working on a subject matter you haven’t studied before.




Do you listen the band’s music when you work on their project?

Not exclusively, but I have found that practice to be enjoyable and interesting. I usually listen to
the band’s music during the conceptual part of the process, it can help generate ideas etc.

Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?

Try to be original and develop your own personal style. We are all influenced by other artists, I am
constantly inspired by other work, but it is so obvious when people copy whatever the popular
themes and artists of the time are doing. It is ok to be inspired by other art, but don’t straight up
copy somebody’s work. I would also encourage anyone working professionally to always have
clear and set guidelines for the commission when working with clients. Communication is key,
Contracts are key. It shows clients you are professional and it weeds out the people who are
unorganized, unprofessional and out to take advantage of artists.

Take us through the process of creating the art for the new Anciients record cover.

Anciients are good friends of mine, so it is great working with them. They had some very specific
ideas about what they wanted in terms of the artwork theme for Heart of Oak. They wanted to work
with me to make the conceptual process for the art work a collaborative effort. It took a couple of
brainstorming sessions along with me sitting in on the recording of the album, to really get a feel
for how I was going to approach and execute the project.

I created preliminary sketches and more discussion followed and changes were made. Once I had
the go ahead on the revised drawings I started working on the main painting ‘Heart of Oak’ which I
decided to paint in a larger format. It is 62” x 48”, mixed media painting on paper. This was the
most time consuming piece of all the album artwork, which took about a month to complete.

The second painting for the album cover is smaller 15”x 22” .This was primarily inspired by
Kazakhstan eagle hunters, which was of interest to the band. I also did a small illustration of two
eels for the CD and vinyl label. This illustration was done in pen and ink with no colour. The eels
were originally intended to be added into the band’s logo but it was decided that it would look
better on its own as a separate design.




What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a personal project consisting of a series of paintings which I will be
printing and selling in limited editions. I am now focusing on learning the craft of tattooing, which
takes up most of my time these days.

Have you ever turned down a project?

Yes, sometimes people approach me with projects that do not fit my artistic style, so I have to turn
it down because I know there are more appropriate artists for the job out there, I usually suggest
these artists to the client.

Do you have any dream projects?

There are a lot of bands and artists I would really love to work with. Neurosis is a band who I have
followed and loved for years, I would be so honored to work with them on any level. Their artistic
aesthetic has always been amazing. Tom Waits would be amazing to work with too!



What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?

I have too many favorite bands to narrow down, I like so many types of music and it is such a
large part of my life and arts practice it would be a very long list.

I love listening to older music … 1920’s blues, Jethro Tull, Willie Nelson and Bessie Smith are
some current favorites.

Also… Pallbearer, Wovenhand, RWAKE, Big Business, TAAKE, early Autopsy and Roky Erikson
have been playing recently in my studio.

Who would you like to see featured on MBA?

You might have already featured him? Lucas Ruggeri of LR illustration, I love his work!

Great questions, thanks!



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.