The twisted darkness of Paul Gerrard’s artwork pulls you in quickly and once inside his world you are not able to leave. Over his 15 year career he has done concept art for games and movies as well CD cover art. He has done concept art for Battle Los Angeles and he is currently doing concept art for the film version of Paradise Lost. However, the project metal fans are most looking forward to is the CD art he is doing for the forthcoming Machine Head record. There was sneak preview a week ago when an advance mix of the single “Locust” was released featuring Paul’s artwork. Meet the man who will be visually guiding you through one of the most eagerly anticipated metal records of 2011.
How did you get your first paying art job?My first paying CD cover was with a Brazilian metal band called Torture Squad. They saw some of my work on Deviant art and bought one particular image for their cover. I then created their logo. My first paying art gig,apart from all the little things growing up like portraits , shop signs and so on was probably a tutorial for an art magazine then shortly after that CD cover art started to come on, later on movies.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
My style hasn’t changed a great deal, the techniques are the same but I used too much more genre pieces. It wasn’t until I started to experiment with the fusion of ideas / concepts and elements that genres where no longer apparent. The images became my own, they were formed from ideals derived from psychology and alternate mind states as opposed to any given genre such as science fiction, cyberpunk and so on.
Who are your artistic influences? If we go way back to the early angst years it would be cover artists, CD , video and so on such as Patrick Woodroffe , Derek Riggs, Ed Repka. Then later I developed more of a taste for epic scenery artists such as John Martin, surrealism, Dali, Giger, Beksinski and hell themed artists such as Gustave dore.
What words best describe your artistic style? Fusion art. The fusion of inorganic and organic matter. Synthetic flesh a thousand years from now, blending spiritual thinking with the man machine and the aesthetic of body horror.
Tell us about your studio space? It’s a chaotic mess of spines, bones, wooden deities, technologies and more art books than any sane man should own. All crammed in a 4 by 4 cell, pumping out 24 hours of white noise and brutal industrial drums.
Take us through a typical day for Paul Gerrard? I split my day between personal work which encompasses cd cover art and projects that inspire me. These are not always paying gigs but hold possibilities for the future or simply cool to do.. Then there is the movie work. Generally a 70 / 30 split with the movie work taking precedence. Currently working on creating hell for Alex Proyas’s Paradise Lost. Of course if it’s sunny then all that goes out the window as I love bikes, customs. If it’s remotely sunny I try and get a few hours riding in during the day, or some tinkering on the bike. The bike can never be too fast or too loud.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
I play around with core shapes a lot, I love to spend many hours working on fine detail but the core shapes are the most important. So these are my roughs, basic designs and concepts. No more than loose lines and scribbles, but if it works looking at it from a distance then I push forward on final details and such. There isn’t much of a middle part, no workups or stages of development. Just basic beginnings then pushing forward on final images.
What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer? It depends on the task at hand, most of my basic roughs are on scraps on paper. Backs of envelopes, whatever is at hand. They then get scanned in and work begins on a PC. For gallery work when the image is done, it gets printed out onto canvas and is worked into with layers of varnish and colours. Making all my limited edition prints truly unique, I work in subtle symbols of images that you can only see from an angle.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head? Tons of ref material for textures, flesh, machines and so on but the initial concepts are my own. I never manipulate large pre-existing images into another image. Its vital to create the image in the rough, paint it then work in the details and textures. I see a lot of artists taking photographs and manipulating them, added textures and such. To each their own but that for me is giving the images power away to someone else’s creation. You cannot truly express yourself unless its 100% yours, from your imagination.
Do the bands give you any direction? Yes, more so than movies, games books. Many bands know exactly what they want down to the fine detail. I prefer to do my own thing, with just direction and themes from the band rather then work as illustrative role but you never really know how it will pan out when you start a gig. Working on the Machine Head album has been a great experience. I’ve been working closely with Robb Flynn. He knows exactly what he wants, a fantastically creepy theme but he lets me do my own thing, what I do best within the boundaries of the concept. This is the way I love to work. Its been a great collaboration or ideas and art, the cover is mostly done now,The single which was recently released is a slight nod to what is to come. I think people will be very surprised by the cover art, its certainly something very different for Machine Head.
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Get in contact with the bands rather than trying to contact the record labels, do the cover for free if you have to but get your work out there. Like any area of art try and think outside the box and create your own style. Clients should come to you because you offer something no own else can do, they are investing in your ability and talent so it must be unique.
What are you currently working on?
Movie wise, Paradise Lost. This is an epic task, I’ve been on this for a few months now and will continue for probably a few more. A couple of other smaller movies that I cannot talk about and a cd cover for Machine Head. Also juggling future projects and whenever I get chance I work on my personal project DEAD LINKS. Illustrating the filth of this world, the drug fuelled scanks, the twisted macabre body abusers, all wrapped up in a surreal alternate reality. I’m also working on some tattoo art, trying to re-design some art to work as tattoos, testing it out on myself first (more so) then seeing if I can market it somehow.
How did you get into doing concept art?
For movies, directors started to see my work on websites, in magazines, books, galleries. The more I got my work out there the more interest it started to get. I never set out to create concept art or be a concept artist. I started to work with directors at first creating the same full blown colour illustrations I do for exhibitions, cd covers etc, it developed from there. Once a movie ramps up, you can’t spend a week on a single image so I scaled back and started to create more ‘ concept’ base artwork.
What was it like to work on Battle LA?
It was a blast, there are elements of my personal work that I have always wanted to take further. I.e. the fusion of machine and flesh. In Battle La I got to do this to an extreme, and get paid for it!. The best part about it was seeing what you created on the big screen. Seeing scenes and designs that you illustrated created almost exactly in the final renders for the movie.
Do you have any dream projects?
I would love to work on the new Robocop Film, the new Akira and Mad Max films. I was too late to pitch for THE THING remake, but that would of been perfect for me. Cd cover wise, I would defiantly love to do an Iron Maiden cover. Have a stab at re-inventing Eddy. I would take it back to some of the early covers, where you could lose yourself in the epic details . So if you want to start a ‘Paul Gerrard for Maiden ‘ campaign, that would awesome
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Favorites band of all time, Frontline Assembly, Cubanate, Brimingham 6, Clock DVA, Unit 187, Malhavoc. Currently listening to a lot of Klutae, DSBP radio and lots of new material by Machine Head .
Check out Paul’s work at: gerrardart.com