Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Artist Spotlight

Artist Showcase: Lukasz Jaszak

Łukasz Jaszak is a thirty-six-year-old self-taught photographer and graphic designer living and working in Krakow, Poland. He made his start in this dark discipline when approached to do album art for a friend’s metal band, eventually doing work for acts like Blood Red Throne, Decapitated, The Vision Bleak, Vomitory, and Behemoth. A visual perfectionist who enjoys making something from nothing, Jaszak cuts no corners: for his photoshoots, every item is carefully selected or created, right down to building his own sets and performing taxidermy for animal props. This stringency aside, Jaszak does not force himself to produce, but waits for his twisted muse to come to him. His work can be found at www.jaszak.net.

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So, Łukasz, what did you do before this?

Not much! My rabid obsessions started quite early. I’ve finished high school and said no to further “education” in this fucked up country. I stayed on my own and tried to do my own thing, which turned into a proper job some months after. I was distributing records of German Prophecy Productions here in Poland and before I knew it, I started designing album covers for them. Then, by word of mouth, more people flew in and I was making my living doing designs for bands and such. I’ve been doing some photography every now and then, but couldn’t really find my path until I decided to stop searching and focus on what I know best: darkness. And, of course, I have a day job, but it’s closely related to music and design so I can’t complain. It’s hard to make money on music these days, with all the downloads, markets collapsing and all that. (Plus I never went door to door asking people for jobs, so there, haha, maybe I could do better with a little asslicking, but I still refuse to do so.)

Music appears to be a large inspiration for you.

Yeah, music is always here, no matter what. I won’t be really original if I say I can’t imagine life without it. It’s been a major part of my life, if not the main one. Basically everything I’ve done so far has a lot to do with music, and I am thankful for that. I can’t say it inspires my work, though, it just gets me through thick and thin. I rarely get inspired by the bands I am working for. I can usually pull out a great artwork for the band and then tell them I never even bothered to hear their music. Some get really touchy about it, haha . . .

Is the dark and disturbing nature of your work tied to the music that launched you? Or do you have a separate and longer-standing interest in edgy art, and if so, can you tell us about that?

I don’t know much about my “art” . . . See, I can’t even name it properly. I don’t plan it, I don’t think it over, the ideas just pop up and it’s done. I don’t even have names for the things I’ve done. I rarely check others’ stuff, I guess I don’t want to know and get discouraged that something was already done or done better. I just go around and suddenly say, “You know, this would look killer if I put it together with this and that and in the middle of that,” and the idea is born. I suppose it comes from somewhere, but I am not at this step of self-discovery yet to know what the fuck is wrong with me. There’s surely a lot of self-expression and personal trauma in what I do. A lot of solitude, sadness, anger, and frustration, for sure.

You had the opportunity last year to shoot Henry Rollins. How did that come about?

It was nothing, really. No proper session or anything. He just happened to perform at one place and, since I was there, I decided to say hi and ask if I could snap a photo of him. He had no problem with that, and here we are. Funny thing, after a couple of shots I told him, “Gimme me more attitude,” and dude just pulled down his eyebrows and that was it, haha! It was great to meet a legend, even though I am usually not so crazy about this “meeting celebrities” thing.

As an autodidact, do you feel that art is antithetical to structured instruction? Or do you feel that you missed out?

I couldn’t tell, could I? It must be wonderful to be taught it all, to know what you’re doing and be professional enough to do whatever the fuck you like, but on the other hand I’ve met so many people who had the tools but were so clueless about what they want to do that they ended up nowhere. It tears me inside to see some of my truly talented friends who end up designing fucking icons for iPhone applications ‘cause it’s safe money. I know, we all gotta make ends meet, but they didn’t even try a different path.

You shoot a lot with your girlfriend, model Dolly Ann. What has that been like?

Definitely comfortable. I have a bad case of detest for most people, and all the photos I’ve taken are of friends. I never reach for “outside” models unless I get to know them first (which usually never happens, haha). But overall, shooting with my own girlfriend wasn’t as perfect as it may seem. We did some great work together, but I kind of ended up doing nothing else . . . But that’s an easy trap to fall into, so I don’t blame myself much. I am looking forward to trying something else in the future.

One of the themes of your work is illustrating the depravity and violence of what one might call American redneck culture.

I wouldn’t go as far as you described it, as I don’t know that much about this culture. I just picked up visuals which were always fascinating to me—the look, the style—it just looks so good on camera. I’ve been following the lowbrow culture of America for a long time, be it hotrods, rockabilly, trailer trash style, et cetera. The redneck factor I just find humorous. Can’t relate much—I lived in my car once, but only for three months.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Kind of. It’s to do my own thing and prepare to die of starvation in the name of it.

Do you draw ideas from fiction?

Not really. I rarely read fiction. I usually swallow nonfiction only: biographies, stories, whatever the fuck. I suppose I am seeking kindred spirits in the world of the dead and glorious, because I sure as hell won’t find it in a girl next door.

Can you name some of your influences?

Apart from the undisclosed location of my personal traumas, some of the people that inspired my style of shooting were definitely Nikki Sixx, Chad Michael Ward, P.R. Brown, Joseph Cultice, and Philip Warner. I absolutely love the drawings of Tom Bagley, too.

What’s your dream illustration job?

I’d love to work with anybody who is creative enough on their own. I am kinda tired of being approached by people who want their stuff to be done “I don’t know, your style, you rule” and then are too chickenshit to take it, so they strip it down part by part so it’s finally a piece of shit like everything else. That’s the point where I usually quit. I love “visual” bands who know what they want, be it Wednesday 13 or Twiztid, whatever! Working with those would probably go smooth as fuck.

What keeps you awake at night?

The future. I can’t stand the thought.

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Julia Sevin

Julia Sevin (photo by Donovan Fannon)Originally hailing from Northern California, Julia Sevin is a transplant flourishing in the fecund delta silts of New Orleans. Together with husband R.J. Sevin, she owns and edits Creeping Hemlock Press, specializing in limited special editions of genre literature and, most recently, zombie novels. She is an autodidact pixelpusher who spends her days as the art director for a print brokerage designing branding and print pieces for assorted political bigwigs, which makes her feel like an accomplice in the calculated plunder of America. Under the cover of darkness (like Batman in more ways than she can enumerate), she redeems herself through pro bono design, sordid illustration, and baking the world’s best pies. She is available for contract design/illustration including book layouts and websites. See more of her work at juliasevin.com or follow her at facebook.com/juliasevindesign.