As horror aficionados, we were drawn to “Hlwa” for our December cover because, to our biased eye, it implies a decidedly frightening narrative. However, seen in the broader context of your work, it seems it may be much richer than that. You have an unusual amount of storytelling happening in your work (e.g. “Khanyisa In Flames”), much of it accompanied by prose or poetry touched by introspection or dripping with an otherworldly sort of spirituality. How do you characterize your work, if you use any genre terms, and what can you tell us about your purpose as an artist and the themes you are exploring? (The “About” page at your website is the very definition of elusive, merely a cryptic verse and an arcane-looking symbol.)
What a rabbit hole trying to characterize my work led me down! It seemed like such an easy question, but I found the more I looked at artistic genres the less I felt happy about what I thought they represented. I’d like to hope that my work represents a sort of honesty. I feel as if we are all different types of witches, and for artists their spell-craft is obviously their artwork. So that’s what I’m trying to bring about; an inborn, quasi-dormant thaumaturgy. Thematically I’m drawn to topics that are seemingly unsettling; topics that have a lot of dimension and are not perceptibly moral or amoral. I think when I think about my interests in those terms, I want to explore more of the unspoken side to the human experience: psychological trauma, sexual perversion, the occult, and deep spiritual conditioning.
Your work shows great versatility, from fantastic (“The First Seal”) to humorous (“Muppet”), from romantic (“Love”) to grotesque (“The Walkers”). Do you feel compelled to work in this great a range of subjects, or do you force yourself to?
It’s interesting because I don’t actually see them as a great range—to me they are small parts of a larger whole. Tonally, I always try to respect the space that creativity comes from, so I believe that has to manifest itself in different ways, just as our emotions manifest themselves in different ways. Though, inversely I’ve been criticized for being “a fountain of dead ends” because of this, as from an outside perspective it may seem like I’m starting and stopping on many “opposing” ideas. Recently (read last 10-12 months) I feel like I’ve been finding the true artistic path for myself. My next goals are securing a framework for that to happen.
You have a great number of character designs in your gallery at iiiil0liiii.com. Were these done as concept pieces for gaming companies, as many digital painters dabble in, or simply out of your own interest?
All of the character designs were done for my own interests or projects at the time. I don’t actually put my professional work as a concept artist on my website. . . I feel like it sullies the experience.
What can you tell us about the Tower of Egeda? Is that a personal project?
It is a personal project about a fatally-ill woman and a grieving man who are inevitably thrust into opposing sides as they try to obtain an object within the tower that can alter/reverse the flow of time. It was intended as a “short” project for me to be able to work on and finish, but we see how that went! Herp derp!
What is your artistic background, and is your work exclusively digitally produced or do you work in other media?
My work is almost exclusively digital, aside from rare cases where I have scanned something. I used to love painting in oils and eventually I will get back to it. I have some great (I think so anyway) plans that can fuse my digital work with an analog workflow.
Which artists inspire you and contributed to the development of your style? I’m sensing a bit of Frazetta in “The Silent” and “Odin”. (Or is that merely an unavoidable comparison when it comes to fantasy art?)
My biggest influence and admiration comes from Eiko Ishioka. When I was ten or eleven I saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula and I was completely enthralled by the costuming. As luck would have it, my mother had the accompanying art book for the movie, and I remember looking at Eiko’s work repeatedly. I used to have dreams where she and I would talk, and I would make claims that I had to “be as adept as she.” Her passing this January left me feeling really lost — like a great elder goddess had left the earth. . .
Some of my other notable influences include Zdzislaw Beksinski, John William Waterhouse, and Yoshitaka Amano.
Although Frazetta was a BEAST when it comes to fantasy art, he was never actually an influence of mine (consciously at least).
Do you draw ideas from fiction? If so, which authors do you find inspiring?
Not fiction in the typical sense of the word. . . I actually don’t know if I’d consider it fiction at all BUT, I’m extremely interested in occult literature and mythology, especially as it relates to creation stories. Some of my favorite authors write about spirituality, the worlds beyond our sight, or mastering the human mind. Alistair Crowley, Rumi, and Osho are a few off the top of my head. As a child I loved the “Mysteries of the Unknown” book series from Time Life, too.
What are you working on right now?
Professionally, I’m working at Turtle Rock Studios as a concept artist on an unannounced game project. Personally, I’m working on my entries for Spectrum 20, and a personal project tentatively named “The Wellspring.” Next year will be really prolific for me, so I’m really excited about the personal work that I will be sharing!
What’s your dream illustration job?
I still have an unrealized dream of working at/owning a 2D animation house. It’s not necessarily illustration, but I think it is the right combination of elements that I could truly excel at. I think it would also be an excellent avenue to manifest a type of art that I don’t think is adequately being explored or respected.
Spread the word!