Resources & Inspiration for the Artistically Curious
I honestly can’t remember exactly when I met Alex Eckman-Lawn and his writer counterpart Nick Tapalansky, but I certainly remember meeting them at the same time. I THINK it was back at the 2007 Wizard World in Philadelphia, but my memory for these things leaves much to be desired. What I do remember though is discovering AWAKENING, for the first time. Hot on the heels of the Zombie sub-culture’s explosion into the mainstream, AWAKENING caught my attention from the get go with it’s sinisterly dark and “rough” style that combined complex Photoshop manipulation with a a “criminal murder mystery” hook.
Alex Eckman-Lawn is a stand-up guy, always willing to take five and chat with a friend or fan and talk comic book shop. I conducted this interview over the course of several weeks on Facebook seeing as neither of us had much time to sit down face-to-face and hash out the dialogue. What resulted was a pretty excellent insight into the man himself that shows ya what being positive and persistent can accomplish.
The following has been edited for grammar… and so that it makes sense. Alex’s responses have no been changed or abridged.
First off, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed following your work so much these past years was due to the fact that you’re accessible to your audience. I can’t think of a single time where you’ve ignored my questions or comments on your work, and as a fan that’s a huge deal to me.
ALEX ECKMAN-LAWN (AEL)
First of all I want to thank YOU for taking the time to talk with me about nerdy art stuff! I’m always psyched to shoot the shit and geek out about art. I hope I’m never too busy for that.
Lets see, I’ve been a professional illustrator since 2006 so I guess that means I’ve been doing this for 6 years. As for how I got here, that’s a mixture of determination, not having any other marketable skills to fall back on, and a ton of luck! Mostly I just try to make art every day and keep finding ways to make the process exciting.
(If you want boring specifics, I pitched to Archaia with Nick Tapalansky at Wizard World Philly in 06, got insanely lucky and wound up with a contract by the end of the summer, and never looked back. I also contacted bands about doing shirts or flyers and now I have the pleasure of doing album artwork for a lot of pretty rad metal bands.)
That’s excellent. One of the hardest things to do is actually have enough have confidence in your project to actually seek it out. Many people won’t even risk the idea of having their idea shot down purely out of fear.
One of the things I keep coming back to for inspiration is your cd artwork. The work is almost always dark and/or sinister, which has really allowed your work to gain a lot of focus and defined your professional body of work. Can you talk a little about working with such niche clients? Do you ever feel like you’re re-inventing the wheel? More importantly, where do you derive your sources of inspiration for these projects? Is it from the music itself? Do you necessarily listen to all the bands you design for, or do you just understand the market?
Thanks a lot, man! I really love the music illustration stuff. It’s true that working with metal bands you’ll wind up using a certain visual vocabulary, but just like metal itself, there’s a lot of variety within that genre. I could talk for hours about all the subtle and not so subtle differences between different sub-genres and the art that coincides with them, but in the interest of keeping this a readable length I’ll just say I don’t feel confined. Plus I have had the great fortune of working with a lot of bands who are open to new ideas.
Yes I do listen to the bands I work with! For me their sound really informs the visual side, both from the literal (as in lyrics) and more abstract (the mood/feel of the music) side of things. Plus I’m always psyched to hear new things. That’s one of the perks of the job!
Of course there are also times when I get revisions like “add more skulls.” Though to be honest, that’s almost always a good idea.
I think you’re a good example of an illustrator/designer who has taken their personal likes and aesthetic appreciations and used that to their advantage to create both an interesting body of personal work, while also creating a fan/client base that reflects that style.
One of the things I believe a lot of young creatives struggle with is finding their own aesthetic voice that they can use to advertise their skills while some how managing not to fall into a rut or risk becoming a one trick pony
Just wanna wrap this up by thanking you for taking the time to answer some of these questions and ask you one final question: Are there any authors, illustrators, designers or bands that you find yourself coming back to time and time again for inspiration and motivation in your own personal life? Thank you!
Yeah it’s definitely tough to find a unique voice, especially when there’s so much awesome work out there. It’s easy to get subconsciously or consciously influenced by other artists and the internet makes it even easier to consume crazy amounts of images. Tumblr is almost dangerous that way. I absorb an absurd amount of art every day.
I think the trick is just to take it all in and take what you like from that stuff, but don’t try to imitate. Your work will always come easier and look better if you let yourself work the way that feels most natural. I try not to bend my work into any direction in particular, and then find the market it fits best into afterwards. this might sound kind of backwards but it feels really honest to me.
As for motivation, its an ever expanding list of hundreds. I’ll just name a few that have really meant something to me lately.
Moebius just passed away recently so everyone’s talking about that guy but he totally deserves the attention. That guy’s work is timeless and important, as much as any of the best comic artists, probably any illustrator.
• Killian Eng has definitely been influenced by Moebius but he’s doing some really really great work and some cool shit that Moebius never would have.
• Edward Kinsella constantly and consistently kills it. Really dreamy, emotional illustration.
• Daniel Danger does some super awesome moody stuff with crazy beautiful intricate, fine linework. I wish I could make work this DENSE.
• Emmanuel Malin makes some of the craziest most visually PACKED textural shit out there right now. I love this shit.
• Tombs put out an album last year called Path of Totality that I’m still listening to and still gives me chills.
• High on Fire just put out a new album and it’s pretty awesome. Good for when I need to get into that EPIC state of mind.
• Boris can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. i’ve been listening to Rainbow with Michio Kurihara lately and that album is incredible. So, so huge.
• Lightning Bolt forever and always make me want to spazz out and make insane art.
• Meshuggah. I’m a huge nerd for this band and seeing them tonight.
Thanks man! This was fun.