Well it has been quite difficult to decide which of the 2 pictures he sent me I would use to illustrate this interview. Indeed, I finally chose the captain america one, and kept the other fantastic one for another interview. In fact, if you except the questions (and answers) Billy provided me with so many stuffs that the second interview is nearly already finished :) Well, you guessed it, Billy is not only a talented "senior" designer, but also a generous guy and a true music lover. Check out Butcherwhite and Honeycreeper for true graphic music !
As I start this interview, it's Halloween and I'm listening to "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" . I sing & play guitar in a couple of rock bands, so I listen to a lot of hard rock, both current & classic. I'm also a huge fan of 70's punk: Ramones, The Damned, Cheap Trick, etc. Easily the best era of music, in my opinion.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
"Good Ideas Thru Bad Living" - my studio's tagline since 1992.
I was born in Texas and have lived here most of my life. I'm pretty proud to call Austin my home. It's a free-thinking art & music town, especially compared to other areas of the state.
I like to exercise and at least make an attempt to stay fit, although I'm only occasionally successful at it.
In addition to art, I love playing &writing music, and going to see bands perform. Music, after all, is the inspiration for the art most of the time.
I currently serve on the board for the South Austin Popular Culture Center, a nonprofit group & gallery space whose mission in part is to preserve the rich cultural history of posters and other art related to Austin's vibrant music scene.
When did you start drawing?
Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?
Ha, I definitely drew on my school notebooks a lot, and probably did improve my skills a little in the process (somewhere I have an old notebook that I doodled all over with drawings of Alice Cooper and KISS). I think improvement comes with just perpetually studying work that you like and constantly drawing, which I did. I was very much into the escapism of it, and could occupy myself for hours by either reading comics or drawing.
I took art classes from the 8th grade through high school and beyond. When I graduated high school, all my friends went off to college, and I realized that I wasn't going to have anyone to hang out with unless I went with them. Somehow, I managed to be the first person in my family to go to college, and I eventually was awarded a BFA in Commercial Art from Texas State University.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
My last real job was almost 20 years ago, as an Art Director for a large screen printing company. That's where I got really interested in designing posters. When mismanagement caused that company to go bankrupt, all of the employees were left jobless. I took over some of their clients and have been freelancing ever since, designing ads, logos and more. Poster art does not unfortunately pay the bills.
I am when asked, but nothing steady at the moment.
Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?
Early on, my influences were the great Marvel Comics artists of the late 60's &early 70's. John Buscema's work on "The Avengers" was huge for me. I loved pretty much anything that Gene Colan did, and dug the shit of Barry Windsor-Smith's version of "Conan".
As a teenager, it was definitely album cover art and blacklight posters. I spent hours getting lost in the work of Frazetta, Roger Dean&; more. Album covers are a lost art form, and I'm sad that they're pretty much a thing of the past. It's hard to imagine myself being a child of today, and being as inspired without them.
What are the principal steps in your work ?
I start out by sketching on either tracing paper, plain copy paper or bristol. I like my final black & white art to be on bristol. I tape my sketch to my light table, place a sheet of bristol on top of it, then do my inking. This way there are no pencil lines to erase.
I ink with a combination of pens (I like Pitt Pens) and brush. I discovered the Pentel Pocket Brush a few years ago thanks to fellow artist David Witt, and that thing has changed my life. It's an actual brush that uses an ink cartridge. It never dries and never has to be cleaned. Awesome for lazy & messy artists like me.
Do you do everything by hand or on computer?
All drawing is done by hand. I wouldn't be satisfied any other way. I love to feel the pencil or brush touching the surface of the paper. I scan my illustrations, then colorize & add any additional text in Adobe Illustrator. That's where I get the file print-ready.
How long does it take you to do a poster?
For me, the concept usually takes the longest. I've thought about designs for days before ever putting pencil to paper. From that point, I can usually finish the entire piece in a day or two. If I decide to do the Prismacolor shading style that I described above, it takes about 25-30 hours for the illustration, then still has to be scanned & made print-ready.
I think every artist knows what their strong suits are, and are at their best doing what they feel most comfortable with. If I was asked to do an oil painting of horses...? That would completely suck all kinds of ass & I'd have to politely turn that gig down.
For which band have you already worked for?
Alice in Chains, X, Cheap Trick, Cheech &Chong, ZZ Top and too many others to mention. I'm really proud to say that, by the way. Twenty years of desperately trying to stay relevant can build up quite a nice body of work!
At the moment, I'm listening to a lot of Graveyard (from Sweden) and Black Mountain, and would love to work with either of them. I'm still an old-school rocker though, and would love to get an ACDC or Judas Priest gig. Iron Maiden or KISS would be great as well. I thoroughly enjoy doing posters for my own bands, Butcherwhite and Honeycreeper, and regularly spend an insane amount of time designing artwork for both. I'm doing more & more CD covers lately as well, including an upcoming package for Cheap Trick. I'm very stoked to be doing some work soon for the estate of my all-time favorite band, The Ramones.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
I usually choose the artists myself, but I do get asked to do plenty of work that I didn't seek out. I need to like the band, otherwise my heart is not really in it and I'd rather not fake it. I'm just a fan-boy at heart, and still get excited when I get to do a poster for a band I love.
I think the most difficult part is developing a good idea and trying to create a piece that is clever conceptually. In addition to having your own unique illustration skills, I think a good concept is what separates some artists from the pack. Emek is a great example of this, he's very strong and consistent at both.
Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?
If you had asked me this question ten years ago, I would have said no. Thanks to online poster sites like Gigposters.com, though, I can say that yes, there is a scene and I am very proud to be a part of it. That site brought a lot of artists together as a community, and helped pioneer the traveling rock poster shows that we call Flatstock. Everyone has benefitted in one way or another - the artists, the fans, and even the genre itself. I've made lifelong friends through both the website and the Flatstock shows, and have gleefully massacred many brain cells in the process. I can't say enough good things about how the experience has improved my life, my work and my attitude. There's no way I could start mentioning artists without leaving too many people out. The list is that long.
A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
My site CultofPenhead.com is currently under construction, but for now you can see a pretty complete body of work that includes posters, movie work, CD covers and more with this public link to my artwork on Facebook:
The best praise you received lately?
I'm currently working on a very ambitious project that I call "Perkins '77". It's 77 iconic music portraits from 1977, each one an edition of 77 hand-screened art prints. It's a combination of punk/new wave and stadium rock. It's a very autobiographical series that visually tells the story of my youth. I was asked if I'd be interested in a gallery show exhibiting the completed series at the former location of CBGB in New York. If that's not validation, I don't know what is.
What can we wish you for the future?
Thanx a lot for your answers, hope to see you soon on the blog