MKE -- May 18, 2006
The artist Erik Rose, 34, Milwaukee/Chicago
The deal Erik is an editor/art director for Tastes Like Chicken Magazine and a freelance illustrator.
The work Check out Erik's work on our cover this week. You can also find his illustrations in Milwaukee Magazine, on the cover of several Troma DVDs, at www.erikrose.com and www.tlchicken.com.
Favorite comic book " 'Cages' by Dave McKean may be one of the greatest books I've ever read. The fact that it is an amazingly illustrated graphic novel only adds to its mood and beauty. A 500-page meditation on creation, creativity and love."
Inspiration "Mainly all the great artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, Jae Lee, Kent Williams, Paul Pope, Dave Mazzucelli, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Lee Bermejo, Duncan Fegredo and Tony Harris. Just seeing what these guys are consistently doing - the way they push the boundaries - it just makes you want to push yourself. There are so many books out there that are all the same and that's fine, just like there are blockbuster movies made for a mass audience. But when you catch just a glimpse of what words plus images can really do, the way they come to life, it's very inspiring."
When and why did you start reading comic books? "I've been into comics as long as I can remember. I used to make my mom read me comics every night before I went to bed. It must have been exhausting for her to try to figure out how to pronounce names like Mr. Mxyztplk. About the time I started to 'grow out' of comics, I discovered a really great artist named Bill Sienkiewicz who was doing amazing painted covers, and then I was hooked all over again. From there it was on to independent and underground comics. Comics are just like films: There is something out there for everyone, you just have to know where to look."
Where do you get your story ideas? "Everything is almost always based on real life; it's always stranger than any fiction. Then it's just a process of extrapolating it from there into a full story. One little event starts me spinning with ideas and possibilities."
Favorite comic book superhero "Daredevil! Not only is he a blind lawyer who knows martial arts, has radar sense and can read people's heartbeats to tell if they're lying, but his storylines are usually in-depth mob tales in New York's Hell's Kitchen. It's like 'The Sopranos' meets 'Kung Fu' meets 'The Practice.' "
Favorite comic book villain "Bullseye. He can use anything to kill you - playing cards, seeds from freshly squeezed orange juice."
Super power fantasy "Flying would be cool, but I'm sure everyone is saying that. I'd love to have mind powers - to read thoughts, communicate telepathically. Can you imagine if you cut me off in traffic and I could yell at you in your head? That would be great!"
Erik Rose in Profile
By SHANNAN HULBERT
Times Wire Editor
It was at Bryan High School that Erik Rose developed his passion for art.
Erik, a 1990 BHS grad, explained that in his high school art classes, former Bryanite Charles Vollmer regularly came to speak.
Mr. Vollmer was attending the Columbus College of Art and Design, and would share his experiences at CCAD, as well as his own artwork, with the students.
“He was a comic book guy too,” says Erik, “So of course I latched on to whatever work he was doing.”
Toward the end of his high school career, Erik went with a friend to visit CCAD. “It wasn’t the best experience,” he says, “The guy we talked to was really critical of my stuff. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to art school at that point, and it really turned me off.”
After pursuing musical interests for seven or eight years, Erik decided it was finally time to go back to school. “It was the right decision for me. I don’t know if I was ready for art school right after high school.
“By waiting, I had experienced enough to know what I didn’t want to do. School was my primary focus.”
“I began as an illustration major,” he continues. “I wanted to do story boarding for films.
“About 2/3 way through, I met some guys that had a local free newspaper, Tastes Like Chicken ... I started doing movie reviews for them ... then artwork and editorial illustration.
“You can do whatever you wanted to do for TLC,” he says, “After a few months I got to interview the artist Bill Sienkiewicz, who was basically like my hero.”
“It was through TLC that I found the direction I wanted to go in, and everything else has come from that.
“I’ve always been the person who’s going in a lot of different directions at once, with a lot of different interests. At TLC, I get to do all that stuff.”
After graduating from CCAD in 2000, Erik, and TLC migrated to Milwaukee. “We were looking to expand, and we figured Milwaukee was close enough to Chicago to distribute there, and Madison (Wis.) is also nearby.”
For distribution purposes, TLC retooled as a magazine, and is now distributed internationally. TLC, the print edition, can be found in all Tower Records stores, as well as some Barnes & Noble, as well as many smaller newsstands, and online.
At www.tlchicken.com, readers will also find a once-monthly online edition, with all original content, including interviews, illustrations, columns, and an interactive artist spotlight.
“The magazine is very much about personal tastes. It can go in whatever direction we’re interested in. I’ve interviewed so many interesting people — including Henry Rollins, Billy Idol and Gene Simmons. Sometimes it’s really surreal.”
“TLC keeps growing every issue,” says Erik. “I can definitely see it becoming a full-time job.”
In addition to TLC, Erik also does all kinds of freelance artwork. “It’s weird how the interconnections work. It really is six degrees of separation,” he says, discussing how he gets much of his work.
Erik is also working on a graphic novel, which he hopes to have published in the next year, as well as promotional material for a number of bands, and “live art,” which is where he goes to clubs or concerts and interpret the music through painting. The paintings are then sold to club-goers relatively inexpensively.
“It’s a great way to unwind,” he says. “I would love to do more of that.”
The Ten Sticks Interview March 2006
TS: How old were you when you began to experiment with art and at what point did you know that it was your calling?
ER: I've been doing art as long as I can remember. Almost everyone drew when they were younger but a lot of people reach that point where they give up because they can't make things look right. I think I just had the right perspective and was looking at the right artists as inspiration and that helped me get past that point. I remember really falling in love with the line work of Egon Schiele. It wasn't always perfect but there was something so powerfully confident in it that made me appreciate my own marks. The way a person draws is as individual as their handwriting.
There was a period where I put off art to pursue other things but it was always there at the back of my mind waiting for me to finally realize that it was the one thing that made me happiest. I didn't go straight to art college after high school, which was probably a good thing. I don't think I would have treated it as seriously as I did when I knew it was time to go for it.
TS: Do you create more from inspiration or just a need for it to escape into the world?
ER: I am very easily inspired. I do a lot of different things and have many interests but there is a big part of me that is only satisfied when I'm at the art desk with deadlines looming. When the music is blasting, I'm screaming along at the top of my lungs, and I've just made a brush stroke on the board that reminds me of an artist I admire. When you get just a glimpse of that connection and that understanding it's the most amazing thing in the world. It's being in the zone, like being a musician onstage when everything is just cooking. Sometimes it feels like I have too many ideas and I need to get them done so there is room for the next one to come out.
TS: Who are some of your influences?
ER: There is a great illustrator and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz who deserves the credit for turning me onto so many of the other influences I have. I stumbled on his work on the comic book rack when I was reaching that age where comics just weren't cool anymore. He was doing these amazing painted covers while everyone else was doing the traditional comic book style. It completely woke me up and put me on the path that I've been on to this day.
There are so many for so many different reasons. Dave McKean is another huge one he has to be the most creative person on the planet right now hands down. Let's see… Bob Peak, Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Jae Lee, Lee Bejermo, Tim Bradstreet, Ralph Steadman, Kathie Kollwitz , Joel Peter-Witkin, Robert and Shana Parkharrison, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Bernie Fuchs, JC Lyndecker, Matt Mahurin, Greg Ruth, Marla Campbell, Robert McGinnis, Martin French, John Van Fleet, George Pratt, Kent Williams, Jon J. Muth, Jenny Saville, dwellephant, Peter Greenaway, John Waterhouse. Music is another aspect that is so important to what I do and helps get me in the right frame of mind.
TS: Give us some information about your site ErikRose.com.
ER: It's my site that I put together with the help of a buddy of mine. It has a regularly updated gallery of my work, information on where I'll be doing Live Art shows, original art for sale, and whatever other bits of strangeness I end up putting there. The illustration world has changed a lot in the last 20-30 years and having a website is a great way to spread the word. You can refer potential clients to your site to look at your portfolio, people can reach you to request commissions, and it's just a really great way to stay connected to the world.
TS: What's your most popular pieces/request?
ER: I do a lot of celebrity portraits for magazines and a lot of those are very popular. I see them creep up on people's MySpace accounts and blogs. John Cena, Dillinger Escape Plan, Hunter S. Thompson, The Big Lebowski – I've had so many requests for paintings of the Dude it's amazing.
TS: Do you have any pieces close to your heart?
ER: There are certain pieces that when I finish them feel like a high water mark. They are the pieces that both offer a preview of where I'm going as an artist and become the pieces that I judge all others by. Chronologically there was a piece I did towards the end of college called “Downstairs” it was a large sumi ink piece which really woke me up and sent me in a certain direction for quite a while. Another was a piece I did of Lloyd Kaufman from Troma films for an interview in Tastes Like Chicken Magazine. It was one of those rare pieces that turned out much better than I expected. I like “The Butchers” DVD cover I did for them which was something that came out of doing that portrait. Recently a portrait of Zach Galifianakis I did for TLC, which started out as a sketch that ran away from me and turned into something kind of new.
TS: Tell us about your creative process.
ER: I don't usually have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike there is usually a bone crushing deadline, sometimes threats of violence. So I brainstorm, do a bunch of research, throw stuff to the wall to see what sticks, maybe shoot some reference, decide what medium to use, turn on some tunes, dress up like Ronnie James Dio from the “Holy Diver” video, and attack. I like to work pretty quickly to keep the energy of the piece -- otherwise I have a tendency to overwork it. I like the jazz aspect of creating; laying something down, responding to it, pushing it. A piece is generally 50% creating and 50% fixing mistakes.
TS: What are some of your current projects?
ER: I'm always doing something or another for Tastes Like Chicken as well as juggling some other freelance work. It's hard to find time to do some of those dream projects that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. I am in the process of doing a graphic novel – I'd love to have that done by the end of the year at the latest. I'm doing a book cover for a great novel by Thomas McKenzie that will hopefully be out in the summer or fall. A couple commissions -- one of which is a Donnie Darko piece – that should be fun to do.
TS: For those that don't know, tell us about Taste Like Chicken.
ER: It's a humor/arts/entertainment magazine that was started by a group of Columbus College of Art and Design students as a campus paper. It turned into a city wide monthly newspaper and now has graduated into a quarterly print magazine which is distributed throughout the US and Canada in places like Tower Records, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. It's jammed packed with interviews by the most interesting artists, musicians, filmmakers, and authors out there. Not the ones you read about everywhere else. There are humorous columns, a creative writing section, comics, and of course because it was created by a bunch of artists it has more original illustrations than any other magazine on the stands today . Plus there are free monthly online issues available on the site www.tlchicken.com .
TS: Who was the most interesting person you have interviewed?
ER: That's a hard one to nail down. I just recently interviewed a guy from Canada named William Jamieson who collects shrunken heads. That's a pretty interesting hobby. For me being able to interview Bill Sienkiewicz was amazing to get to pick his brain after enjoying his work for so long. Andrew Vachss who is a lawyer/author who only defends children was humbling and eye opening. I'm very interested in human behavior – I'm a big people watcher so I'm always interested in talking to people that are good at their craft whether it's music, art, film, or whatever.
TS: Any hobbies besides art?
ER: I'm a big film buff usually the stranger the better. Music – I played guitar and sang in a band for about 7 years before getting really serious about doing illustration. I love to read but don't have as much time to devote to it as I'd like.
TS: Do you have any advice for young artists?
ER: Do this because you love it and because you have to in order to live because otherwise you're only fooling yourself. It is not glamorous, you probably won't get rich, you'll struggle, you'll doubt yourself, and it is not a normal life. If you've read this far and are saying to yourself, “So what – I don't care about that! I will make money, I will be famous!” -- you might have enough heart to make it – now work on your craft. Work hard – it's not a 9-5 job -- it's an every waking second of your life job if you want to make it. Surround yourself with other talented artist's whose opinions you value and who will give you honest critiques of your work. Listen to what they say then decide if you agree or disagree. Work on your craft some more. Contact an artist you admire. Learn about the artistic giants whose shoulders we all stand on. Do you know who Bob Peak is? Dean Cornwell? Andrew Loomis? Ralph Steadman? Dave McKean? Robert McGinnis? Find out!!! Be aware of what is going on in the art and design world if for no other reason than to buck the system and to know where not to go. Don't fit in anywhere? Create your own niche. Observe the world around you, figure out a way to capture it and show everyone how you feel about it. Learn to love the marks you make. Experiment. Think it, breathe it, live it every moment and then you just might make it.
Advice for the not so young artists – it's never too late. It took me a few years to accept the fact that this was my calling but once I started down the path in earnest so many doors opened to help me get to this point. The first step is the hardest.
Stuck Magazine Interview
Stuck: Where in Ohio are you from?
Erik: A little dinky town
called Bryan which is about two miles by two miles, in
the middle of corn fields. Bryan is where all Etch-a-Sketches used to be
produced. It's one of those small towns where if you weren't into sports you
were a weirdo - so you can just imagine how much fun it was to be the "art
kid". Then I lived in Columbus for 4 years while I went to college.
S: How much time did you spend drawing as a kid?
E: I think I was drawing
in the womb. I was really inspired and supported
creatively from all sides when I was growing up. My aunt used to baby-sit me
when I was real little and she is both an amazing artist and musician. I
know we used to draw and paint all the time, sing stupid songs, and watch
Godzilla movies. My parents are both very creative too. My mom used to draw
and then got into crafts, sewing, scrap-booking, all kinds of things. She's
got this great eye for pattern and texture. Whenever I go back home to visit
she's got all this cool paper and stuff that I end up scamming from her to
scan and use in my work. My dad always did carpentry and did really
inventive things with the house, like an elevated bed with rope ladders and
secret sliding panels. Growing up our house was always just jam-packed with
books. A lot of Sci-fi and horror novels and collections of fantasy
artwork -- I would spend hours pouring over all those books. My parents
would always take me to the newsstand and buy me comics and I'd draw from
them. It always seemed as natural as breathing to be drawing all the time.
S: Where do you live now?
E: I've lived in Milwaukee
for about a year and a half now. I moved here after
I finished school at CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design). I moved up
here with 10 other people to make this humor/arts/entertainment magazine
called tastes like chicken.
S: A lot of your pieces have a very
'dark comic-book' feel to them....what
influences have led your style to develop in this way?
E: I really grew up with
comics. My dad had this huge collection of Heavy Metal
magazines, do you know what that is? Heavy Metal was sci-fi/horror comics
for adults, actually it's still around, but the ones my dad had from the
late 70s early 80s - that was when it was phenomenal. It was just full of
all these great artists; I remember that was the first place I ever saw H.R.
Giger, people like Berni Wrightson, Moebius, Richard Corben, Jeff Jones,
Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal, all these great artists from all over the
world were in there and a lot of it was very dark. That was definitely an
early influence. I went through that phase in middle school when I stopped
getting comics because I thought they were for kids. Then I was walking
through the newsstand on the way to school one day and BAM! This comic
jumped off the shelf at me. It was a painted cover by Bill Sienkiewicz who
was becoming this real experimental, almost impressionistic comic artist and
I was hooked again. A lot of people who both influenced and were influenced
by him have become some of my favorites as well. As far as the dark, noir
feel; I like my images to have an immediate effect on people so the heavy
shadows help to make the pieces pop. Movies as well have been huge as far
as the way I see the world. I love strange dark movies by people like David
Lynch, Terry Gilliam, PT Anderson, Peter Greenaway, Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
S: How much time do you usually spend
on a full-complete piece? a sketch? a
E: You know it really depends.
Some pieces come to you in a flash - the whole
thing is there in your mind and all you have to do is the technical aspect
of putting it down on paper. I found out early on that if I work on
something too long I tend to overwork things. Most of the time I would
rather do two or three versions of the same image quickly than work on one
for days. Some friends and I started doing these 'Live Art' gigs where we go
to clubs and paint off the cuff to music by DJs and bands. I usually knock
out about 8 paintings in a 4-5 hour period there. A tight piece usually
takes anywhere from a 2 to 14 hours. Give me the right music, one of those
'magic' days where everything just clicks, and a tight deadline and I've
been know to do 6 tight pieces over a weekend.
S: Who are some of your favorite artists, past and/or present?
E: This is a tough one just
because there are so many. Sienkiewicz is probably
the biggest because knowing his work and finding him when I was so young
just completely opened my eyes in so many different ways. He turned me on to
amazing artists like Ralph Steadman, Gustav Klimpt, Bob Peak, and Bernie
Fuchs. Dave McKean is a close second - he does everything and does it all so
damn well he consistently blows my mind. His graphic novel "Cages" is the
most amazing book I've ever read. I don't just mean most amazing comic
book - I mean book. Between his drawings and those of Egon Schiele I learned
to be comfortable with the way that I draw and really realized that every
mark an artist makes is as distinct as their handwriting, as unique as the
sound of their voice. That was an amazing revelation, because up until that
point I was trying so hard to try to make my stuff look like someone else.
I love Degas, Phil Hale, John Singer Sargent, Joel-Peter Witkin, Mary
Cassatt, and a lot of the German Expressionists like Kathie Kollwitz. I
think Charles Burns, Scott Morse, Alex Maleev, Jae Lee, and Greg Ruth are
the most exciting comic artists working today. I am also very lucky that I
get to work with so many great artists at tastes like chicken. To know that
your work is going to have to hold it's own on a page with Marla Campbell, Dave Crosland,
or Milan Zori makes you work really, really hard to do your best.
S: Do you skateboard?
E: No, I dabbled in it for
a short time but I found out pretty quickly that it
was not my forte.
S: Have you ever considered doing any graphics for skateboards?
E: Yeah, I've been talking
to some people about it - hopefully something will
pan out. It's definitely something I'd love to do. The skating world has so
much creativity -- great design and art coming out of it it's something I'm
dying to become more involved in.
S: How has living in the Midwest affected your art?
E: I've never known any other
way so I'm not sure how to answer that. I've
always thought that art has to jump out and grab you viscerally. If you have
to read a 200 page book to figure out what the artist is trying to say then
that artist has not done their job. I think I've been able to avoid a lot of
the pretension that comes with being an 'Artist' with a capital 'A' by being
here. The Midwest seems to keep you grounded.