As part of our series of interviews with artists in our upcoming show, "From the Depths: Scenes from Below" at Ars Memoria, we had the opportunity to interview the talented Brooklyn-based illustrator Lucas Ruggieri about his work and upcoming projects.
What does dark art mean to you?
For me, dark art can be a huge variety of things, whether its an artifact thats function was malevolent or a painting that just makes you feel scared or anxious for no explainable reason. It can be very rare that I have a negative or dark emotional reaction to a work of art and when I do, it is immensely inspiring. I think my personal definition can be all-encompassing in terms of media and very narrow in terms of successful execution.
A borderline unfair question, but here it goes - who are five of your most influential artists?
It's very difficult for me to narrow it down to just five, but those are my first 5 artists that come to mind:
- Albrecht Durer
- Gustave Dore
- Francis Bacon
- Bernie Wrightson
- Jan Van Eyck
- John Martin
- Marian Kolodziej
When did you realize that you could be a professional artist? Has that been realized yet?
I've always known that I wanted to be an artist since I can remember but I suppose I realized it when I was first applying to colleges and thinking about the possibility of working as any kind of visual artist professionally. Its definitely a struggle to be an illustrator primarily for musicians and balance everything but I think that the realization is finally getting closer to being a reality.
How did you get involved in art in the metal realm?
I went to an art college not knowing how I wanted to do it, but knowing that I wanted to make artwork for Ghoul. At age 18 its fair to say that my friends and I were obsessed with Ghoul so I originally had the thought of actually animating a song of theirs, but wound up doing the comic instead. That was really my first professional "client" even though they didn't end up being printed until a few years after that and contained a more recent work. They were playing the pre-fest for Maryland Deathfest in 2009? After sending a few messages to Shawn Mcgrath about the comic, I hopped on a greyhound from Savannah to meet my friends in Baltimore for the show. Shawn, Ross and the rest of the band/crew were very welcoming and let us hang out and ask them questions for a while, which to us was meeting our idols. That whole experience along with meeting a couple of my good friends at school, Anton Escobar, and Mark Dusk really encouraged me that working for bands I loved was specifically what I wanted to do with my time. Mark and Anton are both visual artists and musicians and we spent a lot of late nights cranking out all sorts of work, experimenting, learning and feeding off of each other. It was a really positive, productive environment.
What are upcoming projects that you can talk about?
I'm currently finishing up a design for the first Quebec Deathfest which I'm pretty excited about. I believe, like the MDF designs I do, that it will be a shirt and poster design. I'm also working with LHP Merch on my first personal shirt design that will be available hopefully around November. Apart from that, I have a couple of tentative projects and a few that I can't quite mention just yet!
How has social media affected your work and your growth as an artist
I feel like I have been extremely lucky when it comes to social media, specifically Instagram. I was very resistant to having an Instagram and my wife Alexis, kept encouraging me and finally made me one. Since then I have been really shocked at how many people are interested in my work. I know I owe a lot of it to certain accounts reposting my work and giving me much wide exposure, but apart from being grateful, I find myself consistently surprised at how fortunate of a reaction I have had. I don't let social media affect or dictate my work in terms of its content, though I do think having a wider audience than ever before, just makes me want to work harder and produce at a higher level and quality. The same can be said for the effect social media has when I see the work of some of the artists I admire and think " I'll never be that good, but I might as well try."
One of the most interesting preconceptions I had about you as an artist was that you did exclusively black work (which is certainly not the case). Can you tell me a little bit about your choice of palettes and if that/how that affects the creation process from imagining to exacting?
I love working in color and always offer it as an option, though people definitely lean more towards black and white. For me it can go either way; I can have an palette in mind from the beginning, or I can finish the line work, and have no idea what the color will look like until I take out my paint. Each watercolor piece starts with either a slightly warm or cool grisaille under painting on top of the line work, but from there my process is a lot like glazing so I can work gradually building up colors with the underpainting, adjusting local colors and picking out highlights. This also allows me to work out the palette as I go, by adding gradual layers of different colors in specific areas. I vastly prefer working by hand with watercolor, but usually, when printing requires digital coloring, though I may have a color scheme in mind I enjoy the freedom digital color has to offer when it comes to being able to literally change the entire palette with the click of a button.
Social media makes it easier to share but it also makes it easier for copyright infringement and stealing of work. Have you had experience on this and what are your reflections on the digital marketing's impact in the creative sphere?
I have also been extremely luck in this aspect of social media. Thankfully I have not to my knowledge experienced this kind of plagiarism and theft, but have witnessed some pretty blatant and absolutely infuriating instances. Its actually infuriating any time I see it, but thankfully, from what I can tell, none of the worst cases I have seen have resulted in any of the artists being discouraged from continuing their work, and the received support is typically overwhelming. I think digital marketing has definitely quickened the pace of the creative sphere. It can be overwhelming when there are people marketing so much amazing work, that I can often start to feel discouraged about the quality of my own work and feel like I need to do it both faster and better, cumulatively, but as I said in a previous question, I try to take that energy and focus it on just making my work better with each piece.
Could you tell us one to two career highlights that you have experienced?
The ghoul comic and seeing it actually in the vinyl after waiting and hoping for about 5 years was definitely one of them. Basically any time I'm asked to participate in a great show or receive a commission or even just a response from a band I love, I get really excited. For instance, seeing my name on the "Path of Dissent" flyer right in between Mark Riddick and Dan Seagrave was pretty special to me and immensely humbling so thank you for that! The same goes for my first and only (to date) solo show "Apocryha" at The Cotton Candy Machine. My show opened in the middle of a show there of Arik Roper and Skinner's work so having my work even in the same building as them felt like a huge and undeserved accomplishment. The support I received at that show was heartwarming and everyone who worked there was unrealistically kind and helpful.
When you're not doing artwork, what can people find you doing?
Probably looking for records that I can't afford or reading Stephen King books. I spend the majority of my time working but If I find myself anywhere that I can hike or swim, or look at Artwork, I'm pretty happy.
What are some of your passions outside of your artwork?
Pretty much all of the things mentioned above and food. My wife and I love to cook and if finding some seemingly stupid but amazing food cant make your day, than I feel sorry for you. We have a small but humble art and record collection. It's very exciting to expand it, and trading artwork is something that I am again surprised by, in that anyone wants to own my work enough to give up their own.
Who are five artists that everyone should be following on Instagram?
Again, this is even more difficult to try and name just five! I mainly use my Instagram to follow the work of other artists and I'm constantly finding new people whose work is just astounding so heres a somewhat random list of some new people I recently found and some of my favorite artists that I have been following for years. Also if I can cheat here and count the Vacvvm as one Instagram account of multiple artists, all of whom I am continuously floored by:
- The Vacvvm (@thevacvvm)
- Marald (@maraldart)
- Adam Burke (@nightjarillustration)
- Artem Grigoryev (@black_typography)
- David Smith (@davidsmithartist)
- Allen Williams (@i_justdraw)
- Putrid Gore (@putridgoreart)
- Alison Sommers (@allisonsommers)
- Steven Russel Black (@stevenrussellblack)
- Christian Rex van Minnen (@van_minnen)
- Sin eater (@sineateruk)
- Patrick Zoller (@zopff.art)
- Miles Johnson (@miles_art)
I feel like Skinner (@theartofskinner) needs a mention, not only for amazing art, but most entertaining artist's instagram.
What do you wish to see more of in the dark art community?
I think at the moment, everything is at a very high standard. I don't have very much to complain about and think that the numerous artists I'm following and interested in are filling every niche and need, whether its highly abstract or good old-fashioned gory imagery, everyone all around seems to be producing some amazing work.
How can people support you and your work? How would someone go about getting a commission from you?
Anything from liking a photo or post to buying a print or original, it all contributes. To get a commission, anyone can message me through facebook, Instagram or email at Lucasruggieriillustration@gmail.com which I check most frequently and would be the best way to go about it.
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