June 20, 2010

Whispers of Sleek Immortality

An Interview with Illustrator and Artist R.Black

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any picture to embiggenate

R., I’ve seen with some amount of drooling that some of the groups you do business with will even hold contests to see who’ll be the next ‘Cider’ or ‘
Scooter’ girl or even Hubba Hubba Revue, uh, lass. When a contest winner is then declared, do you draw her or let’s say incorporate at least her image from memory or with pictures or even with the models posing for you?
I mostly draw from pictures.

Head-shots are to me the important part; bodies are easy to draw and on average one pin-up's body in illustration looks like any other. It's the face that's the unique and complicated part.

Is there ever an ‘I’ve gone too far’ for you when it comes to your work?

In my opinion as a poster artist, one should stick to a PG-13 rating as the whole point of an ad is to be able to put it anywhere.

If you start getting too crazy or insulting with your image than it limits where you can post them, thus limiting the number of people who will see it.

But I have been amazed sometimes at what I can get away with. Have I crossed the line at times? Likely, but again that's the guideline I try to stick to.

Besides being clever is much better than being obnoxious.

To this same subject apparently (well, it is in your book, so it must be true) we are now ‘in the third (and hopefully not the last) poster renaissance of artists who are making the music scene breathe with life and color again. This time around, more people are informed and involved, thanks to the many web-sites and forums that have been popping up and supporting the movement (especially gigposters.com).’ Now granted the same quoter goes on to say somewhere that you’re not exactly bathing in money for doing this, but do you really think this is a medium that is here to stay for the near future?
As I mentioned earlier, there will always be artists and bands/venues that need art. The paper medium might disappear, but it will always live digitally.

And really, art – like music – all depends on who looks at it: one person will think that a band sucks and another will think it's the bee's knees. Same then with the posters.

That’s the beauty and curse of art: you can't define it or predict it. I’m not sure who the mainstream crap merchants are, but most merchandise is crap by definition. I'd say ‘less crap, more quality’ – even with my own work – but we do not live in that world anymore. It's a disposable reality.

How did the various scooter or even
Original Sin gigs come into being? I guess that’s sort of a chicken or the egg question (e.g. was it the rock posters or ‘others’ that came first?).
I tend to do art with things I have a stake in.

The scooter thing happened because I was heavily involved in the vintage
Vespa / Lambretta scene which in turn revolved around the ska/oi!/punk/mod scene which I was also into. Doing posters gets me access to events and shows. So my art is my contribution to the canon as it were.

I really can’t remember how the Original Sin ball started rolling, but I also like pin-ups, fetish, and alcohol ... so it was a good fit. But in either case, doing club flyers and posters happened first.

What does it mean to you as an artist when a group like one of these that you’re so closely identified with signs you up for a longer term deal?
Hopefully more money.

I found one quote I liked, again from
Brian Ewing: "I have yet to get a reliable answer from Rich about his drawing techniques. He guards those secrets like it was a matter of national security. What I do know is that he uses an outdated version of Adobe Illustrator and draws mostly on the computer over a pencil sketch with one of those round mice that came with the first iMac computers. The kind that gives you arthritis after ten minutes and leaves your hand shrivelled and gnarled like a mojo monkey paw that one has one wish left on it."

Okay, with that appetizing vision in mind, should I even bother to ask about your techniques? Or will you just throw feces on me with your mojo monkey paws?
There’s no mystery, Brian nailed it.

I usually sketch, scan, and then "ink" and color in Illustrator. Though I tend to just sketch more in Illustrator now as well, because I finally have better equipment.

All kidding aside, one of my favorite parts of your illustrations has got to be the great variety of font styles (see also above), ranging again from the gothic lettering to art nouveau characters or even to the glowing letters of a neon bowling sign and more. What is your approach for incorporating fonts and / or type into your pieces? Have you had any special training with same?
I think it’s all about matching the font to the mood. Especially if you deal in a lot of revival scenes. Certain fonts convey an attitude or nostalgia.

But all fonts covey a message in them and according to how you use them, they can then help direct the message you are trying to get across. I haven't had any formal training, just a ton of observation.

To a collection of what appear to be rather unique groups in your life: Who are the Pharaoh’s and also the Shotgun Players? How did you hook up with them?
The Pharaoh’s are the scooter group I was a member of.

the Shotgun Players are a stage Theatre Group based in Berkeley that I am a part of (see below).

And finally, I’d be more than remiss for not mentioning the
Hubba Hubba Revue. Now that is something we’re seeing pretty much everywhere and I was wondering about your own thoughts as to the revival of both the burlesque scene and even pin-up girls?
I think it’s great! People dig it, it brings me work and it gives people a creative outlet that would not otherwise have.

Still, I think the "everywhereness" of burlesque will be its downfall. I’m a believer in things ending, and I just think that anytime something goes on for too long, it suffers and becomes lackluster.

The hard part is knowing when to quit.

(input ZN: for a complete set of R.Black’s HHR ‘calendar’ pages from 2007-2009, see here or here ... but behave yourselves!)

If R.Black wasn’t doing what he’s doing today, what do you think you’d like to be doing instead?

Almost finally, has anyone ever brought up the cool correspondence to your name and/or moniker with ‘
rich black’ (to whit: ‘Rich black is often regarded as a color that is "blacker than black".’)? Sorry, but I’m old STInkie at heart (Support Team Inks... yes, we were geeks but we loved our inks...).
Only the smarty people mention that when they hear my full name.

If I was more clever when I was starting out I would of just used that, but maybe it would of been too obvious. There just seemed to be a ton of Richard Black's on-line, so it was really an Internet/search decision to go with ‘R’. A sign of the times, I guess.

And so finally, here’s your free space for any blatant self-promotion you’d like to do or any other topics you’d like to bring up. Go wild.
Pay for art, be it music, print, stage, or cinema, we appreciate it! Seriously.

And even though I’m horrible at updating my web-site, please check it out! Plus, because Facebook is easier to update, you can find newer work there under Rich Black.

Cheers and have fun!


There is little I can add to the accolades R.Black’s artistic skills have already received or provide a broader view the wide-range of his work besides what you can enjoy for yourself at his web-site or other already linked repositories of his releases.

And whether or not his illustrations are to your ‘taste’ or not, you really have to admire his ability to capture any and every kind of mood. Sure, it may strike you as a bit ‘creepy and kooky’, but us creepy and kooky folks have to stick together.

I would like to close with this input from one of the reviews of his collection ‘Futura: The Art of R. Black’ which describes R’s work as ‘Sparkling as polished chrome, slick as oiled leather, hard as a scorned woman's stare, (being) renowned for its elegant line, razor-sharp design, and dark pulp motifs, creating an instantly recognizable synergy of cool elegance and hot eroticism.’

I did ask R. if this was in his opinion a good characterization of his work – assuming that he hadn’t written that himself? Or would he have highlighted his style and / or accomplishments differently?
And in his typical, self-described ‘Cliff Notes’ style, he answered:
I did NOT write that, but it sounds great, no? Seems like a good summation, so let’s go with it!


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of R.Black, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly).
No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.
Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview -- thank you! I have been an R. Black fan for years, ever since I saw him at APE and realized he's the guy who does Shotgun Players' art. He's amazing.