How do you visually represent how an album sounds? This may not be a question you think of when you pick up a CD, but I hope this interview makes you consider it.
Have you ever wondered who creates the iconic backdrops at Amon Amarth gigs? Or the cover art for Metal Hammer?
It may well be Christian Sloan Hall (or American Vendetta). He has been an illustrator for over twenty years and is one of the best known rock poster artists of his generation.
He is known for creating works which have a historical feel to them (mostly medieval), mixed with elements of fantasy and gore. He is also a fantastic drinking buddy, that isn’t officially on his CV, but if you happen to drink in Edinburgh you might see him around.
If you are thinking of a career as a ‘metal artist’, or are just interested in the relationship between metal and art, this interview is for you.
I was born in Santa Monica, California and was reared in San Clemente, California, a beach town in Orange County. I’ve always loved Art and Music, and discovered Metal when I was Twelve years old, and I was inspired to no end. I started playing Bass and played in a few bands, but more and more I was realising there wouldn’t be time for both playing in bands and arting, so I made a brutal choice to hang up the guitars and focus on the arting. As it turns out, the arting would come to dominate my entire life and I would be hard pressed to find time for anything else!
Do you think your artwork, metal music and your love of history relate and influence each other? If so, how?
They most definitely do! I’ve been interested in History since I was little, and have studied European history for decades, especially the Iron Age, and of course, Vikings. I’ve always drawn and painted the battles and hero’s and was always interested in bringing it to life through Illustration. So it’s been a dream come true working with Amon Amarth!
What is the process you go through to create the artwork? (from raw sketches to the final product)
Well it always starts with the mentalising process, I sit and try and try and gather a picture in my mind of what will work best for whatever it is I’ll be doing. Then I’ll blast out some sketches and work out a rough idea and from there progressively tighten up the lines. From there I’ll ink over the lines, most always with a brush, then scan it in and clean it all up and get it ready to airbrush in Photoshop. It’s the easiest medium to work in nowadays. I would prefer to paint in oils but sadly it’s just not practical most of the time, as reproduction costs and sharp deadlines prevent me taking the time to paint them.
Do you feel you can express something from working this way or do you get quite specific briefs?
Yeah I do get briefs and work with art directors most of the time, especially with the magazines, and that works out well as I’ve been lucky to work with great people. But with working with bands much of the time they let me do what I feel is best.
Most definitely seeing the battle backdrop I did for Amon Amarth onstage, amazing!
Would you say that you have a distinct style that is instantly associated with particular bands you have worked with, and do you think that is a positive or negative thing?
I would say that my style is recognisable and that is a good thing, I think it’s absolutely essential that an artist develop their own style.
Do you feel comfortable turning your hand to any genre of metal, or are there particular genres you won’t touch? (e.g. bands you don’t like!)
Yes, I won’t work with most actually, and I doubt you’ll ever see my work on the cover of a boy band record!
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into creating album artwork?
I would say be prepared to be working constantly, be diligent and never stop drawing! So important as an artist to never stop learning, and be patient, it won’t happen overnight! And never work for free, there’s a million people trying to trying to get their name out there and lots of people will take advantage of it, and with so many artists giving their work away for a bit of exposure devalues the entire Industry!
So there you have it folks, if you want to be joining Christian in the metal art hall of fame you better pick up those pencils! And the next time you consider a CD or admire a tour poster, think about the talented sod who spent ages drawing it.
To view Christian’s portfolio visit www.americanvendetta.co.uk