When you are holding a brand new album, which was just released by your favourite music band, you usually do not think about anything besides the band and their music in the album. But behind this finished and shiny set of tracks in the jewel case, the paper digipak and cd in it, or in much bigger vinyl format, there are a lot of other people’s work as well. And the very first thing you actually see, when you get your hands to the album, is the album cover.
Pär Olofsson is one of those talented artists, who gives pleasure for your eyes, even before you start listening to the album. Olofsson is a Swedish artist known for his creative and eye catching art covers for many well known death and black metal bands, such as Spawn of Possesion, Prostitute Disfigurement, Immolation, Immortal, and others. If you have ever wondered, who is the guy behind these amazing record covers and how they faced the daylight together with dark and brutal music, just a few lines below are the answers given by Olofsson himself.
So, how did you decide to start making art covers? When did it happen?
I think it was in 2005 when I had just started working as a freelance artist. Didn’t find good venue for my style and hadn’t really considered doing album covers since I, in my opinion, was not good enough. In an act of desperation for work however, I finally sent a couple of e-mails to different labels, and Unique Leader gave me a go at it. First piece was for a booklet piece for Deeds Of Flesh album crown of souls. It was a nice start to debut with a well known band. It snowballed from there, even though the first couple of years were pretty rough from an economical standpoint.
What do you think about your very first art covers? What would you do different now (if you would)?
Some holds up better than others I guess. But it was a lot of fun to find my own style and methods. Technique wise I’m still evolving and don’t think too much about past achievements.
Have studied art or are you self-taught?
Went to art school a couple of years and then a year with graphic design. But all my Photoshop skills are pretty much self-taught.
How does your creation process look like?
Normally I start with talking to the band if they have something special in mind and based on that conversation I make a sketch, we talk about the sketch and if they like it I just continue painting and keep sending the band frequent updates so they know what is going on with the piece.
How many different techniques do you usually use for one art cover to make?
I always (or at least 90% of the time) start out with a pencil sketch. I then scan it and continue with painting in Photoshop. However I’m starting to work more in traditional media like acrylics, the Aborted cover for example was painted on paper instead of digital. My goal is to work in more traditional mediums since a part of me is a puritan and don’t like Photoshopped covers that much. I know I sound like a hypocrite but even if Photoshop is a great tool, I still enjoy getting my hands dirty.
Which of your projects did take you the most time to create?
The Immortal artwork was a pretty lengthy process. It was fun to work with a band of that caliber, but sometimes it felt like a never-ending job.
What else do you do besides art covers for bands?
I sometimes work as a digital matte painter for commercials, music videos and a couple of months ago a finished my first feature film project. It is fun because it is in some ways the opposite of what I create otherwise, as a matte painter you work with photorealism. I’m also looking into the options of selling prints of my personal work, and perhaps some cover art.
With which bands did you like to work the most so far?
I always enjoy working with Charles Elliot and Abysmal Dawn, we go way back and I just finished their latest album. Pathology as well is always fun to work with. But basically all bands that trust me and give me artistic freedom generally comes out good. On the contrary bands that have a very specific vision and don´t have much of an open mind often becomes difficult.
Do you have your most favourite art piece(s)?
At the moment I’m really into Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum‘s work.
In one interview you’ve said, that you “no longer the biggest fan of painting gore”. What happened? What do you enjoy painting the most nowadays?
Went soft when I became a dad… *laughs* Honestly that is the best answer I can give you, just don’t find it very interesting with mutilated bodies. However I would never say never to gore, the challenge would be to do it in an interesting way.
What would you never paint? Have you had requests asking to paint something you don’t like? What was it?
I don’t do religious symbols or Nazis. Sometimes when things are out of my area of expertise I can say no, mostly because there are people that would do much better, as an example I was asked to do a girl in manga style. There are tons of people that would nail that project and I would have to struggle. And as mentioned above, mutilation, unless I can do it in a new and innovative way.
What do you do, when you feel lack of inspiration (if that happens)?
It happens from time to time and I have learned that these episodes only last for a week or two. I used to panic and think I had lost my skills because everything looked like crap. Think it is a stress symptom so now I just take it easy, relax and wait it out.
I found out that in the beginning of your career you enjoyed horror movies a lot and that was part of your inspiration. What were (maybe still are) your favourite movies?
I had an obsession for horror movies in my teens and saw just about everything I could lay my hands on. Even if I don’t watch as many horror movies these days they still has an influence on me on some level.
What are your musical preferences?
Death and black!
What are your personal interests, hobbies?
The kids take a lot of my spare time but I still watch a movie whenever I get the time. Sometimes I bring out the old paints and brushes but that is pretty rare since that urge most often is satisfied after a days work.
What are your newest projects you’ve been working on? When they are going to see daylight?
Pathology, Abysmal Dawn, Iron Fire, and Bloodshot Dawn are a few recent completed projects, not sure when they will be out though.
Are there bands, you would like to collaborate with but you haven’t so far? What are they?
No, I’m just happy to work with anybody. But of course, if Suffocation would ask for a cooperation I’d be pretty happy.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Take care and stay metal!
Thank you for your time, Pär!