Interview with Illustrator Mike Lawrence

1228
91
Share:

It’s not often we get to talk to artists and illustrators here at Toilet Ov Hell, since we’re normally focused on endless, tireless research to bring you the best new and/or obscure music we can find. But every so often we’ll run across someone who kicks us in the eyeballs so hard we simply have to know more about what they do and how they do it so well. Enter Mike Lawrence of Atlanta, GA.

Mike’s oeuvre reads like an ultimate how-to handbook for everything a metal band could want in its album, shirt or poster art: bones, skulls, smoke, rotting flesh, pentagrams, candle flames and dusky woods – all swimming in a sea of black and rendered in stark, highly-detailed monochrome. The lack of (or extremely rare use of) color lends his pieces that timeless black & white quality. Much of Mike’s work would look as perfectly at home on a modern, Kurt Ballou-produced black metal album as it would on a long-defunct thrash band’s cassette demo from 1987.

Having seen his work for the better part of a year (and lusting after many of the items in his store), I reached out to Mike via Facebook to ask about his creative process, his recent playlists and his transition to illustrating full time. Here’s what he had to say.

ML_triptych

How long have you been illustrating, and what got you started?

I’ve been drawing since I can remember, I have always enjoyed it. My mother is a printmaker and art teacher so I have always been surrounded by art, my parents saw how much I enjoyed it and encouraged me to pursue it. In terms of professional illustration, that has been going for a little over three years.

How did you arrive at the style and techniques you use today?

I only work in B&W because I am color blind, I don’t see in grayscale or any shit like that but I have a hard time differentiating between colors that have a similar hue and value. For example I have a hard time telling the difference between dark red and purple. I only found out when I was 20 that I was color blind, but I have been working in mainly B&W since I was a kid because that’s what I feel most comfortable with. Most of the artwork I was attracted to as a kid was etchings, woodcuts and of course comics, I like all things accurate so naturally I’m inclined to work with tools that are easily controlled, like technical ink pens. I mainly use stippling technique when working because of it’s subtlety and ability to create soft edges and transparency easily. Recently I have been trying to vary my mark-making more and use linework instead of only dots to create more movement and contrast throughout the image.

ML_decay

What is the biggest challenge of doing what you do?

Commitment and patience. If you can’t be your own boss then don’t bother with freelance, it can be a tough gig at times and if you battle to motivate yourself to get working then it may not be for you.

What’s the biggest reward?

The final product, I almost pissed my pants I was so happy when I got a copy of my first vinyl record cover. It’s hard to believe at times that there are real life products out there with my shit on it. Working with bands is always one of my favourite things to do, it’s pretty killer going to a show and seeing my shirt design up on the wall next to a bunch of other insane artwork! I always feel honored.

ML_tank

You were recently approved for your greencard, purchased a house and quit your job to illustrate full time. Congrats! How has this busy time helped or hindered your creative process?

Thanks! Well the past few weeks haven’t been my most productive illustration wise as there is so much shit to get done when buying a house. Also moving my entire studio including screenprinting equipment was quite a fucker, I still haven’t gotten everything the way it needs to be! But now we are at least settled so house stuff can generally wait until the weekends. However even with the move, I have noticed how much more I can get done in a day with an extra four hours. I have many plans for those extra hours, improvements all round!

Where does inspiration come from when you begin an original piece?

Anywhere and everywhere, sometimes ideas just come to me randomly or something triggers an idea. Music, movies and other artwork are probably what generates most of them whether it’s conscious or not. I’m always thinking of ideas for drawings or projects and jotting them down in my sketchbook, sometimes it’s a little thumbnail sketch others I just write down some words to remind me. It’s very rare for me to be working on a project and not already be thinking about what I am going to do next.

ML_decaycloseup

Do you listen to music while working? If so, what have you been listening to lately?

Yes, most of the time I listen to music or certain podcasts. In terms of music I have kind of been all over the place recently, so I will just list the albums I have really been enjoying over the past few weeks:

Malevolent Creation – Dead Man’s Path
Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death
Grave – Out of Respect for the Dead
Lord Dying – Poisoned Altars
Battle Master – Battlehungry and Swordsworn
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
First 4 Led Zeppelin albums
Acid King – Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
MF Doom – Special Herbs, Vol 3 + 4
Vektor – Black Future
Unrest – Grindcore
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

Podcasts can be cool, too. My two favorites are:

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (all about war history and super cool shit)
Adventures In Design (awesome daily podcast featuring interviews with amazing artists)

ML_triptych2

What are some bands or artists you’ve worked with recently?

Bands: Pallbearer, Mastodon, In The Company of Serpents, Night Viper, Mortals, Inter Arma. Brands: Dirtbag Coffin, Creature Skateboards, Death Co.

What artists would you like to work with in the future?

Any band that I am a fan of! It’s a dream of mine to work with Cannibal Corpse, loved that band since I was 12.

What do you for fun do when you’re not working?

Hang out with my wife, we go camping and hiking pretty often. Watch shitty horror movies and drink with friends. I’m pretty nerdy with certain stuff and I love building/flying remote controlled models like planes etc. Also beer and pizza.

ML_croozedual

Anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?

When in doubt, circle pit.

____________________

See more of Mike’s work via his websiteonline store and Facebook

(images via)

ML_daggers

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
  • EsusMoose

    Dam this art is cool

  • ┼yree

    Good shit. Hail to B&W artwork.

    http://i.giphy.com/2TJn2pyTkFEu4.gif

    • Dagon

      Let me add B&W tattoos and black beers.

      • How did your test go, bud?

        • Dagon

          It was good. Some time to go till I get the results though.

          • tertius_decimus

            Fingers crossed. I’m sure, the results will be fine.

          • Dagon

            Hey man, me too. I’ll let you know once I know.

          • Excellent! I hope you can relax in peace between now and then.

          • Dagon

            I’ve been drinking since Sunday night, not too much though. Just enough.

          • R.I.P. Dagon

          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril
          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril

            Muito bum, amigo! 🙂

      • ┼yree
        • more beer

          That is the only thing Black Friday related that is worth a fuck.

          • ┼yree

            A big “Fucking Ay” to that sir.

          • more beer

            I shall have anything that I need to exist that day. At home, so I don’t have to step foot inside a store that day, and have to deal with all of the human waste.

          • ┼yree

            That reminds me. I should probably stock up on beer today after work so I don’t have to deal with vacation traffic and such.

          • more beer

            That is my plan. I got paid today. I will be getting a lot beer after work today. Tomorrow I will pick up weed on my way home. I will be prepared for the next few days of partying.

          • ┼yree

            Nice! Beer shopping is the best kind of shopping.

          • more beer

            Yes it is along with weed shopping. Which I hope everyone else in America gets to experience in the not to distant future.

          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril

            This is my plan for grocery shopping:

            http://dvdmedia.ign.com/dvd/image/MARRIED11.jpg

          • more beer

            Not much money to shop on that guys paycheck.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            Lol, I’m on my 13th shopping cart that I’ve stolen from the store and wheeled home.

          • more beer

            You have to start a business. Rounding up wayward shopping carts. They are actually pretty expensive. Most supermarkets will pay to get them back.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            Lol, I keep getting the feeling that they’re probably on to me by now.

          • more beer

            Just go there dressed like a bum. They will think your homeless and leave you alone.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            Lol, they’ve already seen me many many times, and plus the actual bums that hang out over there would start getting pissy about me cutting off their actions. BTW, a guy over there bugged me for $12 for a hoodie so he wouldn’t freeze to death (it’s 60 degrees outside, and he could’ve easily got one from the local church up the street, which was open, or the thrift store for $3-$5), and of course told him no. Lo and be fucking hold though, 5 minutes later, a lady gave him the money after he asked her.

          • more beer

            We have one at the 7/11 up the street from my house who has a nicer smart phone than I do. He asks me one night do I have any change. I tell him I can’t help him. When I come out of the store and get in my truck. He runs up to me and tells me. You forgot to give me your change. I let him have it. I told him I didn’t forget a fucking thing. That he should get a job and now I will never give him anything. I then ende it by telling him to get the fuck away from my truck. He doesn’t bother me anymore.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            There was a thing in downtown Chicago back when I first moved there, where lawyers who worked up on LaSalle would dress up as homeless guys on their off hours, panhandle and then go back to work. Anywho, one of my managers at the theater I was working at downtown ended up calling the cops on one of the guys after he recognized him from earlier in the day (he was in his suit and tie) and the guy caused a scene after my boss called him out on it. The cops recognized the guy right away and hauled him off. Idiots like him make it so much worse for those who actually do need the help. Hopefully he got disbarred for it, but I doubt it.

          • more beer

            What a scumbag. Are you paying attention to what is going on in Chicago?

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            Regarding them releasing that video of the cop shooting the black guy as he walked away, and the protests?

          • more beer

            No the Blackhawks. Of course the cops and the protests.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            Yeah, sadly. They protest so much in Chicago, I doubt it’ll change anything. Much like the protests on the southside every time someone young gets shot. Another roadside memorial, another pair of tennis shoes hung up on the telephone wires, etc. and the same shit perpetuates itself.

          • more beer

            Nope it won’t change anything. But the history of these types of protests in the not to distant past. Is burning the city to the ground. We shall see what happens there.

          • Ground Beef Booger Riot

            I know you probably hate synthpop/futurepop, but listen to the sample at 3:18 on this one. This was Mayor Daley, Sr.’s response to the Lincoln Park riots back in the day. It’s a pretty haunting little tidbit from him, regarding what’s going on there and across the country.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NybgUxpcxLw

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Contempt For Humanity Friday

          • more beer

            I have contempt for humanity everyday.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            True, but BLVCK FRIDVY makes it juuuust a bit worse.

          • more beer

            I typically like when things are back or blackened. This I can not get behind. Anything that makes the dumbest humanity has to offer. Even dumber is a bad thing. We can only ope Darwin is working overtime on this horrible day.

          • Scrimm

            I have to work it.

          • ┼yree

            I’m pretty sure you are allowed to kill one or two humans if you work on Black Friday. Happy hunting.

          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril
          • Scrimm

            No I’m looking forward to it.

          • more beer

            I feel for you my friend. If I had to work with the general public. With the way my job has been the last couple of weeks. There would be a bloodbath!

          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril

            I have to brave it in the next day or so, but thankfully there’s a Walmart near me. All the crazies will be over there, and hopefully not at the stores I go to.

          • BEARD-SPLITTER

            Dont forget about the tramplings!

          • more beer

            Yes but I won’t have anything to do with those as I will have everything I need already. I can watch those on TV from the comfort of home. Thinning the herd is always a good thing.

          • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril
  • KJM, Shake Zula

    Excellent artwork.

  • Dat Pallbearer art is amazing, Cybro! Thanks to Mike for sharing this, he have a good style.

  • BEARD-SPLITTER

    Cool stuff. Guy has good art and tastes

  • ME GORAK B.C.™

    MOAR FINNISH METAL!!!!!!

    https://youtu.be/A5UoEdKodU4

  • ┼yree

    “Also beer and pizza”

    http://i.giphy.com/TbPh7p3cfUAPC.gif

    • CyberneticOrganism

      If beer and pizza are not available: CIRCLE PIT

      • ┼yree
        • Boss the “Crimson King” Ross

          Thats the most powerful gif i have ever seen. “You son of a bitch”

        • BobLoblaw

          Youre a genius.

  • tertius_decimus

    Rad illustrations! Pleasure to look at.

  • A Chili Dog In Each Nostril

    Great illustrations! Is that one with the tank from a Darkthrone CD? Kinda looks like a continuation of the front artwork to ‘FOAD’.

  • Waynecro

    Great artist, awesome interview. Thanks, dude!

  • BobLoblaw

    Sweet. Anyone else think that history will be kinder to metal? From pushing the boundaries of what is capable to the artistic contributions, i think it will be looked upon favorably further down the line.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      It’s certainly a lot more fun to get lost in than other genres of album art

  • Boss the “Crimson King” Ross

    This was an excellent interview, artwork is phenomenal and he seems like a really cool guy

  • Dubs

    That tank one is awesome. Thanks for the interview.

  • Lacertilian

    Excellent post!
    This was a great read and killer art.