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Brian Ewing – Metal, punk girls & posters

Fired By Design: Can you describe your creative process and workflow?

Brian Ewing:(talking about POSTER ART):

Most of my work starts out hand-drawn and is finished on the computer. I prefer working with my hands. The art (line work) is done by hand. I sketch it, scan it, place it in Illustrator, set my type, print the sketch to size (usually 11×17), lightbox it onto strathmore 400 cold press bristol board, redraw the sketch and tighten it up, ink it with a brush (and maybe a pen), then scan it (at 600 dpi) and do all my color in Illustrator. I don’t convert my drawing to vectors. It’s a bmp tiff placed in Illustrator. Then it’s either offset or screen printed by people who know what they’re doing. If it’s a screen print then I’ll do my color seps in Photoshop channels.

If I need to get a certain type of lighting or I’m obsessing over accuracy of a car or toaster or guitar I’ll take photo reference. Get it printed and place it next to my sketchbook to work from. I was taught that photo reference can be a crutch if you trace or try to duplicate it exactly. I try to use it as a starting point and make it apply to the project, but I don’t trace. Slavishly trying to copy a photo leads to a steril, stiff and unimaginative piece of art. It’s also obvious when the traced/copied parts of a drawing don’t match up with everything else or is completely different from any other piece in an artist’s portfolio. There’s a skill and respect to doing something by hand. At the end of the day I can sell a piece of original art. I can’t do that with a computer file. I’ve recently posted some tutorials on my site to show people the process.


FBD: How do you create art in this style?

Brian Ewing: By hand, I finish it off on the computer then send it to the printer. See above.

What tools/media do you use?

Brian Ewing: My tools consist of: Pencil, ink, bristol board, eraser and Illustrator CS3. I use Illustrator because that’s what someone taught me way back when. I feel that the color management is better and I have more room to fix my mistakes/fuck ups. See above.

FBD:How important is the music or the lyrics in deciding the look and subject of the art?

Brian Ewing: I think it’s very important to visualize the band’s lyrics and aesthtic. Music creates a mood and an identity for the audience and the art helps complete it.

I’m a music dork. I buy albums and go to shows. I consider the person buying the album and supporting the band as well as the client. Will their fans get the art? Will they see the references I make to the songs? I want them to be happy and and most fans know more about the band than the band does.


FBD: What are the first steps in the process?

Brian Ewing:The process really depends on the band/client. I work with a lot of bands, some I had never heard before until they contacted me. So I’m exposed to music I don’t normally seek out.

The job begins with some email back and forth over price and usage. We discuss what the project is about and when it’s due. Then I’ll research the subject and try my best to illustrate the overall idea of the band, a song or the current album. Add some freaking out and self-loathing (on my part) for good measure. I also try to figure out ways to inject some of my interests into the projects. If I can do that then I’ll be more excited about the job.

FBD:What’s your top advice for fleshing out/building up the image?

Brian Ewing: Research. If you don’t know how to draw something find photo reference or take the photos yourself. Use them as a springboard and do not just trace the photo.

After that keep drawing until you get it right. Keep in mind your composition and if there will be text or not. Lastly consider the other ways the art will get used and design accordingly



FBD:Any tips for making the artwork eyecatching or adding punch to it?

Brian Ewing: KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid!

Learn to draw. Learn all you can about different types of printing. Lock away your heart and keep your ego in check. Be patient and research all you can about your client and the project. Try to inject some of your personal interest in the project. And don’t steal from other artists.

FBD:Any tips for finishing off?

Brian Ewing: Get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your work whenever you can. Especially someone to spell check your type. Ugh. I let a few posters go with a few typos. Working three days straight and no sleep can really affect your ability to see your mistakes.

FBD: Out of a top ten list of classic metal album covers- what are your favourites and have any influenced your work?

Brian Ewing: Seriously not an easy question to answer. I grew up on Metal and could give you a list of 100 best metal album covers.

Here are some of Brian’s favourites:

• Iron Maiden: Live After Death, The Number Of The Beast,Piece Of Mind, Somewhere In Time, Powerslave (all covers by Derek Riggs)

• Metallica: Master Of Puppets

• Death: Scream Bloody Gore, Leprosy – Covers by Ed Repka

• Kylesa: Kylesa- Cover by Pushead; Static Tension- Cover by John Dyer Baizley

• Baroness: Red Album, Blue Album – Covers by John Dyer Baizley

• Misfits: Die Die My Darling, Evil Live 2 -Cover by Pushead

• Megadeth: Rust In Peace, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying- Covers by Ed Repka

• Slayer: Show No Mercy – Cover by Pushead

• Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath- Cover by Drew Struzan

• Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys pt1- Cover Design by Edda & Uwe Karczewsk

• Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle pt1- – Cover by Jimmy Hubbard and Seldon Hunt

• Sabbat: Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays)- Artwork by Tim Beer.

With his first monograph, “Don’t Hold Your Breath: The Art Of Brian Ewing,” which publisher Dark Horse allowed him to lay out himself, the reader can see the progression and maturation of Ewing’s imagery, from power-packed and densely composed rock posters to the nuanced, deceptively simple and subversive works of more recent vintage.

Brian’s own site is also well worth a visitlots of updates and a shop!

As is his walkthrough page with step by step pics on Flickr

All images are © Brian Ewing. All interview text © Fired By Design

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