Brom is only 48, which is pretty young to have his career summed up in a single book. But the recently released The Art of Brom does just that, from his humble beginnings (seriously, you have to see the dinosaur picture he drew when he was 5) to his reign as one of the fantasy world’s biggest artists to his more recent work as a writer and illustrator of his own fiction.
Brom was kind enough to not only talk about his career, but provide a small overview of his works— a microcosm, if you will, of what you can find in The Art of Brom (available here). Enjoy!
io9: You seem not only happy in your brief autobiography in the book, but extremely well-adjusted. How in the hell do you conceive of and paint the subjects that you do?
Brom: I simply love monsters, love the macabre, it is my youth, it is who I am, so it makes me happy to play there, it is how I satiate my inner demons. Also, if you look closer you might find for the most part I seek beauty in the darker side of things, I am drawn more to the romantic gothic side of evil even in it’s more grotesque forms, the aesthetics of tragedy and death.
You talk about brooding a lot as a teen. At what point in your brooding youth did you realize, “Hey, my life is actually pretty awesome”?
I always enjoyed brooding, brooding is such a wonderful muse. But even in my cynical youth when I was often angry about the way people were or about certain things around me, even then I always felt life was awesome, as I had such strong passions for the things I loved, be that art, the music scene, my girlfriend, my friends, or the future ready to be written.
Your mix of exotic/punk/macabre art dominated the ‘90s thanks to your RPG and CCG work, and I don’t think its any surprise that many other companies tried to use your same style in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s for their fantasy projects. Is that irritating or flattering to you?
As artist we take in the influences around us, filter them through our creativity and hopefully produce something unique. I owe my style to many, many influences, from art, music, literature, fashion, film, nature. So, if at the end of the day, my art has inspired others, I feel that is the best you can ask for as a creative person. Now, just for the record, there is a line between influence and blatant stealing. And, unfortunately, I have seen plenty of the latter.
Your early TSR work doesn’t get the full-page treatment in the book that your later work does. Was that a personal preference, or was it TSR’s call?
It was a personal choice. I just wished to show my later works more prominently. TSR has always been very fair with allowing me to use my works.
What’s your favorite story from your days working at TSR?
Ha, so many. Here’s one from the book:
Most of TSR's management in that day were noncreatives—neither artists, nor writers, nor even gamers. Did this stop them from telling the creatives how to do their craft? Nope. Not one bit. A line I will never forget came about as I was starting a new cover. I was informed that this was a very important cover and told to use only my most-expensive colors. What? Huh? Did they want me to paint the damn thing in rose madder and cobalt violet? I knew of no way to answer them that wouldn't have gotten me fired.
Speaking of your early work, you show your drawing from when you were little, and you drew like a regular - year-old would [see above!]. But in your teens, you start to go from “person of normal artistic talent” to “person of extreme artistic talent.” What the heck happened during that time?
It is an interesting question. How much of talent is born, how much is focus, drive, and hard work? I remember always being able to draw at a level above my peers, so there was a certain amount of natural talent at play, but by my early teens I became obsessive, drawing every day, it was all I wanted to do. Also, I was never satisfied with my work (even to this day) and I think that drive to find that perfect painting is what pushes some ahead of others and certainly keeps an artist growing.
You mention Michael Moorcock’s Elric as one of the subjects you’ve been most excited to paint because it was such an influence on you growing up. What would you most like to paint that you haven’t been able to do?
Everything. There is so much left on my plate, I get anxious just thinking about it. So many themes I would like to explore. As far as existing worlds created by others? I enjoy collaborating with others, but my biggest joy in art now is bringing my own fiction to life.
You speak about your earliest influences, but do you have any current influences? Either of your art or your writing?
I am mostly inspired by earlier works these days. Not only in the field of illustration such as Pyle and his school, but the Pre-Raphaelites and their ilk. In the writing vein, it is Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Twain, Daniel Woodrell, Anne Rice to name but a few.
In the book, you show one of your wife’s paintings, and she’s also immensely talented. Is that ever awkward? Do you two compete at all? And are your kids as artistically inclined as you two are?
Never awkward. I am thrilled by her talent! Though having two obsessive artist in the same house can have it challenges such as whose gonna stop painting to take care of the various domestic drudgeries. Also, at the wife’s insistence, we do maintain separate studio space, as she says I jibber-jabber too much. The two boys pursue their own creative areas, one being in music the other in game design.
You’ve done RPGs, CCGs, Conan, Elric, your own fantasy works, and your own novels. What’s next?
I love telling stories, with pictures or words, and the two together is the most fun of all. It’s the same thing I’ve done since I was a kid, only oil paints and computer programs have replaced crayons and notebook paper. I hope I’m fortunate enough to keep at it until end of my days. In between that I hope to make time to do a few series of paintings exploring various themes. Just art for the sake of form.
You can see more of Brom’s illustrations and novels at his website, Bromart.com.