Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Interview with Kim Holm (Vreid/Solstafir artwork cover artist)

For those who don't know who Kim Holm is, here is a short description: Kim Holm is a Norwegian cartoonist. Why is Lachryma Christi interviewing Kim Holm? Because this is the man who did the cover of last album of Black Metal band from Norway Vreid, Welcome Farewell. This cover includes an image for each song, and portraits of the band originally drawn live under concerts. Kim Holm also had already the chance to draw personal favorites such as Taake, Enslaved, Entombed, 1349, Urfaust, and Rotting Christ. He had also done the cover for Solstafir's Svartir Sandar, and various local bands works. 
Apart from the artwork covers, Kim Holm has also released a comic book which is an adaption of H. P. Lovecraft's Pickman's Model (nominated for Best Comic of 2012 in Norway). You can read a short review to this after the interview. And before you start reading the interview, you need to know that this man is the author of the current header image of Lachryma Christi's page, which he made on purpose and which is very much appreciated!

When did you become a cartoonist? When did you start working properly on that?

I was 8 years old when I read a Frank Miller comic that did screw with my head in ways I did not understand, and I decided to make it my profession to do the same to other kids. Since then I've been a professional cartoonist in my own mind. The last 9 years I've actually earned a meager living on my art, so slowly the world and my skills are catching up with my ego.

What kind of stuff do you prefer to draw?

As a storyteller I 'm attracted to genre-stuff; action, horror, fantasy, things that can be overblown yet still played straight. As an artist I like ugly brush-strokes and spattering ink all over the place. Things that look uncontrolled, untrained, yet intentional. So I try to find places where I can mix those elements.

How did the idea of drawing artists while they are on stage come up?

It was never an idea. I had tickets to see Rotting Christ and Urfaust at the Hole In The Sky festival here in Bergen, but we were so broke I had to try and sell the tickets. No one bought them. So I figured if I brought my sketch-pad I'd be doing something constructive with my time, and maybe someone would buy me a beer. I soon saw that there was some affinity between the music and my art. So I continued drawing. No one bought me a beer, though.

How has the reaction of the bands and artists been?

Phenomenal. Bands seem to get a real kick out of seeing the art straight after the shows, while the adrenaline is still pumping and the ink is still wet. A few buy originals, many use shots as their Facebook profile image, which I guess is a sign of appreciation, and, well... apart from the brush adding a few pounds, I haven't had any complaints.

What is your favourite piece from all you have done along the time? What is the one that gave you more pleasure doing?

The most pleasurable was without a doubt Entombed. I'm a huge fan, so sitting beside the stage, drawing, headbanging, and screaming along with every word. Fuck yeah! Suddenly someone tapped my shoulder, and I turned around to see L.G. Petrov crouching behind an amp with a huge smile, giving me two thumbs up! One of the greatest memories of my whole life, indeed.

How did the idea of doing Vreid’s Welcome Farewell album cover come up? Can you tell a bit about the process?

I met Vreid backstage at Hulen, Bergen, after having drawn them. Hvall was impressed with the art and asked if I was interested in doing something inspired by some old art by Otto Valstad. I didn't really expect to hear back from them, because bands often talk a lot, but months later they contacted me about drawing their whole cover and inlay, down to the liner notes. Hvall had the concept for the cover locked, so that was just a question of iteration upon iteration until we found something suitable between Valstad and my style, something both old and modern, and not calculated. For the inlay-artwork, Hvall wanted to give me creative freedom to interpret the songs. He sent me a bunch of photographs of woods where he had walked while writing the songs, and I listened to Vreid's music, quickly sketching something that had something to do with the lyrics, something to do with the photos, and something to do with nothing. It was a pleasure working with them, and while I'm lucky enough to never have made art for an album I didn't enjoy, «Welcome Farewell» is a very special album that I'm real proud of having been a tiny part of.

Can you tell a bit about other works you have done for bands, like covers for their albums?

The first major work I did was for Solstafir's «Svartir Sandar» where they gave me absolute free reign to intrepret their music and lyrics and make some art of it. Getting to spend a summer listening to the rough mixes of a fantastic album and dreaming up a sort of conceptual image-space half-story to go along with it... that was magic. An ideal job. Before that I had only done a few front-covers and merch-pieces, mostly for local acts.

Speaking of your adaption of Lovecraft’s Pickman's Model tale, as a graphic novel, where did you get the inspiration for the drawings? Have you just read the book and come up with ideas or was there something else?

In my mind, Lovecraft has always been particularly suited to visual intrepretations, and I've always been disappointed with other Lovecraft-adaptions. I mean, sex and gore and tentacletitties are fun, but it's not really Lovecraft. The only chance I had of reading the adaption I wanted to read, was to make it myself. I used his original text to compliment and contrast my images, trying to remain faithful in spirit and having the imagery make the reading less needlessly complicated. I didn't want to make him easy to read, but without sacrifice I could make it easier to focus on the actual story by showing what an acetyl-lamp in the 1920's or an ancient ten-panelled door in Boston's North End, should look like. So it was an intense amount of research to be sure every historical detail was correct. But more importantly, I wanted to find a way to make Lovecraft's own impossibly horrific imagery spring to life in the readers imagination, and not ruin it with my intrepretations. So, after a few false starts, it was 3 and a half years of banging my head against creative brickwalls. And in the end, I think I've made one of the most faithful adaptions ever, and still the art argues with and against the text in interesting ways.

Are you satisfied with the results?

I'm never satisfied with any of my work, but I'm more proud of it than anything else I have ever done.

Are you a fan of Lovecraft?

Fan in the sense of fanatic, yes. I read everything I can find about the man and his work.

Do you read? If yes, what are you reading at the moment?

I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction. That way my mind can dream up stories while reading. Still reading a lot of Lovecraft-criticism and books about American architecture, gearing up for my next adaption. And I try to stay somewhat up to date on comics. «The Underwater Welder» by Jeff Lemire has been laying on my desk for a while, so that's up next.

How was Inferno Metal Festival in Norway? Did you accomplish all you were wishing to regarding opportunities to draw live performances of musicians? Are you happy with the results?

This was my second year drawing concert at Inferno, and... well, it's a mixed bag. As an experience, it's incredibly fun. Good people, good music, loads of beer. But my head isn't wired for festivals, and I'm still a wreck now a month later. Economically it was disasterous. Not that I expect to get rich drawing bands that don't make money themselves, but still... Artistically, on the other hand, it went very well. On a good night I recon that about 2 out of 10 of my concert drawings come out good, and I think that every night this year was more than good. And I ended up with 83 new pieces, so good or bad that's fantastic.

What kind of music do you usually listen?

I listen to everything from Hank Williams to Merzbow, with some classical, hip-hop, and techno inbetween, but metal has always been closest to my heart ever since I was 8 and first heard Rob Halford scream like a banshee. I often lean towards things that are not «pure», so everything from mid-period Entombed and Enslaved to Isis or Fantomas. I'm the kind of person that can listen to the same few records again and again for ages. But thanks to drawing concerts I get exposed to a lot of great music that I would otherwise ignore, and bands like Solstorm, Solstafir, Vreid, Posthum, Vinterbris, Aura Noir, Purified in Blood, and a ton of others now regularly appear in my playlists. When working I often pick out a soundtrack for each project in order to get in the right mood. So Pickman's Model was drawn almost exclusively to Shining (SE) I-IV and Neurosis «The Sun that Never Sets» and «Times of Grace». Good albums to listen to for 3 and a half years.

What are your plans for the near future? What can we expect?

Well, right now Pickman's Model is nominated for Best Comic of 2012 in Norway, so that's exciting. Plans are to release a special edition in colour, but that will take a crowdfunding campaign to pull off. And I'm starting my next Lovecraft project, which will be a different intermediary step before the next full-blown adaption. A kind of technical excercise on some of Lovecraft's shortest and most overlooked stories. And I've illustrated a story by Dan Hill in the upcoming Outre Anthology, which will be released digitally for free next free comics day. It's the first time I've illustrated someone else's comic script, so that's... different? So to make a long story short, I'm working on way too much stuff.

Anything else you would like to say, or anything in special you would like to advertise in here?

Making a living doing art is hard, making a living doing art you release for absolutely free use... well, that's borderline insanity. But it's important that artists stand up for free speech and work towards a copyright reform that does not mainly protect big companies but also preserves our freedom and benefit both artists and consumers. Whether you're a capitalist or anarchist or just don't give a fuck, the anti-piracy insanity is indefensible and has to stop. And that's why I have to release all my art under open licenses. So if you like what I do, please find a way to support it, whether through buying my stuff or using it for free or just telling someone about it. Because my shit is made to be spread. A good place to start might be or

(112 pages, black and white, paperback. Cover design by Robert Høyem
Art and adaption by Kim Holm. Original text by H.P. Lovecraft)

It was almost randomly that Lachryma Christi came across this brilliant artist on facebook, Kim Holm. After getting in touch because of Vreid's album and Vreid's Welcom Farewell cover, Kim Holm told LC that he had kinda recently released his comic book which consists in an adaption of H.P. Lovecraft's novel Pickman's Model. Postal addresses were exchanged and only a couple of days later, arrived at LC's inbox this awesome book, as you can see in the image above. Lovecraft is not easy to read and to understand and this adaption didn't make things easier either! Which is obviously a very good thing. So, if you are a fan of Lovecraft you will just adore this comic book. The story is there and the images are very graphic and understandeable even in black and white only. It is really pleasant and interesting and you end up reading it very quickly without stopping as it is so intriguing that you really want to know what happens next and how it is going to end. Even if you are not a big fan of Lovecraft literature and imaginary you will certainly like this adaption, as the suspense and horror are there, every drawing is very expressive and impressive. Kim Holm is a true artist, and his art is available for you to see for free online (yes, the Lovecraft's adaption is all there too!), or for you to buy as a way of supporting his art (please find the links below). 

Again, Lachryma Christi would like to thank Kim Holm for the header picture, which will stay on for a long while.

Read more in:

As for you, (Black Metal related) artists out there, if you like the idea of having your work published here, just e-mail

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