Help our followers get to know you. What does a typical day in the life of Alan Robert involve?
A typical day for me really depends on which hat I'm wearing. You see, outside of my writing and illustration work, I am also a professional songwriter and musician for a well known rock group called Life of Agony. We formed back in 1989 and have released several albums on major and indie labels along the way, selling over one million records worldwide. We've shared stages with the biggest names in rock, including Metallica, Black Sabbath and Foo Fighters, and have headlined shows in front of capacity crowds with 500,000 people in attendance.
So, a typical day on tour or in the recording studio is very different than a typical day back home working on my books. So, when I'm in book-mode, I typically wake up, grab my cup of coffee and get right to it. I have a lot of energy in the morning when I'm motivated. I have a home office where I do all my drawing, and I'm surrounded by toy monsters and my favorite pieces of artwork from illustrators that I follow. Most days, I will listen to music or podcasts while I get lost in my art. It helps me zone-out and find the right creative vibe to draw endless hours into the night.
When did you first become interested in illustrating?
I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. My Mom still has pictures I drew in the 3rd grade (laughs). I started really young and during some summers that's all I did. When I was 15 years old, I created comics that I would photocopy and staple together to sell at the local comic shops. I won a few nationwide drawing contests; you know the ones that you'd find on the back of Kellogg's cereal boxes? That's how I won my first video game system. It was fun and it gave me the confidence to try new things.
During high school, I took art programs and ended up receiving a scholarship to The School of Visual Arts in New York City. At SVA, legendary "Thor" artist Walter Simonson was my cartooning teacher. I graduated SVA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Upon graduation, I intended on taking my portfolio around to Marvel and DC Comics in hopes of landing a gig as a professional comic book artist, but instead, I got sidetracked that year (1993) when Life of Agony signed a record deal to record our debut album River Runs Red. I ended up putting the art on hold for over two decades, while I toured the world and pursued a life in the music industry. Over the years, I never lost my passion for creating comics, so by 2009 I was determined to publish my first book "Wire Hangers." I hooked up with the great folks over at IDW Publishing and they agreed to give me a shot. "Wire Hangers" came out in 2010, and it was a success. I followed it up with other hit titles such as "Crawl to Me", "Killogy", and "The Shunned One". I created, wrote and illustrated all of those graphic novels and they received critical acclaim. All are in the process of being adapted into live-action films, video games or animated series.
What are your favourite things to draw?
I enjoy the creep factor, for sure. I think that would probably be the underlying commonality for all of my books. However, with each title I tackle, I attempt to reinvent my style. I purposefully put a tremendous amount of effort to change my creative approach to fit the tone of each story. For instance, "Wire Hangers" and "Crawl to Me" share a very gritty, textured feel, while "Killogy" is very noir looking - lots of hard shadows and flat color. "The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book" is completely different than all of my graphic novel books. The intricate line work found in the coloring book is something completely new for me. I like to challenge myself and explore new techniques, mixing hand drawn art with digital enhancements or effects.
Where do you find inspiration?
There are a few comic artists that always inspire me, such as Mike Mignola of "Hellboy" fame. His style is unique and instantly recognizable. I also grew up on Mike Zeck's artwork (The Punisher) and continue to be a huge fan of his. There are a ton of other artists, too, like Ben Templesmith that take a lot of chances and try new things, which I really admire. I am also very influenced by films and music. If something affects me on an emotional level, I can usually channel those emotions into art.
If you weren't an illustrator what would you be?
Hmmm, I tell ya, it is very hard to imagine my life if I wasn't able to draw. Art is so much a part of who I am, who would I be without it? Looking back to when I was a young boy in elementary school, I was very shy. I can remember sitting at a lunch table drawing alone. By the end of the lunch period, I was surrounded by kids watching me draw. I made a lot of friends that way. Art broke me out of my shell. It also provided me with incredible opportunities to do exciting things and meet new people. I am not even sure if I would have met some of my musician friends without getting into art first. As a kid, I remember picking up an Iron Maiden record for the first time, because I loved the album cover illustration by Derek Riggs. I had never heard one note of music when I bought it. It was all about the artwork. After I bought the record, I fell in love with the music. And once music captured my attention, I was determined to teach myself the guitar and the rest is history.
Why do you think adult colouring books have become so huge?
It makes a lot of sense to me why so many people enjoy them. I know a lot of people who have creativity burning inside them, but don't have the time or the outlet to express themselves in their everyday lives through their work. Coloring books allow them to escape the stress of work or drama in their daily lives and to get lost in their own heads for a bit. I think it's great and healthy. Everybody needs to express themselves somehow. By coloring, it also takes people back to a time when they were younger, when life was less complex. I can see why this phenomenon has really taken off. And now, with coloring book clubs, it's a social experience too. I really enjoy posting illustrations online for people to color. It's exciting to see the choices they make when coloring my art and each result is different. It's awesome to see and awesome to connect with like-minded people. It's a great community.
What does your working environment look like?
It's a bit of a man cave, I admit (laughs). I have a home office where I create my art. It's got a rock n' roll vibe, with guitars on the wall and music memorabilia hung around. Lots of toy monsters (courtesy of my friends at NECA Toys) and lots of graphic novels in my book case.
Do you listen to music when you work? If so, who/what?
I do. Surprisingly enough, I don't listen to a lot of heavy rock music while I draw, even though that's what I'm known for with Life of Agony. When it comes time to zone-out and draw, I enjoy more hypnotic, mellow stuff, like Radiohead, Coldplay, Mazzy Star, and Fiona Apple. Most recently, over the last 3 months while illustrating The Beauty of Horror, I've gotten into listening to podcasts, like Marc Maron's WTF.
What are your favourite things in life?
My family. My favorite part of the day is waking up with my wife and daughter and sitting outside with a cup of coffee enjoying the birds that come to feed. It's peaceful and I'm grateful for those moments. Outside of that, I enjoy creating something out of nothing. I like the whole process of coming up with an exciting idea and seeing it through to become a real, tangible thing. It is so rewarding to see a little idea come to life, be it a book or a song, or an animation. That is the feeling that makes all the hard work worth it.
Finally, please give 3 words that describe your work.
Intricate. Creepy. GOREgeous.