We don’t often think about the people who create the art that we love. We reap the benefits of their work when we see a cool picture online, play a game with an immersive and beautiful setting, or get the hell scared out of us by a monster on the screen. But we never take time to consider the fact that someone with a pencil and a pad brought these elements of wonder and beauty into existence. Paul Gerrard is an artist and conceptualist who has birthed more monsters and dreamscapes than you’d readily be able to imagine. From album covers and video games to major motion pictures as well as one of the most unique visions of the Hellraiser universe ever conceived. He recently took some time to talk to me about his career, his art, and the future of a style dubbed by some as Gerrardian.
Dan - To begin with, I had no idea just how many of my favorite creatures in recent years have been designed by you until I looked at your resume online. Battle Los Angeles, Halo Wars 2, Wrath of the Titans and The Monster (a favorite I actually wrote up earlier this year) just to name a few. What attracted you to these and other projects?
PG - The opportunity to create a unique character / creature. That is essentially my main driving force, to create something that hasn’t been done before. Often my designs are changed throughout the process as they are too 'out of the box' and need numbing down for the mainstream pallet but with certain projects like Battle LA, Monster , Shannara the showrunners knew what they were getting into when they approached me , thus the designs are almost exact from concept to screen. Those are the types of projects I am attracted to the most, the unfiltered ones.
Dan - What attracted you to become a conceptual artist?
PG - I wasn’t is the short answer. I had no interest in conceptual design, only in creating my own artwork, my own exploration of mindscape sci-fi and surrealist horror. I was steadily getting work in galleries when the call came. By chance a Director saw one of my pieces and reached out to me, persuaded me to work on Battle LA.
Dan - Can you explain the process, from the initial idea pitch through the actual creation of a character or creature? What does it take to make an idea come to life on screen for an audience?
PG - Often I am approached once the Director gets on board and he/she wants to develop the main characters before any changes of the script are required. I will sketch some loose ideas which are at times no more than simple shapes and connected symbols. My characters are often composed of symbols and subliminal shapes. From here I engage in research phase depending on the brief, then create the foundation image. This serves as the standard pose/profile image that I use for the next stage. Variation, creating a batch of different takes on the design from what they expect to the complete wild cards. Once a design is close to complete I am done. It then goes to the production team to work on in 3d, prosthetics and so on. All my 2d work is done in the early stages of production.
Dan - How would you describe yourself as an artist and how would you describe your style of art?
PG - As an artist I am obsessive about characters -I need to get into their heads. A single image of a character for me must contain the visual clues to his or her entire existence, history, tone and purpose. The style is that of someone who does not adhere to rules, the imagery is fusion. Machine fused with body parts; trees fused with bones. This is dreamscape imagery. It can be and will be anything the imagination can convey and the imagination has no rules or boundaries. I consider myself an artist that is asked to create concept art rather than a concept artist that also creates art.
Dan - Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created over the years, a theme that you come back to or find yourself still exploring?
PG - Someone once described it as Splatterpunk, which I liked. Its post apocalyptic medieval fused with cyberpunk and a heavy dose of body horror. Intermix that with esoteric symbolism. Quite a mouth full. A shorter terminology has been known as Gerrardian. A nickname given by a Director that stuck. As for a favorite piece probably the 'The Walking Mandala,’ a man that became a symbol, who became the first Mandala. A walking symbol that influenced a spiritual movement behind the walls of purgatory.
Dan - I loved the concept and trailer for Hellraiser: Origins and I was disappointed to see the project had been cancelled. Is there any hope of seeing it revived in the near future?
PG - Alas not as anything official. I wanted insects fused with stone. I wanted great buildings fused with creatures that carried the dead, moving Citadels of the underworld. All woven within the movements of the first religious sect awaiting the heart of the beast. The first flesh puzzle. The studios would never do it. The only way would be a fan made short or a graphic novel without the Hellraiser title.
Dan - You’re also doing some work on the new Hellboy movie? Can you tell us anything about that?
PG - I am all wrapped on that, it was a different experience for me. I was called upon for costume design for all the characters as opposed to creature/character design . So I got to create some really lavish and imaginative costumes.
Dan - I just downloaded Company of Shadows from your website to take a look at more of your art. You’ve got a few new book projects coming down the line including Gerrardian Volume 1. Tell us a bit about that.
PG - Gerrardian Vol 1 : Monochromatic Beginnings is all about the art I created either just before the movie career or in those early days . Bio-mechanical monstrosities, dark surrealism, pure body horror and esoteric symbolism presented in stunningly detailed monochrome which was my chosen pallet at the time. It was vital to me to create this book as a start of a series of Gerrardian ART OF books. To revisit those early pieces one more time. Limited to only 1000 copies worldwide I wanted to make it a real collectors piece.
Dan - In your gallery there are some amazing concepts of Skeletor and other Masters of the Universe villains. Will we be seeing many other iconic antagonists in Future books?
PG - Even though the ink is still drying on Gerrardian Volume 1 am working on Volume 2 which will explore 10 years of characters and contain an enormous amount of new works influenced by 80's iconic characters. So yes, there will be far more antagonists including some truly unhinged version of those villains. Expect that around April 2018.
Dan - What advice could you offer to aspiring artists who hope to eventually work on such monumentally epic projects like those you’ve been involved in?
PG - Don’t follow the trends. Always listen to your instincts. Break all the rules.
Follow your gut and break all the rules. Great advice from an amazing artist. You can find everything Paul Gerrard on his website and be sure to have a look at his amazing Masters of the Universe set featuring one of the coolest interpretations of my all time favorite cartoon villain, Skeletor. Gerrardian Volume One: Monochromatic Beginnings is now available for preorder. Paul Gerrard is making that scary on film, on canvas, and on your bookcase with this and other bound collections of his work. Be sure to check him out.