Artists, designers, illustrators, photographers – these people are, in many ways, the unsung heroes of the music scene. Without them we would not have the visual art that is such an important though somewhat undervalued aspect of music. Album covers, band logos, promotional images, tour posters – these things are so integral to a scene’s aesthetics or a particular artist’s identity. Many of these artists spend a lot of their offering their talents to those in the scene, in the process developing their own distinct styles that can be seen throughout their work, so in an effort to learn more about the work they contribute to the scene and the things that inspire them, we’ve started this series of Artist Profiles, where we have a chat with some of the finest artists currently operating in the DIY music scene.
As a publication that releases its own physical zine, we really value the work of visual artists, and are lucky to have collaborated with some truly talented people. For our side-project zine revolving around the Soulsborne series, we had a host of artists contribute a range of stunning designs. But most prominent is the work of Greyson Kelly, whose work graces the front and back covers. Kelly’s distinct retro comic book style is absolutely stunning and fantastically unique, and we felt compelled to approach him to do something similar for the Soulsborne zine. He was gracious enough to accept, and went above and beyond with two incredible designs. The finished pieces are absolutely amazing, but we still wanted to know more about their creation. As such, we posed some questions to Kelly to find out more about his work, how he developed his skills and what went in to the creation of his covers for The Soulsborne Issue.
Tell us a bit about your creative process. What do you take inspiration and influence from?
My creative process is usually some mixture of research, sketching and creation. Sometimes if I’m feeling spicy I will skip the sketching phase which can be pretty exciting. I primarily work digitally using a Wacom Cintiq and use a few different Adobe programs which vary depending on what I am making.
I take inspiration from pretty much anything and everything whether it be some ‘40s American grocery store signage, an absolutely brutal death metal concert flyer or the pages of an obscure Dungeons And Dragons book. I think that being open to all kinds of ideas is what keeps me loving what I do every day.
Which artists, visual or otherwise, influence your work?
I pull influence from a plethora of artists, designers, musicians and films. In the interest of time I will give a small list of each.
For artists and designers I am inspired by Kentaro Miura, Crocodile Jackson, The High Road Design, Karl Kopinski, Todd Macfarlane, Jack Kirby, Aaron Draplin, Takehiko Inoue, Frank Miller and Giorgio Colmolo, just to name a few.
For musicians I draw inspiration from the likes of Gatecreeper, Blood Incantation, Power Trip, Alexisonfire, Tool, Fleetwood Mac, Sublime, Gang Starr, Souls Of Mischief and of course Black Sabbath. I literally have music on 24/7 so this list is ever changing, but these are some of my favourites and the ones I listen to extra loud when I’m being creative.
As for films, some that stick out are anything by Tarantino and Scorsese, Blade 1 & 2, Akira, Ghost In The Shell (obviously the original), Blade Runner 2077, The Shining, The Thing, and recently I watched Good Time and all I can say is it was a good time.
What can you tell us about the cover designs you did for the Soulsborne zine? What techniques and processes went into its creation?
Well first off I’m a shameless Soulsborne fanboy. Though only introduced to the franchise by my close friend Samuel in the past three years or so, who originally found endless humour in my aggressive reactions to dying 30 times in a row to those damn bell tower gargoyles, since then I have become obsessed with all the FromSoftware games, for their difficulty and impressive lore.
The cover designs for the Soulsborne zines are two of my favourite covers I have done so far. The Dark Souls cover pays homage to the Marvel 25th Anniversary covers, which have these insane borders created by dozens of different characters. With so many characters in the series to choose from I decided that this was the best route to showcase most of the fan favourites. The Bloodborne cover doesn’t necessarily pay homage to anything specifically but the title layout definitely pulls from older horror and true crime comics from like the ‘50s and ‘60s. I thought it would be an interesting contrast to have one cover be quite chaotic and the other feel lonesome and isolated.
Your retro comic book designs are awesome and very unique. Where did you get the idea for them and how did you develop the style?
I am a HUGE comic book nerd. Since as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated and heavily involved in comic books. Some of my favourite times of the year are going to comic book conventions. I always preferred the art style of golden and bronze age American comics as well as the more gritty and dark manga. One day I sorta just decided to give it a try, and with the help of digital brushes and textures supplied by Retro Supply Co and True Grit Texture supply I was able to replicate the exact look and feel I wanted.
I still feel as if my style is developing day by day, and as much as I like pulling from various comics and layouts, one of my bigger goals is becoming a little more unique in my composition.
Are you trained as an artist or is it something you just picked up?
Ever since I was a kid I was always creative. I’ve had the luxury of having amazing parents and family that pushed me to pursue a university education at Emily Carr University of Art & Design In Vancouver Canada. I absolutely loved university, met so many amazing people and gained some very close friends along the way. I graduated in 2020 with a Bachelors in Communication Design and have plans on continuing my education further. The best way to describe what I do is a fine blend of graphic design and illustration.
Is there a particular piece of work you’re most proud of?
Not really, I’m proud of each of my designs and artworks all in different ways. Some were stepping stones to discovering new techniques and styles, and some were therapeutic in their creation. I will say that I do like creating the comic covers quite a bit though.
What have you got planned for the future?
In late 2020 I decided to start my own design and illustration business, so the future will be filled with me navigating my own small business and creating some really interesting works! I’m also pursuing further education with the hopes of becoming a professor at some point. Outside of professional plans I have a goal of exhibiting my artwork at some comic conventions as well.
Words: George Parr