Who doesn’t know Justin Bartlett? The man responsible for artwork that has been featured on albums, t-shirts and whatever else you can imagine by bands like Kvelertak, The Secret and Trap Them. Chances are even if you don’t know the guy you know his art.
A long time ago Currents hunted Justin down and managed to get a couple of minutes of his time. As many seconds as the interview took so took it days to get it published. The result… is the short & sweet interview you can read here below.
C: Hello Justin, what was it that initially got you interested in doing covers, logos and whatnots for bands & ‘zines and such? Where have we seen your work, where can we see your work now and where will we be able to see your work?
JB: I think my inability to play any musical instrument competently attracted me to being involved in the realm of underground music. Luckily I have a few friends that were trusting enough to let me design or illustrate their albums, shirts, websites – working with bands, especially ones with a slightly bigger fanbase, is a really good way to get your work out there. I sure didn’t get into this line of work because of the money! Even with more popular bands, there really isn’t a large budget for artwork. I think a large part of this is mainly due to slumping album sales, bands and labels figuring out how to recapitalize and offset how the internet really changed the music landscape.
I’ve also done work for a few magazines, fashion lines, as well as skateboard companies. I’d actually like to do more “mainstream” stuff, still in my own weird style, but maybe with less upside down crosses and corpses. Although my heart will always be with working with bands, I do this for my only source of income – getting paid at a professional rate and not having to worry all of the time about money is a big stress relief.
Additionally, I try to have at least one or two gallery shows a year – just to get my name out in the fine art world. I am having one in September in London, and I believe one next year in St. Louis.
I am not really certain where all of this time and effort is going. I think in a perfect world, I’d like to make enough money from freelancing where it would allow me to free up some time to be able to work on my own projects. Right now, I barely even have enough time for my own projects because I am trying to keep myself afloat with freelance work.
C: Who would you say is your main inspiration, if there is any? Artists? Bastards? Musicians? Hooligans?
JB: Some of my favorite artists are Michel “Away” Langevin, Austin Osman Spare, Nik Blinko (Rudimentary Peni), and as far as music goes, I find things that are somewhat low-fi, grim, hypnotic to be inspirational. But mainly, I just come up with ideas in my head and go from there. To me, it’s not really anything magical or mystical – just how my head works. I always have ideas in my head bouncing around and they find their way onto paper.
C: What’s your prefered method of work? Have you received requests that you’ve been unable to do for some reason or chosen not to do because of differences between your vision and the customers?
JB: My preferred method? You mean what I work with? Usually I have to work in total isolation, in candlelight. I only use rancid raven’s blood as ink, as well as a pen carved from a goat horn.
I’ve worked only on a few projects where I wish the outcome was slightly different, but I’d say for the vast majority of the time, bands come to because they know what to expect.
C: If I were to ask you, “hey, Justin, I really want to do a small book with your work limited to 25 copies” what would your answer be?
JB: Well – I plan on someday releasing a compilation in book form of my work, I also have two or three ideas for a set of prints, and smaller books. As I said before, until I can free up time – it’s rather hard to commit time to any self initiated projects. Maybe I need to be better at managing my time.
You are, it seems by your website, an avid corpsepainted defecator. The main question, however, is; what book is lying in your lap?