Email Interview by Sabrina Selkis
Once in a while, you encounter an album design that stands out more than others. Of course it is a very subjective opinion, but I was intrigued enough to get to know more about the artist behind the Raging Speedhorn “Lost Ritual” album cover. UK based Dominic Sohor took the time to answer some of my questions about his past, present and future in the illustration industry.
Was it a life goal to end up in illustration/design? When did your career start?
I think it probably was even if I wasn’t actually aware of this fact. I had always been obsessed with drawing since I was young and whilst I think I’d have preferred to be James Hetfield, that was always fairly unlikely to happen. Not having much in the way of musical aptitude, I’m pleased to be able to contribute to the music scene in some way.
I don’t think my career has actually started yet, but I’ve been concentrating on illustration and design only for the last three of four years really. Prior to that I had been doing more conventional design work, but the opportunities for incorporating skulls into a lot of jobs are somewhat limited, so I knew I had to make a change.
How would you describe your style of illustration?
Erm… not as good as I’d like it to be.
You combine hand drawn illustration and digital work, how do you find a balance between both?
I’m not sure I do have a balance between the two at the moment as I’ve been working almost exclusively digitally for a while. This has become necessary as the level of commission work I’ve been doing has increased, so the speed benefit of digital work has been vital. It has to be said that with the amazing Photoshop brushes that I use, it is possible to achieve a hand drawn look even when working digitally.
Do you have preferred colours to work with? Have you ever entirely changed the colour palette on a client’s request?
I do like orange and I went through a phase of making everything lurid green, but I don’t really have any preferred colours. I just approach each piece with a view to using whatever works. And yes, colour changes from clients are very common.
Regarding an album artwork, you include full sleeve/booklet layout, t-shirts, posters and prints, editorial illustration, adverts, book covers etc… do you have any favourite platforms?
They all have their merits I think. It can be fun to work on album art where there are no restrictions on the number of colours to be used, but conversely the challenge of a limited number of colours for screen printing on a shirt or poster can force you to be creative in the way you approach the design. Sort of like a puzzle that has to be figured out. Another cool thing is the size of the design when creating a poster, knowing that the piece is going to end up pretty large.
You are a fan of Orange Goblin, was it challenging to come up with “Live Hard” t-shirt design inspired by 70s Bike culture?
I do love Orange Goblin, yes. I was a fan of the band for a long time before I ever got the chance to work with them and I’m totally thankful to Ben Ward and the rest of the band for the opportunity. In my opinion they’re one of the best metal bands around and perfectly ready to step further up the bill at festivals. I’m convinced that if more people at places like the Download main stage got to see them live, they’d be instantly won over.
As for the Live Hard design, it was a bit challenging as the brief was for a 70s inspired design and as I went down a different 1970s rabbit hole and produced a totally different design at first which I was happy with, but in retrospect wasn’t right for Orange Goblin. It wasn’t until I ran into Ben after a show in Manchester one night and he said “think 70s bikers!” that I managed to steer things in the right direction for them. I’ve been lucky to be asked to produce several designs since then for OG and I’m particularly honoured to have been trusted to create a design to celebrate their 20th anniversary tour in 2015.
The “Lost Ritual” cd cover for the band Raging Speedhorn is beautiful, what inspired you for this? What was the band‘s concept?
Thank you! I am pleased with how that one turned out. It’s interesting that you ask about the concept as there actually wasn’t one. The band had one particular title for the album in mind for which I created a specific sketch, but this was abandoned in favour of the brief of just creating something in my style. Thankfully the band were into the design I came up with and I believe they were actually inspired to title the album Lost Ritual after seeing the final art. When coming up with the design I remember trying to push things away from traditional heavy metal artwork, especially as the band had described a previous sketch as “too metal”, but also to incorporate elements from the artwork I had done for Halfway to Hell, so there is repeated imagery in each, as well as echoes of the band’s previous album covers.
On your website, you wrote “I can draw things that are not skulls”. How often are you asked for this and what other things do you enjoy drawing?
I am regularly asked for things other than skulls, particularly recently. Although I’m sure there will always be a demand for a nice, traditional skull rendering such as a recent shirt design I provided for the band Mage which is my take on their classic skull logo design.
Personally I enjoy many different types of work and have recently been experimenting with new (well new for me anyway) techniques, some of which have begun to creep into commissioned work.
The album artwork for High Fighter’s Scars and Crosses in which I stayed away from my established style and produced a more abstract piece which only really firmed up as I was working on it. I have also recently produced some album artwork where I’ve been able to us an impressionistic style, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but had to find the right project for it to be practical. This artwork is still under wraps, but will be revealed by the band soon.
You also created Metalheads badges, can you tell us more about this and if you plan on doing more in the future? Also how do you choose the artist to appear on the badge?
I think I was inspired to create the Bobby Liebling badge after just messing around drawing him. He has such a distinctive look that seemed to lend itself to this sort of thing. I do have plans for more badges, yes. I’ve got a full line up of other people I’d like to create badges of but finding the time to get them done is proving tricky. I hope to do the next one very soon though who will be another “character” from within the rock and metal scene.
Now about your greeting cards: “Metal Birthday” cards, “Slayer” Xmas cards like “Reindeer Blood”, “In The Abyss”, “Elf Awaits”… when did it all start? Can we expect more soon?
The cards started a few years back when I was listening to Slayer on headphones while walking to work and the phrase “Reindeer Blood” popped into my head and set the idea in motion, leading me to try and squeeze out a new Slayer related one for each Christmas since. They were well received, so the birthday cards also followed on and again I have some more ideas in the pipeline for these. I just need to find time to get them drawn up and into production.
Clients you have worked with are well known, Melvins, Mudhoney, Orange Goblin, Raging Speedhorn… Is there a band you would absolutely love to collaborate with in 2017?
I suppose Metallica would be the pinnacle given that they were the first metal band I really got into, but really I’m chuffed to work with anyone who wants my artwork. It’s always a particular honour to be trusted to help create the visual element of a band’s persona. Probably my favourite band at the moment is All Them Witches, so I’d love to do something for them, but I think that’s unlikely as they have a particular unique style of artwork going on that their drummer creates, so it’s probably a good thing that they stick with that.
Do you or will you exhibit your artwork in a gallery? If so where can we find you?
I have shown work in a few shows in the past. Nothing current or planned though, but if anything does come up I’ll no doubt mention it on Facebook etc.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just to say thanks for the cool questions, thanks to everyone reading this and big thanks to everyone I’ve had the chance to create work for. Also, if everyone in the world could start being nice to each other and stop all this recent weird nonsense, I’d really appreciate that.