Ok folks, I’m back to bring you a treat of sorts. An interview with an artist that defined DC Comics art for more than a decade. An artist that bleeds and sweats for his work, in every sense of the word. He’s an artist that has literally drawn everything in the comic book world. He’s done album covers for Danzig, Heavy Metal Magazine, and everything else under the sun.
To put things into perspective on how important he is to the art community, as an artist myself, I had four people that shaped the way that I did things. Frank Frazetta, H.R. Giger, Larry Elmore, and The Man: Simon Bisley. (I’ve been fortunate to have met Mr. Elmore, but sadly the other two have passed on to paint with fire on a different plane.)
I’ve had the honor to have sat at Simon’s table at Pensacon the past couple of years, and even keep in contact with him as see what he cranks out as time goes on.
*The language gets a bit abrasive, but he’s British, so I won’t hold that against him. If you don’t like it, read something else.
Twisted Squirrel- So what’s your background in art?
Simon Bisley- Well I suppose it isn’t any of your fucking business is it? Well my background in art, well professionally (We’ll get to that) but initially, I knew i could draw pretty well at a young age. What do you call it “Kindergarten”, when you’re about six or something, I was doing drawings I remember it was an art day and mothers and fathers would come and look at the artwork the children had done, I remember lots of people had crowded around the work that I’d done. It’s just something I was born with, so I always knew that that was something I was interested in. So many people like Frazetta inspired me to paint. I got a comic book background like superhero comics, I was young, like all of us were, and uh, I got into painting, but professionally in the eighties mid to late eighties I started working for 2000 A.D.’s Judge Dredd magazine. I did a series of stories with the characters “The ABC Warriors” was my first job and then pretty quickly after that I started working for DC on Lobo, Judgement on Gotham, Batman and Judge Dredd…
TS- So what do you think is good art?
SB- Good art? I thing that good art is something that impresses me, moves me, makes me feel well, good or bad or indifferent, i mean art is an emotional thing to get a reaction from…What is good art? That is a something that’s in the eye of the beholder isn’t it? “Good art” is something that I would say is really honest art. “Good art” is something where the artist is really talented but does some good work. It’s a tradesman, if you see a racing car driver or riding a motorcycle, there, there, now that’s good art. So, somebody that can draw well, that’s clearly an ability there isn’t it? At the same time you can draw badly, on purpose, but make it look good. So, the quality of the but not so much of the skill involved, so as far as “good art” that’s just a question man. I mean it’s an age-old question, I mean at the end of the day we all know what good art or bad art is. I mean you can do something very skillfully, but the subject matter might be shit and the picture might be bad just because you can paint well.
TS-So what inspires you? And what pisses you off?
SB-What inspires me? I suppose it’s other people’s good work, that inspires me, seeing other people’s work, I like that a lot…
TS-…So does that keep you competitive?
SB-It keeps me competitive, it keeps me inspired. I’m more inspired v=by something than a copyist if you see what I mean…What was your other question? What pisses me off? In regard to what? I think what pisses me off, is when I’m getting hassled “Have you started yet?, Have you done it, yet” and all this shit, that pisses me off, I don’t mind making changes because that’s what commercial art is, I’m a commercial artist, I paint for the customer. I’m his vehicle to get where he needs to go, But what pisses me off, is constantly hassling me or annoying me…when I’m on a tight deadline and they’re still harassing me, I hate working under that kind of pressure, then I feel resentful of them.It makes me feel that I’m not worth it. I feel bad saying it but it’s not like I’m some sort of fucking machine.
SB-…I think I’m more annoyed, by them wanting to get the book out as opposed to getting quality work. They just want the book out.
TS-How has your art changed over the years?
SB-I think that I’m more in control of what I do. I can master different techniques. I’ve become quicker, and more aware of my skills, and how to improve.
TS- What makes you the most proud?
SB-I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know because I haven’t done anything that I’m really proud of in that way…I don’t know how to answer that…
TS-Do you believe that it could be the predicament that artists are always in, like their work is never good enough…
SB-…No nothing is ever really good enough is it? Sometimes you don’t have to keep going with something, it’s “good enough” people kinda like freeform style, something that’s not finished can certainly look better than something that’s finished.
TS-When is your work finished, then?
SB-When I feel that there’s nothing left to do to it. You can start going backward on a piece, unless you got it right then you start fiddling with it and you start to ruin it. So sometimes things can look good as they are less done. Less rendered…
TS-Who is your favorite artist?
SB-I don’t have one…no one in particular, everyone knows about Frazetta, but Salvador Dali, there’s so many out there, and not necessarily well-known artists either.
TS-If you could be a superhero who would you be? It doesn’t have to be specific.
SB-I’d love to fly man, that would be fuckin’ amazin’ wouldn’t it? I mean there’s so many…see through fuckin’ walls, super strong, live forever, I dunno? I mean to be the Human Torch would be so fucking cool!…Uhh, Spiderman would be amazing, Daredevil…I don’t want to be blind, um the Flash is pretty good, or Superman would be good. How ridiculous would that be to say “I’d like to be Superman”.
TS-What is your favorite nineties music?…Your favorite nineties jam, how’s that?
SB-Jam? What do you mean “jam”?
TS-You know, something that really speaks to you…
SB-…Speaks to me? No nothing speaks to me…Type O Negative’s “Life is Killing Me” but I don’t know when that came out, 2002 or so…Probably Metallica “Master of Puppets” I wasn’t inspired by the lyrics, i mean the lyrics are fucking lyrics, but I think the album is just brilliant. When I first started working as a professional I listened to that album all the time.
Thanks for reading. Until next time.
Simon and My fat ass.