Featured Artist: Brom
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(1) Miss Muffet (2) Night Bells

mean Jack by BromBrom – Into the Heart of Darkness
By Trevor J Wallace

Moviegoers, especially fans of superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre, have more than likely seen his work in the form of character design. For video gamers, the chances of recognition would increase significantly. And to role-playing gamers (the kind with dice), his art is as familiar as their mother’s face - his work adorns a good many of the books they own.

His name is Brom (just Brom), and he has established himself as one of the most talented and darkest fantasy artists operating today - since the inception of the genre, for that matter. His work runs the gamut of diabolical speculative art. Half-naked priestesses of the blackest gods, dark elfin warriors, demonic toys, cyborg man-computers, six-armed techno-goddesses and even Peter Pan all find an eerie life at the end of Brom’s brush.

And his pen – he now writes lavishly self-illustrated novels, all three (so far) of which have garnered both critical and fan laudation. The books are Plucker, the tale of a toy possessed by demon determined to steal a child’s soul (not recommended for anyone with a pathological fear of clowns, porcelain dolls or marionettes), The Devil’s Rose, in which a Texas Ranger is cursed to monitor the flat expanses of both Texas and Hell, and The Child Thief, a story of Peter Pan and Neverland told in a contemporary and gritty manner.

An industry veteran 20 plus years and running, Brom now enjoys the freedom to paint, draw and write whatever comes into his darkly imaginative head. It wasn’t always that way, however. His very first job was checking cars for bombs. He was “a civilian gate guard of a military base in Germany, checking cars for bombs from the RAF (Red Army Faction),” he explains.

A less explosive, first art-related job, “Would be airbrushing t-shirts in high-school. My first job in my chosen field would be a series of forgettable comic covers for First Comics.”

The Captain (aka Captain Hook) of The Child ThiefBrom is what is colloquially referred to as an “army brat.” Transferred every few years to anywhere in the world, it was often hard to make new friends in a constant cycle of coming and going. Art was one of Brom’s ways to combat the lack of stable extra-familial relationships. “Art was many things growing up, it was certainly a way to be accepted when relocating. No matter where we moved, there seemed to always be a small group of artistic misfits that I fit just fine into. This sounds melodramatic, but art was the friend that was always there, so when feeling isolated or dealing with any of the angst issues that most teens go through, art always got me through.”

Starting at a young age, Brom never really had a formal art education. “I am primarily self-taught. I learned by studying the works of artists I enjoy and by trying to emulate them. I did attend a 2-year graphic arts program, but unfortunately they did not teach painting and drawing but instead such skills as setting type with picas, making mechanicals with ruby lift, airbrushing and the stat camera. All skills like that went the way of the Dodo upon advent of the PC.”

Aside from obvious influences such as pulp cover artists, HR Geiger and not so obvious influences like Patrick Nagel (there’s a certain symmetry to Brom’s women…), he says, “A few of the artists that made the most profound impact would be Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Waterhouse, Mucha, N.C. Wyeth, and some folks find this hard to believe, but Norman Rockwell has always been a favorite, he is a magnificent story teller in paint and there simply is no better draftsman.” He later adds,  I love [Edward] Gorey’s work!”

On the literary side of things when growing up, he says, “Literature was my primary source of inspiration. I would read a few chapters then run off and do some illustrations of what I read.”

And what was Brom reading? “When I was young, Robert E. Howard, Edger Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, later, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman and recently Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell. ”

Brom’s art is often given the label “Gothic Fetishism.” (I don’t really recommend googling that phrase, though – most of what you come up with is sure to infect your computer.) Perhaps it what an over exuberant fan or a journalist with a taste for leather, but Brom simply says this: “As far as the term Gothic Fetishism, I believe that just applies to my work in that both of those aesthetics have played a major role in my costuming and character design.”

While still doing contract work, he did designs for video games, role-playing games and movies, but, after the initial gig with First Comics and a later project for Dark Horse Comics (home of Hellboy), he has never really done much in the comic book realm. “I love comics,” he says, “but I hate the idea of me drawing them. Page after page of sequence panels - ack! I am not fast enough to make that work, I prefer to just hit those most iconic scenes and leave the talking heads to the imagination.”

While the talent shines through, and his images often have a humorous or ridiculous edge to them, the operative phrase here is dark. His images evoke childhood terror and the innermost twisted and erotic adult fantasies. “People are fascinated by the things that disturb them. In addition there is inherent conflict in horror, and conflict makes things interesting. The fear that something will bite you will certainly keep your attention. For me personally, it is not a conscious decision, I've just always been drawn to the dark side of things (pun intended).

“Everything [scares me],” he adds. “I am very, very superstitious and once it is dark I believe that every bad thing I have ever heard about is laying in wait to tear the flesh off my bones. I believe in every religion, I believe that all the gods and devils are out to get me.”

(1)"They spread out like a bad smell, encircling him, snarling, and snapping their teeth." (2) Peter Pan


If the fear of the wrath of the gods is always so imminent, why take a beloved child’s tale such as Peter Pan (which is unfortunately known to may only through the Disney adaptation) and turn it into such a dark and disturbing novel?

“A couple of years back I read James Barrie's original version of the tale and was amazed at all the underlying darkness. Here's a quote from the original Peter Pan: ‘The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.’

“Thins them out? What does that mean? Does Peter kill them, like culling a herd? Does he send them away somewhere? If so, where? Or does Peter just put them in such peril that the crop is in need of constant replenishing? That one paragraph forever changed my perception of Peter Pan from that of a high-spirited rascal to something far more sinister. How many children had Peter stolen, how many had died, how many had been thinned out? Peter himself said, ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure.’ Once I pondered these unsettling elements I began to wonder what this children's book would be like if the veil of Barrie's lyrical prose were peeled back, if the violence and savagery were presented in grim stark reality. How would children really react to being kidnapped and thrust into such a situation? How hard would it be for them to fall under the spell of a charismatic sociopath, to shuck off the morality of civilization and become cold-blooded killers?”

On a lighter note, he says, “I enjoy adding a touch of the absurd to both my paintings and my writing. It gives a bit more story to the piece, a touch of mystery, creates questions. For example an axe murderer that likes to wear pink bows in his hair adds a nice ‘what the heck’ to the whole thing.

A self-driven workhorse, Brom describes his day: “I'm a morning person, at the board around 8am, no coffee as it makes me nutty, have to kick start my muse by just diving in, if that doesn't work I give her a few good whacks across her buttocks, if that doesn't work I waste an hour or so on Facebook (Facebook is the anti-muse). Half hour lunch then naptime, yes I said naptime, twenty minutes and I'm good for another round of abusing my muse. My creative energy as well as my muse run away from me around 4 pm, in which time I turn into a puddle of uselessness.”

He listens to music and audio books while he paints but, “I need silence when I write.”

On the music end of things he says of former Rank and Revue cover artists “The Residents are great! I've been a fan since the late seventies. Other bands: Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, the Cramps, Tom Waits, The Horrors, Daniel Johnson, Lee Hazelwood, Dead Boys, New York Dolls, could go on and on it all depends on my mood.

“I am very fortunate as I rarely get stuck,” he says further of his work ethic. “If anything I have the opposite problem of trying to turn my brain off so that I can get to sleep, as my mind seems to always be concocting new pictures and stories. I keep a notepad on the nightstand so that I can write down ideas that come to me in my dreams. It seems that just about anything inspires me, from music, literature, art, to textures in nature.

“I enjoy all creative fields, I lament not having more hours in the day so that I could pursue other disciplines such as sculpting, photography, carpentry, you name it. That is part of why I started writing, one more way to bring my visions to life.

“I’ve always loved telling stories with pictures or words, especially with both. As a child I loved making little books, y'know -- paper, words, drawings, stapler and presto! you have a book! It's pretty much the same now --paper, words, paintings, computer and presto! you have book.”

As part of his formula for making things work, he cites “Stubbornness and an obsessive nature. If you wish to be a writer, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time by yourself in a room. You have to be willing to fail and keep going, and going, and going. And most importantly you have to enjoy it or it will drive you crazy. And sometimes it will drive you crazy anyway.”

As both a visual artist and a writer, the two forms can sometimes conflict. To get around this, Brom says, “I try to create projects that involve both. I enjoy both equally. Having more than one artistic outlet helps to keep me from becoming burnt out. Under ideal conditions I like to switch back and forth every couple of months. The process seems to work best for me when I can get in a groove with one discipline and stay there for several weeks.

“Writing is harder because it is so much more subjective. A lot of writing can also come down to personal taste. Similar to music, people tend to like or dislike certain styles and approaches. With painting, it is very clear to me when I am doing something wrong, doesn't mean I can always get it where I want it to be, but at least I usually know what needs to be fixed.”

And the two seem to fuel each other. “Often I will start with a visual image that I wish to explore and the story evolves from there. I find the two arts inspire one another. I think very visually, so even the vaguest ideas come with pictures in my mind. I will do some sketching, then some writing, back and forth, using ideas discovered in one medium to strengthen the other.”

Though Brom’s own favorites change with his mood, “in general my personal paintings, the ones that I self-author are always closest to the heart. The paintings I've done for my novels, such as The Plucker, Devil's Rose, or most recently The Child Thief.”

On the horizon, Brom “Just signed a deal with Harper Collins to produce two new illustrated novels. I am working away on one of them right now and should be out in stores in about a year. I also have a new art book in the works that should be out in about a year in half.”

Ah, something to look forward to.

Thank you very much to Brom for his time, additional information and quotes above and beyond the interview, the generosity to share any and all artwork and just being an all-around swell guy.

Be sure to visit Bromart.com.

"I burned their churches, crucified their priest, raped their women, and fed their children
to our beasts." He said this as though describing nothing more than a holiday table setting.



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