Jagged Visions: The Devil and Joseph Wilding

It is often said that ‘The Devil is in the details’ and that is certainly true when discussing the meticulous work of Chester based artist Joe Wilding. His illustrations are dense with visceral ideas and hang heavy with sinister mood and potent symbolism. And whilst the man himself is as genial and personable as anyone you’d care to meet, his artwork never fails to horrify or stir a funeral mood. It’s this duality that makes Joe such a pleasure to collaborate with. I caught up with him recently to peer behind the veil and discuss the ideas behind his new series of limited prints (available HERE )

Joe is there a particular theme that links this new series of prints?

Not particularly, I mean there are common elements because I’ll usually put a candle in most of the things I draw. I’m not even sure why I think maybe because it’s one thing I’m pretty confident I can actually draw well. I always thought it would be cool to draw something over multiple pieces but it’s something I’ve not done, possibly in the future. Some of these were for specific purposes so it’s hard to think ahead and do two or three that tie in because I get distracted easily so it’s often on to the next piece without thinking too much about it.

In terms of artistic and thematic influences who would you regard as particularly inspiring upon your work. I don’t mean other artists so much as moods or piece of music or even movies. What stirs your creative impulse?

I mean that’s one thing I actually tend to look for with other illustrators. Their styles and techniques etc are interesting to me but more than that it’s their overall vibe I’m interested in. I’d much rather look at work by someone with a great consistent them or feel than say someone more prolific but whose work doesn’t have any kind of an undercurrent or fixed style.

As for influences outside of that sphere it’s difficult to separate from things I just like generally but i feel like when it comes to something I want to try and draw I tend stick to things with familiar themes.

In films I don’t mind watching anything half decent as long as there some good visuals in it. Even with outdated whacky hammer horror stuff like The Devil Rides Out or Blood On Satans Claw or newer folk horror like The Witch there’s cults, sacrifice and rituals in there. I’m not massively sold on horror as a genre but it does have a lot of the things I like to see in there so I rate exorcism films like The Rite, there’s ritual, a religious sect and possession in there. Guillermo del Toro’s films have a lot of folklorian elements in them so I buzz off that. Anti-Christ tops my list of films for influence and inspiration though, it’s actually a good film too. It’s got it all, oppressive atmosphere, nature and intense unnerving smouldering evil. You can’t argue with a film that has the tag line ‘nature is Satan’s church’.

Musics difficult but there two genres that I find make me want to draw and that is Black Metal and then some of those stoner genres. The first is extremely evocative once you’re in the headspace and willing to ignore your probably correct preconceptions about it. Without getting into it too much I feel like the music actually somehow brings to mind a lot of the themes any one given band is trying to achieve. I’ll find that bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, Panopticon, Alcest, Agalloch, Blut Aus Nord and Ulver etc fire me up to draw. As for Stoner Rock and Doom sometimes it’s what the bands about like Witchcraft, Pagan Altar or Order Of Israfel and then other times it’s purely because a lot of those kinds of bands tend to have some of the artwork styles I like. You can’t listen to say Dopesmoker and not instantly remember how sick Arik Roper’s art is. Blackened Post Rock and Crust have some great oppressive, bleak and foreboding elements too that are weirdly pertinent especially bands like Year Of No Light, Fall Of Efefra, Amenra, Celeste, How To Disappear Completely and Rosetta.

I think the other thing that helps is that these genres tend to be the ones I actually illustrate posters and things for though.

I have conspired with you on a few projects now and I am curious about the actual artistic process? Do you draft up many preliminary sketches before deciding upon the direction of the final piece?

The one thing that holds me back is i’m actually not very good at drawing from imagination or memory like Rich Sampson or Adam Chandler really so what I’ll do is I’ll decide on the elements I want in a piece then I’ll go through loads of source photos and pick out the ones I think I can draw best. Next I’ll decide on some loose composition and try and arrange the fewer main elements where they need to go. Once I’ve done that I’ll make very rough sketches of those and then I’ll decide on how best to use the rest of the space if I didn’t already have a plan for that and I’ll sketch that in. Then I’ll get a dark pencil and go very heavily over the rough sketch with it picking out all the lines I want to keep then the inking and any other changes I make on a fresh sheet.

Sometimes I’ll decide on things as I go because I’ll realise X element i was going to put in there doesn’t fit or should be somewhere else and I’ll have to alter everything. Usually though I’ve spent enough time thinking about it that I’ve got a pretty good idea what I want something to look like once it’s done before I even start, the problem then is achieving that.

Trying to improve means changing up what you do and I tend to get comfortable to easily so most of the time I’ll try out something new, even if it’s a little something and build on that next time.

How does creating work for yourself under Old Woden compare to working from a client determined brief? You mentioned to me before that sometimes you run up against bullshit from interfering managers and other pencil necks inserting themselves into the dialogue between the artist and yourself. Does that happen often?

It’s not really any different. I only really do illustrations for mates albums, bands and shows and as gifts. I mean I get offers for paid commissions which very occasionally I take but I’m kind of insular and I’d rather draw something for a friend and have them be into it and get mates rates/favours/trades for it than do a t-shirt for Barry Snapback’s Melodic Metalcore band. As such I’ve been very lucky in that I can draw what I want really, even when someone wants something particular there’s room for interpretation there. If I’m drawing for myself or for someone else the process, result and experience are nearly identical.

Part and parcel of being reluctant to work for people other than your immediate circle is access to more opportunities. While I’m more than happy with not being an amateur it’s always cool to do something for a band you’re into. One promoter who most of my gig posters are for, shout out Kam, is really good about giving me some of my preferred bookings that come over his desk. If I’ve done something for myself and it’s appropriate I’ll use that for that poster but most of the time I’ll draw something specific up. Even if 9 out of 10 of those jobs got turned back after the time I’ve put in I’d still do stuff for him because he’s my chance to draw gig posters for bands I love. I get enough gratification from doing it in the first place and while compliments make me very uncomfortable it’s still nice to hear a band you’ve been into for years drop a nice remark about something you’ve drawn up for one of their shows.

Is there a particular band or movie you’d like to create work for?

I mean my fear here would be picking a title and not being able to do it justice but if it was a film I’d say probably Valhalla Rising. As for a band that’s a really tough question. There’s a lot I’d buzz off but if it was for album artwork I’d probably say Wolves In The Throne Room if they ever reissued Celestial Lineage. For a T-shirt design I’d say King Dude and for a gig poster I’d say The Sword but ask me again in an hour and watch all my answers me completely different

Thanks for the interview mate, final words/shout outs?

Shout out Corehammer Crew for their charity work, my mates for being my mates you know who you are and my brother for getting the cans in.

Visit Joe’s website HERE and grab a print before they all go!