At HAHH, we’ve always prided ourselves on our colorful covers. But Brad Black’s surrealistic, black-and-whites gave us the perfect chance to break with tradition. In our brief interview below, the Pittsburgh-based artist tells us his background and answers that ever-annoying question – where do your ideas come from?
So tell us about your background. How did you get started as an artist?
I believe it started in high school when I would draw in class. Math was always a terrible subject for me so I’d sketch random things just to pass the time. But it wasn’t until my bike was stolen from me that I began to have time to focus on something else. I didn’t have enough money for another bike, but I did have enough for a beginner’s paint kit.
You’re based in Pittsburgh. What could you say about the local art scene?
I think everyone knows the Pittsburgh art scene is very small but I sense no community between many artists. A lot of art shows are attended by friends and the turnout is usually small. Pittsburgh is great for growing and learning your craft plus it’s one of the most livable cities in the U.S. But to actually get noticed for your art your chances are slim. I think it’s going to take a few decades for the city of Pittsburgh to fully embrace art and culture. The city is in a transition period; I think we’re still trying to find our identity. I think the future is pretty promising.
Has your art always been similar to the surreal black and white style we see now, or was there a change in style? How did you arrive at this black and white style?
I’ve been creating art for a little over 12 years and my style has developed throughout the years. When I first got my beginners paint kit I’d emulate tattoo artists that I looked up to. Then I discovered Salvador Dali which changed everything for me. I never see art created in such a way so I tried to create surrealistic images using acrylic paint. It never really worked out, the majority of the work ended up looking amateurish but I was learning.
When I went to college I took a drawing class and I liked the accessibility of a pencil along with the results. Nor was I one for color theory. During that class I discovered some important artist Francis Bacon, David Lynch, Joel-Peter Witkin and Laurie Lipton that were highly influential in shaping my style.
So walk me through your working process. From the initial idea, how do you approach your work?
Typically, all my ideas come from daydreams. It starts with a small idea but then I build upon it. I sketch my idea and begin to work out of the flaws. I then transfer the image to watercolor paper building up layers of charcoal and graphite. Some drawings have up to 15 layers and can take up to a month to complete. I focus on 3 major themes which are religion, anatomy and death. Themes that I’ve always been interested in and explored through my art.
What directions do you see you taking your art in the future?
I don’t make much money creating art to support myself but that’s never been my intention. I’m currently working as a phlebotomist at a local hospital but it can be draining witnessing the human condition first hand. I have a first account of the heroin epidemic all the growing mental health crisis but it takes an emotional toll. I’m also going back to school so I can work in a medical laboratory so I’ll most likely use more anatomy, physiology and pathol