Sunday, January 7, 2018

Xander Kent Interview

RavenzCraft Arts Interviews 
Xander Kent of Redgrimrune

RavenzCraft Arts welcomes this amazingly talented illustrator and artist from San Francisco Xander Kent

So first I just want to thank and welcome you to The RavenzCraft Arts Interviews Project,
I thank you for taking the time to participate in this and let us get know a bit more about you.

1.So for all of us who dont already know can you share with us a little bit about where you are from, and how you were first inspired to become an illustrator/artist?

I’m Xander Kent - I grew up in San Diego, California, and got my BA at San Francisco State University. I make all my art in my apartment in San Francisco.

Creativity has been always present in my life – I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My family is creative and crafty in their own distinct ways, and I’ve had the privilege of having an ever-changing but incredibly supportive network of creative people I can constantly draw inspiration from. I am proud to be an almost entirely self-taught illustrator – I’ve had many teachers, and not all of them were in a classroom.

Illustration as a medium appealed to me when I was young when I started collecting newspaper comic books (Garfield, Peanuts, etc). I was captivated by how much story, humor, and thought-provoking punchlines could be told with only a few pen-strokes in 4 panels or less. In my teen years I was part of that first wave of High School Anime-nerds who tried their hand at illustrating in the Japanese Manga style - this phase ended quickly, as my innate tendency to refuse to follow conventional techniques had me almost immediately branching off into my own drawing style.

At the University, I studied Art History and a few Fine Arts, but found a focus in the Digital Arts field. I quickly found ways to blend traditional inking techniques with enhancements from digital mediums. Soon after graduation, I began collaborating with a pair of local writers to make web-based comics. With these as our vehicles, we then threw ourselves into the Northern California Comics Convention circuit – it was then, when I had a booth with my name & artwork on it, that I began considering myself a professional Illustrator.

2. So from the work that I have seen personally, your art is mainly Norse themed, did you have a certain time in your life when you were inspired to research and create art relating to this topic and following?

I’ve always been interested in the Iron-age/ Medieval/ Fantasy genre, and it’s been a constant subject in my art. However, until a few years ago I’ve been very intimidated by the idea of drawing traditional Celtic & Viking knot-work. It seemed to require more precision than I have patience for. I’ve been drawing Viking warriors as characters for a while now, but had been avidly avoiding trying my hand at more traditional artwork. I saw some of the amazing traditional Viking artists on Instagram, and began dabbling in the style, myself. Then I was contacted by the frontman of one of the bands I create artwork for - he wanted commission me for two Celtic-knotwork style tattoos. I couldn’t refuse! I researched traditional knotwork & shading techniques, and began conquering my fears about the style. After a few drafts, I made two designs we were both happy with. I’ve gotten a taste for it since then.

I’ve also adopted the pointillism Viking artwork style recently. A few years ago, I was working with a very talented artist named Joey, and I was awed by the masterful pointillism shading I saw him use in his illustrations. I had been developing shading techniques in my own work, and it was around that time I also came across several online-based artists who were drawing traditional Nordic artwork & tattoos using the same pointillism style. I decided to give it a shot! The reactions from my followers on these designs have been great, so I plan on making more!

3.Was there ever a certain artist who inspired you to start drawing, or creating like them? 
Any favorite artists or people you still follow today you can recommend?

I’ve had many inspirations from many great artists, but the ones that inspired me in the most fundamental ways include: Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy – his inking style and artistic tone struck a huge chord with me early in my creative growth. His influence on my artwork is unmistakable. Alex Pardee, a street artist from the San Francisco Bay Area – his visceral pop-art style and strong business-sense seriously motivated me and gave me a template to model my own small businesses upon. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes – perhaps the greatest comic strip of all time. This man’s sheer artistic talent, storytelling prowess and comedic timing may be the single greatest creative influence on me.

A few artists I really enjoy watching are: Ben Templesmith, James Harren, Jeffrey Alan Love & Andrew MacLean.

4.Do you also provide tattoo design and artwork? Also can you tell us about the area you live in? Anything fun you like to do around there?

Yes, I’ve had the honor of designing a number of tattoos for some amazing clients. I also have a few fairly large tattoo designs currently in progress with some new commissioners I’m very excited to work with. Someday I would like to learn how to tattoo, but I’m focusing on my technique first.

That is one of the things I love about the San Francisco Bay Area – there are tons of amazing tattoo shops with many talented artists. I try to get at least one tattoo per year - most recently by Joy Shannon of Sacred Rose tattoo in Berkeley (a knotwork design of Jörmungandr. My first leg tattoo!).

I live across the bay in San Francisco, on the southern edge of the city. I love that I can step outside my door and have so many options as to where to go, what to eat, and what to see. I can walk to a forest in the middle of The City, then go 8 blocks in another direction and end up deep in an urban neighborhood, eating Dim-Sum. Every district has something different to offer, and if one is too crowded, you can walk a few blocks to another one. The bars are amazing, and there is always something happening, if you know where to look.

5. With your skill I’m sure you could draw some pretty amazing Galdrastafir or Runic designs, are you familiar with this type of visual graphical art?
Are you familiar with or interested in any type of Norse magic?

Yes, I’ve had a long relationship with The Runes for a long while now, and they’ve appeared frequently in my artwork. Norse magic definitely interests me - however I mostly prefer to keep a respectful distance. I’ve had good and bad experiences with it, like any part of life. It is something I like having orbiting around me, but not a thing I avidly rely on.

I am indeed familiar with this style of artwork! It also interests me, but like I said before, I avoided drawing more traditional artwork until somewhat recently. Part of that is that I want to fully understand the meaning of a traditional symbol before I start drawing it or incorporating it into my illustrations. I definitely believe that symbols hold incredible power (you don’t have to believe in magic to see that), and I want to ensure that I am using them appropriately and respectfully. It helps that symbols, symbolism and symbology are major points of interest to me. I really enjoy cracking open my books and researching them! I am proud to be an illustrator of symbols, sigils, signs, glyphs and marks, and humbled by the people who commission me for original ones. Hence, my handle – Red Grim Rune.

Most of my tattoos are derived from Runic and Nordic artwork, and I have plans on many more. I should get researching!

6. So if you dont mind me asking, drawing takes up a lot of free time, what do you do for a regular job? 
Do you have any other hobbies or interest?

Drawing does indeed take up a lot of free time. I consider myself a full-time artist, and I split my time between 3 jobs. One job I currently work as a production assistant for a group of professionals. I facilitate large-scale printing jobs and ship them to various event spaces across the country. My second job is as a graphic designer & sign-maker for an art supply retail store. Lastly, I consider the time I spend on my freelance art commissions another entire job. In addition to putting pen to paper, I utilize the skills I use at my day-jobs (communication, shipping, branding, production, etc.) to deliver my commissions to my clients with artisan-level quality. Tax season is a headache, but it’s worth it to have carved out a schedule that works for me and my life.

When I’m not behind my drawing desk, I make time to enjoy the city I live in with my fiancée. We take hikes together through both natural and urban trails, and try to find which of our favorite cafes have survived the latest round of rent increases. We always find something – whether it’s a tiny neighborhood we’ve never explored before, or a new mural on an old building, just stepping out the door can become an adventure. We have lots of friends and family in the area, and we try to see them as much as possible. We also make frequent trips up to Lake Tahoe – it’s heavily forested and a great place to reconnect with the natural world.

When I’m at home with a free evening, though, I mostly play video games. I’ve been playing them since I was a kid, and they’ve been one of the major ways I unwind. So many new games lack 2-player modes, so we just bought an old Nintendo. Sometimes, you just need some Mario Kart!

7. If the opportunity would come up in the future, would you be open to submitting some illustrations or art work for an upcoming book project or presentation on Norse themed topics?

Definitely! I’d be honored to be included!

I was once commissioned to draw artwork for a set of Viking-themed playing cards for a client’s Kickstarter. It was early in my career, and the artwork didn’t come out very well. Communication broke down over time, I didn’t receive payment and client never launched the campaign. I truly don’t mind this job being a wash - I didn’t have to see those awful designs get printed, thankfully!

This was several years ago, and my skills and understanding of Viking artwork has definitely grown since then – I’d be much more confident to add my art to something like that now.

8. Do you have any favorite stories or topics from norse mythology/folklore?

I’ve read a number of books that covered the more well-known Norse myths – Odin’s sacrifice, Tyr & Fenrir, and, of course, Ragnarok. However, my favorite is the tale of Baldur & his death by the arrow made of mistletoe - It being a tool for understanding the origin of earthquakes for ancient peoples fascinates me from an anthropological standpoint. That, and it’s just a good story! I am a big fan of the Beowulf epic, and am currently reading through Egil’s Saga.

9.So what does your art/illustrations mean to you?  what do you wish to express to the world?

My art is a meeting point between what I see in my mind, and what my hand can make on the paper. I put a lot of myself into each of my illustrations and designs, and it’s not entirely intentional. When I get into the rhythm of a given piece, I become obsessed with developing & finishing the design. It’s when the creativity takes over, and I enter a sort of meditative trance where I make the small details in the shading and repetitive patterns in my illustrations. Then, I wait for the moment when my gut tells my brain that the piece is done. I think creatives and crafts-people know this feeling well. I consider myself an Art-Berserker, and my brushes and pencils are my tools.

My creative drive is a very intrinsic part of me. Harnessing it and building a business around it (no matter how small) is my own way of hoisting a black flag. My way of standing tall & planting a banner against a world that seems determined to strive for mediocrity. While I enjoy creating aesthetically pleasing images, I truly aspire to have my artwork be thought-provoking. I want my artwork to make the viewer blink, even for a moment, and have a genuine thought. It’s my way of making the world suck a little less. I like this planet – it’s the only one with beer! It’s why my battle-cry is “For Midgard!”

10. So this last question is open for you to say or mention anything you want to say to all your followers, fans, and inspired creators/artists out there? Any words of advice or encouragement?

To all my fellow creatives, here are some of the words that have helped me along my journey:

Don’t ever stop creating. Find what medium works for you, one that feeds that fire in your belly, and keep at it! Because, if you stop, when you pick it back up again, you’ll only be as good as you were when you last stopped.

It’s ok to have a bad day. Don’t sell yourself, or your work too short. Remember where you come from. Thank the people who support you. Copyright your work (it’s easier than you think). And, don’t make any big decisions on an empty stomach!

Lastly, I want to thank the incredibly supportive network of craftspeople, artists, barbarians, actors, heathens, witches, cosplayers and overall weirdos I’ve found myself surrounded by. I would not have come this far without their help. Our Shield-wall is strongest together! Create & conquer!

Thanks again for doing this interview. Your art is awesome and we are honored to have had this opportunity to speak with you!

Thank you very much!

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