An interview with dark artist Rob Stanley

Rob Stanley is a 43 year old artist and musician from the Sunshine Coast hinterland in South East Queensland, Australia. He specializes in dark and macabre artwork and melodic, heavy music. After checking out his art at BlackAbyss.net, I wanted to ask him a few questions about his work.

Your art is incredibly striking. How would you describe your style?

I would put it in the dark surrealism basket. My style is constantly evolving, but the common thread that binds it all together is the dark surreal nature of it. Although some of my works are colour, or muted tones, I much prefer to work in black and white/greyscale. I feel this conveys emotion better, and our minds fill in the blanks where colour is missing. A bit like a good horror film leaves bits to your imagination, thus making it truly scary.

What drew you produce such dark, horrific imagery?

Ever since childhood I’ve always been drawn to the macabre. I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the emotion it evokes when looking at it. I remember being in record stores as a young kid and looking at the cool monstery artwork that adorned heavy metal albums and being utterly fascinated by it. The same goes for books. I would always want to have the books that had the coolest artwork on the cover. Because if the artwork was awesome, the story inside would be awesome too.

As life went on I began to see and understand the differences between illustration/commercial art and fine art. I began discovering other fine artists whose flavour and style appealed to me and I began to develop a need to express myself visually in similar ways. I started out just doing drawings and illustrations, practice pieces, always focusing on the technical aspects of the creation rather than creating from the heart.

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It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started producing art of this nature. My work comes from deep within me and is usually dragged up through anxiety and migraine headaches. I find I am at my most creative during these periods, and at the time of creating it, I usually hate the work produced. A good portion of my art is influenced by our (humanity) constant need to be revolting to each other, other creatures and the planet we live on. As I get older and my art evolves, I find it reflecting more and more the true nature of what we are as a race of beings on Earth. I also have extremely vivid visions and dreams when in a migraine headache phase and I often draw on the imagery experienced when in those phases.

What artists or movements do you consider influences on your work?

There are many artists I love, all varying in style. I love the classic sci-fi and horror works of Les Edwards, Michael Whelan, Tim White, and Frank Frazetta. A love the soul-twisting surrealism of H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, and Zdzislaw Beksinski. I love the experimental and shock works of Hermann Nitsch and The Vienna Actionists, although some of their behaviour and work is rather questionable.

What fiction or films do you consider influences?

I’m not a massive book reader or of watcher of films, but there are some authors and filmmakers who have had an influence on my thinking and artwork. When it comes to books I’m a little boring and predictable: Frank Herbert, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke.

As far as film goes as an influence – the original Alien film, the H.R. Giger design masterpiece. Begotten by E. Elias Merhige is an amazing trip and has some very cool dark imagery. And Jaws. I love Jaws. My favourite movie ever.

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Who are some contemporaries that deserve more recognition?

Chet Zar. His work has seen some commercial success, but I believe his work is up there with the greats and should be recognized as such.

What books feature your art?

I have been published in various indie magazines around the world such as Forbidden Whispers, Blood Magazine, and one or two others.

What types of books would be a good fit for your work?

I have always seen my art fitting for all types of horror and the bizarre.

What is the relationship between art and fiction, especially in regards to horror and the weird?

They are both art forms that have the ability to take their audience to another realm, whether it be deep in the viewer’s heart or a far out plane of existence in another universe. It’s this ability of this type of art that makes it special. With the exception of some genres of music, no other form of art does this. Well, it doesn’t for me, anyway.

How can authors and editors get in touch with you about commissioning you or using your art for their books?

Through my website, social media or email – robstanley72@gmail.com

What are you working on next?

I had a vision this morning whilst lying in bed, so a work based on this might be in order: I was semi-conscious, i.e., I was aware of birds twittering outside, but still sleepy and dazed. I was standing on top of a hill on a stone paved floor with a large stone wall at my left side. Before me came three black pyramids floating in a row through a dense grey fog, dimly lit from behind. A jet black figure emerged from the center one and came toward me. It was the shape of an inverted elongated pyramid with a humanoid head and spindly arms and legs. It moved as if floating on air and a black sooty smoke/mist came from it as it moved. It connected with me somehow, like a greeting of sorts, and then it moved to the stone wall and peered around the corner of it as if it was watching something coming. Then I fully woke up with a pounding headache.

Tell me a little bit about yourself outside of your artwork.

I live with my dearest darling and best friend Karen, along with our awesome pooch Truman.

Ever since leaving school, my “professional” life has seen me work as a signwriter, an art director in various advertising and design agencies, as well as freelancing and running a design/visual effects business from home. I have produced all sorts of commercial artwork and designs for a wide range of clients from real estate developers to death metal bands to filmmakers. I am currently working as visual effects supervisor for a feature film called Boar.

I have written and illustrated a children’s book called Magnificent Murray. The main character is based on my late great dane Murray. I am in the middle of producing a second book but that has been on hold as we lost our darling boy back in March. It’s been a bit difficult to start work on it again. You can see the website here – MagnificentMurray.com

I have a small recording studio where I record and produce music for myself and others. Music is my other passion, and it plays a huge role in my life.

I also collect knives. Big ones and little ones.

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You can follow Rob’s work on Facebook here, and find him on RedBubble here.

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