CVLT Nation interviews Fred Grabosky of FTG Illustrations
When did you first know that art was something you needed to create?
It’s tough to pinpoint the exact day or moment, but I feel like I’ve always gravitated toward being an artist. Whether it be musically, with different drawing utensils, sculpting, editing, filming or building things, I’ve always considered myself driven by a creative mind. Before I truly began to pursue illustration, I found interest in film/ digital video. It was mostly me making music videos. I loved syncing up shit to the beat. I went to school for that a bit, and left that major after realizing just how many kids were actually way more passionate about film and video than me. They’d all know their favorite directors and producers, and I’d be taking shit off youtube like frogs in Nat Geo and syncing it to Municipal Waste songs, haha.
Did you grow up in a house that encouraged creativity? Does your family support your artwork now?
Although my parents aren’t what I’d call the most creative, artistic souls, I have to thank them for being so supportive of my artistic endeavors throughout my life. To this day I make pieces for them for holiday and birthday gifts, and they love it. I can’t imagine what it would be like for creativity to be a shunned practice in one’s household, but I imagine it would make that person all the more driven to create as a form of rebellion. It’s exciting to think about, but I am grateful for my upbringing and the support I’ve had. That support comes just as much from my lady Dana, and her kid Kylie, whom I’ve become a husband/father figure to. Both of them have been extremely supportive of my habits to stay glued to my work for hours on end. Kylie takes after me and her mother, as they both have a creative side, drawing and crafting beautiful things. The name of the game has become balancing a family life with an artistic one.
What media have you experimented with when it comes to your artwork? What’s your favorite way to create a piece?
I haven’t strayed too far from pen and ink for over 5 years now. I feel like I’ve been honing the craft ever since I saw album covers and t-shirt designs for metal bands, but didn’t really start focusing on a technique until college. I’ve experimented with different media over the years – scratchboard, watercolors, radiograph pens and different kinds of paper – and of course there was a time when I was digitally coloring things. After I had stressed these options, I find my favorite way to create a piece is just with Pigma brand micron pens, all sizes (005-08, and the 1) on a nice thick illustration board or watercolor board. I’m a fan of limited color palettes and I almost always make designs to be translated to screen printable images. I always use shapes in my pieces and I’m kind of obsessed with silver and gold ink on black paper.
Is your art something you escape into to purge inner demons or stresses, or is it a process that you need a clear mind for?
It’s therapeutic to make dots. I fall into a meditative state where I can stop worrying about most of the bullshit we as humans tend to let cloud our thoughts. Stippling zones me out. I’ve actually caught myself numerous times working in complete silence. Occasionally, I might throw on something for a bit of mood, depending on how I’m feeling. My favorite things to listen to lately have been Grails Black Tar Prophecies, Earth The Bees Made Honey in the Lions Skull, Cult Of Luna Somewhere Along The Highway, and Ahab The Boats of Glen Carrig, or any Wardruna albums.
You have been pretty busy showing your work lately! Tell me about the We Are All Doomed show you have coming up. What do you have planned for that? Any other shows planned for the near future?
The amazing people of The Dark Arts Collective in Philly and Shannon of Anthropic Records have teamed up to make ‘We Are All Doomed.’ It’s become a monthly artist showcase/DJ set of all things dark and heavy. It features a new artist each month and gives them a chance to sell some work or prints while you enjoy cheap drinks and rad music.
This Tuesday, May 3rd, is the FTG Illustrations showcase from 9-12PM at THE FIRE (412 Girard Ave, Philadelphia). Shannon will be playing death and black metal from 1990-95. I will have over 16 original pieces on display, as well as some fine hand screen printed goods for purchase. Make sure to come check it out if you are in the area.
I’ll also be showing my “Legend of the Microcosm” piece in the “Rarities” show at Gristle Tattoo in Brooklyn, NY on May 7th. Come say hi.
Plus I’ll be at the R5 Punk Rock Flea Market, Sunday May 15th in Philly. I’ll be splitting a table with Dante Torrieri of Useless Rebel Imaging.
I am really digging the custom piece you made for the CVLT Nation Bizarre, “Birth of Serpents.” What inspired this imagery?
I am glad you like it. I have been trying to make something for you guys for a bit now. I finally found the time! Most of my pieces just start out with a specific thing I want to draw. All I knew going into it was that I wanted to draw snakes. Though I feel snakes have become quite a cliché, like skulls and mandalas and everything else, but I’ve seen some pretty incredible pieces full of these cliché subjects, and pushed creatively to stand out among the rest. I wanted to do something a bit more interesting than a simple snake or a skull, and I may not have really stretched much for this concept, but I’m happy with how it turned out. Emerging from the vile, black tar-filled egg, you will see a cottonmouth, a black mamba, and a king cobra; three of my favorite, and some of the deadliest snakes on earth. This piece, like most of my work is meant to display power and future strength. Even as hatchlings, they are equipped with fatal weapons. The Skull acts as a nest, incubating these death heads that rise from their tomb like capsule. A red Haze fills the air as the impending trifecta of doom slither off to grow and hunt and conquer. Even off to the sides of the human shell which held the beasts, birth has come to more than they. I’ll be screen printing 2 color prints of this design to be sold at the “We Are All Doomed” show, and then on the FTG Illustrations store of the CVLT Nation Bizarre. Be sure to visit the site! First 10 sales will get theirs for 10% off.
You are also a musician; you play drums in both Sadgiqacea and God Root. How do you see your music and your art connect, if at all?
All of it is an art form to me. They are one in the same. I feel inspired to write music from musicians that convey a certain mood, just as I am driven to ink a piece a certain way for a certain look. I can be deeply moved by a piece of ink as much as I can be from a song. Whether I am writing a song, or drawing a picture, I have a certain vision in my head and I push it around, add things or subtract things until I feel like it’s a finished piece. When I draw, an idea begins with shapes and lines. When I write music, the idea begins with a tune and a beat, but it’s all relative. The only difference being in a band is that you are sharing and collaborating ideas to create something everyone involved will enjoy. It’s just me making my dots and lines.
Both with your music and your art, you seem to take inspiration from the interconnection of the cosmos and earthly nature. It’s a very “big picture” view…what drives you to explore such lofty concepts?
I think I focus on it so much because the vastness of space is the heaviest thing to accept. It’s a constant reminder that most of our worries and our fears, set up by our society and standards of living, are truly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It reminds you to enjoy the life you are living as much as possible and experiment, learn, make and do everything you can before the next chapter of your existence. I’m fascinated with how everything natural works and functions through energy fields and complex patterns, and the connectedness we as beings all share. It’s absolutely incredible. I’ve found myself gravitating toward any information I can find about mind-altering chemicals, altered states of consciousness, energy, the evolution of religions, and their practices. For centuries we have looked to the stars for answers, and we always will.
Any Sadgiqacea or God Root gigs coming up we should know about?
SADGIQACEA will be performing an exclusive set at the Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2016 on Friday, September 16th. We will be playing a mixture of material from or E.P., our full length,False Prism, and even some new songs for a 45 minute set. After a few years off, Evan and I are both looking forward to this very much.
GOD ROOT is busy writing for our first full length and a rad 4-way split with some equally killer bands from the NYC area. The release dates are yet to be determined, but sometime in 2017, or as late as early 2018, is safe to say.
No shows are currently mentionable for God Root, but we’ll be playing a killer show in June at KFN in Philly. More on that can be found on our Facebook page soon. You can follow us on instagram as well @Godrootband or check out our first EP at https://godroot.bandcamp.com
Does your music or artwork enter your day job at all?
I work at a stained glass studio. It’s become home to many of my kind, as we are pretty much all artists working there. Some of my co-workers are illustrators like me, and others are glass window craftsman, some are musicians, and even a comic – but we all share an appreciation for each other’s art. I plan to eventually start incorporating more stained glass-like elements in my pieces too.
Thanks again for your time! Any shout outs?
I want to say thanks to the amazing people of The Dark Arts Collective – Nicole Diponziano, Bob Stokes, and Alyssa Mocere, plus the hosts of The Shred Shed – Sean Bolton and Lydia Giardano (Surgeon and Hivelords). Shannon Void of Anthropic Records and affiliate Dark Art Collaborator. All of my dudes in God Root – Ross Bradley, Joe Hughes, Keith Riecke, and Jordan Stiff. The Kung Fu Necktie crew – James ‘Chicken’, David Kiss of Flash Mob Productions, Mike McGuiness(Fight Amp), Evan Madden (Riff Lifter Touring/ Drones for Queens), Tom “Von Count” (The Cloth). Hivelords buds – Evan Void, Will Mellor, Tyler Butler and Lyd, and Mary Spiro (Shadow Woods/ Metallomusikum).
Follow me on @Ftg.illus or FB at facebook.com/ftgillus Thanks!
Thanks very much Meghan and Sean!
Get prints and t-shirts featuring FTG Illustrations’ work at cvltnationbizarre.com