Black ink of death! LAUREN GORNIK – Underground Metal’s Go-To Illustrator
Chicago native Lauren Gornik is quickly becoming one of underground heavy metal’s favorite illustrators. Bands such as Gatecreeper, Deceased, and Savage Master (just to name a few) have hired her to create some of their artwork, shirt designs and flyers. In a genera where the art is almost as important as the music, she is someone that musicians trust with translating their message through her creativity.
CVLT: Give us a mini bio about yourself. How did you become an artist? Did you go to school for art? What is your preferred media?
LG: I specialize in artwork for underground death metal, black metal, and traditional heavy metal bands, and began my career by illustrating logos, shirt designs, and album covers for bands around the Chicago Area. In 2014, I earned my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. Since graduation, I’ve been pursuing freelance work for local and international bands, while working in the racing industry as well. As far as preferred media goes, I love traditional pen/ink but try to dabble with oil painting a lot more now. When working on racing apparel, it’s all tablet drawn and digital, which I don’t mind so much either.
CVLT: You are making an incredible reputation for yourself, especially with artwork for bands and flyers for concerts. Was this intentional or was this something that just happened?
LG: I started doing show posters years ago, probably when I started playing music. A lot were god awful, just simple things made in photoshop, but I loved doing it anyways. Overtime I started getting asked by everyone to help them come up with flyers for their shows, but I wanted to go more traditional with it. I became more selective about the shows I wanted to create artwork for and tried to make pieces with a stronger concept. Drawing everything out by hand and really trying to capture the energy and sound that the show is invoking became much more important.
CVLT: Describe your art style in your own words:
LG: Describing my style is difficult, sometimes it takes an outside observer to point things out to you, to show you what is so definitive about your work, stylistically, conceptually. I would say my style is inspired by woodcuts and a lot of traditional print making techniques, even though I work in ink. What I hope to achieve in my style is depth through value and varying mark making styles, to capture a specific atmosphere. Sometimes my work will look more aggressive and chaotic, other times I need pristine linework.
CVLT: What is the process for a band or promoter looking to commission you for something? Do they email you for an idea? What is your lead time like? Do they tell you what they want or do you have free reign to create what you want?
LG: Usually I receive dm’s or emails asking that are very concept forward, though occasionally I get to have more free reign on what to create. Most of the time, we meet in the middle. They tell me what the album is about and I usually ask to hear it too. From there, I work up a sketch that we can mutually agree on before I start doing the actual piece.
CVLT: What other artist inspire you and what types of things inspire your own art?
LG: My mother is actually a great artist, I think she set me off on this path as a child. A lot of the artists I looked up to for inspiration were Chicago locals, Putrid Matt, Eric Rot, though I draw a lot of inspiration from all over the place. The romantic era paintings of John Martin, Sci-Fi fi illustrators like Virgil Finlay, comic book artists like Bernie Wrightson and Tim Vigil. I think having a solid foundation in art history is essential for success. Looking at master works and studying anatomy, lighting, emotion from those has helped me immensely.
CVLT: I noticed you because you make artwork for shows and bands that I love. What are some of your favorite bands/musicians?
LG: Ironically, I find this to be the hardest question to answer. My taste is eclectic, and I am constantly checking out new releases on bandcamp, while completely destroying my favorite bands from over saturation. I go through phases where I listen to a lot of goth, dark wave stuff, even outlaw country, but will always fall back on old school death metal, traditional, black and speed metal. It may be easier to say what I dislike, but off the top of my head, some bands I feel I can always go back to are Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, Manilla Road, Judas Priest, and W.A.S.P. Some of my favorite labels currently are NWN, Headsplit, Iron BoneHead, and Stygian Black Hand.
CVLT: What is, so far, your personal favorite piece of art you have done?
LG: So recently I was asked to participate in a skate deck art show at 4 Hands Brewery in St.Louis. I was wracking my brain trying to come up with something fun and different from my usual work, and I decided on “Bam Chimera.” While I know this is a pretty silly piece that wasn’t as labor intensive as my other works, it was just genuinely fun to make. I enjoy when I get the change to make a personal piece, as well as working with color.
CVLT: What has been one of the more challenging pieces you have had to do?
LG: I try to challenge myself with every new piece. Try to draw perspectives that are not typical, maybe consider lighting differently. Some drawings are just tedious because of detailing, but you can also go on autopilot sometimes with mark making. Looking back though, I’d have to say the cover for Mordatorium’s Obsessed with Death, along with logo redesign, was a bit of a challenge and very time consuming. This was personal in a way to me, as I have been long time friends with the members of this band and didn’t want to hand them anything half-assed conceptually by being cliche or just demonstrating gore. I wanted to create cover that could visually read correctly, regardless if it was upside down, any angle you were holding it from, kind of represented the cyclic nature of death and the void.
CVLT: Who is an artist/band you dream of working with?
LG: I look forward to working with local and well known bands alike, but I think everyone would want to create something for their favorite bands. I was thrilled to see Jeff Walker (Carcass) wearing one of my shirt designs years ago, even though I didn’t care for that design I made back then haha. Overall I’d say it would be great to keep doing more album covers, maybe a band like Deceased will hit me up since I do a lot of posters for them!
CVLT: Have you ever thought of becoming a tattoo artist with your skills?
LG: Nah, not for me. I know and respect a lot of talented tattoo artists, but it never really was something I could see myself being passionate about. However, I would love to give a shout out to some of my personal favorites, Laney Oleniczak, Maegan LeMay, and Jeremy Baker
CVLT: What is something about being an artist that you know now and wished you would have known sooner?
LG: Be selective with who you work with, find your niche, but still try to enhance your skill set by working in more mediums. Make sure you establish boundaries for yourself and for others when it comes to work/life balance.
CVLT: I read you are also a musician. Can you tell us a little more about that side of you?
LG: When I was 13 or so I started playing guitar, so I guess I have been playing for about 14 years now. My first band was a black/thrash project called Panzer, featuring my friend Andrew from Mordatorium. Honestly we were alright for a bunch of teenagers, it was really fun getting to open for bands like Rhapsody, having house shows etc. but I still feel a little embarrassed and cringe a bit when I ever listen to our old songs. After I moved to Saint Louis I played in Melursus, which was more up to speed with what I was listening to at the time. We lasted a couple years, got to open for Absu, Sanctuary, Acid King, and Ares Kingdom, all bands I adore so that was satisfying for me. I felt like there was still a lot that I never got to do with music; tour, or record something I genuinely liked. There is still a need for music in my life, that I need to satisfy someday. I want to start playing music again, but with all of the work I have to do, it’s difficult to find the time.