KILLER GRAPHICS #4: Artist And Illustrator Josh Belanger

You know what, I think it’s time to switch things up a bit with this 4th issue of Killer-Graphics. First of all thanks to everyone who has dug this column, and since this is the one month anniversary of the launch of the series I figure I’ll bring you all something really special, erm, or should I say SOMEONE? With that said this week we are bringing you an interview with none other than Josh Belanger aka the guy that designs all the most awesomely gruesome t-shirts for your favorite metal bands. Everyone from “BRING ME THE HORIZON”, “SUICIDE SILENCE”, “GOD MACHINE”, and even the fantastic Zombie-Liquorice.com. So what are you waiting for? Make the jump! Don’t make me bribe you.

THEoDEAD:”First of all thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I’ll ask you the same question I ask of everyone before I jump into these interviews, what’s your “origin story”? How did you get into the field of t-shirt designs? Why horror as an aesthetic?”

Josh Belanger:”Thanks for asking, I haven’t done one of these in a while so I hope i don’t sound lame. Growing up I was super into comics (Spawn, Wolverine, X-Men, i even loved Clive Barkers poorly executed range of comics, back then), and then i went into art school thinking I was going to pencil for marvel. Then all of a sudden i got really into painting. Huge 8ft x 6ft oil on paper. So I started taking this art thing a lot more serious. Obviously music has always been a huge part of my life, and I was fascinated with the immediacy of it. How music can evoke the ebb and flow of emotion within a few short minutes, or even overpower the listener. i wanted to be able to translate that into painting. So I messed with that for years, got out of school, got a “real” sales job, still painted and showed in galleries. Then a friend’s band asked me if i wanted to do a tee, it got such a good response i did a few more for them. Started getting emails and then it just exploded to where i was coming home from work at 7 and drawing till 3-4am. Fast forward a few years, wrote a comic book with my friend, i quite my job, traveled the country and I’ve been living off tee/album design ever since.

I think horror as an aesthetic is so appealing, as you can have that same overwhelming immediacy as i always wanted in my paintings, and have that cool/fun factor where you don’t have to be this serious holier-than-thou artist, and still live like I’m 16yrs old flipping through Fangoria while drawing monsters. I think life is about having growing and having fun, in this genre, you can still maintain that while being professional. “

THEoDEAD:”Growing up was horror something that you were really into? How did you get into the genre? What films influence your art?”

Josh Belanger:”I still remember to this day as a kid, BEGGING my mom to let me watch The Fly (Jeff Boldblooms The Fly). For months she kept telling me it was too scary. Then finally one day after begging (I saw it in the TV GUIDE) she said “fine” I sat down, nestled into the huge couch and stared at the screen. I remember pre-Brundlefly Jeff Goldbloom putting baboons into the teleporter, waiting for them to come through the other side. then, after the teleportation, the camera panning toward the mist filled teleporter and the baboons bloody appendage hitting the glass.

I screamed to my mom who was in the other room and she turned it off for me. but there was that curiousness about it that made me go back to it a few days later and watch the whole thing just in TERROR, that pit of your stomach wrench that a person seeks but still in the comfort and safety of their own homes. and thus i grew up with all of the greats. Being a child of the 80s was incredible. Nightmare on Elms Street, Halloweens, Friday the 13ths. I think my favorite one thinking back on it was probably Creep Show 2. it had that horror comic aesthetic, and one of the shorts that terrified me, was the hitchhiker one. “Thanks for the ride lady” is still in my list of go to jokes. As far as influencing my art, i loved the gore pile aliens in The Thing, I try to get that sense of cohesion, but also that same baboon pile mess at the same time. “

THEoDEAD:”You’ve created some very epic pieces for “Zombie Liquorice” in the past. How did you get paired with the company? What is it like doing these designs?”

Josh Belanger: ” ZL emailed me after seeing some of my stuff on a tee shirt forum site, and it was an instant match up. I saw all the stuff they were offering before, the Chad Lejner and Godmachine designs to name a few, and was just blown away at the artwork they had hired up. Instead of a tee company looking for something to sell to make money, it seemed these guys are here to just make something cool, and I’m always down for that. They’ve stood the test of time hiring some great illustrators and I’m happy to be just one of the guys making some cool shirts that respects illustrators and pays homage to the genre.

Basically I get an email from them thinking of a direction, and then we toss it back and forth and see what we both come up with. for this last one I was given a direction, and I think after volleying the idea around for a few, I came up with a sketch and just got an email back “F*CK YES GO WITH IT” which rules.”

THEoDEAD:”You designed the t-shirt “POLARIZED” for the site, and it is a very detailed and unique piece. What is the process for something like this like? What inspired the design?”

Josh Belanger:”I’ve been working traditionally for a longtime and within the past year I went digital. So right around that piece is where i think i found my stride working with a tablet. After the NOT YETI DEAD piece i was approached to do the next nature gore piece. So I did up some sketches to see what we could come up with, just something raw and in your face. (on a side note I went out to breakfast this morning with my roommates, and one of them was wearing the Polarized shirt. he kept getting stared at and i watched a few people look him up and down. I thought, why’re people being so weird? and then i remembered that he had a man getting violently gored by a polar bear on his tee shirt, my other roommate said “maybe you shouldn’t have worn that here”) I like to capture a moment in time of action, so that the viewer can just get fully immersed and imagine the whole scene unfolding before them. so i went to the library to look for reference books, scoured the net looking for imagery to inspire. then imported the sketch, and started to draw. “

THEoDEAD:”When it comes to designing horror t-shirts how do you approach the projects? How do you decide what you think people will want to wear?”

Josh Belanger:”I really just approach something like this on instincts. i don’t think about how it’s going to sell or the golden ratio or anything like that. I try to make something as cool as i can make it, and get away with as much as they’ll let me. I think of it more as a movie still, and then move pieces around so it works on a tee design and isn’t just a jumbled mess. “

THEoDEAD:”Do you have any projects coming up we should know about? This is your chance at a cheap plug! Haha”

Josh Belanger:”Ooooooooo, well I have a handful of albums coming out this year as well as a super secret project involving a welshman and a phillipino! I have some work at the screen printers for some sexy art prints as well as an art show featuring me, Palehorse, and God Machine next month up here in southern NH. Also there’s a small biopic getting shot right now about basset hound Irwin and my work, but I’ll let everyone know about all these things on my site or at http://twitter.com/joshuabelanger when the time comes to show them off”

THEoDEAD:”Gotta ask before you go: Freddy VS Jason-who wins?”

Josh Belanger:”Ah yes, the age old question. I’m 90% of the time going to root for Freddy as i dig his wiry frame and his ability to move fast, kind of like WOLVERINE! But Jason has the brute force, kind of like THE HULK. And we all know that bitter blood feud rages on as well. I’m real excited to see how Jackie Earle Haley does with the character. Excited nervous though. They mess it up. I’ll complain. A lot. On forums… “

We would like to thank Josh again for taking the time to do this interview. For those of you who would like to check out more of Josh’s work head on over to Josh’s official website and you can even follow him on Twitter @joshbelanger. And don’t forget to keep it locked here at Bloody-Disgusting.com’s Graphic Content as we bring you yet another awesome interview next week as part of our Killer-Graphics column!