What does art mean to you? 44FLOOD has come together as a collective of artists who share common beliefs about the art world. Their first major project is an oversized annual anthology titled, TOME, which they launched on Kickstarter today. “TOME” brings together an insane team of world class artists, each of which will have a few pages to explore a single theme using comics, painting, and music. The first theme is vampirism. Rest assured this is not vampirism as you have come to know over in the past few years, but an examination of the term and all that comes along with it. Their Kickstarter campaign is loaded will all kinds of crazy incentives from original prints to composed personalized songs.
The 44FLOOD team, which consists of Ben Templesmith, menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari, and Nick Idell, took the time to chat with Bloody-disgusting about their initiative, the anthology, their views on art, and a whole lot more. Below you can check out the exclusive interview along with videos, and teaser images.
UPDATE: The “TOME” Kickstarter project which launched this afternoon has already surpassed its $18,400 goal by a longshot. Jump on board while you still can.
Could you tell us a little bit about 44FLOOD and how the project got started? Who is the team and how did you all come together?
NICK IDELL: Three words: Dungeons and Dragons. You learn a lot about a man when he’s faced with the king of trolls, when he sacrifices himself to stop his very own bastard born abomination hellbent on clawing his companions eyes out, when he cuts open his own wrist to fill a blackened chalice so that he my feed the hardened statue of what was once a monstrous warrior so that he may bring him back to the land of the undead. When a man is willing to do all that, how could you not go into business with them?
Seriously though, from tallest to shortest we’re Ben Templesmith, menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari (tie), and myself. We are great friends with strong personal beliefs that we want to throw out into the world. We are a group of artists and art lovers who’ve chosen to immerse ourselves in the industry that we work and create in and adore. So the only thing that made sense to us was take it to the next level. We believe that 44FLOOD is that next step for us.
The main project right now for 44FLOOD is an annual oversized anthology titled, TOME, which brings together an insane team of artists from around the world. What made you choose to go the anthology route? Furthermore, why Kickstarter?
KASRA GHANBARI: TOME is something Menton and I have been talking about and crafting over the last several years. It’s the convergence of so many things we love and wanted to see exist together: esoteric themes, incredible art, collectives, creative freedom, compelling perspectives, beautiful books. You can take an idea, something that possibly brushes against a truth or an otherwise effectual place within us, and elaborate on it through a comic book series or a book of this length, or you can present that fragment to the minds of extraordinary creators and see where they go with it. Both are interesting, but there are some ideas that we’re massively turned on exploring in this format.
We thought long and hard about crowdfunding and patronage models. After tinkering and exploring and testing, it became clear to us that it could be a genuine and amazing way to engage readers, art lovers, book lovers, people of all sorts that may be interested in what we’d like to create, to get them materially involved in the process of creating something that they could identify with and be proud of, to give them a direct say and vote in the kind of material that was made. And we’d do it not by asking for donations and sympathy, but by giving them what we hope is content, art, beauty, ideas, and ideals that they believe and identify with and can become part of in a real way. They complete the collective. They make it real and effectual.
The theme for the first edition of TOME is vampirism, but knowing you guys this will not focus on the modern conception of vampires in popular culture. Why did you choose this as your first theme?
MENTON3: For me, it’s a very personal subject. It has always been an area that I truly was inspired by. I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman that believed in vampires, who spent a great deal of time and money researching something he could barely understand. This was based off of an event that happened to him in World War II and experiences that happened to him much later in life after the war. Before his death, I was given permission from him to talk and perhaps publish his story of the events he experienced as long as I changed some things he had asked me to change so that no one or place could ever be identified.
I do intend on doing a full version of this at some point later in my life, when I feel I am ready to take on such a thing. But you have to understand, this gentleman was one of the last people on Earth that would want to believe in anything like that. The way he saw vampires was extremely different than popular culture sees them, and to be quite honest his ideas and research were quite compelling. I know this all sounds a bit crazy, and I’m not suggesting that anyone believes it the same way, but rather that this is a great place to start with a project like TOME. So at least for my part, it will definitely not be a pop culture way of looking at vampires.
What can people expect to get out of TOME? What kind of stories will these be?
BEN TEMPLESMITH: People can expect a world-class coffee table art book, full of top talent expressing themselves exactly the way they want. The creators will be able to do whatever they want. Yes, every image tells a story, but there’ll probably be some amazing prose pieces and hopefully, a few sequential art pieces as well. As to exactly what they are… you’ll have to check the book out itself to find out!
Now, this is not strictly a comic book anthology. In fact, it stretches across all sorts of artistic mediums. How will all the different art forms coincide throughout the anthology?
KG: That remains to be seen and will be part of the joy of putting TOME together. In editing the book, our job is to remove preconceptions from those creating for the book so that they may simply explore and render. What each of us have found to varying extents in other projects we’ve worked on is that these things seem to have a way of falling in place if done with true intent. It can be hard to trust it, and in-process it can sometimes feel like a giant mess, but then at some point the patterns, meaning, flow, and more begin to present themselves in a strange symphony that can be heard by more than one person. It’s a difficult feeling and experience to articulate, and it’s not something you can really expect, but I know we’ve all come to a place in our lives where we’d like to continue exploring its possibility.
In the video, you say you want to form a collective for artists. It seems rare nowadays to have these groupings of artists with a common viewpoint, and in a way, it’s actually quite romantic. What made you decide to form a group?
M3: MONOCYTE was kind of the test for this, and it went off extremely well. The great French Impressionists Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, and Manet were a collective. People forget they were laughed at for making the kind of art they made at the time. They all hung out and made something together, and I have always wanted something like that. One example is me and Ben in no way copy from one another, but we both inspire each other to go further, try new things, and become better artists. I know for a fact that knowing Ben has made me a better artist. We are just looking at trying to move something like that further.
I think all of us know how much of a pipe-dream that might be, but we have made the choice to try. I for one would rather know I tried and failed on my death bed, than never having tried.
Art is something you all take very seriously. It’s not a hobby, or even a passion, but a lifestyle. Could you talk about how 44FLOOD and TOME relate to this idea?
BT: Well, yes, definitely not a hobby if I make a living from it! It’s something that drives you, really. It chooses you, you don’t choose it. I’m lucky it’s worked out thus far! I guess in a sense, one thing few people also treat it as is a business. At least in the industry I’m in. Treating it as a business means every person potentially out there could be a customer. Not just the people who already read the existing, small and superhero-centric material.
We see 44FLOOD and TOME first as being a way to go beyond just that, at least in one direction. We seriously want to start pushing some boundaries and redefining some perceptions about what it is we actually do. The art world at large has opinions on what comics are… we’d like to show there’s some crossover there… that we can all play together and that it’s “cool” for people who like culture at large to maybe check out some of the hidden stuff that still comes with a bunch of preconceptions. There’s nothing as American as traditional comic books! And it feels weird for me to say that as an Australian transplant but I’d love to help make Americans proud again of an art form they truly brought into it’s own in many ways.
As far as I know, nothing like this has been done before. What are you hoping to achieve? What is the goal of 44FLOOD? Do you have plans beyond TOME at the moment?
NI: Our goal is to share the thing we love most with the world, art. To take that love and be sure it makes its way onto every page, into every word. Our goal is to never release a project that’s not one hundred percent in every way, to always create books we ourselves would be honored to have at home on our shelves. And we’re already constantly looking at what’s next. We are extremely excited about the many projects we have lined up for the future and can not wait to get them out there. TOME will always be the first, but it will be far from the last.
Each artist will have 3 to 5 pages to offer their take on vampirism, followed by an interview about their work. Why do you feel it’s important to follow up the artwork with personal interviews?
M3: Well, there are so many reasons. First off, I believe very much in art having context, and that context builds our understanding of a piece of art and perhaps why something we saw moved us. Another reason is that people nowadays really don’t know how to talk to an artist. One example is the common question, “What does that painting mean?” This a great deal like reading a book, meeting the author, and asking them what the book was about. To take it a step further, telling an artist they remind you of another artist is like telling your current girlfriend or boyfriend that having sex with them reminds you of sex with your ex.
We get a lot of the same questions over and over, and sometimes they are deeply upsetting. We wanted a chance for artists to interview other artists so that this perhaps would show people what they are missing in some ways and allow us to answer some of the questions we truly want to be asked.
Comics are still thought of as a “lesser” art form by many people who don’t even bother to read them. Could you comment on that and whether or not it relates to the anthology?
BT: Comics are only thought to be “lesser” in the Anglo-American sphere. It’s a curious thing that the cultures that basically defined comics in many ways, now treat it generally as adolescent power fantasy, (superheroes and things like Transformers, GI Joe, etc) or some sort of niche thing only a certain stereotype should ever be into.
In France, comic creators are lauded and treated the way quality film directors are. Artistic integrity and what the artists have to say is seen as important. In Japan, there’s a comic for everyone. From housewives to golfers, there’s something for everyone. What we’re trying to do with TOME and beyond is push the envelope, get comics/art as they truly *can be* to an audience we are pretty sure would be receptive to them… they just don’t know it yet. There’s no reason that in an industry audience with potentially more than 310 MILLION people who speak English, that at least more than 1% could read comics aimed at people of all walks of life. Or at least, walks of life we’re more attune with and think will want to try something familiar yet at the same time, something new.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the project?
KG: TOME is a living concept. We see it as a way to reach out into the world every year to find artists with unique voices and perspectives, as a way for all of us to experience and learn from them, and to then take what we’ve learned and make the next TOME and the next piece of art and the next story we create even better. This is predicated on all of us being engaged, and dare I say it, giving a shit. The days of being apathetic are dead.
We want to thank everyone for taking the time to look at, consider, and hopefully also support TOME and 44FLOOD!
The project looks amazing, thanks for taking the time to chat with us about it. And, for what it’s worth, I’m Lonnie Nadler, and I support TOME.