Artist Interview- Robert Elrod

I have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Elrod and meeting him in real life at zomBcon in 2010. He is a reliable, standup guy. Not to mention a fantastic artist with a distinct style. Robert created the cover for my some-day-to-be-released short story collection, Nightmares of the Strange. I’d refer him to anyone in a jack rabbit’s heartbeat! Read this interview to learn a little more about him then take a look at some of his images.

Let’s get started with some basic questions about your art. When it comes to traditional mediums, what do you prefer? Or dislike?
When working traditionally, I’m most comfortable drawing with ink … mainly because I’ve done so much of it over the years. However, what gives me the greatest joy artistically is when I complete an acrylic or watercolor painting. Being a self-taught artist, I’ve always had a fear of painting. At some point in my youth, I decided that the process of painting was akin to alchemy. I didn’t know what chemicals to add to this paint or in what order things needed to be completed to get good results. I still experiment with process and that’s part of the fun for me. It can also be the biggest frustration.

"Living Dead Babes in Toyland" appears in "The Undead That Saved Christmas" from Undead in the Head Press

When it comes to digital paintings and designs, what program(s) do you like to use?
I use Adobe Photoshop for digital painting. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that when I tried to use Corel Painter (a few years ago) it was too cumbersome for the computer I had at the time. Because of that I put a lot of time into figuring out using Photoshop instead. There are a lot of tricks that I was already familiar with from doing graphic design work and that proved to be very helpful. I have, however, kept my copy of Painter up to date and plan to give it another go at some point.

Do you generally prefer creating traditional or digital masterpieces?
I enjoy both. Thanks to the undo options, layering, and resources, my comfort level is a little higher with digital processes. That “undo safety net” just makes me breathe easier. However, I do get greater satisfaction from completing traditional art because it can be more challenging for me. It’s also fun to take a hand rendered piece and add color or effects to it.

Walk me through your design process. Do you spend time visualizing the piece or just get right down to drawing?
When starting a new piece, if it’s a commission, I will ask the client for input. Quite often the client will have a specific idea of what they’d like to see in their book cover or pinup illustration. Once I get their direction, I’ll look for photo reference or take some of my own. Finding or creating photo reference can be very time consuming and sometimes the most arduous part of the process. It can also be the most important. With reference in hand, I’ll start sketching. Typically a few thumbnails are generated. From those, the best are selected and shown to the client. If one meets their approval, I’ll move on to either a tighter sketch or a detailed pencil drawing. That gets scanned and then digitally painted in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet.

"Awake" is a piece I worked on while standing in lines at San Diego Comic Con 2010.

What is your experience with doing comics? For those seeking, would you consider doing comic work on commission?
I would definitely consider doing comic work on commission if my art style were suited to the project and the timing worked out. I have self published a few mini comics. You can get those from me at conventions, usually, and I’ve just recently collected my “Tickling A Dead Man: Stories About George” minis into a single volume. That’s available through amusedom.com as a digital download or via robertelrodllc.com/comics.htm in print.

Many of your pieces have a classic horror feel to them. Think 1940s aliens, swamp monsters, Frankensteins, and werewolves. Do you have any sentimental connection to the art/film of that era?
There’s something about the films of that era that have always appealed to me. They seemed to have a greater sense of wonder and playfulness about them than the films of today. While they may have been shocking or scary for their time, they also seemed fun to me. I still love watching older films with claymation effects. Ray Harryhausen is one of my personal idols.

Out of all the monsters and beings of the fictional world, which is your favorite and why? If you don’t say zombies, that’s okay… 😉
That’s a tough question. I would probably have to say, and my answer might be different the next time I’m asked, that the Frankenstein Monster is probably my favorite fictional monster. I have very little trouble empathizing with film monsters. They’re all flawed in their own way … just like we are. There’s usually something very human about them, especially those older film monsters. I felt like a bit of an outsider growing up so it made it very easy to feel their pain and, in turn, to love them.

Hey, since this is a zombie blog, how about a couple zombie questions? First….fast or slow undead?
I know this is going to get someone upset with me but why choose one or the other? The Romero zombies really scared me as a kid and I still have the occasional nightmare about them. I’d rather face the slow ones but I don’t see why they couldn’t be fast before their bodies start to atrophy and rigor mortis sets in. Both are frightening to me.

"Dead to Me" is on the cover of "Rotting Tales: A Zombie Anthology" from Pill Hill Press

What is your stance on viral zombies? Are they considered zombies in your book or “infected”?
Hmmm. I’d say that they’re zombies as long as they no longer express aspects of their former selves. If they maintain their personality then I don’t think of them as zombies.

My favorite question to ask everyone… Zombocalypse started a few hours ago. You see the announcement on the news; it’s the end of the world! Fortunately, things aren’t too bad in your city. What is your plan?
My plan would be to hole up in my house for as long as possible. There’s plenty of shopping just minutes away so I’d go load up on all of the canned goods and bottled water I could get into my vehicles, grab some ammo and baseball bats, lock down the house as well as possible and see how long I could make it. Not much of a plan maybe but I’m no survivalist and I was never the outdoorsy type, unfortunately. That’s my short-term plan. Long term would probably be ending up as zombie chow. Haw!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s focus on some more commission based questions. What kind of services do you offer? Only digital? Pencil sketch? Give me brief overview.
I’ve done sketches at shows on commission. Monster Portraits (not just zombies) are something that I occasionally do in both traditional and digital forms. Book covers and pinup art for comic books, CD cover art, and single illustrations are all things that I do. Some have been in pencil, ink, watercolor, acrylic paint, and digital … occasionally a combination of mediums. I’m open to working on just about any type of project.
Commissions usually depend on the price of the job, but can you give the reader some kind of ballpark range on pricing for cover art?
I typically charge $200 for a book cover, regardless of what medium it’s rendered in … digitally or traditionally. I am open to negotiation and have done covers for less. I’ve done full-page ink pinup art for as low as $75. A watercolor Monster Portrait is $65 for a 9″x12″ piece (per person).

Robert Elrod robert@robertelrodllc.com | www.robertelrodllc.com/contact.htm

More Art by Robert Elrod

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About Eloise J. Knapp

Eloise J. Knapp is an author and designer living in the Pacific Northwest.
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