Boneface. The name fits the art its maker creates.
The illustrations of Boneface are bold and rebellious — the nihilistic spittle of a fun-loving vagrant. Boneface’s drawings are bright and detailed in mischievous gore. The attitude of underground skate videos mixed with the winks and shock of an eighth grader’s homemade comic book.
The artist behind the Boneface moniker hides within the alias and that’s just fine. Who needs a real name in an industry of hype and reputation. Boneface isn’t going for sentimental honesty, but the buzzsaw shriek of punk rock and comic books, video games and low-rent horror flicks.
Here, within the works of Boneface, we see a young man flaunting his love of superheroes, villains, of blood — of hilarious horror. Boneface is an illustrator that has a firm grip on what makes himself tick, and then developed his craft to make it explode.
“I honestly don’t do much in terms of sketching before I move onto working on a final piece. Doing rough work for clients is one of the worst things about the job; I get why it’s necessary, but I hate it. It’s like asking a chef to taste the food before he’s finished cooking it.”
ET: Some of the first images I saw from you were your series of superhero portraits – Batman, Captain America, each one of them bloodied and beaten. There’s a wild and manic quality to your portraits – in the blood and drunken violence of your world, the characters still have a glee to them.
Your ability to create portraits that say so much is a pretty impressive feat. They feel spontaneous and alive, but I’d have to guess there’s some planning in your work. Do you do a lot of sketch work or anything before you begin a piece? What’s the process from idea to final product?
BF: I honestly don’t do much in terms of sketching before I move onto working on a final piece. Doing rough work for clients is one of the worst things about the job; I get why it’s necessary, but I hate it. It’s like asking a chef to taste the food before he’s finished cooking it.
I do keep a sketchbook where I’ll quickly draw/scrawl out ideas I have, which usually come in the early hours of the morning. I always get up and try and get something down no matter what though, seems the best ideas come to me then.
Your recent work is painted digitally, but your early work was hand drawn and painted. What made you switch mediums? Are you 100% digital these days? Do practical tools like ink and paint still have a part of your process?
The only thing that really made me switch was that digital is usually faster, so meeting deadlines gets a bit easier, but I much prefer working traditionally. Drawing digitally is kinda a double edged sword though; if you fuck up, it’s easier to fix but at the same time, it’s easier to get lost / caught up in the smallest of details, so you spend forever working on a tiny part.
I think my digital stuff looks more ‘refined’ than my traditional stuff, which I actually don’t like. I like stuff to look a bit dirty or a bit worn. I’m planning on working with pen and paper a lot more this year.
Your ‘Brute Squad’ t-shirt design for Mondo is an incredible mix of your influences. There’s the crazed ‘Mad Max’ / ‘The Warriors’ look to the character, Snake Plissken on his shirt, Superman and Mickey Mouse on the jacket. All drenched in that maniacal menace you bring to your characters.
The shirt was a part of a series curated by illustrator Tyler Stout, and your design is pretty much sold out (just 2XL left). Was this your first time working with Mondo? With your work pulling from the world of pop culture, would like the chance to take a stab at a poster through Mondo? Has that been discussed?
Yeah, that was my first time working with Mondo, which was awesome. I’ve been a huge fan of what they’re doing for forever. I’ve not had any contact with them since, but I’d love to do some more stuff for them.
That design is probably one of my favourite pieces. Mr. Stout got in touch and basically said Mondo wanted something based in the world of Mad Max, and that was about all the direction I had to begin with.
You sell prints through Society6, but you used to have a Big Cartel store. What made you go the Society6 route? As a collector and total fan of your stuff I have to ask, have you considered doing your own limited edition screenprints?
I’m terrible at the whole business/monetization side of creating artwork. I haven’t updated my store in forever.
Going with Society6 was just because it was the first place I looked at, and because it’d been recommended. It’s a pretty good platform, means you can get your work out to people without any of the trouble of printing and shipping stuff out. A lot of my early commissions were from people who saw my stuff on Society6. I’m planning on doing some short print runs of some stuff this year, which I’ll probably use my Big Cartel for.
Your style is immediately recognizable. Did you work through other styles during art school? I spent a few years in a fine arts program and know how schools and instructors can try and form, or force, a student into what they think you should be. How did you land on where you are now stylistically?
For most of art school, I think I was trying to live up to the idea of being an illustrator. My drawing style didn’t really change, but my subject matter did.
By my 3rd year in Uni, I realised I wasn’t really working on stuff that I wanted to draw; namely superheroes and monsters and crap, so I just went back to doing that for the end of the course. Think they actually gave me a lower grade ‘cos of that.
Your images are incredibly confident and bold. There’s a mischievousness to them, a sense of ‘I just don’t give a fuck,’ that is absolutely brilliant. They’re defiantly snickering at the audience. I’m always curious how the art that someone makes relates to them – are you as rebellious as your art? Do you think the attitude comes from your love of similarly minded material; comic books, horror, and schlock films?
What’s the relationship between your work and who you are? Would your style change if you made work under your real name? Would your creations take a different shape away from the ‘Boneface’ moniker?
The bone face moniker is just because having a secret identity is fucking rad. In a world where everyone posts everything they’re doing, and everything about themselves all over the fucking internet, leaving people with some mystery seems to be kind of novel, even abnormal.
I don’t think my work would be any different if I worked under my real name, but why would I do that? My art is kind of like my alter ego though I guess, it’s a louder more belligerent version of me. I’m actually pretty quiet, but then it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. It’s all about infiltration and destruction.
Your work for the Queens of the Stone Age album ‘…Like Clockwork’ got you a lot attention, as it should have. You hit the perfect tone visually for that album, with a bit of added menace and mystery. Nowadays, when album art is in decline it’s awesome to see how much attention and depth you gave that album.
When creating illustrations for a band, how important is it for you to like the music? Is there a need for a personal connection, or is it better to approach it as just another job?
Approaching anything as ‘just another job’ is probably not a great way to look at it. With this project in particular though, it was pretty important to me and the band that there was a cohesion between everything. Having the artwork reflect the music and vice-versa.
Initially, they let me hear a few rough cuts of tracks, and gave me a few ideas of what they were going for with the album, then told me to get to it. It was a great experience working with QOTSA, we were pretty much immediately on the same wavelength, so they just trusted me and my work, so there wasn’t really any pressure. Stuff just kind of worked out.
The animation that went along with ‘…Like Clockwork’ was some amazing and sinister stuff. Was that something you had experience with before working with QOTSA? Did the project give the chance to experiment?
There’s an anecdote Josh likes to tell, where he asked me if I’d ever animated before. I replied ‘No’ and he grinned and said ‘Good.’ So the whole thing was an experiment to me. I enlisted my buddy Liam Brazier (Illustrator / animator extraordinaire) to help me out with the animating side of things. He was super helpful and super patient with how little I knew about what we were doing. It was a pretty hectic time, and everything came down to the wire, but it was also fucking great.
Since totally crushing the work with Josh Homme and QOTSA, have any new opportunities popped up? Do you think working with a band on that scale changed your path as an illustrator?
For sure, getting that level of exposure will open up a whole bunch of new opportunities for any illustrator. I dunno if it will have ‘changed my path’, but it’s probably given it a kick up the arse.
I’m currently working on some video game stuff, and some action figures. It’s crazy, pretty much all my dream jobs have fallen into my lap.
If I heard that Boneface was working on a project, there’s an expectation of what it would be like, meaning, I would guess that it would be intense and blissfully crazed. When you’re approached for a job, do clients have a good idea of what you’ll be bringing to it? Has anyone ever said something like, ‘We love what you do, but we’re looking for a Thomas Kinkade type of feel on this one.’ How do you work with client notes?
I’ve had my fair share of indecisive and ridiculous clients, who ask for stuff that make no sense whatsoever and don’t trust your judgment as an illustrator, but I’ve never really encountered anything like people asking me to draw in a specific way.
I’ve occasionally had to ‘spice up’ a piece if the brief was particularly bland, but for the most part, people seem to know what I do and commission me to do stuff I’ll like anyway.
Being a young guy in the freelance illustration field, how do you split your time between work and play? Is there a distinction between work life and personal life?
I guess there is a lot of overlap, I play a lot of video games and read a lot of comics, which then informs my work. Forcing myself to produce something has just never worked for me, you’ve gotta keep a balance or you’ll kill yourself. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
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