Please tell us how you got started and when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Like a lot of people I drew a lot as a kid. In the first grade my parents were called up to school because I wouldn’t do any work. Every time they gave me something to do I would turn the paper over and draw Frankenstein. At the time my Frankenstein was 3 squares with a crack down the top of the biggest square. When I was 11 I discovered a place by my house that sold drafting supplies. I learned about things like different grades of pencils and different types of erasers and started doing realistic pencil drawings. It was exciting. At 13 I walked into an actual art supply store for the first time and saw rows and rows of paint and pastels and markers and that was it. All those colors. My life literally changed that day.
Who has influenced you in life professionally?
Basil Gogos. Hands down number one influence as far as the stuff I’m doing right now and the impact another artist’s work has had on mine. As far as other artists there‘s so many. I know artists like most guys know football players or UFC fighters and I think they all influence me to some degree. Caravaggio is my all time favorite. I’m also influenced by any artist that puts out a lot of work. The motivation and discipline influences me. Also, artists who aren’t professionals or even aspiring to be. People who draw and paint strictly because they enjoy the process and aren‘t motivated by money or success. It’s inspiring to see someone do a piece of art, post it and get 10 or 15 likes and not be phased and get right back to creating. What it looks like doesn’t even matter. It’s the passion that inspires me.
What has been your favorite piece that you worked on so far? I think it might be “Monkey Business”, My Wizard Of Oz piece with the flying monkeys. I’ve wanted to paint those guys for most of my life and finally did it. I also knew when I did that one that I wanted to try and tap into kind of a Caravaggio feel and look with it. As far as the color and the lighting and the composition and I’m pretty happy with that aspect of it. It also introduced me to a lot of people who aren’t just collectors but have become friends as well. Oz is the only thing I’ll paint that isn’t horror stuff and Oz people are just as passionate and supportive as horror people.
How did you get involved with East Side Tattoo?
My tattoo mentor Joe Izzo was working there and I had left the shop I was at and needed a new one. I went there to get tattooed by Joe a couple of times and met everyone and really liked the shop and the people. Eventually I was offered a job by the owner Split Divo. I love it there. Amazing shop. Amazing people. Amazing work environment. We really are a family and I’m very fortunate.
You do a lot of horror-inspired work. Tell us about your love of horror and why you do horror-inspired work? When I was about 7 or 8 I had a book called The Pictorial History Of Horror Movies. I was obsessed the the images in this book. To this day they are burned into my psyche very deeply. I think that book was where I developed a love for imagery and books in general. Then I discovered Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine and the amazing art of Basil Gogos and it became my bible. I love the fact that these images and the characters behind them have become so iconic to us and the stories have become like modern day mythology. The images and characters are so compelling and dynamic. Especially when you can take imagery that was originally presented in black and white and interpret it in a new way by doing it in color. Which brings us back to Basil Gogos again.
Do you prefer ink, pencil, painting or whatever you want to work on in the moment?
Pencil is probably my favorite medium if I had to pick one. It’s so simple and versatile and the end result looks great. I love painting digitally too. It’s liberating. Digital painting is finally being recognized as a legitimate medium. The Louve in Paris just hung their first digital painting, by Jason Seiler. I also love painting in traditional mediums like oil and acrylic and kind of miss it so I’m considering doing some horror stuff in acrylics sometime in the future.
Who are some artists that have inspired you?
Caravaggio, Dali, Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, James Rosenquist, William Bouguereau, Johannes Vermeer, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hart Benton, Joel-Peter Witkin, Olivia De Berardinis, Mark Fredrickson, Jason Seiler, Robert Williams, Rockin’ Jellybean, Drew Struzan, Ron English, Nicola Verlato, Joe Coleman, Roberto Ferri, Peter Max, Stephen Holland, Ryohe Hase, Jason Edmiston, Odd Nerdrum, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Mort Drucker, John Baizley, Tom Richmond, Derek Hess, Frank Kozik, Basil Gogos of course. And also a lot of artists whose names we’ll never know. Movie posters, vintage advertising, pulp novel art, circus sideshow art, WW II nose art, skateboard graphics, communist propaganda posters. I love it all.
Where do you feel the art world is headed right now? Do you feel positive about it?
I think we’re experiencing a modern renaissance in a way. New technology like digital art that allows us to create work only limited by our imagination from a desk and even makes doing traditional art easier and more efficient. Unlimited access to imagery and the ability to look at other artists work to inspire us and influence us with the push of a button, unrestricted exposure and networking through the internet. Plenty of resources to learn new techniques and see how other artists work. It’s a great time to be an artist.
If you could collaborate with any artist? Who would you work with?
Basil Gogos. He’s the very first artist whose work I was obsessed with.
What advice would you give to fellow up and coming artists?
Practice. Relentlessly. Work harder than everyone else. Find a medium and a technique and a subject matter that makes creating fun. When it doesn’t feel like work and you truly enjoy the process everything else will just flow. And look at as much art as you can. Absorb other artists work. How it was created. Don’t copy other artists work but let it influence you to create a style of your own.
What would you like to say to the people who have your work or plan on purchasing a piece?
Thank you. It’s really hard to find words to express my gratitude for all of the support I’ve received from the horror community. It’s humbling. Just knowing that someone spent their hard earned money for something I created blows my mind. Or that someone asked to receive something I did as a birthday or Christmas gift. Even someone taking the time to leave a comment on something I did is amazing to me. So I’m just going to say thank you and show my gratitude by making more art. As long as I am still on the planet I will be making art.
How can people contact you for work and be tattooed?
For prints of my work my site is www.horrormovieart.com
My facebook is www.facebook.com/rob.birchfield.1
Instagram is www.instagram.com/robbirchfieldart/
I work at East Side Tattoo
2313 Union Blvd.
Allentown Pa. 18109