Monday, November 28, 2016


Entering contests has never been my bag. Yet, when I was informed that Motionless In White , one of my favorite contemporary bands was holding a contest to create the cover for their upcoming fourth album Graveyard Shift, I jumped at the opportunity! The contest, hosted by Creative Allies (contest - ) and judged by the band themselves, opens the doors for hundreds of artists and creative people looking to break into a very difficult industry.

The creative idea for my entry was to tell a story without words, that exemplified MIW's macabre, gothic metalcore style. As opposed to utilizing their logo in a standard format, I wanted to actually involve it within the artwork, making it part of the story itself. My concept happens upon a graveyard at midnight, where someone has intentionally unearthed something of terrifying nature from the fiery depths below. As with all of my work I enjoy homaging my subject in subtle ways, as shown upon the gravestone at top left appears the name Abigail - the fourth title off MIW's first album Creatures and the subject of the intentions of the would be gravedigger. Where the title Graveyard Shift can be taken literally, possibly a scorned cemetery keeper working the overnight or a non-literal shift - a change - that erupts from the graveyard itself.

Nearly a month of intense day to day work digitally illustrating and hand painting each and every nuance, blade of grass and detail has resulted in the above. I'm honored to be among a wide variety artists whose submissions are nothing short of incredible. I wish all who have entered the very best of luck!

Below is the link to my submission on Creative Allies:

- Russ

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Our Anniversary with the Black Veil Brides! Pictured are my wife Gayle and daughter Juliet! 
  Recently I decided to do a Question & Answer blog based on submissions regarding the progress of my current art project of The Black Veil Brides.  This piece is intended for possible distribution to the BVB Army, with part of it's proceeds going to a charity. A big Thank You to all of you that submitted questions and I hope this answers some of the who, what, when, where and why I'm doing this.  Please follow me on Twitter or Instagram @rceracreations for the latest updates on this artwork and pass the word along, share, retweet... help support me making this artwork available to you, the BVB Army and all Black Veil Brides fans alike!

Progress on LEGION as of 9.1.2015. 

• What inspired you to do this piece and what are your intentions with it?

Early progress on Legion's face
   In 2014, I created a series of Black Veil Brides portraits intended exclusively for the band members themselves and/or their immediate families.  These portraits were considered "fan-art" as opposed to being officially licensed and therefore were not available nor intended for public distribution.  Many fans and followers inquired about how to acquire one or more of these pieces, to which I had to decline due to the reasons above.

   In response while in the midst of that project, I had a brief discussion with Chris Biersack about the possibility of creating a separate piece, that I hoped to propose to management, as an officially licensed poster intended this time for the BVB Army (official fans of BVB) with part of it's proceeds going toward a charity of the band's choice. Upon contacting management, we (myself and wife Gayle) were given the green light to photograph the band during performance and further given a loose game plan for the project. As it stands, upon completion of the art, I am asked to again approach an opportunity with management to offer this artwork officially in some way or another to the public.  The artwork is being created at a standard wall poster size (24" x 36") yet it can be reproduced on any material at an even larger size, say for a banner or wall mural.

The background wall and logos with textures begun inside of the Photoshop environment.

• Can you share the concept and some details for this piece?

   Basically, the piece is intended as a sort of cornucopia of all things Black Veil Brides past, present and future, homaging their career, personal lives and legacy. The theme will resonate that which Black Veil Brides has always stood for - rising up, standing strong in the face of adversity or oppression, celebrating individuality... being different. Focal point background we have Legion presiding over a performance of the Black Veil Brides below within a massive post-apocalyptic deserted monument. (Legion sits it the same position on throne as does Abraham Lincoln within the Lincoln Memorial).  Accompanying him are a host of recognizable allies and adversaries both real and imagined; fans, family members, objects, imagery, maybe even a couple notorious pets here and there! The scene pays homage to the settings, concepts and artwork of Richard Villa III's album and singles artwork as well as key imagery from videos and tours over the span of BVB's career.  Five "Fallen Angels" each a (non-literal) representative to the members of the group, act as stewards ushering in their entrance.  Several details will be indicative of each of the band's members and many fans should recognize those things both hidden and apparent!

The humble beginnings to CC's "Flying Drums" 
  One of the really interesting details I will share is the concept for CC's drum kit! As we all know CC has spoken on past occasion of taking things to another level.  We will in fact be taking his kit to another level by being the first of it's kind - a sort of hovering craft platform. Yes, CC's drum kit will fly! Amidst the destruction and rubble below one might also look for many more interesting details.   I would like to have Andy emerging out of the coffin from the Coffin video and look for Juliet to be involved in some way. Jake may or may not, I won't say for sure, be accompanied by Ernie and Trixie, decked out in battle gear! A completed background scene depicts Ash as a fallen angel about to crash into a recognizable landmark from the Fallen Angels video.  As for Jinxx, I'd love to homage his love and respect for history while playing both guitar and violin at the same time! Is that even possible? All throughout the piece you'll find details like this and I really hope the attention to it will be very apparent.  Finally I am mulling around the idea, if I have space, to include amassing fans to the "show" in the backdrop with a few faces from friends, family and followers!

• How long does it take to complete a piece of artwork like this?

   It's difficult for me to determine an actual "time" it takes, although if I was really concerned about it I could probably document the time. I typically work around one to two hours a day, five days a week, sometimes more on the weekend if I'm so inspired to.  While some artists can stay at it for hours at a time on a daily basis, my schedule just doesn't permit that with a family, full time job, freelance work and my other equally consuming hobby - playing guitar.  Additionally, I suffer from what I call a self-induced anxiety over creating artwork of such intensity. I rarely can work for more than an hour or two at a time without having to walk away from it.

I decided the wall logos needed more pop, so I went with a hot flowing lava effect.
• When will this art be done?

As of right now, considering my current progress and when I began, I don't foresee completion until mid to late 2016.  This piece has to be the very best example of what I do, not so much to prove it to others but to myself that I can do artwork of this intensity and caliber. Time is not my main concern, quality is.

• Will the Black Veil Brides be involved or affiliated in any way with the creation of this artwork?

   That would be awesome! As previously stated, my plans for this piece are to include countless details that pay homage to BVB's legacy and each of it's individual members, so any input from the guys themselves would serve my concept much better! I'd like to include easter eggs that fans as well as the band will have to discover, that may well really surprise them. Overall I want to create a sense of awe while injecting a little levity and humor here and there. Any details from wardrobe, to experiences, to personal nods that any of the guys might suggest through collaboration would be a real bonus for myself and fans alike.  While I don't expect it, considering their schedules, I have the wherewithal to approach each of the members with a request. There is never hurt in asking. I suppose we will have to see!

This scene depicts the Fallen Angels video homaging Ashley Purdy.
• Why are you sharing so many images of your progress instead of waiting until it's done?

   To be honest, I truly enjoy sharing the creative process, from concept to finish. I also like teaching and giving advice to aspiring artists. I don't share the imagery about this piece or others for fanfare or recognition although every compliment and word of support is entirely appreciated! That being said, I'm also looking to generate a buzz about this artwork with the BVB Army and fans of Black Veil in general. I'm not doing this as a personal gift this time around and I believe that with support and interest, it may be that much more convincing when proposing the finished piece to management as well as the band.

Step by step creation of the "Fallen Angels"
• All we've seen are images of the background. When will you start painting BVB?

   I currently plan on trying to take care of all of the other elements before working on the portraiture of BVB.  That's a whole other animal! Those plans might change though.  I have begun on CC's drums and they are very tedious, with a good deal of parts to recreate. It would only be natural then to complete CC prior to the other guys so I'm sure he'll go first.  Each of the five gents will probably take several weeks to illustrate and paint.

• Why the Black Veil Brides when they already have many other fan-artists doing artwork for or about them?

  Doing artwork about (or for) the Black Veil Brides wasn't pre-conceived nor do I currently view it as ongoing, because quite honestly, I can't usually afford doing artwork as a personal expression or a portfolio piece. Knowing full well BVB is not, nor will they be in the market for a professional illustrator, it is however, my admiration for the band and their craft that serves as the driving force for this above all!  My wife and subsequently myself (and kids) became admirers of their music, image and persona rather recently. Gayle has always been eclectic in regards to music, never settling on one particular genre or time frame. Where some people get "stuck" in an era or with a particular artist, she never has. Additionally, she was a big part of the rock scene and made personal connections with many bands from the Big Hair 80's through to today. I might never have really told her until right now but she's undoubtedly one of my idols!

The Fallen Angel stewards to the entrance of Ashley, Jinxx and Jake.
   Upon her revelation of BVB among others, it was an immediate connection to the style of rock we loved and grew up with - showmanship, image, metal mixed with melody, dueling guitars, blistering percussion, the lights, the big show, the killer album art... all told they were immediately captivating. The first piece of BVB related artwork (Ash) I did was created as a gift to Gayle. Subsequent contact with members of the band and their families spurred me to create portraits for them personally, culminating in presenting each portrait to BVB on our Anniversary at the House of Blues in Walt Disney World!  All told it was a great experience that I had no idea would continue to build!  Now with this new piece, I wish to share more of that kind of experience with the fans.  

   As for being labeled a fan-artist I've never really been fond of the term, but much of my subject matter over the years can be considered as such.  It's literal but somehow feels as though "fan-artist" isn't on a professional level. Let me tell you there are hundreds of fan-artists out there that absolutely should be doing it professionally! I've met several BVB fan-artists doing some truly incredible work! If you're doing Black Veil portraits or pieces because of your love for the band, hell I say go for it. Do what you love!

Throughout the work will be imagery based on the incredible creations of Richard Villa III

• The art you are currently doing sort of looks similar to Richard Villa III's (Exhibit A Gallery and official artist of the Black Veil Brides) work.  Is this intentional and are you concerned that you're copying some of his imagery?

   The concept for this piece was always to encapsulate everything that is, was and may one day be  the Black Veil Brides.  There would be no way to do this sort of thing if I did not include much of the imagery and artistry that Richard created for BVB.  A huge portion of what shapes them as more than just great musical artists is in fact Richard's vision through collaboration with Andy and BVB.  His dark fantasy themes, characters and style are reminiscent of album cover artwork of yesterday, created for some of the metal greats from another era. In a few words, when album cover art really kicked some ass! This piece, when completed is, nor was ever intended to contend with or copy Richard's work.  I greatly admire him!  I can only hope the parts that mimic Richard's creations are viewed as a tribute to his creativity and style as much as it is to the Black Veil Brides themselves.

• Aren't you too old to be a fan artist of Black Veil Brides? Why aren't you doing artwork about bands like Metallica, Ozzy or Judas Priest?

  You're never too old or too young for that matter to love music, regardless of the genre, classic or contemporary. Anyone telling you otherwise is childish themselves.  I love bands and music for that matter from many genres and time frames. Just remember that everyone gets older, including the bands and yes, you! For a band to be truly successful beyond their years, they have to transcend both the genre they are associated with as well as the current fan base. People grow up. People change. The band changes. I personally believe that, if the Black Veil Brides can continue to work together for years to come, they may well carve out the type of legacy and longevity artists like Motley Crue, Kiss, Metallica and Ozzy have. BVB's vision and track record are consistent with that moreso than a lot of bands because they have the interest in reinventing themselves. As for doing artwork about other bands, I've always wanted to be an album cover artist, for as long as I can remember. I idolized Derek Riggs (album artist for Iron Maiden) and his intricate work and advent of Eddie. I've considered doing more music industry related art and I may well turn my attention to other artists but I have no immediate game plan short of finishing this piece. Unless of course, I get a call from Metallica, Ozzy or Judas Priest! ;D

• What is your artistic process like?

  It all begins with an idea and a basic mental picture of the concept or certain elements of a design.  I'm a firm believer that artistic processes can be learned and applied, however the ability to envision something from nothing and then translate that imagination to media is what some might call a gift. I feel more comfortable doing and enjoy concept artwork more so than these full color worked up pieces. Translating my imagination to a visual is something I'm very good at. It's like making a discovery, bringing something to life. It's fun! I tend to get anxiety rendering, painting and finishing art, it's the more tedious part of the process.  This is why I have so many unfinished pieces. Ideas are constantly happening.  
The original quick sketch of the entire piece

  I've had to really discipline myself to finish the work that I start because I'd much rather be conceiving the next idea.  Just like any creative form you can run into a rut... an artists block. I get very down on myself when this happens and I just want to walk away. Honestly, I really had no idea that I would be able to get as far as I have with this art! It took me a long time to get from a mental picture to the progress you see and even then I wasn't sure I could recreate the level of intricacy and accuracy I'm currently achieving. If things go as my mind sees it, this Black Veil Brides piece will (IMO) stand as my greatest artistic achievement to date.

   As for a "process" to this art, I began illustrating a very loose sketch of the entire piece. With digital art, I will sometimes draw directly on paper and scan or sketch directly on a blank layer with a Wacom pen tool at a very light pressure. Once I have a manageable sketch to work from I will usually go right to rendering a particular element and work up the levels of detail in steps to build confidence. 

   I rarely can work on one area for too long.  When I've finished it to an acceptable level, I'll move on to another area of the art. With much of this BVB piece, I am working from imagination and when necessary, reference material.  Where creating new and interesting elements is the spark, rendering say for instance CC's drums is more tedious but necessary work. I bounce back and forth from the imaginary to the real so as not to get bored.  My "process" doesn't follow a procedure! It's more like anarchy and chaos! I know that if I am intrigued by an area I am rendering or conceiving I will more than likely want to continue.  So some areas I may begin might not see attention until much later if I've found another element to focus more clearly on.  No doubt you'll recognize the image you see today may change entirely by the time the piece is finished!

• What is your favorite Black Veil Brides album?

   Wretched and Divine. While the band may have considered their process and camaraderie to be less fulfilling, W&D stands as a very sophisticated melodic-metal composition.  A concept album is a very difficult thing to pull off, but each song, tied together by narration, Jinxx's violin interludes and special vocal cameos, creates a truly original and at times very haunting piece of work. It's a special album, one which probably hasn't received the recognition it deserves. Overall, I feel Wretched & Divine coupled with the Legion of the Black film adaptation truly showcases the full capacity of Black Veil's creative vision.

• Why digital art and are you just Photoshopping parts of this?

Legion's Heart of Fire takes shape
   Digital artistry is a difficult thing to explain to most people. Most that do not understand get the idea that it in some way means cheating. The word Photoshop alone can represent a composite photograph with a massive shark attacking the Golden Gate Bridge all the way up to incredibly intense hand rendered and illustrated art.  The piece I am working on, as well as the previous BVB portraits are all examples of the latter - hand illustrated and hand painted digital artwork. In other words, NO I am not just Photoshopping this. Each portion began as a sketch, each line illustrated, the flesh tones and textures all done by hand painting.  Just like an oil painter has tools to create all sorts of different effects, so does a digital artist through a program like Photoshop and a pen tablet.  For painting flesh textures I utilize special brushes that aide in creating an uneven surface, much like an oil painter would use a fan brush for a particular effect. If I had my choice, I would much rather paint in oils, however they are very expensive and I don't have the space.  I've been using a Wacom pen tablet for nearly two decades and Photoshop for the same. If you have the program and computer to run it, there's really no need for supplies, paints, pencils and so on. It's no muss no fuss. It's also very efficient and much easier to make corrections and additions to say, traditional airbrushing. However the big downside is your true original art is in fact a digital file that needs to be printed. 

   • How do you achieve the level of detail and realism you do?

   Detail and realism takes patience and practice to achieve. For the high level of detail, I usually work one to two zoom levels over the actual size of the art.  In other words, with programs like Photoshop, an artist can zoom into an image to levels impossible for the naked eye to perceive.  This can be both a good and bad thing. Zooming too far in to add detail or fix corrections can really waste a lot of time if your intended art isn't going to be large enough to see it!  

   Realism comes by way of understanding and rendering light and shadow. Since I do not use live models nor do I have a studio with a lighting rig, I more or less imagine how light coming from any number of directions is going to affect the surface. I also utilize reference material as a basis for the type of effect or surface I am trying to emulate.

   Both the detail and realism take shape over a long period of time.  I will often take a break from an area and return back to add more detail or reevaluate how to make something look better several times.  Many beginning and intermediate artists get frustrated feeling their finished art doesn't achieve a sense of realism or maturity.  Most of the time it takes that extra effort - taking a step back and figuring out how to reach a higher level of realism.  It doesn't need to come in leaps and bounds. With practice and exposure to subjects you wish to render your ability to recreate them will increase.

Progress as of 9.1.15 to the top half of the 24" x 36" BLACK VEIL BRIDES artwork. 

 • You recently mentioned a contest for a piece of this Black Veil Brides artwork?

   Yes! I thought it might be a cool idea to take a portion of this finished piece and offer it as a high resolution digital image that can be used as a computer desktop or device background!  The artwork is not licensed at moment, nor complete, nor will I make any profit from doing so.  So yes three BVB fans, so long as they agree not to share the work, will be given a finished portion of the artwork before the entire piece is complete.  The portion I'll give away to these three folks is still a ways from being done. I'm not sure of the details and how I'll choose the winners but do stay tuned to this blog or follow me on Twitter or Instagram and I'll announce further information!


Saturday, April 18, 2015


Adore him or not, Ronnie Radke is THE quintessential rock star through and through and better yet, he makes no excuses about his ills, rests not on his hardships, falls not to his struggles, but is a continuous force of lyrical and melodic energy that never repeats the conventional norms of the categorical musical genre.

Late in 2014, while in the midst of completing my fourth piece for the Black Veil Brides, I thought I might give it a shot and contact Ronnie Radke - the notorious "King of the Music Scene" and front man for Falling In Reverse, proposing the idea of doing a portrait for his home.  I was absolutely thrilled to receive his acceptance shortly thereafter. However, it wasn't until early 2015 that I could truly wrap my imagination around what to do for Ron. While I thought it would be perfectly fine to do a piece in the same vein as the BVB work, I was leaning toward something a little more original that would reflect who this truly extraordinary artist is.  For those reading this article that know all about Ronnie Radke, his life as well as career, anything I might say here comes as no surprise. In fact I wish not to use this space to recount it as Ronnie himself is an open book.  And yet, to put things simply, Ronnie has been through more triumphs and tragedies in his young lifetime than many people put together.  Where any one of his past struggles might defeat another, Ron has overcome (or continues to do so) with unmatchable ability, strength, will, determination, loyalty, brutal honesty and best of all a scathing and infectious sense of humor.

While we and countless others are tenacious admirers of Ronnie Radke and his many talents, he is not without his detractors as well. Although the majority may just be teen kids behind keyboards looking to push Radke's buttons for a moment of his attention, often such behavior from his critics peaks his emotions.  For, as Ronnie speaks plainly through his music, his tough exterior is wrapped around a broken heart and rightfully so.

My collaborator and inspiration Gayle with the final piece
So when contemplating this piece for Ronnie, I wanted to reflect everything he is in one way or another. While I knew I could not say it all, I opted to appeal to Radke's personal life as well as his persona more so than do a static serious minded portrait with on stage poses. Pouring over countless photos and articles, I became really fond of photoshoots for Alternative Press where Ronnie was depicted as the President of the United States.  I loved the tongue in cheek humor of the imagery and felt, that if I were to do something that Ron would truly appreciate, it would come by way of this style.  The iconic propaganda poster of Uncle Sam immediately came to mind.  What better way to depict Ronnie Radke than this stalwart image of strength and yet how amusing to make it a mock promotional poster for Falling In Reverse as well?

The final canvas piece lays out to dry.
My original sketch began on paper where I worked to depict Ronnie with much the same expression as the brooding Uncle Sam. Naturally, the first attempt looked nothing at all like the final piece shown above. After much difficulty with his pointing right hand, I was satisfied enough to scan the sketch in and begin hand drawing and rendering the artwork using a Wacom pen and tablet through Photoshop. Countless resource photos were researched to create Ronnie's likeness and after a couple months I finally settled upon the final details of his face, turning then to the difficulty of recreating his hand and tattoo work.

All the while I contemplated how to add special touches that would make the piece truly personal.  Rips and tears in the hat were added to subtly depict Ronnie's hardships and struggles, resulting in a "battered but not beaten" message.  Initially, I thought it might be interesting to have Ron breaking through the background, with the opposite side of the "poster" revealing several lines of his lyrics from FIR's albums.  Later, I then added the logo as the catalyst for this effect. Feeling there needed to be more homages, I created Ron's left hand holding a contract, upon which the "Falling In Reverse" pledge of allegiance is inscribed. I intentionally signed the left side of the art, providing space near the bottom of the contract, should Ron himself sign it. Three political buttons on Ron's lapels depict the latest FIR album Just Like You, Ronnie's HOODS UP clothing line and finally a dedication to Ron's daughter Willow.

Myself and daughter Juliet - Ronnie's biggest little fan!
After completing the image in late March, I reached out to Ronnie again to gain his approval on the work. His response was enthusiastic and graciously offered a guest list opportunity on his Three Ring Circus tour to present the canvas piece directly to him.  More updates will follow!

I would first like to thank Ronnie Radke and Falling In Reverse, not only for two amazing shows on the 2014 Black Mass tour, the aforementioned opportunity and  the honor to do this piece for his home.  A huge thank you goes out to Gayle, my wife and collaborator, who introduced Ronnie's music to our own home. To my kids Tristin and Juliet - Ronnie's biggest little fan, who have Falling In Reverse on constant replay on their stereo.  Finally a big thank you to the fans of FIR and my followers who's kind words and praise is a constant source of inspiration!

So what will my next Ronnie Radke piece be?  To take a cue from the man himself, it won't be anything like the one that came before it!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


  If I was told a year ago that in 2014, I would have created personalized artwork for The Black Veil Brides and members of their families, I would have said that was absolutely crazy!  Well, 2014 has come and gone and "The Black Veil Brides Collection" is complete and delivered! On December 4th, (my wife Gayle and my wedding Anniversary) my family had the opportunity to meet and present the work to the guys at the House of Blues in Walt Disney World - coincidentally where we were married! Talk about an amazing cap to an incredible year! 

  Enter 2015 and I am currently collaborating with Gayle and management to conceive a collective piece(s) intended for the fans themselves - the ever expanding and tenaciously loyal BVB Army.

Andy with our daughter Juliet! 
Andy had some really great words for the work!

  The first of the collection, that of notoriously mischievous bassist Ashley Purdy, was actually created as a gift to my wife Gayle, with no real plans to take things further.  With her inspiration and our mutual admiration for the band, I decided to continue doing a series of each of the band's members, all with a similar motif to encompass their collective accomplishments but with differing color combinations and distinct attributes that celebrated their individuality.

Andy Biersack's piece was created exclusively for the Biersack's home. At right - Chris Biersack - Papa B - with canvas.
  So how did all of this occur? To begin, this article is not intended as a showcase for my accomplishments but rather to celebrate it's inspiration - the Black Veil Brides themselves first and foremost, their wonderful families and yes, the extended family that is a very devoted and ever-growing fan base. It also serves as a massive thank you to my wife Gayle, for whom our collaboration into this endeavor would have never taken flight. I am so proud that every bit of her love and devotion to the Black Veil Brides breathes through each of these paintings and every one to come. Finally, I hope this may inspire the incredible artists out there illustrating or painting portrait work of BVB (or any subject for that matter), to continue doing what they love to do.

To be honest, only a short while ago I had lost any true passion I had for fine art altogether, mostly abandoning it outside of employment, necessity or profit. As anyone might know, when your talent becomes your work, down time is rarely spent doing what you do for a living. My pursuits instead, centered mainly on writing, to which I poured countless hours of my creative time into. The goal of mine to author one of many stories I formulated and/or collaborated upon became an obsession.  Artwork merely became an attachment to, or the device by which I made a living, with very little sense of progression or achievement as an artist. Meanwhile, I would still do personal portraits, especially for Gayle, of those that truly inspired her. One such portrait was that of Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. His horrific experience on death row, superseded by sheer will, spirit and love became the cornerstone of her revitalized love for life. Researching songs written for or attributed to the WM3, Gayle discovered Knives and Pens - (which also features a clip from the trial at it's onset).

Completed 24 x 36 portrait of Ashley Purdy

Ash posing with his portrait.

Gayle with Andy Biersack
Having been a long time music aficionado of many genres formulating several personal friendships with bands classic and new, she has constantly been on the forefront of music, never settling into one particular group or era.  And so the Black Veil Brides entered into our lives through her passion for incredible music and an element long lost from an era of rock we grew up with... showmanship and theatrics. Here was the answer (for us) as well as so many others! A contemporary "metal" band playing as hard and heavier than other bands in their genre or earlier, combined with that lost element from the 80's arena rock or glam metal that we both adored.  Not only were these guys hugely talented (and yes, good looking) but they had the balls and ingenuity to create a memorable image. It was clear from day one that BVB was more than just another band in the mix.  While not without their critics (due to selfish and immature cause), the group as well as it's members remained steadfast to their unique creative vision.  Instead of just releasing an album, their third - Wretched and Divine (The Story of the Wild Ones) is a concept album - the music tied together under one storyline accompanied by an elaborate and powerful film - Legion of the Black.  Very few artists have taken on the challenge of creating such a project and even fewer have been successful. Yet Wretched and Devine accompanied by Legion of the Black proves nothing short of revelatory and stands as a truly mature and masterful musical and theatrical composition.

2014 saw the release of the band's fourth album (self titled Black Veil Brides IV) with legendary producer Bob Rock at the helm. The album represents the band's current collective vision, breaking from the storyline aspect of W&D with a darker overall tone and several homages to previous bands in Rock's stable. IV truly showcases the technical talents of BVB's members, focusing more on straightforward power rock and metal. Christian Coma takes percussion to "another level", literally, where Jake Pitts' and Jinxx's guitar tone, harmonizing and duel leads are blistering. Pitt's solo work has reached a new pinnacle. With an overall fatter sound, here Ashley Purdy's baselines are in your face and Andy Biersack's writing and vocals are darker and more aggressive focusing more on personal challenges he faced over the course of the last album.

While all of this may be obvious to the BVB fan reading this article, for those who are not, these guys truly care for their craft and even more so, their fans. In the End (no pun intended) they recognize the inherent relationship where success comes not just from their talent but from the people that truly appreciate it. While those unaware might assume the Black Veil Brides' message is typical of a particular genre, theirs' is that of acceptance, self awareness, empowerment and the challenging of social stereotypes and stigmas. In fact, many fans attribute life changes for the positive to the Black Veil Brides. And, contrary to misconception, their music touches lives both younger and older - at 43 I am living proof!

In progress facial detail work on Jinxx. Reference photo at left. 
Completed 24 x 36 portrait of Jinxx

Jinxx admiring his portrait
I cannot begin to express the gratitude and pride I have in doing these both for the guys themselves as well as their families.  This of course would not have been possible if they were not so accessible to their fan base.  In Jake Pitts' (lead guitarist) case, I asked if he would accept one for his home and he accepted prior to me creating it. I knew I had to do something special, besides the art itself and chose to digitally print the art on actual canvas. When complete, his father Mark was so impressed by a photo of it that he asked that he could receive one for his home in Hawaii as well! 

Completed 24 x 36 portrait of Jake Pitts
Jake with his portrait.
Mark Pitts with his canvas portrait of his son, Jake.

  Having made prior contact with Chris Biersack, father to lead singer Andy and patriarch to the legion of us fans, I asked him if he too would accept one of Andy.  He and Amy graciously accepted promising to frame the piece and display it in their home! Truly an honor I have never received prior! Shortly after receiving the finished canvas, not only did Gayle and I have the pleasure of speaking with Chris personally, Gayle met up with the Biersack family and photos with Andy the night prior to attending the Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland! I'm so grateful to Chris, Amy and Andy for spending time with us and formulating an acquaintance that we will truly cherish for years to come!

Completed 24 x 36 portrait of Christian Coma
CC hamming it up with his canvas portrait!

Progress on CC main portrait. Art at left painted side by side of photo

 As for artists out there doing portrait work of the Black Veil Brides or any subject for that matter, just keep doing what you love! With each piece you create you'll get better at your craft. You will demand more of yourself with every creation.  The same occurs at any level, including myself. With each of these pieces, the amount of detail and attention to accuracy has increased twofold, forcing me to go back to update or correct. I am constantly learning and evolving as an artist and will never consider myself above anyone no matter what level of ability they have in any skill!  As previously noted these pieces are hand illustrated and painted using a Wacom pen tablet through Photoshop. While I utilized reference photos for each of these, the rough sketch is done side by side using what I call, the graph technique.

This simply means that I achieve accuracy by way of graphing out specific features though use of a grid. No, I do not trace, if you are wondering, although novice and intermediate artists should find no shame in doing so! Once the basic features are illustrated, I utilize the reference photo side by side to my work at a 1:1 scale, literally hand painting every feature. I do employ special brushes in Photoshop to paint the realistic skin textures and render every strand of hair individually.  For more information and tutorials on my art, feel free to return for subsequent posts regarding how I do what I do! 

Thank you again to ALL for the wonderful words and encouragement.  A special thank you again to Chris Biersack, (who puts up with my lengthy DM's on Twitter), Amy Biersack and Mark Pitts! I truly enjoy our conversations and you've all been nothing short of outstanding to us in all regards.  I certainly hope our friendship continues! A huge thank you (hopefully not the last) to Andy, Ashley, Jinxx, CC and Jake not only for your music but your kind words regarding my work. Finally I want to thank my wife Gayle once more. If not for you, I would probably still be listening to music from the 80's! You truly are the inspiration for this and everything I do and hope I've made you proud! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


  I am proud to announce that my latest portrait work, that of Jake Pitts, lead guitarist of the Black Veil Brides has been completed and delivered to Mark Pitts - Jake's father! (Pictured below)

  The image, entirely hand illustrated and rendered, further enhanced by graphic text and embellishments is one in an entire series dedicated to each of the band's members as well as their families.  Inspired by my wife and our mutual admiration for the band, I set upon the task of creating individual portraits after completing a personal gift for her - a 24 x 36 poster sized portrait of Ashley Purdy, the notorious bassist of BVB.  

   Afterward, I thought why not continue, planning a portrait for each band member with personal embellishments and differing design motifs and color arrangements.  I had the good fortune to briefly request Jake's acceptance of one for himself over Twitter, to which he kindly accepted.

  What an honor it was to know that I would be creating something that would go directly into the hands of this incredible guitarist as well as one of my personal heroes! The honor became even greater, when Jake's dad Mark saw the finished work and requested one for his home in Hawaii.

 The piece took well over thirty some hours if done consecutively, Pouring over photos for reference, I decided upon Jake's photograph that he uses for social media as the main portrait. The true challenge would be recreating this image of him in a very large format, as anything openly available on the web was very small and somewhat blurred.  More difficult however was the foreground image that would compliment the piece.  I decided upon a photo I would later embellish and make changes to reflecting Jake in a more contemporary light.

  While a great deal of very talented artists, as well as we fans of the Black Veil Brides create incredible portrait work of the guys, I really wanted to do something unique and not stereotypical.  In Jake's case, I chose to create the piece with the artist in mind and not the persona, free of the "character" or theatrical image indicative of BVB over past albums.

While the main portrait is (as faithful as I could come) to his photo, I embellished by adding more recent tattoo work.  In fact, the foreground photo, taken in 2013, did not feature Jake's finished chest piece (dedicated to his late mother).  I had to use other reference photos to recreate the amazing tribute to her, as well as request more current photos from Jake on his right arm sleeve.

That wasn't all however.  I decided to replace the guitar in photo with his signature series edition from Schecter.  I further personalized the piece by adding a flourish framework, mirroring the flourish work done on his mother's tribute piece.

While doing the work was incredibly enjoyable, I knew I had to do something in order to really display the amount of detail and rich color work. I chose to print a 24 x 36 inch canvas from the digital printer at Ampro Sports, the company I have worked as an art director for nearly ten years.  Not only did the image replicate perfectly, the canvas was durable, lightfast and not susceptible to wrinkling or warping.

While I'm still yet to send one to Jake Pitts himself, his father Mark was so gracious to me and thankful beyond expectation when he received his own. It is a such a true honor to know that my work has touched someone emotionally regardless of their stature or notoriety.  Mark intends on framing the piece and hanging it in his home in Hawaii.

At current, I am further embellishing the piece I will be sending to Jake. Current updates to tattoo work as well as a supernatural "element" to mirror my pieces of Andy Biersack and Ashley Purdy will further help to make the series synonymous.  I may arrange another action shot as well however I have not concluded upon that decision just yet.  Hopefully upon Jake's reception of the canvas he will  find it a lasting tribute to his dedication to us, the fans of the Black Veil Brides and a big thank you from this artist and guitarist as well!

  Below are several progress images of Jake Pitt's tribute piece. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more Black Veil Brides pieces in the near future!