Proficiently skilled in various mediums & techniques, Rob Birchfield is an artist able to blend the new school of horror seamlessly beside the silver screen monsters of yesteryear. As varied as his subjects and methods, his work can be found in a multitude of outlets, spaces, & places. Whether it’s plastered all over social media, tattooed into flesh, emblazoned on posters, hanging framed in a gallery, or featured on the covers of some of the biggest horror magazines out there today, his art is seemingly everywhere right now. Fluid and malleable, his style can transform & adapt into whatever his subjects or particular medium require of him. Through preparation & execution, his accomplished use of oils, charcoal, pencils, acrylics, airbrushing, & digital renderings not only prove his prowess, but also his refusal to accept anything less than excellence. Prepare to be awed & entertained, as we journey deep into the twisted mind & artwork of up & coming horror artist, Rob Birchfield…
What was the very first horror film you can remember watching? What effect or influence did that have on you as an artist, if any?
It was either Frankenstein or King Kong. Those were two of the first. I was obsessed with drawing Frankenstein when I was about 5 or 6. Godzilla was a big one. The Omen was the first movie I remember scaring the crap out of me when I was a kid. The music during the opening credits alone did it. I identified with Damien a lot. Putting my parents through a living Hell and kinda laughing about it. The Sentinel too. That one did a number on me at a young age. The Exorcist. Such a great decade for horror movies. It completely sparked my interest in art. But the Famous Monsters covers of Basil Gogos is really what set things off with the art.
Why do we love horror, & why have we not outgrown this love?
I love the classic stuff. The Hammer Films. So much great stuff from the 70’s. They‘re mythology. The stories…the characters. It’s timeless stuff we can all relate to. Like in Frankenstein when The Monster realized he has feelings and emotions and tries to fit in the world but he just can’t. We can all relate to that. The primal fear Jill feels when she hears that the calls are coming from INSIDE the house. We can all relate to that too. People go through their entire lives in fear of one thing or another. Or many things. Plus it’s got this visual element nothing else has. I hate to say it but they just don’t make em like they used to and I’m not sure if things can ever be like that again or what it’s going to take. The Mummy remake was painful.
Were your parents, teachers, & peers supportive of your artwork growing up?
Yep. Very much. My dad out of the clear blue brought me home one of those really nice, super sturdy old wooden drafting tables one day. I was 11 I think. I was just starting to REALLY get into drawing and I suddenly felt like a pro. I was in love with this thing. I wish I still had it. Lots of books too. I feel like I never went without art supplies if I needed them. I never took art in high school. My senior year the art teacher came up to me and basically begged me to join the class. Half the school was walkin around in jackets I painted. The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden. That kinda stuff. So all the teachers knew I painted. But I told her I didn’t want to paint flowers and bowls of fruit. I wanted to paint skulls and dragons. I was WAY too cool for school. So to my shock, she made me a deal where I could do what I wanted and get graded for it while all the other kids had to draw the fruit. I think that’s where I encountered my first haters.
Who or what would you say was your biggest influence, or inspired you the most, artistically?
There’s a feeling you get when you’ve completed a piece, especially something big. Or something that you’ve put a TON of work into. Just standing there looking at it. It’s a transcendent experience. Like “I did that???”. I got that feeling when I was 13 years old and I still get it today. That feeling inspires me. It’s like a drug to me. I’ve never felt anything else like it.
What do you love/hate about traditional art mediums like drawing/painting with pens/pencils/brushes? What do you love/hate about digital artwork?
They’re all tools and they all have their pros and cons. I don’t hate anything about any of them. I love the efficiency of digital painting but you’re also not going to get that feeling when you’re standing in front of the thing on a screen or a print like you would with an original piece of art. That “whoa” feeling. I love em both and I’ll continue to use both.
Is a painting ever actually finished, or just abandoned?
It’s finished. For me. Absolutely. The more experience I got painting the less I stressed about when or if something is done. Nowadays I don’t really think about it…it’s more like the piece will tell me when IT’S done.
Are there any subjects or themes that you prefer not to or refuse to paint?
I’m sure if you threw a couple of things at me there’s quite a few I wouldn’t give any time to based on my own concepts of right and wrong. There’s a lot of shitty things in the world. As far as horror goes, no. Of course there are characters and movies that I’m not all that crazy about so I’ll just stay clear of those. Unless someone wants to make me an offer I can’t refuse of course.
Sometimes the viewer will claim to see hidden themes or subjects in artwork, which may or may not be intended by the artist. Do you hide things in your paintings?
Hahahaha! Why?…did you hear I put Toto in the clouds? I cannot confirm or deny that sir. I’ll never tell.
What does Rob Birchfield do to unwind when he isn’t painting nightmarish images?
I take short breaks where I think about nothing but art and then get back to work. Seriously. I’m actually trying to make an effort to not work so obsessively lately. Find some balance. It’s not ALL I do. Just about 98% of what I do. It’s not normal and I’m probably far too ok with it.
What horror film have you watched more than any other, & is it fair to say that it is your favorite horror film?
Either The Exorcist or The Omen. I’ve got Damien standing in the cemetery tattooed on the back of my forearm from elbow to wrist. I like knowing that church ladies are standing behind me in line at the supermarket looking at The Antichrist as a young boy on my arm.
What, if any, are some misconceptions about horror artist, Rob Birchfield?
That I have some kind of natural born gift. I’m not talented. I’m driven.
If you were approached to re-imagine or redesign the horror icon of your choice, which would that be?
Godzilla. So I can sit back and laugh while all the Godzilla people work themselves into a tizzy about the changes I made. And I think it would be a huge challenge. And an honor. A huge responsibility.
Do you find that you prefer or are inspired to paint at one particular time over another, for instance late at night or early in the morning?
Night person. All the way. I had that conversation with someone just this morning. I can wake up at 9am, be awake and busy all day long and not actually be “up” until 5 or 6 o‘clock. I’m just getting started at that point.
If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you would be doing?
Cooking. Every artist has something they either do or did do at one point other than art. To get by. Mine was cooking. Live with me and you’re gonna eat well.
Who do you trust more; The guy who never watches horror films or the guy that watches nothing but horror films?
I’ll trust a guy who watches soap operas and game shows all day until he gives me a reason not to.
Does painting, even when its horror related, ever start to feel like a regular or ‘straight’ job, or is it as much fun as it seems?
Hell no. My love affair with art and with creating it has stood the test of time and it’s still going strong. I feel like it’s peaking to be honest. I’m about to come out with some stuff that’s unlike anything I’ve done yet in terms of materials and techniques and the excitement is just….I dunno man. I’m really looking forward to it. About making it AND about getting it out there.
You have recently had your artwork featured on the covers of at least two magazines, I have seen. How was that experience & can we expect to see more of your work in print in the coming months & new year?
Rue Morgue and Propulsion. Rue Morgue was amazing. The staff there were unbelievably supportive and appreciative. Really. It kind of took me by surprise. And the editor of Propulsion is an really talented photographer by the name of Jess Hess who I have a ton of respect for as an artist. So to even be asked to be on the cover was a huge honor.
As far as what’s coming, things are in the works. Some I can’t talk about. Some I probably shouldn’t talk about yet. I’m more of a doer than a talker. And I prefer the element of surprise. I’ve learned that a lot of times even I don’t know what’s around the corner, no matter how much I plan for it. I’m taking a little break from tattooing to put more energy into the art right now. It should be interesting.
I want to thank Mr Rob Birchfield for taking time to let us into his world of art & horror. I urge everyone to go to his website at horrormovieart.com to see his high quality signed & numbered prints (available in multiple sizes) & follow him on Facebook for updates on upcoming projects. Be sure to check out Rob’s Pinhead artwork below, which is currently featured on this month’s cover of Rue Morgue magazine, celebrating 30 years of the Hellraiser franchise.
All photos/artwork contained in this interview are the property of Rob Birchfield.