Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tattoo Artist Interview: NOAH RILEY by Dave Wolff

Interview with NOAH RILEY

While I was at your Facebook profile I noticed tattoo art you recently designed, that was quite intricate and detailed. Where did your earliest inspiration come from?
I started tattooing about seven years ago. I can say that I always had an appreciation for tattooing, but was never very interested in the style when I was growing up. My mother gave me access to traditional instructional art and anatomy books when I was very young. But I never really got how to render something with an artistic style until I found a graphic novel in the bowels of the SLC public library when I was about eight. I knew instantly that I should not be reading it by the half nude women and the violence depicted in the first page. But it was so beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Comic art was my first true inspiration. Over the next few years I discovered comics and became further enamored with their beautiful art and fantastic, unearthly imagery. And then came Japanimation. Not the kiddie shit they now call Anime mind you, but early '90s which ws dark, violent, complex and insanely imaginative with such a bold style. That stuff is gone from the industry. But for that short period the films they made had a lasting impact on me as an artist. H.R. Giger changed the artist I would become, possibly more than any other artist. Making a drawn object make you feel something new is an incredible ability and one I strive for. There has been a myriad of other influences over the years like Boris and Julie, Royo, Sorayama and Juan Gimenez. When I was about thirteen I started reading Heavy Metal magazine and discovered so many incredible artists.

Can you name the instructional art and anatomy books you received? How old were you when you read them? In what ways did reading them help you develop your work?
The art book I cannot. The anatomy book was Gray's Anatomy. I figure I was about six when I remember reading them first. Another huge resource for me was Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Anatomy which I discovered when I was around twelve. Primarily showing me how the muscles look when the figure is in various poses, and bone structure for the same reasons. Any creature or alien or what have you will have familiar aspects to its design. Usually they are just a feature distorted in shape or proportion. So being aware of the shapes and forms of the bone and muscle enable you to consciously distort them in order to achieve a specific effect. I don't really make a distinction between art and tattoo art. Just a different method used to make it. But images are universal.

Did you take art classes in high school and college? If so, how helpful were they?
I never went to high school. I dropped out when I was thirteen. I started collage when I turned seventeen and majored in Studio Arts. I learned a lot from some of the classes I took, Like figure drawing and life drawing primarily. But I left after two years and joined the Navy. Later I attended the Art Institute in Las Vegas for a short time but at that point I was teaching the teachers.

In what ways did your enrollment at your college and institute classes help you as an artist?
I think they helped me to learn to visually dissect imagery, approach art with more structure and planning, and introduced me to different styles and mediums I had never used. Any time you spend focusing on art will make you a better artist so by that virtue alone school can be good for artists. I don't know that getting a degree makes you a better artist, but going to classes does.

What graphic novel did you discover in the SLC public library, and what inspirational influence did it have on you?
I searched for it many times over the years but never found it. Perhaps for the best. No doubt it would not live up to the impression it made on me as a young child. But I think what it impressed on me was that there are no rules. In art, in anything for that matter. You can be as risky or violent or as blasphemous as you want. In a world crushed by rules, art is the only thing that is truly free.

Why do you think people are offended by art and don’t understand that it imitates life?
People generally can only hold a small fraction of the world in focus at any given time. If they see something that they find distasteful often times I think it’s because it contradicts what they want to believe to be true about themselves or the world on some level.

So if art contradicts what people believe they know, and it offends them, has the artist done his job?
I guess that depends of what that artist considers his or her job to be. Some feel it is just to create beauty. Others want to make you question something. Some want you to feel uncomfortable or disturbed. And I think that objective can vary, dependent on the piece. I think an artist like Giger liked to offend people. He was good at his job.

What speaks to you about Julie, Royo, Sorayama and Juan Gimenez?
With Julie the ever enduring teenage boy in me was drawn in her early works to the boobs and dragons. As she has progressed into photorealism with her nature painting her eye for detail continues to impress. Juan and Hajime have always fascinated me with their ability to impart texture to an object. Hajime with his shiny chrome women and Juan with his rusty pitted metals. I learned a lot from studying their works. And Luis is great at setting a mood with his art. Dark and sexual. Imaginative in concept and execution.

Did any of the artists you cited inspire you to incorporate sexual themes in your work?
That's a tough question to answer honestly because I'm not sure if it was them or just puberty. Sexuality is found throughout the art world and I think it’s a natural progression that at some point in a young person’s life their sexuality will be expressed through art.

I was watching a video about H.R. Giger in which he said misinterpretation of an artist’s work is not a reflection of what the artist is saying.
I think that can be true. But certain artists like Giger in particular will have multiple meanings or messages, sometimes contradicting. But as with anything the more complex your message the less likely it is to come through. You find an artist who has a lot to say, you will find an artist who will be misinterpreted.

Did you discover H.R. Giger’s work around the time Alien was in movie theaters or were you already familiar with him?
Well I guess technically my first exposure to Giger was when I saw the Aliens movie. I was six. It scared the shit out of me. It was not until around the time Alien 3 was out that I learned about Giger. And through the aforementioned Dark Horse Comics. It was my sister's boyfriend who told me who he was when he saw me drawing one of the Aliens. I looked him up in a bookstore and found the Necronomicon. As anyone who has seen it can attest, it is pretty incredible. "Li" Is one of my all-time favorite painting. Less known are his sculptures. Zeitgeist for one. I can relate to that. Most people don't even know I sculpt. Seems to be a thing. Boris Vallejo does amazing sculptures but most people only know him for his paintings. Royo as well. I think an intimate understanding of a subject allows an artist to easily render an image in 2D as well as 3D.

Do you prefer designing in two dimensions or three? Which of these allows you more creativity?
I feel 2D has a bigger bag of tricks to call on when creating an image. I think 3D takes more discipline and planning where as a sketch is a much more organic process that is more fast and fluid, making it my go to medium.

How far have you gotten learning to design three dimensional art?
I've probably completed around thirty sculptures at this point. I’m quite good at 3D but have a hard time finishing sculptures I start. I get to a point where I need to devote a block of time to it then never get the block of time.

What were the first comic publications you discovered? Are comics from your earliest collection still in your possession? Is Batman in your collection?
The comics that spoke to me were more on the gritty side of the spectrum. Dark Horse's Aliens vs. Predator series, Weapon X, Ghost Rider. Deadpool. Venom. Punisher. I do still have them. A couple of milk crates full. Reminds me that I should see what that Deadpool #1 is worth now. They just seemed more real. Characters’ reactions just seemed more believable. And that just seems to be the way I have always leaned artistically. I didn't read any Batman till I was in my 20's and a friend lent me a few of the graphic novels.

What appeals to you most about darker themed superheroes, supervillains and antiheroes?
I think I have always been attracted to the concept of men who follow a moral code and are driven by a sense of propriety over all else. Not following the law, but following what’s right. At an early age I saw the separation between laws and justice and disliked it immensely. Anti-Heroes just always felt like the real Heroes.

Describe some of the sculptures you have seen that were designed by Vallejo.
Boris sculpts about as well as he paints, all similarly fantasy themed. Excellent reproduction skills, but original concepts were never his strong suit. I think the most Impressive sculptor I have ever come across is Adam Bean. The guy does incredible portrait sculptures in CX-5.

Fill the readers in on what you know about Adam Bean and his work. Can people view his sculptures on the internet?
Adam Bean Is an Artist/Inventor who does fantastic portrait sculptures in CX5, a sculpting medium that is temperature activated. So cold it’s hard like plastic, at about 125 degrees it’s soft like clay. And at 225 it’s liquid. It’s amazing stuff. I have only played with it a bit but I’m looking forward to working with it more. I highly suggest checking out his stuff online, at Adam Beane Industries.

When seeing the Alien movies and read the Necronomicon were you inspired to create otherworldly creatures as nightmarish as what you saw?
Indeed I was. My mom still has a display case at home full of the little creatures I sculpted when I was a teenager. I thought the Alien was such an incredibly unique character to start with. But after seeing the original/later versions Giger did of the creature, I was totally blown away at how, for lack of a better word, "alien" it seemed. I was deeply inspired by this concept of complete originality, as much as I was by any of the images. So I set about analyzing it, trying to break down what it was that made it so amazing. Reverse engineering as it were. And in doing so I realized the creature’s form itself was not incredibly "alien". It had two legs, two arms, a head, and a tail. It didn't need an unrecognizable shape to convey its otherworldliness. It was all in the detail. As you examine those details you find even more familiar shapes and objects. Exaggerated, contorted and rearranged. But nothing really unique in itself. It’s all in the composition and combination of existing objects. Nature uses the same technique and animals are all made up of the same shit in different configurations. Joints, teeth, fur, eyes, et cetera but obviously different.

Do you keep up with the Alien vs Predator comics and movies? Has the Predator series been an influence on you?
I read the AVP comics a lot in the 90's but have not kept up with them. I was always a fan of Predator. The second movie was my favorite and I’m going to pretend "Predators" did not happen. It has been a bit since I've seen it so I can’t pick it apart too much. But as I recall I disliked the concept of the predators having a hunting preserve. It seemed very contradictory of the spirit of the Predator. There was a nobility in the way the predator has always behaved during its hunts. It won’t hurt you if you are unarmed, and it only hunted killers or soldiers, on their turf. No back up. The idea of turning it into one of those fat fucks you see on Youtube rolling up to a lion in a range rover and sticking his gun out the window. It really did not sit well with me.

How long were you into Japanimation before it went mainstream? What spoke to you about the old episodes and what changes did you see once it became anime?
I want to say about six years or so. That’s a big part of it. The Japanimation of the 80's & 90's that I was into was all movies. No episodes or series. Just a lot of one-shot stories or collections of stories like "Robot Carnival". A lot of these had a lot of impressive animation, optical illusions, reflections, perspective shots, the composition and cinematography they put into that animation was just unreal. In some ways the style has become more basic now, with less detail. Digitally cell shaded now instead of hand painted, which gave better sense of depth. There are those who have taken the tech available and done some really incredible stuff. Like with cell shaded 3D models for instance, you can have forty fully detailed and rendered figures in that cell that can be done instantaneously as opposed to hand painting it which could take a person a day. I still enjoy anime; it’s just rare to find something that does not involve a "high school club" as the setting anymore. It’s out there but does not get nearly as much play as the pop-Anime.

Do you own any collections of Vallejo or Royo? Which of their paintings and sculptures speak to you the most? One story from Heavy Metal I am a fan of is Morbus Gravis which featured Druuna. How much do you remember from that magazine?
Just a few coffee table collections. I can’t really say as I have any particular favorite when it comes to their work. I have the Druuna graphic novels as well. I would say my favorite was the Meta-Baron Saga. But I remember quite a few. I've probably got around 50 or so issues of Heavy Metal still. I've kept them packed away for the most part. I don't trust them to be safe anywhere out in the open.

Describe what you remember from the Meta-Baron Saga to those who haven’t read it?
The Meta-Barons was a short series of graphic novels in which the saga of the Meta-Baron who was introduced in the Incal series. It’s told to one robot by another. It’s reminiscent of The Princess Bride in that way and follows the first Baron’s rise to power and several generations of the family after. The Meta-Barons are basically perfect warriors and their story plays out like a Greek tragedy. And it’s illustrated by Juan Giménez whose work I love.

What other examples of Juan Giménez’s artwork has made a lasting impression on you? Do you collect a lot of his work?
I have a few of his books, Meta-Barons, Incal, The Fourth Element and of course whatever work he did that ended up in Heavy Metal.

On to your tattooing, were you completely self-educated or did you take any art classes while you were in college?
In the sense that I never had a teacher, I’m self-taught. But that's not to say I didn't learn anything from reading or watching videos. I did take a few classes in Art. Nothing very advanced though. I got poor grades in Art in school. I'm not going to sit there and draw a bowl of fruit for four hours. At the risk of sounding egotistical, it would be like making Steven Hawking practice his times tables all day.

What reading material and videos were you studying for new ideas? Was there anything you picked up on from them?
Anything I could find. Blogs, Youtube vids. I was never really interested in a "Tattoo Style" to my art. So I didn't look for new ideas as I did technical stuff, methods and techniques that applied directly to putting ink in skin. I learned a great deal from them. Each offered a titbit of information that was filed away in the vault.

How much has your skill at tattooing improved in the last seven years?
I would say the years I’ve spent tattooing has definitely improved my skills overall but in particular control. Holding a needle at a specific depth while pulling a line, takes an incredible amount of control. So when compared to how it was when I first picked up a Machine, night and day.

How long have you been a professional tattoo artist? Where can photos of your designs be viewed?
I've been tattooing professionally for about six years now. The shop page is http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousInkTattoo. Though I have not added anything to it in a bit I also have a gallery at Deviant Art as Anemal606.

How much traffic does your Deviant Art gallery usually get? Do Deviant Art surfers comment often on your work?
I can barely manage to post ten per cent of the work I do anyways. I have not posted anything on Deviant Art in months. I generally have about a dozen projects that I bounce around between. When one gets finished it gets thrown on the pile till one of my friends shames me into posting it.

Do you have your artwork available for display on other social media sites? Which of them gets the biggest response?
Just Facebook and Deviant Art. I think Facebook does better because I post a lot more for the business then just I would otherwise.

Are you employed in a local tattoo parlor at present? Do you plan to own your own personal studio at some point?
I have been running my own shop now for about four years now. I found a nice little spot downtown and convinced the landlord to let me turn it into a tattoo shop. Being as I was nobody I decided on the name Anonymous Ink. It was slow starting out but it has gotten busier and busier each year. It makes a huge difference when you get to do art every day instead of as just a hobby.

Does the area where your tattoo shop is located allow for a healthy amount of customers? How many of your designs are you currently displaying there?
It does alright considering the size of the town, and it picks up each year. I have a decent base of regulars and I get the college kids from Bozeman, and a few tourists in the summer. I have few dozen art pieces up in the shop. Mostly pencil work but a couple paintings also.

Which of your designs has been most often requested by customers looking to be tattooed?
Original works mostly, People like being able to have someone draw them something unique. And that is something I excel at. I have a knack for sitting down with someone and pulling an image out of their head. Even if they didn't realize it was there. I think that can be one of the most gratifying aspects of the tattooing process: building the perfect image for that person.

Has your work been spotlighted in any local or national tattoo magazines? Which ones would you most like exposure in?
I have not been in any tattoo magazines yet. It would be great to get in Tattoo Magazine or Freshly Inked.

Are there any tattoo artists you admire these days? What do you like about their work?
Only one comes to mind, Mario Barth. I have watched a number of videos he has put out over the years and learned a great deal from them. He has an organic style with brilliant color and depth to his imagery. Not to mention he is self-taught. I have a lot of respect for his work and accomplishments.

What are your plans for the remainder of 2016 and beyond?
I will be making art. When I'm creating is when I'm most at ease so I'm going to be making a lot of art on paper, skin, canvas and clay.

-Dave Wolff

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