Tell the readers about your Facebook group The Hidden Gallery and Redbubble pages Burning Ark and Black Planet.
I started my Redbubble pages twelve years ago, at first just to get some of my artwork onto shirts for my own use. I soon found out that other people liked what I was creating, and with a good online artist community Redbubble gave me the confidence to let people see more of my work. Around the same time the seeds of social media started to grow in the form of Myspace, so I started a Myspace page under the name Burningark with links to my Redbubble pages and started to sell my work for the first time. In time Myspace got swallowed up by the beast that is Facebook and after a few years of posting my artwork on other pages I decided to create one. The Hidden Gallery was born. I use the page to post a mix of old and new artwork and sell limited numbered prints and shirts of my work. My artwork is mainly of a dark nature so I coined the phrase “esoteric mythology” to describe it.
Is your Myspace profile still active since the upgrade to version 3.0? Do you think it was needed or not? How well was your profile doing before?
At one point I had maybe five Myspace profiles under different names to maximize my exposure to the world. It did serve its purpose for links to my artwork, but it could be frustrating getting links to work. My profiles had plenty of hits and with people from all over the world commenting on my art it was a good time. The reboot of Myspace was a dead duck right from the off in my eyes, Too little too late. I did seek out my Burningark profile a few years back, and it was strange looking in from the outside. It was a sort of out of body experience. I think it must still be out in the void somewhere.
How much has Redbubble helped you promote your work?
I found Redbubble after a long search to get my art printed onto black shirts at a decent price. Back then the Web wasn't flooded with printing sites like today. The resulting printing was and still is to this day the best quantity I've seen for t-shirts. The forums and groups on Redbubble in the early years were full of ideas and artistic collaborations, these things help me shape my style in many ways so I cannot underestimate its impact on me. Like most things that grow huge it’s easy to get lost in the crowds of the Redbubble community today. In a way it is a mirror of the battle between Myspace and Facebook only the new Redbubble hasn't arrived yet.
Did the feedback you received on Facebook encourage you to start a group there?
Facebook was the next level of exposure for me and my art. Before only a few of my friends knew I created art and even less saw any of it. So I started creating albums on my Facebook page opened up a personal level which is a frightening thing to do. It went much better than I expected with plenty of likes and positive comments, so after a couple of years the hidden gallery was created as an open group so anyone could see my work.
How many viewers have joined The Hidden Gallery so far? Is the feedback generally favorable? What other social media outlets are you promoting on?
I have 62 members. It's an open group so anyone on Facebook can take a look inside. The good feedback and sales of artwork I get makes it worth the effort to create new stuff or dig out older works. Other than Facebook I've got two pages on Instagram, Markdarkark and blackplanet666, which have the same things I post to the hidden gallery. But I don't really use the accounts much.
Do you have an approach to paining to put your visions across to your viewers? Such as the hues you paint with and the pallets you paint on? What photography equipment do you work with? Is this something you would be interested in doing more of?
My artwork usually consists of multiple layers. I have a large amount of plywood-based backgrounds being created using acrylics, glue and ink. These are abstract in nature and are in earthy colours of reds, orange and blues. These are photographed for future use digitally. The next layer is comprised of either a photograph or a pen and ink drawn image/ symbol. I can sell these works as stand-alone pieces of handmade art or use them for the digital art. The digital art has multi layers of texture and images added in a cut and paste format. It's not unusual for me to have eight layers to a work. These are then "mixed" like you would mix music in a recording studio with the layers being tweaked in and out to create the end piece of art. I use Corel Paint Shop Pro Editing software for this. I use a Fiji Film Fine Pix s2500HD series 12 mpix camera. I have a large library of photographic images I've taken which is a major part of my artwork. I do like the photographic element and it's something I'm hoping to develop for stand-alone works for sale.
Explain what esoteric mythology is and what the term means to you.
The term Esoteric Mythology comes from my interests in ancient civilization and their beliefs, Mythology, folklore, magick, sigils and from nature itself and how we react to it. I soak up all this information to create my art. My art can work on multiple levels. Some people like it for its elements of nature. Trees feature in lots of my work and are popular. Abstract or mirror images designs have a similar effect on people's reactions. On a deeper level some people like the unknown symbolism within, even the title of the work can make people want to delve deeper and hopefully seek out the things that interest me which is a good thing. Knowledge is power as they say.
Which ancient civilizations are you influenced by? How do you reflect those civilizations through your work?
The civilization I study most is the Sumerians. They invented so many things that shape our world, like agriculture, mathematics, studies of the planets and the cosmos. They created the first form of language which is why we can read epic myths full of gods and cosmic battles with giants and chimeras. Poems like Gilgamesh are classic examples of this. The British Museum has a large collection of Sumerian artifacts and statues which I've had the pleasure of seeing a few times. Being close to and touching these things seems to let me absorb some of their power. In turn I can conjure up images in my mind of these gods, and the art just comes out of me with ease. I think most of the ancient civilizations around the world had links in a way we still don't understand.
Describe those Sumerian artifacts and statues you saw at the British Museum.
With a large area dedicated to the Sumerians the highlights for me are a huge winged lion statue from the entrance to the temple of Ishtar the goddess of war. Reconstruction of the Balawat Gates with massive bronze decoration which is breathtaking in its details. Lots of carved wall panels showing wars against enemies, ritual ceremonies with demons and gods. Plenty of other statues and carved panels so the gallery can take a couple of hours to look around its very impressive. The main thing is you can touch all of these objects which really makes a connection with the past.
What have you read to research Sumerian civilization? How much does Sumerian civilization influence modern society?
Most of my other research is looking through ancient history books, picking up and photocopying pages to build files with my notes and drawing on the subject. If I'm stuck for a theme I can go through these file to recharge my creative spark. I do have lots and lots of notebooks. Sumerian culture has on the surface been wiped away because Syria, Iraq and Kuwait are being decimated by war. This of course is nothing new, but in this modern age of oil hungry powers fighting wars in these lands it’s hard to see much apart from a few remaining ruined cities. The last books I got were “World Mythology” by Roy Willis, “Mysteries From Forgotten Worlds” by Charles Berlitz and “A Translation Of The Book Of Enoch” by R.H. Charles. Any secondhand books I see by Graham Hankock, Maurice M Cotterell or Zecharia Sitchin I get. A good website for information I use is Internet Sacred Text Archive. You can always find new theories which give a good overall picture and the old texts I fine fascinating to read.
What by Graham Hankock, Maurice M Cotterell or Zecharia Sitchin have you acquired recently? How much information is offered on Internet Sacred Text Archive?
I got “Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind” by Graham Hankock and “The Supergods: They Came on a Mission to Save Mankind” by Maurice Cotterell. Another good book is Jeremy Narby's The Cosmic Serpent. All my books and interests get soaked up by my unconscious mind as a background static noise. These things feed my desire to create art. A desire that slips into obsession, drifting on waves of images flooding my mind. Most of these images are lost, but the ones I manage to capture and turn into artwork only serve to feed the need to create more things. The fires of the burning Ark burn on and on devoid of time or space. Internet sites can be useful but I proceed with caution as facts are easily corrupted or changed by the Chinese whisper effect so I do prefer books.
Of which cultures do you study mythology and folklore, magick and sigils?
The folklore I'm interested in is mostly local, but it can extend to Europe. The creation of stone circles, lay lines, cave paintings and the spirits of the vast forests which once covered the lands around me. These things are in us all under the layers of modern life.
I create a lots of art that has trees, fire and stone within it. These are all elements of a magical nature. Sometimes it's hidden within my art, in multiple layers barely visible but this adds to the works depth and mysticism.
My use of symbols or sigils is another form of magick. Condensing a phrase or word into a single symbol has a power in itself for the user. It's a fascinating use of magick. Some creators of sigils spend hours focusing the mind on the sigil in a meditative trance to activate its power. It can be a ritual act creating art in this way.
Which folklore tales most resonate with you? Provide examples of local UK legends and where people can read them.
The folklore from the UK is all around me. I live in an area in England with a rich history of tales of witches, sacred places and stone circles. I visit lots of these places collecting local stories and taking lots of photographs. “Witchcraft in Yorkshire” by Patricia Crowther has stories of Mother Shipton and other famous witches. Stanton Moor in Derbyshire is a local place I like to visit. It has other smaller stone circles and rock formations. One is the Eagle Stone. It has links to the Arbor Low Stone Circle close by in Monyash. A good book on this subject is Julian Cope's The Modern Antiquarian. Walking around these places always fires the imagination.
Who was Mother Shipton, and how well known is her legend in the UK?
Mother Shipton was only really known locally. She did make and use natural remedies and could see future events in visions. Lots of her prophecies are said to have come true. It's strange that she wasn't killed for being a witch; that's probably why we know about her today.
I heard of Julian Cope's music but didn’t know he was an author. How much has he written?
Julian Cope has written a couple books on the subject of ancient places and a couple of books on music history. He is a classic British eccentric in many respects but for this new age. He is slightly mad but that's what comes with a creative mind.
Do you own Cope’s musical releases? If so, what sort of impressions do you get from them and how does it inspire your art?
I own Cope's album Jehovahkill, a space rock meets early Pink Floyd sonic soundtrack to his own voyage into the ancient past. I do have a wide musical taste, from ambient through industrial to punk and on into goth but the first music I really got into which influences my art was NWOBHM. The new wave of British heavy metal was the first tribe of outcasts I belonged too. The music was loud and the album covers artwork did it for me. I started drawing the covers and eventually making up my own artwork to go with the music. From that point on I was drawing most days. Graphic design was and still is a big part of my work.
I’m listening to Jehovahkill as I write this, and am starting to get a sense of its “epic” scope. The only album of his I heard beforehand was Autogeddon. Are you familiar with that one?
I lost touch with Cope after Jehovahkill. I did see him live on that tour and that's how I found out about his book. This was all pre-internet and streaming so buying albums had to be limited in many ways. It seems strange in this day and age not to be able to have access to a band’s whole catalogue of work.
Do your studies include Stonehenge? How about sacred spaces in Celtic and Norse countries?
I've not really studied Stonehenge in any detail. I do know that the landscape around the stones is currently being surveyed and it's turning up a vast area of ceremonial activity over thousands of years. This kind of pagan worship which predated even the Celts must have been widespread. The small stone circles I've visited in Derbyshire all have links. This network must have stretched right across the UK at one point in time. I find the stories of forest spirits that shape shift into animal/human forms are part of my DNA. The times past when we all knew what plants could heal or harm and the fact that nature was no separate it was the cycle of our Life/death and rebirth. The forest was the church and the stones played some otherworldly part in this. A part that we have long forgotten.
How many legends of shape shifting forest spirits have you read? Do any specific pieces by you represent those tales or your studies of ancient ceremonial activity?
I’m not familiar with specific stories but I do know that many tribes that use the forests have stories of their shaman shape shifting into animal or bird forms. The knowledge of plant use is gained in this way. In Jeremy Narby’s book The Cosmic Serpent he talks of this practice. It's a very informative book. Jeremy Narby is an anthropologist and has lived with and studied Peruvian tribes. He has come to the conclusion that these people have a unique relationship with the natural world.
On Redbubble you also sell shirts, stickers and prints. How much of those items have you sold?
My Redbubble pages have a steady trickle of sales. As with lots of artists’ shop websites nowadays, so many people are trying to sell their work it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I do use other printers like Awesome Merchandise for my prints. These are mostly sold in small numbers through my Hidden Gallery page. I would recommend Awesome Merchandise to anyone in the UK with a fast print and delivery its ideal for small runs of prints. In my work is a common theme I come back to time and again. I do try to capture the mystic elements. In a way creating what could be a modern day digital pagan cult. The piece of artwork Steven Michael Pape used for the cover of his book Inner Voices: 3 AM Poems is titled "The Old Ways" and was created with tree spirits in mind. Online sites for artwork are popping up all over the place so it's hard to know what's good or what's not. Recommendations are always welcome.
Are there other social media sites you are considering promoting your work on, such as Youtube, Instagram etc?
I would like to use Youtube in the future. I've done a few slide shows of my art set to music more of a test really but I think it's an area I would definitely like to work in.