Sean Fitzgerald is a freelance artist/illustrator and animator. His work is on t-shirts, record covers, badges, DVD’s, on the net and anywhere punks reside. Sean has been a longtime contributor to Profane Existence, hosting Scairt Radio through our podcast site (now on hold) and was the force behind Protestzine from 1989 through 2009. He’s a fine artist, and a helluva fellow. Without further ado, here’s Sean…
PE: How long have you been creating?
SF: I started doing banners and helping out zines when I was around 16 And am officially a middle aged man in 2 months when I hit 40.
PE: What influences your artwork? Which artists have influenced you the most?
SF: Since I was a teenager it has always been album and tattoo designs. All the punk usuals Gee Vaucher, Giger, Pushead and as the years went on Mid, Stiv, Hush, Paul Booth, Xed Lehead and a zillion other wee blogs and friends work. I have also always had a love for Celtic illumination, from people like George Bain and Jim Fitzpatrick.
PE: Your work looks like it starts with traditional mediums and then you go off with computers to take it a step further, what medium do you prefer to work in? And do you feel like computers have added more to your creative process?
SF: I have always loved using black felt tip pens. And for years any art I did for people I never bothered in pencil sketching it out, but just drew in any inky black pen I could find. But then in about 1999 discovered photoshop and started working full time as a graphic designer. So everything became all Adobe photoshop and Illustrator. Which was great at first, but I think as most people will agree became just over kill. I think a lot of people are finding the balance now and using computers to enhance or clean up drawings rather than photoshop cut, paste and smudge.
After using computers for designing for so long in design it can be very hard to break free from it. As you know, that you could copy a section or line in a piece a lot quicker with it. These days I try and not use it so much, but use it to break up a drawing. So I could draw a character, then draw another piece separately, so if a band want something changed, it’s far easier then to change it afterwards.
PE: Did you find it a difficult transition do move to digital maniputaion? Were you at all hesitant to embrace technology?
Well when I was first in school we had one of those computers which had a scroll of punched paper always sticking out of it. So it always looked like a crock of shite to me. So it wasn’t until I was hitting 30 that I first went near a computer. I was really captured by what people like Mid was doing with it. So I started messing about with it.
PE: Have you received any formal arts training or are you self taught?
SF: The school I went to growing up didn’t even have an art class. But I always wanted to do art since I was knee high. So my portfolio when applying for art college was all badly drawn pencil sketches of punks and ruins. But I got into college doing Fine Art. But became completely disillusioned with it, as I found there was so much bullshit involved. Like we had a group exhibition of work and this Dublin business man contacted me about buying a piece I did. So I told the course tutor and he says that’s fantastic. That this business man spots talent, buys the picture by someone he thinks could have some future in art. So what he does is buys it, locks it away and if you become known, he sells it. I thought this was utter bollocks so didn’t sell it to him, looks like he saved a copper there though :-) There was lots of other stuff that I didn’t like about the course structure. So in the end I didn’t finish and went off and became a new age traveller for a bit, way more fun.
Then after a while of too much boozing I started wood carving, then this led me onto traditional currach boat building. Then I got the creative bug again so went off to college to do classical animation then multimedia. All great but last year after working as a Graphic Designer for over ten years, I reassessed my life and how I was living it. It becomes a ‘job’ and can loose it’s self worth. So now I’m doing traditional Irish dry stack stone masonry. Which involves no machines or land polluting cement. All hammer and chisel, but I still love drawing for stuff that interests me.
PE: Aside from doing artwork, you also do a magazine and a podcast. How did these pursuits come about and what other projects are you involved in?
SF: Well I started a zine called ‘Protest’ with a friend in 1989, which we used to send to the UK to get printed for fuck all by a punk guy called ‘Bobprint’. It was normally a 300 print run, but after many years of laziness in getting at least two issues out a year called it a day in around 1996. Started it again as an online zine in around 2000 and eventually print again. But after a while I just didn’t have the money for printing so called it a day.
How the podcast idea came up was from listening to horror podcasts like Rue Morgue Radio. Where I thought wouldn’t it be great to have a team of people doing the same idea expect playing crusty anarcho punk. Mentioned it to Dan PE, who said he had the idea also but of having a 24 hour online punkcast type thing. So it went from there in 2009, with the first interview being with Agrimonia. But to be honest, bands aren’t that keen of talking on a radio show. Since it’s live as such it’s not the same as spending time thinking over a question. But I also should use this as a good chance to say thanks to PE for leaving me get on with it and allowing me play or interview whoever I want.
Besides the podcast I write for CVLT Nation (online underground music blog) and trying to sing in a black metal band.
PE: Your work is pretty intricate and intense, no happy, flower bunnies permeating your creations. Where does the imagery come from?
SF: Well I suppose it’s the music and lyric imagery. I think it goes hand and hand with dark imagery, even though some people have proved otherwise. But I think if your listening to a heavier style of music, it needs apocalyptic looking imagery, as it fits the mood.
PE: Who have you done record covers for?
SF: Extreme Noise Terror, Phobia, Coldwar, Raw Noise, Abaddon Incarnate, Subhumans, Riistetyt, Coitus, Distrust, Death Dealers, Opposition Party and loads more. A lot of folk have different ideas for their bands album. Like I dealt with Phil Vane (RIP) for all the Extreme Noise Terror, Raw Noise and Death Dealers stuff. He would stay on the phone for at least two hours saying, check out such a documentary and list off a million ideas and we’d talk over what would work, which was great. Then completely different would be Skinny (RIP) from Coitus and Coldwar would say stuff like, we are all obsessed with jack boots, tanks and Motorhead, go for it. The stuff I enjoy doing most these days is pen and ink, but still do digital and paintings depending what suits.
PE: Are you creating outside of the punk milieu? What other project are you doing and what other kinds of art are you into?
SF: The biggest project I’m doing at the moment is an illustrated mythological tale of Balor the God of Chaos and Death. The book will be called “Balor of The Evil Eye”. I’ve retraced all the areas where it’s said the events in the story have taken place. Some which have historical battle / place reference. It’s mainly all about the real Irish Celtic history / belief system before it was destroyed and bastardized by Christian’s. They stole ancient places of healing and turned them into holy wells and churches. Turned some of the stories into parables.
The general gist of the story is of Balor and his tribe the Fomorians and their battle / life with the Tuatha Dé Danann. It’s mainly a battle against the civilized world, fertility rites and a primal chaos values. I have a research blog with photographs, references and sketches. (http://baloroftheevileye.tumblr.com) Alex from Distroy Records who has a great interest in Celtic mythology has expressed an interest in printing it, which is great, but nothing is set in stone as yet. But it’ll be a long time off before I’m finished. As there’s so much research and drawing involved.
PE: You live in “the middle of nowhere” but is there a strong arts/ music scene in the city you live in? Or was there one where you grew up?
SF: I’m originally from a small city called Cork in the south of the country, where there would be a lot going on and a decent punk scene. But after living in cities for a long time. I called it a day and headed off to the northern part of Ireland to a very remote area which would have a lot of landscape painters as we’re surrounded by islands, ocean and mountains. There is a small town an hours drive away that has the odd punk gig which is great to meet up with like minded folk.
Where I live is at the end of a mountain, a large wide open barren landscape and not many houses. But about six months ago while volunteering with a local youth club I bumped into a guy who lives just down the road from me. We got talking and turns out he was in a well known German punk band Pink Flamingos, they had a split with Man Is The Bastard. Strange you think your away from it all and there’s always a punk around the corner. Of course we now exchange lots of punk talk!
PE: Have you ever done any formal exhibitions of your artwork, as in art shows or such? Do you feel like punk spaces should be more open to this sort of show?
SF: I had a few group things when I was in college. There are community punk spaces in Ireland and a great underground record shop in Dublin called ‘Into The Void’ that shows artworks. I think it’s a way better place, as it keeps it out of the corporate bollocks.
PE: What are some projects that are in the works?
SF: At the moment I’m working on “Balor of The Evil Eye”, a cover for Back2Front Records reissue of Karma Sutra – Daydreams of a Production Line Worker, a cover for Warzone Collective Records release of Steve Ignornant’s live album, Vahrzaw and a logo for Deathbiter Cassettes.
PE: What do you do when you’re not creating or generally being all punk rock/metal?
SF: Mountain/hill hiking, walking through the woods with my wife and kids, organic vegetable growing, fixing up a mobile home, converting an old refrigerated lorry container into a workshop and trying to speak Irish!
PE: Anything else you would like to add? How can you be contacted?
It’s half six in the morning here, so I am plan to get an hour and a half sleep. Then go off and build a dry stone wall. I have a art blog here http://sfitzgerald-art.tumblr.com and can be reached by email here: protestzine at yahoo.com. Thanks so much again Jeremy mate for the interview.