Friday, May 23, 2008

Interview with Stephen Blickenstaff

q) What is your name?

a) My name is Stephen Blickenstaff

q) Where do you live and work?

a) I live and work in Frederick, Maryland in the USA.I've lived in Frederick all my life.I have a day job as a graphic designer for the Frederick County school system.

q) What is your creative process like?

a) When I come up with an idea for a piece, I might just be going over things in my mind until something jumps out. Sometimes I'll have a vague idea of what I want to draw or paint before I start, but other times I'll just start throwing down lines with a pencil or brush. It's very satisfying to watch the image appear in front of me as I work. With most of the acrylic paintings I've been making over the past seven years, I'll start by painting a background. Then I'll create a black abstract shape overtop of the background. Since acrylic paint dries very quickly I don't have to wait very long before I start putting shades of color on top of the black abstract shape. I work with dark colors first and with each step I add lighter tones. I will usually know what direction my painting is heading after I start to apply colors to the black abstract shape. I'll start putting together features and right away I'll have some idea what kind of person or creature it's going to be.With drawing, the process is a bit different. I usually like to do a few very quick small sketches on a piece of scrap paper. Once I've come up with an idea I like, I'll transfer my idea to a larger sheet of drawing paper. With color pencils, I usually work up a tight linear sketch first, and then work over it with thicker black lines. Then I will do lots of shading with darker tones working towards lighter tones. I like to finish up with a white color pencil adding light tones and highlights.

q) What is your favorite medium?

a) That depends on the day of the week. One day I might say pen & ink. Another day I might say acrylic paints or color pencils. I even like working with sculpting clay. I tend to work for a while in a particular medium and then I'll switch to another medium for a while.

q) What is your current favorite subject?

a) It's got to be monsters, although I really enjoy doing pin-up art too.I'm heavily influenced by a lot of the imagery from the 50s and 60s.I was born in the early 60s when stores were full of all kinds of crazy monster toys and stickers, which I collected. I think they made a tremendous impact on the way I perceive things.

q) How long does it take for you to finish a piece?

a) I'm happy if I can finish a painting or a color pencil drawing in 30 minutes to an hour.If it takes longer than that, I'll sometimes find myself getting bored with the piece.If I'm working on a pen & ink drawing, I might spend a lot more time on it because those particular pieces are usually much more detailed.
q) What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

a) I'd have to say it's the album cover art for The Cramps Bad Music for Bad People.That thing developed a life of it's own. I set up and sell my artwork at shows all the time, and people always seem to recognize that drawing first. I'm sure it's because The Cramps are so very well known and deservedly so. They're amazing! It's an honor for me to have my art connected to them.

q) Are there any contemporary artists that you love?
a) Yes, so many I almost hate to start naming some because I know I'll leave out some who are very important to me. Just to name a few, Basil Wolverton, Bernie Wrightson, Marshall Arisman, Ed Roth, Gary Panter, Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, etc.

q) Can we buy your art anywhere?

a) Yes, I'm constantly working on new pieces and I sell them at conventions, galleries and stores.Along with my original artwork, I also have T-shirts, prints, stickers, clocks, and magnets which all feature my art as well. Eventually I'll have everything up on my web site.I'll be happy to send jpeg files of what I have available to anyone who cares to write to me.My email address is

q) Anything that people should know about that we don’t??

a) Let's see... I play the theremin with a surf band called The Atomic Mosquitos.I occasionally play drums in a band called The Skeptics (whenever we can get together)I believe in UFOs.

q) What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?

a) Do what makes you happy. Create for yourself, not others.Draw all the time. Don't worry if your work doesn't look perfect.In time you will develop your skills. You don't have to show others everything you create.Keep some things for yourself.

q) What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
a) The only time work gets frustrating for me is when I'm working on a project that is based on another person's ideas, and that person might not really know what they want.Anyone who has ever had a job as a graphic designer has probably experienced this. That's why I'm happy that I can spend my free time working on my own projects.My favorite jobs have always been the ones where the client tells me to do whatever I want.

q) How do you describe your work to those who are unfamiliar with it?

a) Most people say I draw lots of eyeballs and teeth. I guess that's a pretty honest way to describe most of the work I do.I work in several different styles depending on my mood, but most of my work does seem to have a horror/comedy theme.

q) What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?

a) I'm self taught. I was planning on attending an art college but wound up getting a job as a graphic designer right out of high school and have been working there ever since.It payed the bills and allowed me enough free time to work on my own projects when I got home.I have a total love of creating the art that I do, so I'm always working on something.

q) Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?

a) Sure, pencils and pens. I take them with me everywhere I go.I feel the need to draw or doodle all the time. I'd probably have a panic attack if I couldn't find something to sketch with when the urge hits me.

q) Who are your influences?

a) I listed some artist's names before, but I'd have to say my two major influences, who I've admired all my life, are Basil Wolverton and Bernie Wrightson.I've drawn inspiration from them since I was a young kid. I used to collect comic books illustrated by them before I even knew who they were. I didn't know anything about them but I recognized their unique styles. I constantly find myself being influenced by the work of other new artists as well.

q) What inspires you to create?

a) Anything can inspire me, the work of other artists, a good film, or even some old piece of scrap metal in the street.Being near large bodies of water, the ocean, a lake or river can inspire me.

q) …your contacts…

a) I can be reached by email at

My mailing address is

Stephen Blickenstaff,
16 Frederick Avenue,
Maryland, 21701,

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