by R.S. Frost
Adrian Baxter is a UK-based artist and illustrator whose work is astoundingly intricate and elaborate, and often features various semiotic apparitions relating to religion, the occult, serpentine secrets and one main conceptual commonality; death.
Having taken many a journey aided by Adrian’s handiwork over the years, I reached out to gain some insight into the origins of his artistic expression and the source of his inspiration.
- I was originally born in Germany, as my Dad was in the armed forces. We moved over to the UK when I was two, so I've only ever known life in England. As far as I can remember, we always lived within easy reach of local woodland and scenic walks, so my urge to be within those areas has only grown over time.
It has most definitely inspired my work over the years. From the change in colours within seasons to the texture of various organic matter or seasonal wildlife, it all goes into the same pot of inspiration. I believe anybody who is regularly creative is inspired by nature in one way or another, and we owe it to ourselves to embrace and nurture that.
At what age did you start to express yourself through illustration?
- I believe it was around the age of 16-17 when I made the decision to start planning larger, composed pieces of work rather than sketches and doodles on scrap paper. The artists I followed and respected online all shared stages of their process and completed work. I decided to start sharing my own work on my personal online pages as something to share and to be connected with peers, rather than the common selfies and photos of food. After a little while, I made a dedicated Facebook page for my work (still my current page) and it's grown from there. My sharing process is much the same now as it was back then.
Over time more and more people were seeing what I was working on, and I began receiving requests for commissioned work. Though extremely daunting at first, I knew that taking on certain projects would help get me out of my comfort zone and expand my work. Just over a year ago I made the decision to venture into illustration full time, and haven't looked back since.
What has enabled you to maintain a livelihood through your work?
- The most common projects are album artwork and merchandise designs. As well as those, I've taken part in various art exhibitions and gallery shows, worked on private commissions of original art, various book illustrations, some film posters, and I'm sure there are some I've forgotten. In the time between those projects, I keep busy working on my own artwork and releasing prints etc.
Are there any collaborations that stand out for you amongst your large body of work?
- Each project brings its own value and lessons but getting the opportunity to work with SCHAMMASCH, FALLUJAH, and MAYHEM recently has been a great honour.
I'm truly grateful that everyone I've had the chance to work with over the years has allowed the mutual artistic understanding to develop between both sides, and allow the most effective approach to be taken for that particular project.
The recurring presence of the blackened end of our earthly existence is evident in the majority of your pieces. Do you have a certain fascination or connection with the reaper?
- It's certainly more of a connection than fascination. The concept of death in its endless forms is both a fun and valuable concept to explore and learn from. It plays a strong role in our everyday living whether we recognise it or not, in terms of the death/rebirth cycle. It can be applied to almost everything. I enjoy the process of experimenting with how to express my experience of that.
Another piece of yours I have given ample time and attention to features the Unicursal Hexagram, recognised by some as the prominent symbol pertaining to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema, adorning the side of a cauldron in a ritual setting.
- The lessons to be drawn from the world of occult teachings are endless. One of the first things that drew me in was the fact that to the uninitiated much of it appears evil and only of use to those who have ill intentions - yet the truth is the polar opposite - the lessons behind the symbolism and stories are deeply positive when applied to your own journey. The crucial acknowledgement of light and dark, comfort and resistance in our human life, with all of its baggage, is certainly something I draw regular inspiration from.
Are there any particular aspects of the graphic arts industry, or artists themselves, that have bolstered your motivation or inspiration over the years?
- The sense of community, without a doubt. Every day I get to wake up and check out what my peers are working on and see the momentum of support continue to grow. There doesn't seem to be any sense of competition or rivalry, which I love. Everyone seems to be driven to improve by seeing others improve - at least that's how it is personally.
Other aspects would be discovering a great new band from working together that I may not have been introduced to otherwise. The same goes for finding a new artist through the recommendation of another. Again - it's all love and support. No egos.
I try to find a balance of elements of self-expression and aesthetic value. As much as I love when artwork has meaning, I also value when something is purely enjoyable to look at. This applies to my border and decorative work that often surrounds the 'meaningful' stuff.
There are numerous artists who have encouraged me to push further, both old masters and modern, from Dürer and Goya to Karmazid and Bethany White.
As I mentioned previously, seeing others push their own work and improve only makes me ache to do the same with mine. But alongside that, I would love to continue doing art full time, balancing client work with my own personal projects, and one way to encourage that is to constantly push to improve and explore.
Having been involved with a variety of projects across multiple markets, are there any experiences that have reinforced your chosen path as an artist?
- Getting my first physical copy of an album through the letterbox. I get the same feeling even today. Knowing how many emails – waiting on confirmation/denials, back and forth sketches, back/hand/eye aches – go into each project, getting that final result feels great and I'm left with great appreciation every time.
Also getting to see the live shows of bands I've worked with, and often meeting them in person. As convenient as emails are these days, it's always nice to put a personality to an on-screen name.
And to maintain balance, I’m sure there have been some not-so-pleasant instances also?
- Without a doubt, that would be having work stolen online and sold on various cheap merchandise sites. It's something I'm in battle with at the moment as are many others, unfortunately. I've managed to get one or two sites to acknowledge the theft of work and remove it, but there are plenty of others that make it incredibly difficult to dispute the original ownership - Wish.com being the main culprit - they truly do not care.
Tip to anyone else uploading full works online - add plenty of watermarks over the image, not to one side (they'll crop it out). Yes, they're ugly, but may prevent this kind of thing happening.
Adrian is also part of the SAROS COLLECTIVE; an effort to unite like-minded artists utilising various mediums from across the globe.
How did your involvement in Saros come about?
- I first became aware of Saros Collective shortly after working with C.S.R, of the band Schammasch, on a merchandise design - he's the mind behind the collective. We got on well, the commission process was pleasantly straightforward and after meeting in the real world, on their U.K tour, we kept in touch.
I believe Saros was in its infant stages when I was invited to join the list of artists covering various areas of art and design including traditional, digital, and physical. The aim is to build a hub of creative services that allow any incoming projects to be handled and produced to a professional high standard, covering all demands within each respected medium.
Seeing Saros spread across various platforms such as bone carving, web design, photography, clothing etc only shows how vast the possibilities are for future growth, and I'm honoured to be included alongside many other talents.
Your artwork is vast and varied, yet your pieces are unmistakable when viewed next to other artists. Given the ever-changing nature of art and the way people consume it, have you ever felt the tides of trend having an impact on your creative vision?
- Every so often you notice what the latest 'cool' thing is to draw. You then notice which artists were doing that all along, which try it out and then move on when others do the same, and which never get into it at all.
It's funny how inspiration works when we share so much, so often. I may be somewhat biased, but the appreciation for traditionally created art seems to be growing more and more. With plenty of us sharing progress photos and 'close-ups', I believe art fans, and potential clients, are seeing the nitty-gritty, as it were, of what goes into the completed works they appreciate.
What can we expect from you, and what do you expect from yourself, more importantly, moving forward?
- Just to expand on what I'm currently doing. Always aiming to make the next work even 1% better than the last. I'll certainly be working on more personal projects involving printed work in the near future.
This job is a constant opportunity to learn and improve, especially when it comes to the finer details of commission work, so even when things don't go as planned, we can look into why that happened, and aim to improve next time.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- A heartfelt thank you to those who have supported my work over the years. I don't share my work in search of positive feedback, I share it to give my own small offering back to the well of creative forces I'm inspired by every day.
The creative arts often help many of us step aside from the mundane, everyday drag of modern responsibility and we have a duty to support and contribute to that in whichever way we are able.
This interview is featured in the print edition of Inner Missive #2, alongside discussions with THY DARKENED SHADE, WOLCENSMEN, THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, ART AS CATHARSIS, ALTARS, GRIFT, ALTARAGE, PRIMITIVE MAN, COSMIC PUTREFACTION, EMYN MUIL, GIGAN, BYRDI, SLUDGE, ULCERATE and ÖXXÖ XÖÖX.