An interview with artist Tony Brock

Tony Brock is an artist based out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Brock's subject matter is from a broad spectrum (he describes it as "pop-culture themed images with a retro feel"), but his genre images attract horror fans of all kinds. Bloody Good Horror recently had a chance to chat with Brock about his art, horror comics, the South and the convention circuit...
Bloody Good Horror: What's the weirdest thing you've ever painted on?
Tony Brock: A few of them come to mind: A cabinet door, a phone jack and a few air cleaner covers for some guys in my car club.

BGH: The Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein's monster are frequent subjects of your work. What attracts you to the pair?
TB: They do appear often. One reason I use the Monster and his bride is that they’re “safe” and interesting. I can have fun and be loose knowing that it’s not gonna hang in anyone’s living room. And I like green!

BGH: What's your favorite piece you've produced so far?
TB: The answer to that should always be “the most recent”. You push yourself further with each painting and learn from the mistakes of the previous painting. Having said that, I have to say that the KISS playing poker painting has been my favorite this year. Mostly because it took so long to do and I was really happy when I finished it. I could almost kick myself for adding all those layers and details with quick-drying acrylic!

BGH: Tell us a little about the art circuit (conventions, gallery shows, etc). How often to you make it to conventions? How far have you traveled to sell your work so far?
TB: I participate in art festivals mostly and the furthest I’ve driven to one was Fort Worth, Texas for Handley Fest. In 2012, I did about 13 festivals. This year, I’ve only done two. But, I participated in more gallery shows. So, that’s a change. I cut back on the festivals due to the huge amount of time it takes to prepare for each one (not to mention the costs: non-refundable jury fees, booth fees, gas fees, food, materials, etc.)
BGH: Do you feel like there is a big enough audience for genre art in the South?

TB: That’s a question I’ve often asked myself. What I’ve noticed so far is that there are “pockets” of interest in certain cities. Nashville is a good audience and so is Hattiesburg, MS. Jasper, AL: not at all. Birmingham is spotty. The people who relate to this genre are sort of “off the beaten path” (like myself), and we relate to each other through, not only my art, but our common interests. So, the interest is small, but dedicated. Quality versus quantity, I guess.
BGH: Did you grow up in the South?
TB: I moved to Alabama from California when I was 14 to live with my dad. My sister and I lived in a small town named Winterhaven, on the banks of the Colorado River. Across the river from Yuma, AZ. Strangely, I wasn’t exposed so much to low-brow art in Winterhaven. What I did see, I took for granted, being a dumb kid. As I grew older, I missed it. But, growing up, I was exposed (or sought out), comics, horror mags and such. And I had my favorite artists. Later on, Heavy Metal magazine rocked my teen-age world! Nowadays, I like visiting things from my childhood (and adulthood) through my work.

BGH: In addition to monsters and science fiction iconography, you seem attracted to masculine subjects (Lee Marvin, boxing, etc). Why do you think macho themes run through your work?
TB: It’s funny you mention that. I’ve been told that a lot of my subject matter is on the feminine side, with the pin-ups, bride, roller girls, bowling chicks, etc. Patrons at art festivals are always asking my wife if she’s “okay” with me painting women. We’re always puzzled by that question. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the masculine/feminine subject matter. If I’m itching to do a pin-up, I’ll do one. If I’m itching to do a Robert Mitchum, I’ll do one. I am intrigued by classic beauty of a woman who is truly pretty, even if she doesn’t (especially if she doesn’t) fit the current world’s definition of beauty. Same for men. There aren’t any Lee Marvins, Rob Mitchums, Betty Pages, Jane Mansfields any more. Again, we’re in the Miley Cyrus/Lady Gaga/Justin Bieber/Snoop Dogg age. Slim pickings.

BGH: What's your favorite type of monster to illustrate?
TB: Frankie! He’s tragic, mixed up, trying to find his way and he’s misunderstood.

BGH: Did you read horror comics growing up?
TB: I soaked up the Warren magazines growing up. In the 70s and early 80s, you could always find Eerie and Creepy in convenience stores, garage sales and swap meets. Any with a Frazetta cover was worth every scrounged-up penny! I loved comics equally: the Avengers, X-Men, Hulk, etc. Heavy Metal really raised the bar with the stunning work of Moebius, Corben and Bilal. All these influence my art in some way. Sometimes, when working on a problematic painting, I’ll ask myself, “what would Frazetta do?” That’s not to say I would ape his style, but how would he compose his work? Any artist could learn from his compositions and simplicity.
BGH: Who is your favorite horror comics artist (or genre illustrator/artist), past and present?
TB: Frazetta. Then Corben and Moebius. The greats, in my humble opinion. I hate that we lost two of them.

BGH: Do you have any rituals or routines to get your creative juices flowing?
TB: I’ll listen to music and thumb through various art books or the web to get the creative fires stoked. Sometimes it takes but a few minutes, sometimes hours will pass and I still haven’t done anything. In those instances, I’ll put it off for a couple of days. Strangely, I feel like I have to clear my slate with the normal daily stuff like home repairs, errands and chores to “earn the right” to sit and do what I love for a few hours.
BGH: What's the most prized horror comic or horror memorabilia in your collection?
TB: I have some John Buscema Frankensteins and Mike Ploog Man-Things that I really like. I have a Vision statue (from the Avengers) based on John Buscema’s drawing of his debut in Avengers #57. And, I really like my Frazetta, Corben and Moebius hardcover art books. I’ll carry all of those to my grave.

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