CVLT Nation Interviews Paul McCarroll

Paul McCarroll, aka Unhinged Art, certainly brings an element of the insane to his craft. His illustration and digital painting depicts a debased and terrifying world, but at the same time he creates beautiful lines and textures in his subjects. McCarroll speaks volumes in his work, but in a subtle and complex way – while on the surface his subjects may appear grotesque to some, upon further scrutiny you will find socio-political commentary among their intertwining limbs and penetrated holes. I have been really fortunate to speak with Paul and get a better perspective on his life, art and inspirations. After the jump, read CVLT Nation’s interview with McCarroll…

Hi Paul, how are things in Ireland?

Hi Cvlt, things in Ireland are as Irish as ever.

What drew you to digital painting as your medium?

Around ’99-’00, It was more of a symptom of wanting to get my other artwork seen I think. I’d been painting away in this little bubble of a country with really not much work getting out there, and doing designs for our DIY releases with rub down lettering and photocopies. I wanted to learn how to do that properly and did a short computer literacy course, followed by a crappy desktop publishing course. They were only little one night a week things, but it gave me access to the computers at the library of the local college. I’d maybe spent an hour on the internet before that and discovered a lot of art and also email. I decided to do a part time art + design multimedia course and during this I discovered some of what was possible. Digital painting came later and took a few years of mostly photo manipulation to start the ball rolling.

Do you have any rules or guidelines that you have set for yourself when it comes to your digital painting?

Nothing strict, I work in different styles to suit different jobs, as far as that side goes it’s a means to an end. I guess when I’m doing the painting, my main aim is to work on as few layers as possible, often only one, and to be as freehand as possible. That way it’s more natural drawing and it’s less likely to look like other people’s work. These days I’m bringing a lot more analogue parts into the work too.

What cultures influence your work the most?

Damn, that’s a pretty holistic question. I think pretty much everything you come into contact with must have some sort of influence on you. At the minute I’m being tormented by the images of protruding bones from the flesh destroying homemade drugs of Russian addicts. I don’t find these things amusing though, it’s incredibly sad. I think my art is a reflection of, or a reaction to the ills of the world regardless of culture. I’m just not inspired to make happy art. I don’t think I’ve answered your question either…sorry.

Where did your life begin?

Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1969, not so much the land of shamrocks and shenanigans, more the land of bullets and bullshit, but I’ve lived outside the city in various nearby towns for most of my life. Happily most people are ready to put all that tribal shittyness behind them now. Unhappily some are not.

At what age did realize you had a passion for art?

Not sure, but really around the whole time of the comic 2000ad and Star Wars coming out. I was really into science fiction as a kid. I guess the only way I could go further with it was to draw.

Did your parents support your artistic expression?

They didn’t not support it. I don’t think they ever really took it seriously. They knew I was ok at it, but I don’t think they took that much interest. After I left school at 16 I went straight to work in labouring, painting etc. and after a few years of that I hated it and wanted to try art. I did enough exams and a course to allow me to apply for art college and got accepted but I couldn’t get a grant and couldn’t afford to go. I don’t remember them being particularly bothered. Maybe they were, I don’t know.

What artists inspired you pursue art as a career?

I have a career? Some obvious ones, Bosch, Petagno, Bizley, Giger, Helnwein etc and basically anyone that did an album cover or a comic I liked, old masters. I still find new artists all the time online that inspire me.

What artists do you consider your peers worldwide?

That’s a tough one, locally I guess the only person doing anything relative to my work is Glyn Smyth. There’s no competition between us since there’s little crossover in style, but he’s getting seriously good lately so that gives me a kick up the arse. Internationally, it’s kind of hard to consider, a peer is someone on an equal standing and most of the artists I admire and respect, I don’t think I could say I was on the same level as them.

What part has music played in your life and your artistic career?

It’s everything really, from around the age of 11, getting my first records and becoming obsessed with collecting them and the covers and trying to draw them. For the last 10 years or so, nearly everything that I’ve done artistically, not for myself, has been music-based.

How do Scald and Unhinged intersect creatively in your life?

Scald have been inactive for about 2 years now. Something will hopefully happen soon, but I think doing the artwork for my own bands over time drew me into that whole album cover art and design thing. For a long time I haven’t really been social, I don’t go to pubs or anything so anything non-family has been either doing art or doing Scald or doing art for Scald.

Is there any city in the world where you most want to show your work? Why or why not?

Well, a lot of the shows that I’ve been impressed with online all seem to be in L.A. or New York or other big U.S. cities. I’d love to start prising my way into there. Really because I don’t really have an audience in this country outside the metal and punk folk. And they spend all their money on metal and punk stuff. I guess the dream would be to show somewhere like Last Rites, but the the Giger museum would be a bit of a buzz, wouldn’t it? Regardless, I do realise that to step up a level I need to concentrate on doing more personal work and having it actually seen on walls. Doing the music based stuff is great and I probably always will, but making a living through it isn’t really an option.

Any last words for CVLT Nation?

Just thanks to the CVLT for the support.
It’s always appreciated. 
Grind on.

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The Author



Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing.

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