Dodging Knives and Throwing Bullets: Dark Art & Inspiration + Interview with painter Vaughn Belak
From Blue Blood (who brought us the vividly beautiful California Deathrock and Razor Candi coffee table books) comes the next must-own hardcover book, Dodging Knives and Throwing Bullets: Dark Art & Inspiration by artist Vaughn Belak! Belak’s work is a dark/horror art style ranging from scary to adorable, and badass every step of the way. Many of his subjects have no pupils and small noses, giving them an alien-like appearance. The book will feature a large variety of artwork from 2009 to 2017, affirmations to help stay sober, and tips for keeping motivated to create.
Visit Vaugh Balek’s Kickstarter page by October 5th to order your copy of this amazing coffee table book and read about his story in more depth! Don’t forget to follow him on Facebook. Here is my interview with him:
Your art is dark and cute at the same time, my favorite style! Were you inspired by other artists to pursue this style?
Vaughn: Thank you so much. I’m inspired by many artists, but my style is somewhere between pop surrealism and some sort of dark fantasy. It truly just sort of happened this way. I began doing a lot of your typical lowbrow type stuff mixed with graffiti. Skulls, sacred hearts, Rat Fink etc. After I tore my way through all that I found my own voice and ran with it.
What are some of the more unique ways you’ve transferred paint onto canvas?
Vaughn: I mostly finger painted for the last 7 or 8 years before picking up my first airbrush. I’ve also been known to use makeup sponges, toothpicks and anything else in grabbing distance. What matters is what makes it on the canvas. Not so much how it got there.
Did painting help you along the way to sobriety, or was it something you picked up after you became sober?
Vaughn: Painting for sure helped me through early sobriety but it was just a small part of a bigger puzzle. More accurate is to say it kept my hands and my mind busy while my thoughts reprogrammed. I used to hold onto the old cliche of the drunken artist that needed a few to get into a creative mood. But truthfully I didn’t know if I’d be able to do anything sober never mind paint. But these days I am far more creative as well as productive without any booze or narcotics in my head.
Who are some girls you find inspiring, whether or not you’ve painted them?
Vaughn: Great question. My main inspiration is my amazing and talented wife Jen Belak, as anyone that has seen both her and my work could easily tell. But I’d have to add Tura Satana, Elvira and maybe Yolandi to the list.
Where exactly do you teach art classes in Florida and how long have you been teaching? That must be a rewarding experience for you!
Vaughn: I teach at Sam Flax Orlando currently but I’ll likely be relocating my classes soon to a new venue. And I don’t teach art classes per say. I teach a class called Art Always Sells that helps artists learn how to market and sell their work better. Artists aren’t typically known for our salesmanship and if you want to be taken seriously then you need to take yourself and your work seriously first. This means being responsible for your sales as well as your art.
What music are you into? Do you listen to music while you paint?
Vaughn: I’m a gutter glam rock guy. Street punk and rock ‘n roll. And yeah, it can get loud when I’m working sometimes. Today was Lords of the New Church. Turbonegro. The Biters and some Hellacopters. Pretty typical playlist for me at any point in the day though.
What is your creative process like?
Vaughn: Messy. Very, very messy. I get up pretty early, though, so most of my work is done by noon. I do all my sketching on my tablet in an app called Procreate and then I lay it out on the canvas. After massive waves of profanity followed by buckets of black coffee it usually winds up pretty close to the original idea.
How has your art changed over the years?
Vaughn: I’d like to say it’s gotten more refined but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that. Like picking your own nickname, you just don’t do it. I know I’ve let go of a few crutches I used to have that I hid behind.
Have you ever experimented with other mediums besides paint?
Vaughn: I’m a huge photography nerd as of late. I recently did a shoot with my wife that came out amazing. Mostly due to it being impossible to take a bad photo of her. Just amazingly photogenic and fun to work with. I imagine I’ll do more with my camera soon.
Do you ever experience creative blocks? If so, how do you get through them?
Vaughn: I do but since painting is my only source of income, a creative block is a luxury I can’t afford. Can’t sell paintings you don’t have. Some days I just paint backgrounds all day till the distraction passes. Always better to be in motion rather than always trying to get moving.
If you could put one message out there to the world, what would it be?
Vaughn: Always support what you love. Let the rest fade on its own. When you focus on amazing things you will bring more amazing things to you.