Hello and welcome to a brief interruption of your regular, amplified, broadcast.
This is Kabuki Katze, you may know my handiwork from the Radames' header here or some of his other online haunts (more likely than not, I drew his profile picture).
Recently, I had the unusual opportunity of collaborating with him in illustrating a poem of his, "Relapse." In honor of that, he has invited me to talk about the experience.
Illustrating the ideas of others is nothing foreign to me; as a freelance artist I make it my business to climb into minds and try to tease out the images within. The difference between my regular work and the pictures I make with the Radames lies in the nature of the images. To be honest, the vast majority of what I tease out for customers involves pretty ladies, pert bosoms, and polished smiles. Not often am I asked to illustrate poetry, particularly not poetry of the gut-grabbing, visceral nature that Radames' work exemplifies. A rough time for me might be drawing a nasty villain facing down our comely heroine, not our ravaged hero looking for a shot of heroin.
As a result, working with Radames usually involves a greater investment on my part, emotionally speaking. Working with a poem is like striking a deal with the fae—you have to give in order to get. In my case, I have to give up some feeling, let myself be absorbed in the experience of the piece, to be given an image in return.
For this poem, I decided to play on the mythological elements in the text. The hummingbird, symbol of the Aztec Huitzilopochtli—yes, I looked it up—was my springboard. I took my cues of rich jewel colors, strange swirls, stylized features, from the bird-god. In the next few days I was amazed by the wealth of pictures of dead hummingbirds on the internet—type it in Google, but be warned that you'll be gone a while—and the strange ways of Aztec mythology. But eventually I had to sit down and hammer out the picture.
Every time I draw for Radames, I slip into a similar style: thick lines, sharp edges, and a feeling of aggression. While I tend to smooth curves and soft smiles in my personal works, these are not parts of this poet's world, so I have to set them aside. I also trot out a myriad of grungy textures and settings, from peeling paint to rusted walls. In this picture, I think the background comes from a bridge covered with years of spray paint, each layer peeling off to reveal the ages before. The end result is a mesh of urban decay and sharp modern imagery, something that fits comfortably in the dark world of the Amplified Bard.
Bio: Kabuki Katze is a freelance artist whose work appears on various websites, posters, invitations, etc. You can read more about her on her blog. If you enjoy my profile pics, then I urge you to contact her and hire her for a commission.