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Interview with Médan Savamhel of Baal Graphics(NL)
Interview with Médan Savamhel from Ba’al Graphics
Some of you might have heard of this name before, or you never did.
In fact it’s the name of one of the main productive Graphic Design/Illustration artists from the Netherlands at the moment. He already created logos, layouts and album artwork for bands with the likes of the infamous Portuguese Black Metal band Corpus Christii, for their new release 'Carving a Pyramid of Thoughts', and tons more.
Hello Mr. S.
First of all, thanks for doing this interview with me. How are you feeling today?
Enlightened, I must say. Thank you for asking.
Tell us, where do you come from, and did it have a big influence on your decision to become an artist?
I hail from the Netherlands. I suppose in a way it had some influence on me. I generally strongly dislike my country’s art scene, which inspired me to do something different. Furthermore it had no specifically positive influence on me. I have always been much of an individual, and always had my own thing going. The decision to become an artist was made at a very young age.
What other aspects made you decide this? Since you totally seem to be inspired by occultism, demonology, and more subjects that have to do with the dark side.
Initially the Black Metal scene inspired me to develop a darker style. After some years though, I didn’t want to be part of it as I used to, and basically took my own path, eliminating certain stereotypical elements. Of course I am still considered a Black Metal artist, but my work is heavily influenced by my studies of esoteric subjects like angelology, demonology, cosmos, qabalah, qliphoth and goetia, and also religious books like the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Bahir and the Zohar. The world of theology inspires me greatly, and it is what in certain aspects distinguishes me from other Black Metal artists, in my opinion anyway. So much, that I consider myself an esoteric artist rather than a Black Metal artist.
The name Ba'al for graphic design, isn’t an average name for an artist/company.What made you decide to use this name, what does it mean, and does the name reflect you, and everything you create?
"Ba’al" is a Semitic title meaning "lord", which is used for various gods. In the Hebrew Bible, it is often used to refer to divine deities that are considered false gods. I chose to use this name for several reasons. Firstly because of its Semitic descent. This is important to me, as Hebrew theology inspires me greatly. Secondly because it’s short and quite memorable. Thirdly because this word can be found in various occult sources, thus the association with occult artwork is made easily. And lastly - and perhaps most importantly - because I wanted to give my business a name that suggests I crown above the rest. It’s a rather arrogant gesture, but it suits me well. After all, I strive for entity; Not for acceptance.
Did you learn your working style at school, or from a person? Do you have any idols which you look up to? How does the process go, of making one of those pieces of art?
Generally I learned everything myself by observing and improving. Later on, I learned about the principles of drawing at school, which probably improved my skills, or at least made me more aware of what I was doing. I was always fascinated by the works of Gustave Doré, Albrecht Dürer and Jan van Eyck. The former two inspired me the most, because of their engraving style, eye for detail and subject matter (though Gustave Doré’s illustrations of slaves and merchants don’t interest me; Only his religious works do). Jan van Eyck inspired me for the rich detail in his paintings, and the subject matter.
I became fascinated by the pointillism technique as well. This is a technique that is often used in old-school Punk- and Grind artworks, which is very useful for shading. I thought the look of pointillism was so aesthetic, that I took it to the next level and started constructing whole illustrations with pointillism, instead of just doing some shading. It is a very time consuming technique, but the result is mesmerizing.
As for the process, to tell you the truth I am not exceptionally good in anatomy, and drawing everything from the mind. For that reason I generally refer to myself as a creator, rather than an illustrator. I start by doing research in the subject I plan to illustrate, and develop the concept. Then I start looking for reference; Mostly random models. I make a sketch of the model, get the proportions right, envision the attributes, lighting and setting, and then just start inking right away. I don’t like working whole illustrations out in pencil first. I prefer to leave a part for possibilities, instead of planning everything thoroughly.
Of course with every design you create, there is a personal touch lying behind it.Do you see it that way also, or do you see it as just another piece of productivity?Do all your drawings have a certain meaning behind it? From inspirations from books for example? Or do you often use your own imagination?
I personally think my art is becoming quite recognizable. Particularly the illustrations in pointillism. So a personal touch is definitely attendant. I definitely don’t see my artworks as just a piece of productivity. It’s a form of self-exploration, and searching for your own capabilities. I always try to impress myself of what I can do, otherwise I would probably become indifferent, and my clients would realize that soon enough if they’re smart.
Most of my illustrations have a certain meaning behind them. Some quite personal, but almost always with an association with my own studies. As I get inspired by various occult sources, most of my works are the products of that fascination/obsession. Of course I always try to bring in my own visions, interpretations and imagination.
Talking about books.
There’s one coming out called 'Logos from Hell' by Mark Riddick, containing various artists, including you.
Tell us a bit more about it. Who are the other artists? Did you know them before from other works already? And where can people get a copy of the book?
The book is, as Mark Riddick describes: "An essential book for all extreme Metal music fans! "Logos from Hell" takes a brief look at the value and impact of Death- and Black Metal logos." The art contributors for this book are: Chris Moyen, Christophe Szpajdel, Kris Verwimp, Mike Majewski, Jon Zig, Matt Carr, Rob Smits, Daniel Desecrator, Ray Heflin, Lou Rusconi, Irwan Azman Awang, Mark Riddick himself, and myself, Médan Savamhel. Most of the artists who took part of this project I knew already, and I’ve had some contact with several of them. Rob Smits is a friend.
The book will be available though Mark Riddick (www.riddickart.com) and probably several other sources. I’m sure the potential purchasers will stumble upon some advertisements and find a way to get a copy.
You’re the official artist for Teratism (BM from the US). How did that go? Did you know them already? Or did they contact you by seeing some of your works, which made them decide to choose you?
There’s also a special release planned for Teratism, through your own label 'Bibliotheca Apostolica Septem Coronatorum'. Tell us a bit more about that, and what more we can expect from your label.
Teratism initially just inquired about the purchase of my depiction of Baphomet, for the front cover of their split album with Lugubre, entitled "Templi Omnium Hominum Pacis Abhas" (released by Non Compos Mentis). As I enjoyed their music very much, I offered to re-design their logo, which was of a brilliant design, but the execution was poor. I was then commissioned to do the whole layout and illustrations of the album. As Teratism was very satisfied with my work and my prices, they requested me to become their official artist. They are very attracted to the esoteric concepts I visualize, as their lyrics are also quite occult.
A special tape will indeed be released through my label, supposedly upcoming winter. It will contain previously unreleased tracks that will be newly recorded. I am still working out some deals, but I plan to make it a rather exclusive product (if you can call a cassette tape exclusive). Instead of a plastic case, the tape will be in a printed cardboard box. I’m trying to get a hold of animal blood to splatter the boxes, which will be a trademark for my label. 358 copies will be releases, as this number is the product of the numerological system of the Qabalists, from the word "Messiah" (as God’s manifestation in flesh) as well as "Nechesh" or "Nachash", which is Hebrew for "serpent" (of Eden). Perhaps the first 72 copies will be even more exclusive. 72 is an important occult number, as it regards the Shem ha-Mephorash. The subject is rich of content, so I won’t go any deeper into that in this interview. In any case, my label stands for entity, just like Ba’al Graphics. I don’t have a good financial foundation, but I do what I can to help my most potential clients out, and to do releases unlike others, with special packages, trademarks, and packed with occult references. Of course my own artwork will be present on all releases.
Which other bands did you work for in the past? And how does it go in general, when they ask you for artwork? Is there any kind of plan going on in your mind? How does it all begin?
I have worked for over 200 bands, but most have been forgotten (also by myself) and no trace can be found of them anymore. That’s how you start as an artist, working for insignificant bands, slowly building up your reputation. A few of my more to most potential clients are Andramelech (Mex), Astral Luminous (US), Avichi (US), Besatt (Pol), Corpus Christii (Prt), Lugubre (Hol), Teratism (US) and Vatican (Can).
I don’t just work for everyone. I am quite selective. So first I listen to the music, and research the band a bit to see if they are serious, and worth my time. When I’ve agreed to work with the band, I talk with the band about what they want, and give my own ideas. Potential clients must acknowledge though, that I am a professional artist, so I tend not to listen to the "client is king" phrase too much. I probably know what’s best.
Where can people visit your exhibitions? What were the reactions of your earlier ones, and are you proceeding for time to come, or choose for other different goals someday?
Actually I have no experience at all with exhibitions. My portfolio is not big enough, and just doesn’t meet my own requirements for an exhibition. I will have an exhibition when I have more pointillism drawings done. For now, people have to do with my digital portfolio.
Thank you for your time in this interview, and all the best with your future works.
I'll keep looking out for Logos from Hell for sure. Is there a release date planned yet?
I don’t know an exact date, but it will be released in October.
Any last words?
Ipsa scienta potestas est.
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