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Name: Pär Olofsson
Location: Umeå, Sweden
Link: http://www.parolofsson.se
@pixelkanonen (Instagram)

How did your interest for illustration take off?
It’s kind of always been there. As a kid I drew pretty dark stuff and when I was in art school, one of my teachers said that if I wanted to make a living in fine arts I´d better rethink my motifs – paintings of the dead wouldn’t sell well in the art galleries!

You have done countless metal-related album covers. How come you ended up in this niche?
I had quit my job at an advertising agency and wanted to focus on my painting skills and try out working as a freelancer. So I sent my portfolio to ten metal record labels. I got a reply from Unique Leader Records, who needed a piece for the inside of the booklet for the upcoming Deeds of Flesh album “Crown of Souls”. From there, bands started taking notice of my work. But the first few years were a slow crawl.

On that note, it’s pretty out of the ordinary to make cover art for software products. How did you cross paths with Toontrack and what’s the story behind your collaboration?
Both Toontrack and I are based in the same town in Sweden, so we knew of each other by way of mutual friends, local bands etc. My first gig for the company was the Metal Machine EZX, way back in 2011. The guys reached out to me since they had an idea of illustrating this product more in line with how a metal album cover would look like, which was new to them at that point. Since then, we have collaborated on numerous projects and I have designed most of their metal-related EZXs, SDXs as well as some EZmix packs.

You actually make a living out of illustrating albums. What is the greatest thing about having your hobby as a job?
As a kid, I didn’t even imagine you could make a living drawing all day. Now my kids don’t really get what my job is since all I do, in their minds, is draw, paint and play video games at the office. I’m very fortunate, and have worked very hard to get here. That said, the hobby becomes work, and work is work, you know?

What does a normal day “at the office” look like?
On a good day, I drink coffee and work on a big pencil drawing that is soon-to-become the cover for a well-known and great band. The gang I share office with are also in a good mood. Before lunch I go to the gym for a quick workout. On a bad day, we are out of coffee, I’m drowning in unanswered e-mails and the latest client is being a bit ”difficult”.

Do you do any research before starting a new cover? Like digging in to the history of the band, listening through the catalogue or so?
Yes, I usually check if there are any previous albums to look at or listen to. I still try to do my own thing, but it’s always good to enter a new project well prepared.

If you had to pick four pieces out of your own catalogue, what would those be and why?

Spawn of Possession.
I’m a fan of the band and I had a very nice cooperation with the members working on this piece. Previous works were somewhat grounded in reality while this was more abstract and surreal.

The Faceless.
With this piece, I had started to experiment with colors. As I recall, this was one of the first piece where I started using brighter colors, like a lot of purple, blue and some pink.

Returning clients are the best kind of validation of your work. I had worked with Exodus on ”Let There be Blood”, but that was a re-make. This time I got to come up with something original. Also Gary Holt is really a great guy to work with.

I had a lot of artistic freedom creating this piece, so there is a lot of colors. Fun times!

What are some of your own musical preferences and favorite bands?
Depends on the mood. Sometimes when I make my pencil drawings, I listen to movie soundtracks while at the gym, I listen to stuff very technical stuff like Rings of Saturn or Spawn of Possession. So if those are the ends of the spectrum, there are a lot of things that fit in-between. I’m currently in a Death (the band) episode, listening to all their stuff. Next month can be black metal bonanza.

How does it work when a band or label contracts you to illustrate an album cover? Do you often get lots of direction or is it more often an improvisational thing? How much are bands usually involved in the process?
Some bands have an album concept they like the art to represent, others are very, very specific about what they want while a few just say: “We trust you, give us something with zombies.” But generally, the art comes out better if I have a lot of freedom. In either case, I always start out with a couple of rough sketches. When we have decided on a general direction, I just keep on painting and sending work-in-progress images.

What would you say your personal inspiration is?
I’ve always loved movies and comics, so I guess that has influenced me a lot. There are also a couple of artists that have had a deep impact on me growing up, such as H.R Giger, Geoff Darrow and Simon Bisley.

Technically, how do you go about illustrating a cover? Is there any free-hand work involved or is it mostly computer-based?
I’ve retured to pencil drawing. This is the basis of most album covers I make these days. I’m still using Photoshop to colorize, though.

OK. Fictive band and album title: Sarcofagus, “Storm of a Thousand Skulls”… What would you draw?
A melting skull infected with some kind of fungus and tentacles growing out of it, reaching for the viewer 🙂


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