Monday, March 12, 2018

Entrevista a Richie Faulkner y Claudio Bergamin. Efecto Metal, Argentina (Marzo 2018)

Google Translation to English

(I apologize for weird grammar or bad syntax. It's Google's fault
and I don't have time to check and correct)

CLAUDIO BERGAMIN"I Designed a lethal cybernetic creature" 

From Chile to the world. Claudio Bergamin is the artist chosen by Judas Priest to design the cover of their brand new album, "Firepower". We contacted him to learn a little more about his work and to give us details of how the cover of the launch of the year was made within the heavy metal scene. His relationship with Richie Faulkner, Walter Giardino and many bands of the scene. An intense dialogue with someone who does not stop growing and who will surely continue to surprise us in the future.

1) Tell us how you interacted with Judas Priest and how it was that they finally commissioned you the design of the cover.
Well, I have already collaborated for several years with Richie Faulkner in different projects related to Priest. Initially he asked me for help with his guitars since at that time he was just developing his custom models, so I created several guitar designs based on Gibson models. Then I designed his Falcon logo, which he uses in his wardrobe and guitars. Additionally I have designed all his Star Wars guitar picks and recently promotional images that will soon be published on his website. And as a trivia piece, this is not the first time I got involved in a Priest album; About four years ago I proposed ideas for what would be Redeemer of Souls. Those ideas stayed in the inkwell. This time Firepower arrived at the right time.

2) Was the drawing your idea or did you follow the guidelines that the band gave you? 
The band gave me absolute creative freedom and they were open to a fresh proposal from the beginning. Initially they only gave me the title to start working, but being a big fan of the band, I knew exactly what I wanted to see on a cover of Judas Priest. I wanted to see a creature that retakes the tradition of the characters of the classic covers, Hellion in "Screaming for Vengenance", Metallian in "Defenders of the Faith and of course The Painkiller. Now, I did not want to copy the cover style of Doug Johnson, he has his style and I have mine; I simply wanted to play on the same theme and wave to establish that they belong to the same metallic fantasy universe. Another thing that was clear to me is that it could not look old: Priest is a band that although it is an emblem of classic metal, at the same time they are in constant re-invention. In other words, they play in a fine line between the classic and the contemporary; understanding this was essential to propose ideas that they would accept and appreciate quickly. We were tuned from the beginning!

3) With whom did you exchange ideas, with musicians directly or via manager? 
The collaboration was with management and band, especially Richie Faulkner, who was of a tremendous conceptual contribution. He was the one who suggested a lethal cybernetic creature. Richie and I have the same tastes in pop culture; we speak the same nerd language and we are both staunch fans of Star Wars, so it will not be hard for you to imagine how fluid the creation of Firepower was. In any case, Judas Priest is a monument to efficiency and professionalism, it was a delight to work on that project. Rob Halford gave the creature such an epic name, it will make every neuron in your mind heavy metal explode at the speed of light! But to discover it, you must wait to have the disk in your hands.

4) How did you do the drawing, with what techniques? What meaning did you give to it? Did you listen to songs on the album to inspire you? 
The first step was to propose three quick conceptual sketches, all variations of the same idea, of which they chose one. Then, I translated that sketch to a much more refined version, always pencil on paper. Subsequently, that detailed drawing I put in the scanner and then applied digital color. Originally I wanted to do it in acrylic on canvas, but the time restrictions did not allow it. Now that there is no hurry, I can work on that painting on canvas, just for personal fun. It will be ready in a couple of months - I heard some issues while I was working on the cover, it was certainly inspiring!

5) What was the repercussion that you had from the public and the press? 
Tremendously positive! Everyone understood the intention and concept. On the other hand, if someone does not like it, they do not understand anything about Priest's thematic tradition!

6) Tell us any anecdote that has happened in the drawing process. 
Every person who visited our house begged on his knees to see the image before it was published. It became a kind of Holy Shroud, everyone wanted to see it.
7) How did you get started in the drawing and how did you get related to rock bands? 
My interest in art began at an early age. My introduction to the world of graphic arts and pop culture was undoubtedly Star Wars and the anime that reigned TV in the early 80s. Titles like Mazinger Z and the Robot Festival were of great creative influence in my artistic awakening, in fact I still have many drawings of my childhood in folders and boxes stored in some ancient corner of my house. Simultaneously, I always had access to a wide range of comic titles; Asterix was undoubtedly one of my favorites and of course, Spider-Man, Batman and Superman were always present in those incipient years. In other words, there was never a decisive moment in which I decided to dedicate myself to art, but it was a natural process that developed over many years. My parents put pencil and paper at my fingertips before I even spoke, and since childhood it was really a spontaneous interest; while other children played ball, I drew. After school, entering art school to pursue the profession more seriously was a logical step.After graduating from college, I put my attention on something I had always dreamed of; cover art and advertising photography. It was a period of great creativity and fun. I spent the weekdays in my workshop exploring new techniques, whether analogue or digital, and weekends at concerts by local bands. It was at that time that I published my first website, which attracted the attention of some relevant Chilean bands of the moment such as Criminal and Dogma. They were my first clients at the beginning of the year 2000. After that I went to live in Europe and my customer portfolio increased exponentially; I get to work with almost all the relevant metal stamps in Germany, Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries

8) With which bands have you worked before Judas Priest? 
While living in Italy and England I made many contacts in labels like Century Media, AFM Records and Nuclear Blast, which gave me the opportunity to work with many relevant bands from that continent and England. Paradox, from Germany, are clients with whom I have been collaborating for more than ten years. Then I worked on the album "Lost in the New Real", by prominent Dutch musician Arjen Lucassen (the brilliant creative mind behind Ayreon); That was a very interesting project. Not long after that, high profile clients like Accept, Rob Halford and Rata Blanca arrived, with whom I maintain a professional collaboration until today. In 2013 I started working with one of the most outstanding bands in Finland; Battle Beast, for which I made two covers. But at the same time I have always maintained a link with the rock and metal scene of Chile; Lucybell, ChernoBill and recently Iron Spell are some of the names for which I have created art that has left me very satisfied.

9) Apart from rock and metal, in which another item you venture with your drawings and paintings? 
I have always been an amateur of paranormal phenomena. For many years I have studied cryptozoology and ufology, devouring tons of books and documentaries of the most outstanding researchers. But it was not until the middle of 2016 that I decided to start exploring those subjects artistically. I made a series of illustrations inspired by Bigfoot and Yeti, which attracted the attention of researchers such as Lyle Blackburn and Loren Coleman, who hired me to create their book covers. Parallel to that I began to collaborate with legendary personalities of the paranormal world; one of them, is the famous Travis Walton, with whom I work to completely re-illustrate his book Fire in the Sky, which deals with his experience of extraterrestrial abduction in 1975 (I recommend watching the film Fire in the Sky, 1993). Another name that stands out is Bob Gimilin, for which I made a dramatic recreation of his encounter with a Bigfoot female in 1967 with his friend Roger Patterson. I am currently working on a series of personal illustrations inspired by the most relevant ufology and cryptozoology events of the 20th century, which will be released in 2018.

10) What were the artists that influenced you in the beginning? 
My father, who was an architect, introduced me to the art of M.C. Escher, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí when he was a pre-adolescent. That was really an upgrade that reprogrammed me the look, since until then all my world was fantasy and comics of super-heroes. By introducing me to the world of classical art, my father gave me the tools to discover on my own the magnificent work of essential artists of the second half of the 20th century. Of that group, Ralph McQuarrie was probably the artist who determined the moment culminated in my attention to the graphic arts took a more serious turn. Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo were my introduction to the world of heroic fantasy, style and genre that is present in my personal work to this day. HR Giger went to a certain point a true revelation; His style and theme was something so strange and original that it really transported me to another world. I remember spending hours devouring and processing his Taschen books. At the same time, my interest in rock music exploded at the speed of light, and with it came a fascination for visual proposals and cover art. Without a doubt the name that stands out in that world is Derek Riggs, artist of great influence in my artistic career, and person with whom today it is very surreal to say that I have grown to cultivate a friendship and great professional respect. Finally, other artists that deserve mention in my training are: Dave McKean, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, Ken Kelly, John Howe, Storm Thorgerson, Harold Foster, Bruce Timm, Drew Struzan, Caravaggio, El Bosco and the great Bernie Wrightson.

11) Talking about Rata Blanca, how did you get the contact so that you could finally make the cover drawing of "Electric Storm", your last album?
I met Walter in a very strange way. Someone asked my friend Michael Kenney of Iron Maiden if he knew any cover artist. Mike suggested my name and that person in turn gave my name to Gaby Sisti, who put me in touch with Walter. It was like the game five degrees of separation with Kevin Bacon (laughs). - I have the impression, that initially Walter was not very sure if someone could translate what he had in mind at that time, that it was an improved and updated version of the first cover of Rata Blanca, which would be used to commemorate the 25th anniversary from the band. It took us a few days to get in tune and understand the modus operandi of one and the other. I proposed several elaborate sketches and finally Walter chose the simplest, which was basically Rat's castle in glory and majesty. Today I think it is not an exaggeration to say that this castle has been the most publicized image in the history of Rata Blanca. And that was our first collaboration five years ago. Electric Storm was simply the logical step and an illustration of which I am very proud, not only for its artistic value, but also because it contains a portrait of my dear friend Guillermo Sanchez, which I miss a lot.

12) How is your relationship with Walter Giardino? How do you feel working with him? 
My artistic collaboration with Walter has always been extremely gratifying. In addition, I have always had a predilection for classic fantasy therefore the subject of Rata Blanca is something that I enjoy a lot. We usually discuss the work to be done over the phone, in long conversations that do not always refer to work; We often end up talking about music and our favorite classic bands. Because Walter is like that, a real guy who loves rock.

13) Apart from Rata Blanca, Walter commissioned you to make the poster of Temple, What specifically asked you for that flyer? 
That poster required a lot of experimentation and time since Walter had a very intuitive idea of ​​what he wanted. Sometimes the words do not accurately express the aesthetic minutiae of art and Walter had his eye on styles like Art Nouveau and Pop Art. Styles that do not usually go together. Finally we arrived at the solution that I was looking for and the result is certainly a very experimental poster that does not go unnoticed.

14) Is there any intention to continue working with Temple in the future? 
Probably yes. Walter is Temple and Temple is Walter.

15) What is coming in this 2018? Are you doing some work for a band? 
This 2018 I intend to dedicate myself fully to work in my projects of Ufology and Cryptozoology. But at the moment I'm working on four illustrations for bands from Finland, Sweden and England. I do not have time even to listen to my thoughts. 
16) What music do you listen to and what are your favorite bands? 
I listen to a lot of classic rock, it's my main preference style. Queen, KISS, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Rush, Rainbow, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Accept, Whitesnake, Heart, ELO, Scorpions, Metallica, Mercyful Fate and of course White Rat are some of my bands favorites But I also listen to a lot of orchestral music, whether classical or contemporary, especially while I work: Tchaikovsky, Bach, Wagner and Beethoven are my favorite classical composers. And in the contemporary, I listen to many soundtracks for films by composers like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Basil Poledouris, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. If I can cite a real source of inspiration for my illustrations, it would be precisely this; orchestral music of enormous melodic grandeur that transports me to fantastic cosmic voyages of imagination.

17) How can they contact you to commission work? 
It's very easy: 
And my websites: and 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Battle Beast

This certainly was one of my favorite projects.  Not only due to the fantasticaly fun concept but also because of the band behind it.  And in the process of making the next chapter in the story, I thought it was only appropriate to explain a little bit how it all started.

The first time I listened to Battle Beast's music I was blown away by their classic metal flavor and how super catchy their songs are. Right up my alley!!!  

I am a child of the 80s...  a true generation X geek.  I grew up watching Masters of the Universe, Thundercats and Transformers so to say the project fed my inspiration and excitement is really an understatement! 

The original working title of the album was 'Machine Revolution' but somewhere along the line the guys decided to simply call it 'Battle Beast'.  I guess it was a statement of rebirth since they were presenting a new singer and a fresh new sound production; this time recording an mixing resided in thr sole hands of young Anton Kabanen.  And I must say he did a killer job.

Anton gave me specific sources of reference and inspiration but at the same time gave me enough room for creativity to propose an original scene.

Some of the reference material for inspiration he gave me was 'The Terminator, 'Mad Max and of course 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe'.  Funny that while recently checking our notes I realized Thundercats and Transformers were never among the original references, but everybody assumed they were the main source of inspiration.  I should take the blame; I guess some things found their way out of my subconscious!

Either way, though obviously cats, the main characters are closer to Conan The Barbarian and Frazetta's work than to Thundercats; which wear color spandex body suits and not bronze age garments in partial nudity!.  The concept is just pure old school epic fantasy art with a modern flavor.  The perfect mix for me.

I proposed two basic sketches for this project. Both set in a fierce battle between Cats and Machines.  Surprisingly enough, the first sketch hit right on the mark!   The second sketch was obviously on the right track but lacked the iconic composition and spectacularity we needed.  No lioness either!   In the original sketch, the lioness wears a battle style maw-hawk but Anton pointed out that it was maybe too unfeminine, so I gave her a very sexy feminine hairstyle.

Anton asked me to make the main characters the center of attention so I just applied one of the oldest tricks of classic painting;  to suggest background through shapes and silhouettes.

The technique I used for this job consists basically in a very detailed grey pencil drawing later colored digitally.  Only the 'irregularity' and raw finish of the pencil can give the feel of analog art...  people know when it's a full digital work!

The scene required a very dramatic lighting atmosphere.  The sense of a battle that has been going on for hours and it's close to the end...  maybe all night!  In fact someone pointed out how the sunlight from the left manages to pass through the all the chaos and smoke get to the cats in a very hopeful way... a sort of hint of hope for our brave warriors, though surrounded by evil enemy forces, might still have a few surprises!!!   Honestly I never intended it as sunlight but what do I know!? Maybe it is!

Personally, I saw this project as my grain of sand to the dynasty line of epic album covers.  I remember being immensely captivated as a teenager with Ken Kelly's larger than life album covers for KISS and Manowar.   His work eventually led me to discover the fantastic work of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo;  my life was turned upside down after that... I knew what I wanted to do in life.

The cool thing about working with Battle Beast is the fact that I know that for each new cover, there will be a new story to tell about our Lion-Man.   It's not that common to work in a consistent ongoing fantasy project with permanent characters... specially in metal music!  So for that I'm very grateful.

Who knows what new adventures are still ahead for Lion-Man!  Unleash the Beast!!! 

Click on every image for larger view:

The first sketch hit right on the mark!

The second sketch was obviously on the right track but lacked the iconic composition and spectacularity we needed.  No lioness either!

Refined pencil sketch of the concept.  This was the blueprint of the cover.

 Basic pencil render of the main character.  Later digitally colored.

Basic pencil render of the battle lioness.  Later digitally colored.

Basic pencil render of one of the cybernetic enemies.  Later digitally colored.

Final illustration.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Rata Blanca

Here I go...  my first medieval castle!

Rata Blanca is the most classic heavy metal band in South America and this image was commissioned to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the band.  When it comes to album covers, working with classic bands is always a privilege for any visual artist.   One of the first things that got me into art and graphics when I was a kid were all those fantastic illustrations on heavy metal covers from the 70s and 80s.  So the minute this band got in touch with me, I knew it was going to be something special.
The original gold was to upgrade the cover of the band's first album; a modern, more sophisticated version of that old castle.  Even though the original illustration is extremely simple, I didn't want to departure too much from it; just to add more detail, color and volume.  

My first approach was to add characters since I thought it lacked some action; so the first sketch featured a wizard and a couple of dragons!  This idea was quickly dismissed by Walter Giardino (the band's leader).  He also didn't want to departure too much from the original idea.  So I made another one, which was according to Walter, right on track but "too evil".  "It has to look magical and welcoming... people should really want to come inside", were his words.

So my final proposal is what you see here.  For this, I researched a lot of photo material of castles all around Germany and Austria.   

So please!  Come inside!

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click on every image for full size


Cover with logo

Sketch #1 (unused)

Sketch #2

Sketch #3 (with variations suggested by Walter)

Original Cover (1987)


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Journey to The Hollow Earth

I'm a huge geek of strange myths and the paranormal but I don't have the habit of proposing that kind of stuff to my clients. Strangely enough, these subjects find their way to me regardless.   This concept was commissioned by AFM records to be cover art of the album "Center of The Great Unknown" by romanian band Magica.

The Hollow Earth is probably one the most popular paranormal myths. According to Hollow Earth theorists, all planets are hollow and you can access the interior through huge 500 miles openings in each pole. Supposedly, as you navigate or fly through these openings, you are never really aware of where you're going since the holes are so huge that curvature is not perceived by the view.
As our "exterior surface", the "inner surface" has also oceans and continents with various landscapes. All life in the interior is possible due to the "inner smoky sun". It is said that the inner civilization is much more advanced than ours, they had electricity hundreds, probably thousands of years before we had, some people even have suggested that the inner earth inhabitants are the survivors of the last global extinction event some 100.000 years ago; survivors of the big flood and even the lost continent of Atlantis. It has been suggested that even UFOs might have their origin in the Earth's interior!

There have been several expeditions with the intent of proove or disproove this great myth. There are stories of miserable failures and fantastic accounts of new civilizations. One of the most popular stories is Admiral Byrd's expedition to the North Pole. In his Diary, he describes an encounter with the leader of the inner civilization; after that meeting, the leader sent Byrd on his way with a terrifying warning about humanity's fate.

The artwork is partly based on Admiral Byrd's Diary of his expedition to the North Pole and partly based on the book "The Goddess of Atvatabar" (which is somewhat similar to "Journey to the Center of The Earth by Jules Verne). The book tells the story of a group of expeditionaries in route to the North Pole on board a trap steamer. Eventually, they realize that they are actually going to the interior of the Earth through a huge opening in the Earth's pole!. Once inside, they sail the inner oceans to discover amazing cities and new civilizations.

Since I haven't yet visited, the interior of the Earth, I have no idea of how exactly the landscape looks like...   so imagination was a big factor here.    It was quite an issue to achieve the inner-horizont effect; since we are in the opposite/interior side of the Earth's crust, the horizont should curve upwards instead of downwards. The result is a spectacular view of the landscape curving up to the clouds and all the landmasses visible "in the sky". Since the "inner sun" is floating static in the Earth's center, all shadows must be at a perfect 90 degree angle underneath everything. If I would have follow this idea to perfection, the result would've been a very flat (and boring) lighting setting... so I decided to cheat; you can't actually see the sun, but light comes slightly from behind... resulting in a much more dramatic effect.

So here you have it... my take on the inner earth

Click on every image for full size.

Album Cover Art

Wide alternate scene

Concept Sketch #1

Concept Sketch #2


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blind Souls

This might strike you as difficult to believe, but I'm really not good at creating nightmares and dark scenes!  I'm a pretty mellow guy; my favorite movie is Star Wars and I enjoy long marathons of Friends.  So you can say I stay in the realm of the positive side of life...  in fact, in recent years I even stop watching the news, the world is a horrible cruel place.  I've become a reclusive of the fantasy world...   almost everything I watch and read is either science fiction or fantasy.   It's all escapism.

So basically for this image I had a difficult time creating a visual situation I could feel strong and meaningful...  I really don't like horror for the sake of horror.  It's like pornography.  For me, art has to contain some kind of metaphor or clever message; even if this seems kind of obvious, it is not.   The internet is saturated with cool looking images that mean absolutely nothing.  

The basic concept for this one was the contrast and juxtaposition of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.  I tell you, it was by no means easy getting to this solution!   The band originally suggested to depict Purgatory as a dark horrible place, much like Hell...  but then, you would have a cover with "two Hells"!  So I said NO, we will do Purgatory as described in religious mythology:  as a stationary place to contemplate our mistakes... neither rewarded or punished.  Since most people isn't totally good or totally bad, I imagined Purgatory as the most crowded place in all the spiritual realm... I mean really crowded!   Hell would be like nothing we couldn't find on earth; just a horrible place abundant in physical pain and torture.  Finally, Heaven would be a place of meditation; bright and peaceful.

I think the final result is quite surreal...

Cover (wide format)

Cover (Cd format)

Concept Sketch

Unused Concept Sketch #1

Unused Concept Sketch #2


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin

So here you have it!  Finally!  The flying beatles!!!

This is probably the most extravagant idea I've ever translated into graphic reality...  and it's all Arjen's "fault"!   

As all of you probably already know, this image is the cover of a song from the "Lost in The New Real" album.  The song is about a music service in the far future; they'd be able to create perfect virtual bands for you!  Let's say you love all the crunchy riffs of Black Sabbath and all the majestic operatic vocal arrangements of Queen...  No problem!  They'll blend these two elements together for you and create a new band:  Queen Sabbath!

At first, I thought the concept was just too abstract to actually come up with some solid type of scene...  what could I do?  A computer with musical controls and some technitians working around it?  A collage containing all the bands in history?   I couldn't exactly visualize it graphically until Arjen said:  " man, let's do it exactly as the title!" "...what?" "yeah, let's do some pink beatles flying in the sky on purple zeppelins" "wow, that is so crazy that it might actually work!".  I just loved the idea; it's so different from what I normally do.

I immediatelly knew we would need some special techinque for this; my usual fantasy painting technique wouldn't be the most perfect solution for this theme.  The song was also very old school and slightly hippie.  So I thought nothing would accomplished better this than a trippy 60s image in the style of Hipgnosis!   

I used my own photo material as a starting point to create the composition; except the zeppelins, which I took from historical photographs.  The colors are the result of endless experiments but the gold was obviously an LSD extravaganza!   I went back in time to possess the mind of a graphic artist living in 1969!!!   

So... enjoy the trip!  

The Song

The Art

The Cover Art

Arjen's Discography!