Brian Coldrick is an illustrator and artist from Dublin, now based in the UK. I asked him about his series Behind You, in which he says each one aims to function as one-shot horror story.
How did you get into illustration?
I was always the one in class drawing all over his copy book and I just kept it up. I did Visual Communications in college but I always leaned more towards the illustration end rather than graphic design. Since then I tried to make a living doodling for money. That can mean anything from storyboards to murals to concept art to oil paintings.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an illustrator?
The obvious worst is the unreliable income; you never know if you’ll be busy or quiet. I find another personal worst to be promoting myself; putting my own work about and implying strangers should look at it always feels weirdly egotistical and still makes me cringe. The obvious best is the satisfaction in producing work that I actually like. There’s a wonderful stage when you’re working on an illustration and it starts to come together. My brain can go on autopilot and just enjoying creating something. Then I finish the job and my brain gets back to worrying about a hundred other things!
How do you keep the balance between commissions and personal work?
The balance usually regulates itself to a fair degree. If I’m busy I have no time for personal work and if I’m not busy I do personal project to avoid going stir crazy. I have a big enough backlog of must-do ideas to ensure I’m never left twiddling my thumbs. Coming up with ideas for side projects is always easier than completing them.
Where do you find inspirations for your illustrations?
Comics, films, paintings, boardgames and all the usual. I definitely learned to draw by copying comic books and I still have no qualms about attempting to ape someone’s work I like. When I was younger one comic would be pored over and analyzed, nowadays there is effectively infinite inspiration at my fingers through the internet.
Can you tell us about your ongoing comic series, Behind You?
Behind You is a webcomic/illustration series. Every one is just one image and a line of text underneath although several feature some simple animation. The idea is that hopefully each installment functions as a one shot horror story.
When did you start the series?
It’s coming up on the first year of posting one a week. I had (and have) lots of ideas for longer form stories but I was finding it hard to get my teeth stuck into any of them so the idea struck me to pull off a whole story in one image and then start again the next week. I liked the format because it was novel but also because, to be honest, it was instant and spared me all the laying out and planning that a longer story required. It was creatively lazy!
It’s an unusual series. What’s the idea behind it?
When I started doing the series I had been reading lots of various creepy pastas and online real-life accounts of spooky encounters. I think a lot of the effective ones boiled down to a single encounter or setting, they left a lot up to the reader. Leaving a lot of the narrative up to the audience’s imagination has always been an effective trick in spooky stories. Each Behind You has a setting, a character and a creature, but the lead up to that point and what follows really depends on the viewer. The line of text adds one more thread without really revealing anything. Sometimes I can’t help but have wider stories build up in my head as I make them but sometimes I just like them as a starting point and don’t settle on one explanation. By leaving each one unresolved they become a frustrating (but enjoyable) unsolved puzzle.
Where do you want to take it?
I said to myself that if I kept it up for a year I’d look into putting out a book collecting them together so hopefully that might come about soon. I’ll hopefully have an exhibition of the series later this year in Dublin but no details yet as nothing is confirmed.
How long does each illustration take?
Longer and longer it seems! I try to keep it to a day but it can spread out to more. My animation knowledge is totally amateur so some of the gifs have turned into longer headaches. If I’m busy with other work I just have to squeeze them in over several days. It always seems to be 4 in the morning when I finish one no matter what time I started.
What is the process behind each one?
I often plan a rough layout in photoshop but then I do the finished drawing by hand in pencil. All the colours and textures are done afterwards in photoshop. I have a set template and groups of filters I reuse and tweak each time.
What’s next for you?
There’s the Behind You book and exhibition. But also some of the longer form ghost story ideas. I have a children’s book idea and another picture book idea for children and grown ups. Basically the hope is to finally get stuck into lots of narrative work.