A few weeks ago, my good buddy Shawn Hope, gave me a ring. He wanted to know if I could help him hang a painting. Being pretty handy, I agreed quickly. Shawn said, “Well there are two things. One, it’s a pretty big painting.” I said, “No problem, I’ll bring my tools.” “Two,” he said, “It’s a David Stoupakis painting titled Soup, and we’re hanging it for him in his house.” My reporter instincts over-rode my star-struckness and I said, “No problem…. as long as I can interview him for Whatchareading.com.”
For those of you who may not be familiar with him, David Stoupakis is a photo-surrealistic artist that has been making waves. Not only in the art gallery circuit, but the music and comic book worlds as well. I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview the guy who did that Korn album cover and that Memory Collectors variant cover that caught my eye.
So the next day I picked up Shawn, and with a toolbox in one hand and a notepad and pen in the other, headed off to Astoria, Queens. As you can see, the hanging of Soup was a success. And after getting to hang out with Dave and Shawn for a few hours, we sat down to get this interview going:
Bob: Where are you from originally and when did you move to New York?
Dave: I’m originally from Newton, Massachusetts. West Newton, to be specific, not the good side. It’s a suburb of Boston. I moved here 14 years ago when my girlfriend came to the city to pursue her acting career. But I always wanted to live in New York City.
Bob: Any particular reason, I mean besides the obvious?
Dave: Yeah the galleries on Newberry Street were way too conservative for my style of art. They were a little on the stuffy side and if I wanted a chance to get some gallery work I knew I had to do it outside of Boston.
Bob: At what age did you discover your talent?
Dave: Jeez, as long as I can remember. I mean I remember being a small child and drawing on place-mats with my dad at every restaurant we went to. I’ve been drawing and painting forever.
Bob: Haha, and when did you know it would be your career?
Dave: Hmmmm, I’d say early teens, like Junior High School. I had a severe learning disability, similar to dyslexia. Words were just a jumble…I didn’t get vowels and I was even worse at math, still to this day. I mean, I know what 2 times 2 is…but that’s about it. But I could draw and I knew it was the only work I could do that would make me happy and let me earn some money.
Bob: What field of art did you originally start your career in?
Dave: Commercial Art and Comics. It was rough because for a while I was miserable, getting rejection letters for the work I was submitting to companies. It really put me in a funk. I was coming home from my day job all depressed and not wanting to draw. It was my roommate at the time, another artist, Chris Bordenca, who saved me. I’d see him smiling and happy all the time, and he convinced me that I’d get back that “kid with goosebumps” feeling I used to get if I started painting what I wanted and felt like painting. He was a big inspiration.
Bob: What other artists inspired your style and work, both classical and sequential?
Dave: Oh definitely Bernie Wrightson, when it comes to comics. I read anything he did. I’m a big Richard Corben fan as well and all the old E.C. Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt stuff. When it comes to classical artists, definitely John Singer Sargent, Heironymous Bosch without a doubt, Picasso, Renoit and Goya… you know, all the dead great ones.
Bob: Are you inspired by works outside of the art field? Books, movies, sculptures, etc.?
Dave: Architecture. I use it so much in my work, it fascinates me. Wherever I see it, I’m constantly taking mental pictures of buildings. Alice in Wonderland by Carrol and Frank L. Baum’s works, I’m constantly drawing stuff from the Wizard of Oz, or working it into my paintings. I am a big Joe Hill fan, not just his Locke and Key comic, his novels as well. I was listening to an audiobook of N0S4A2 which inspired me to paint the piece that ending up becoming the cover to Wraith #7.
Bob: How did that happen?
Dave: I heard at the end of the audiobook that they were doing a comic adaption of Hill’s work. I found out it was being done by IDW and sent an image of the painting to Chris Ryall (Chief Creative Director and Edito in Chief at IDW). He loved it, and pitched it to Hill as a variant cover. It was a really great experience.
Dave: Anything metal, of course. But, when I’m actually working, I like it a little more mellow and moody, like Angelo Badalamenti, the guy who scored Twin Peaks, or just classical music.
Bob: What is your process and method when it comes to doing a piece?
Dave: I start off with pencil sketches, sometimes I’ll do a color study, or grey wash. The I’ll move on to the canvas or panel. I like the smooth finish of panel painting. If I do use canvas, I prime the hell out of with Gesso…I just find it too toothy.
Bob: Do you use a model for paintings or photo reference work?
Dave: I only have one model, the one and only Aprella, my girlfriend of the past 15 years. She’s more than a model, she’s my muse, the love of my life. She’s an actress and a model. So I’m just lucky. We have so much in common its great, from art to music, tattoos. She’s awesome.
( Check her out yourself at http://www.aprellabarule.com/)
Bob: Speaking of tattoos, quite a few people have gotten your artwork tattooed on themselves. How does that make you feel?
Dave: Pffft…flattered. I mean that’s the most flattering thing you can do to an artist. It’s permanent. On your skin. Even if it’s not a great tattoo, quality wise I mean. The fact that someone wants my work on their body blows my mind.
Bob: What piece are you the most proud of?
Dave: A piece called Traveller. It’s a landmark piece for me. I did it after my brother passed away, I feel like I pushed myself further, using the pain and the loss as fuel. I’m very proud of it. After that it would be Necromancy, and Stillborn. I love how those turned out.
Bob: You’ve done album covers for Korn, Haloburn and Kyng, as well as a variant cover for Menton3’s Memory Collectors, a short story in Monocyte #4, plus work for 44 Flood’s Tome and Lust, is this a switch from the music industry to graphic novels and comics?
Dave: No, not really, I’ll do whatever. Art is art. I love having opportunities to work with people who inspire me, whatever the field. I contacted Kyng, because I dig their album, love their music. With Korn, I was doing a gallery show at the CBGB, and Jonathan Davis saw my work, he called up and asked if I wanted to submit some album covers.
Bob: And now you have a Platinum record on your wall…
Dave: Ha, it took seven years to get it, but yeah it’s up there.
Bob: How did you get involved with 44 Flood ?
Dave: Oh, I’ve been friends with Menton for about 12 years now, after he did Ars Memoria. We were introduced by our significant others, who were working a Fashion show together in NYC. Then I met Kasra (Ghanbari) and Ben (Templesmith) at C2E2 2013, and ended up doing a back up story in Monocyte #4. It started out as a few artists with similar interests hanging out and being creative. 44 Flood was about letting us express ourselves, but protecting our creative rights and just being around and meeting people you know and like, and share the same passion for the art we are doing.
Bob: Do you still “hang out” or is it all business now?
Dave: Nah man, it’s all fun. We still jam and meet. Work galleries together. We have “Mordor Mondays” when we all hang out on a Monday and paint Lord of the Rings stuff. I was finishing up a Galadriel piece from Monday when you got here.
Bob: That’s awesome… Do you have an interest in doing sequential artwork or would you rather stick with covers and prints?
Dave: Definitely. That was my original plan. I’m working on my own book with Peter Goodrich, The Passenger. A three issue mini series. But I’m still going to paint. I’m always going to paint…
Bob: Do you have any upcoming shows or conventions?
Dave: Yeah I’ll be at Wizard World Chicago from August 21st to the 24th, then the “Giants Among Us” show at the Corey Helford Gallery in Cali, from Sept 20th to Oct 4th and then back to the east coast for the NYC Comic Con in October, and then the “13th Hour” show at the Last Rites Gallery sometime this Fall. Oh and keep an Eye out for Squidder #3, I’m doing a variant cover for it:
Bob: Wow, art keeps you busy huh?… Final question – Which is your favorite Universal Monster: Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, Mummy or The Creature from the Black Lagoon?
Dave: Ohhhh Mannnnn. Aprella just asked me this!! I want to say Frankenstein, damn it, I really do. But it has to be, has to be Dracula. Bela Lugosi is the man, and everything about that movie is so cool and dark. The sets, the film work. But Lugosi is phenomenal, just that walk own the hall… yeah it’s Dracula.
Check out more of David Stoupakis work on his website: http://www.davidstoupakis.com/
And buy some of his original pieces here: http://davidstoupakis.bigcartel.com/
And don’t forget to stop by and give Dave a hearty hello at the following events:
August 21st to 24th
Donal E Stephens Convention Center
Giants Among Us
September 20th to Oct. 4th
Corey Helford Gallery
8522 W. Washington. Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
NYC Comic Con
October 9th to 12th
Jacob Javitz Center
New York, New York
Last Rites Gallery
325 W 38th St
New York, New York