A Q&A With Cloud Nectar, Black Sabbath Artwork Artist

On February 4, 2016

This is a little late, but we talked to Cloud Nectar, the artist who created the above print for our November release, Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Here we talk about process, influences, and what artists he's feeling. 

VMP: Wow, well, let me start by saying that the piece you did for Black Sabbath is incredible. Severan must have told everyone in the office 10 times how you went about making it and after hearing about that it seems impossible. Obviously it wasn’t though and I’d love to talk to a bit about your process, how you came to start making art this way, and a few other things. So, to start, tell us the old old story. How young were you when you started making art and what, if anything, prompted you to do so?

Cloud Nectar: Thank you for inviting me to this Q and A. I deeply appreciate it. For those who have seen the piece I created for Black Sabbath, I’ll retell the story: I wanted to build a piece of art that could have been made when the album was released. That means no photoshop, no photocopies and even further, no collaging images or materials that were made after 1970. Because some images repeat I needed to use multiple copies of the same books and magazine issues to draw from. It was all built circular around a nautilus photo and explores themes of death and rebirth. The tricky part was finding images that were in the same color family and hue that is seen on the original Paranoid cover. This took a longer time than usual. Luckily I was sick and homebound for the last week that it needed to be completed. The old, old story of how I started making art goes back to my mom encouraging me to draw like a little madman when I was four (something I encourage in my daughter now). As for the first cutting and pasting, that goes back to a ten year old Tim, making little cardboard skateboard decks, covered in tiny Thrasher magazine cutouts. I still have all of these. 157 total.

VMP: I watched the short Ziibra piece about how you go into doing collages and, from what I heard, that didn’t really develop until 2009. How’d that come about? Was it accidental or did something or someone give you the idea for it?

CN: It was an accidental discovery of the artform. I was exclusively filling journals with drawings and writings for close to a decade and at the start of every new journal I would create a collage on the cover because, y’know, store-bought sketchbooks are kinds lame and uninspiring. I noticed enjoying that process more than drawing within the journals. Then a day came when I peeked into a local library dumpster and found close to 100 issues of National Geographic, which I promptly brought home and left in stacks next to my couch. One evening in October 2009, I was listening to the new Flaming Lips record, ‘Embryonic’ completely blown away by how they took their sound in a new direction. I opened my sketchbook and reached over the couch for the magazines and started cutting things up. When the album was finished, I had made the first collage in what would be a very long series that continues to this day.

VMP: Tell us a bit about your creative process and what moves you to create. Are there certain core questions that you’re trying to answer or explore through your work? Are there any specific themes that we’d notice in your work if we visited an exhibit of yours in an art museum?

CN: The process is it. That’s why I continue to create. I love process more than the finished piece, always. There is so much mystery to be felt when the process guides the work. I get lost. It’s usually when stirring up images that I have cut out looking for visual balance when meaning sneaks in. The themes that seem to form on their own are almost always subconscious, but there is a directional pull toward spirit, play, things in the air, interconnection, wonder, startling interactions, unsettling feelings, and a peek behind the curtain I would like to think.

VMP: Talk to me a bit about your influences. I want to stress that these don’t necessarily have to be artists, it can be anyone or anything. The goal of the question is to get a window into what makes you tick, what gets you fired up, and what, if anything, you hope to accomplish with all of this.

CN: Where I grew up there was a little forested greenbelt just over our back fence, and beyond that a Department of Transportation dumping ground where my friends and I would explore and build elaborate camps out of whatever we could find. We called it The Sandpits. Secret hideouts were constructed in culverts from street signs, road equipment, debris, and tree limbs. Exploration of the territory was a constant joy. This inspired me to always engage my surroundings and reimagine the world’s usefulness. I still love getting lost and muddy and scratched up out in the woods. Not just observing nature but really playing with it. Wildness is something that I absolutely need to stay sane in the world. Also music. Music influences all.

VMP: Who are a few of the musicians you grew up listening to and who are a few folks you’re hooked on right now?

CN: Fleetwood Mac, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Funkadelic, The National, Pink Floyd, Mac Demarco, and lately a lot of Royksopp.

VMP: Are you a reader? If so, what are a few books that have had a huge impact on you over the years?

CN: I get hooked on certain writers and binge all of their work. The playfulness of Shel Silverstein, The heart of John Steinbeck, the imagination of Ray Bradbury, the perspective of Edward Abbey, the beauty and vulnerability of Jack Kerouac.

VMP: Ok last one: What life advice would you give to our readers?

CN: I wondered for years what my best medium would be and tried so many artforms until I found a process that made me forget to eat and sleep. What makes you forget to eat and sleep? What is it about a process that you love? Can you distill it down to a feeling and action? That’s all you need to identify how to move forward. Get going!  Stumble and get back up. There are invisible hands waiting to help you along the way. These hands can be relied upon like the gravity that holds you to the earth. Don’t forget to write it all down, share with others, and BE those helping hands in your time. Thank you so much for this interview!

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