"Metal bands want to portray the opposite of a happy life on their album covers," says Ken Sarafin, and the Vale of Pnath frontman knows from whence he speaks. In addition to creating the awe-inducing artwork for his band's latest release, The Prodigal Empire, Sarafin has illustrated at least a dozen album covers for an array of acts, both local and national, including Axeslasher, Listen to Reason, Exotype, Acedia, Arcania, Blue Waffle and Voiceless Location, among others.
Sarafin, a part-time illustrator and metal vocalist who also works part-time at Lockheed Martin, specializes in depictions of post-apocalyptic science fiction horror, a style he eventually found through copying his dad's old Sgt. Fury and Spiderman comics as a child. We recently caught up with Sarafin for a quick chat about his work.Westword: Where are you from, and how did you get into illustrating?
Ken Sarafin: I was born and raised in Littleton. I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I was very much influenced by my dad to keep practicing. He had a great comic book collection that really fascinated me, and I was always copying what I saw. Though my dad is a structural engineer in the space industry, he's also a skilled illustrator and was able to pass along much of his knowledge to me growing up. I didn't start digital painting until 2008, however. While attending the Art Institute of Colorado, I was introduced to Photoshop and Wacom drawing tablets. Once I started, there was no turning back.
Who are your biggest influences?
The artist who's influenced me the most in my life is Greg Capullo. He penciled the comic Spawn for many years. His attention to detail and creature design blew me away. I still find myself looking through my old Spawn collection, admiring his work. Later, I discovered an interest in pen and ink, also due to Spawn -- Danny Miki, who worked with Capullo through many of the first 100 issues, had an amazing style that perfectly complements Greg's details, and to this day, they are my favorite illustrative team.
What is your dream project?
I used to think that becoming a concept artist for gaming was my dream job, but that was before I found a lucrative freelance career as a digital painter. I'd still love to work in the gaming or film industry as an artist, but I'm not sure that's my "dream" anymore. I guess I'm not sure what that is. I work a lot with metal bands, but I'd love to branch out into all sorts of genres as an artist.
Typically, my paintings are very creepy and surreal, but I also love creating sci-fi and fantasy works. I'd love to illustrate for a cool graphic novel someday. I'd also love for someone to fly me out to a tropical island and pay me millions of dollars to paint fruit wearing hats. I don't know. As long as I can be creative and make a living doing it, I'm happy.
Continue on to feast your eyes on some of Ken Sarafin's handiwork.