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Behind the Scene Features FireBreather Festival 2018 Interviews Local Spotlight

An Interview with Graphic Artist Tristan Thompson of Tristarr Art

There’s more that goes into making a scene prosper than just the bands and venues. To get people to a show or to buy a band’s album or shirt, you need killer artwork to grab their attention. Luckily, we have a lot of talented artists around Indianapolis that help out, with one of the more significant ones being Tristan Thompson of Tristarr Art.

Tristan originally popped up on our radar as the bassist for local metal band Archarus. Later we found that not only is he a talented musician, he’s an exemplary artist too, having done artwork for their debut album Render unto Archarus as well as their Hobbit themed split with Thorr-Axe.

For some pieces, he has a classic fantasy illustrator approach comparable to the works of Frank Frazetta or Marc Simonetti, while on his female focused pieces his style is more animated and reminiscent of comic book illustrators like J. Scott Campbell or Alé Garza. Whether you’re a horror, anime, or fantasy fan, you’ll find a lot to dig about his work.

One of his more recent contributions has been his promotional art for the upcoming Firebreather festival. As many of you should know by now, the stoner rock fest is happening next month at Indiana City Beer. If you haven’t already, preorder your tickets along with a limited edition shirt here and then check out our interview with Tristan where he talks about how he got into art, the inspiration behind his festival poster, playing music with Archarus, and more!


Indy Metal Vault: Hey, thanks for agreeing to this interview. We’ve been following you for a while and I’m glad we finally got around to chatting. To start off, can you tell us what got you into art and who or what are some of your influences?

Tristan Thompson: Drawing has just always been an interest of mine. I was the kid that would always draw (mostly dinosaurs) on the placemats at restaurants. When I was in third grade, my art teacher pulled me aside and gave me a sketchbook. She told me to never stop drawing. I think I would have continued pursuing my interest even if that hadn’t happened, but I like to think of that as a contributing factor.

Another point I remember was when my dad showed me a book of Frank Frazetta’s (my now all-time favorite artist) work, and when I saw it, I just remember thinking, “I want to do THAT.” I wanted to be able to create new worlds and pictures that told stories. From then on, I just kept creating things that came into my head.

IMV: What tools do you use to create? Pen, tablet, can and outline? What’s your technique? What’s your favorite media to work with?

TT: At this point, I’m strictly digital. I feel like I have to be digital in order to keep pace in the field I follow. Tools I use are a Wacom Intuos, with Photoshop, Corel Painter, and Illustrator. I do preliminary sketch work in my handy dandy notebook, but final products are always digital. Mistakes can be corrected with Ctrl+Z and it doesn’t smudge the paper. Digital also means I don’t have to part with the original work. I can sell prints, but I always have the original working art file in case I want to edit anything later on. Digital has become my favorite, but if I had the space, I would love to go back to oils. Oils is where I learned color theory and application of texture. Something about making deliberate marks forces you to be confident in your work, too. If you goof, it’s a pain to backtrack.

IMV: What helps you get into your creative head space? Do you listen to music while creating?

TT: Music is a must. Typically non-lyrical music for me, or music that focuses on instrumentation. I also tend to work better later in the day, after I do my morning routine. Once I have my coffee, I can put on music that fits the theme of my current project and get to work. I lock my door and place one of those Do Not Disturb thingies from a Super 8 on the outside. I usually put my phone somewhere where I can’t see or hear it.

IMV: What has been your favorite piece that you have created? What about it are you most proud of?

TT: The current piece I’m making right now might be my new favorite. It’s a cover concept of a narrative I’ve been working on for about seven months or so. I think what I’m most proud of is the challenge of meshing environment with figure. I’m spending a lot more time on rendering the background elements and not leaving it up to interpretation. A lot of my pieces focus on the foreground figure and the background is left cloudy and underdeveloped. For this piece I’m trying to maximize everything without making it look busy.

IMV: You developed a lot of artwork for the Firebreather festival. What was the inspiration behind the flyer?

TT: First I broke down the word “Firebreather”. My initial thought was dragon, but that’s pretty generic. What else “breathes” fire? An engine was another thought, but I decided to keep trying and eventually thought of a volcano. Having Firebreather refer to something natural felt more fitting. I know how Drew writes music, and I felt like that was going to mesh well with what his mindset was.

IMV: And speaking of Firebreather, will you be selling your artwork at the festival?

TT: I believe flyers will be sold, but unfortunately I will not be present. Being in weddings has become a part-time job for me, and I will be performing usherly duties at a family wedding out of town the day of the festival.

IMV: Archarus is also on the festival lineup. You did a pretty long stint playing bass with them as well as doing all of their album artwork. What made you decide to hang it up, and do you think you’d ever consider playing in a band again?

TT: Writing and playing music with Archarus was great. It offered a creative outlet that I hadn’t had for a long time. The band began to get as serious with touring and playing as I was about my art. Balancing a full-time job along with being attentive with my artwork and being in a touring band began to take its toll. I began to think of going to shows as work, and I didn’t enjoy it. My weekends were used to travel and play as opposed to finishing my next piece. I felt like I was falling behind with my art, and I couldn’t let anything get in the way of that. I knew leaving the band would save my creative energy and my friendship I built with Drew.

I would consider playing one-off shows or jam on occasion, but I have no desire to tour. I told Drew that I would tour if I could be guaranteed eight hours of sleep a night in a warm bed. Needless to say, many laughs were had.

IMV: What got you into playing music to begin with? Have you played in other bands besides Archarus?

TT: When I was a freshman in high school, my dad let me play around on his acoustic and I learned to play the basics. But it seemed like everyone and their brother played guitar, and I wanted to be different. I bought a drum set and joined a band in my high school that did some local shows around Evansville. I also started dabbling in bass a couple years later, and it seemed the only requirement to be a bass player in a high school band was to own a bass. A few years later, a friend at work was looking for a band to be in and ran across Drew and Matt’s craigslist ad for a bass player. He forwarded it to me since their influences were Sleep, Black Sabbath, and The Sword, which he knew I was fans of. I wasn’t looking to be in a band at the time, but what the hell, I gave it a shot. Again, they weren’t picky, and I owned a bass, so I was in.

IMV: Getting back to your art, are there any new cool ideas/pieces percolating that we can lookout for?

TT: Like I said earlier, I’m working on a concept piece for a narrative I’m putting together. Look for that in April. I’ll be printing the first chapter of my story soon after that so that I can share and sell some physical copies by summer. I also plan on simultaneously launching a Kickstarter to fund a full-length story if my first printing goes well, so be on the lookout!

IMV: Where can we purchase your stuff and how can people get in touch to have you work on a piece?

The best way to get in touch about projects is to email me. [email protected]

As for portfolio, my website is just www.tristarr.art. I also use Behance and Artstation, Instagram and Facebook that you can find all under TRISTARR.ART.

If you ever want to see what I’m currently working on, I have a YouTube/Twitch channel where I live stream while I work. It’s a good place to interact and ask questions about the project I’m working on.

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