I’m a huge fan of horror, creepy stuff, and the macabre, especially in art, so I was extremely excited when I found artist Al Grime. Grime uses dark imagery spanning from the hyper-realistic to wackiest abstract and it’s all gorgeous. One of the biggest things that drew me to Grime’s work, aside from the imagery of course, was his control and skill with the paintbrush. I think the craft of painting, in a very classical sense, is largely lost in modern art and it always inspires me when I see somebody with such control and skills with the paintbrush.
I found out about Grime in rather unfortunate circumstances, through people trying to help him fund-raise for medical bills as he’s had quite the run in with that stupid bitch of a disease, cancer. I won’t go into it in detail because I got to have a wonderful interview with Grime so I’ll let him give you all the details. But, I have to say this dude is an absolute warrior, battling through his own struggles, family struggles, and still finding it in him to keep creating such badass work. When I saw these paintings and heard this story, I knew I had to share it and it’s an absolute pleasure to have a platform to do that. Grime was a great interview, giving awesome insight into his work and his story, and I hope you enjoy!
1. So first off, tell us a little bit about your background as an artist. What got you started in art? Any schooling? Any origin that's important to your artistic career.
It all started when I was probably old enough to hold a pencil. So let’s just say around 2 or 3, I would spend time drawing streetsharks, the mighty ducks, and other cartoon characters with my dad. We’d sit around the table and he’d be drawing with me as well haha. As time went on I was always in love with my art classes in middle school, and then in high school is where I really started to gain more of a passion for all the arts. I’m a drummer and have had huge interests in death metal bands, jam bands, and the weirder stuff like Primus. The reason I say that is because back when CDS were popular, the album artwork always caught my eye and made me want to create similar material. Throughout my high school career I started messing with pot and psychedelics and with that comes a funky group of people who show you some real “out there” stuff. That’s when I discovered Salvador Dali, Ralph Steadman, H.R. Giger and a few other wildly talented artists. All throughout my later high school art classes I would try to emulate Dali’s surreal approach and won a few awards for my pieces. I guess as time has gone on I’ve always just subconsciously gravitated towards the creative side of things. The right side of my brain is for sure the most dominant.....IM TERRIBLE AT MATH.
2. Your work is certainly rooted in the macabre, what inspires your work? How do you decide the imagery your working with?
As we all know, Instagram and Facebook are great places to discover new artists and with my scrolling habits, I have found some of my favorite painters. One to mention would be Jed Leiknes who unfortunately passed away a while ago. I was introduced to his work by one of my best friends who would later become my tattoo mentor. During my apprenticeship, he showed me numerous dark artists who not only did amazing work on skin but also on canvas. So I guess I’ve just always been into darker work and as time has gone on, I’ve become more and more of a blood and guts freak. I often study my favorite artists work, or take an image and try to add my own weird twist to it, whether it be blood, torn flesh, or just something to make you doubletake. Sometimes I will literally start painting without reference and see what comes to mind, it’s a nice way to let your mind wander and also relax. As someone who has always struggled with anxiety and depression I think when I create these dark paintings, it’s almost like releasing bad energy in a beautiful way for me.
3. Your work is different but you clearly have a very solid grasp on the technical side of painting. What is your process like when actually painting? Are you very organic in letting the paint decide things or are you very set in your ways?
Well first of all thank you. And usually the way I work is extremely bare bones. I sit on the floor with my tiny little standup easel, a bag of paints, some semi decent brushes, cup of water, some good tunes playing, and a beer. Almost 100 percent of the time I will just start mapping out what I’m gonna do directly with the paint. Rarely do I sketch anything out or do measurements! Working from light to dark, I build up numerous layers and as the process continues I can start shaping things more and more if that makes any sense? Since most of my work is done in acrylics, it’s no problem to wait for the layer to dry and get back to business. I’ve seen some people who really take a lot of time mapping things out and making sure measurements are all accurate, and though there Is nothing wrong with that, I personally like to get down to the nitty gritty right away. The best thing about this whole art thing is that there are no rights or wrongs as long as you get what you’re going for in the end!
4. You've got work that's rooted in naturalism and work that's far more abstract, what causes these jumps from the real to the abstract? Is this a conscious decision or just something that happens?
To be honest, sometimes I just get sick of focusing too hard on making something such as a portrait. It can get tiring and frustrating for sure and sometimes getting a more loose approach to something that doesn’t have to be perfect provides much more creative freedom. Things that are easily recognizable, such as a human face or animals require much more attention to detail and correct proportions. I like to switch up my styles as well and try different things, just to keep my own interest and not become stagnant. When I first got back into painting after the big break I took, I actually started off with just splattering paint all over canvas and getting back into mixing colors and not trying to paint ANYTHING. that definitely helped me get used to color work and techniques for blending.
5. You've also jumped into the digital world a little bit, has this been a success? Something you're looking to expand on?
I’ve done a few projects for musicians, made some logos, and also my own designs for t-shirts and stickers. It’s a fun way to create but it’s nothing like the real thing. There’s just something about getting paint all over your damn self and having it stuck under your fingernails that really makes you feel like a true artist. It’s two different worlds for sure and is something I will continue to dabble with!
6. Is there any further experimental steps you're looking to take with your work?
As someone who gets bored easily, I can always sense my style Morphing and adapting to how I’m feeling. I’d like to continue to get better at those “loose” looking type of paintings. There’s something I love about looking at a piece and seeing huge globs of paint and big brush strokes. Those are the type of pieces you look at up close and don’t really see it for what it’s worth until you take a few paces back and it comes to life.... And who the hell is really getting inches away from a painting? Haha. I can’t really say what exactly I wanna go for in the coming years but I’m sure I’ll enjoy whatever it is!
7. Onto the heavy stuff, you've had quite a run in with cancer over the last year. For those who don't know, tell us a little bit about your recent battles?
Yeah. First things first, FUCK CANCER.
So my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer back in November of 2018. They gave her about a 6 to 12 month lifespan and here she is still alive 7 months later. It’s been one hell of a ride with many tears and days of not wanting to get out of bed but I keep going for her because she’s been the greatest, most supportive mother I could ever ask for. As time has progressed it has metastasized to her liver, bones and possibly her brain but she remains strong and still has her days where she wears that beautiful smile. She’s been on hospice care for a few months now and I spend most of the time I can taking care of her, feeding her, managing her pain, and being an ear to listen to her. Unfortunately she’s been slowly getting worse and I’m terrified of losing her but always want her to know that I’m here for her.
On top of it all I was also diagnosed with testicular cancer in May and had one of my nuts removed to start and will be entering chemo soon to hopefully rid of the this god awful disease. I just want to be back to full health to help my mom and live my normal life without all this anxiety and depression. It’s been an absolute shit show but her and I have always been there for each other through some truly challenging obstacles. We’re Irish and tough!
And to anyone who is or has someone in a battle with cancer, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me to talk, it’s for sure one of the most lonely feelings in the world and it can really bring your mind to dark places. DONT BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT IT! You are stronger than you think.
8. Cancer is one of the hardest things on the planet to deal with, how have you stayed inspired and continued to make art through such difficult processes?
Since most of my time has been spent taking care of my mom or at work, I haven’t been able to paint as much as I’d like but When family needs you, you do the thang. I’ve managed to get a few good works out this year but as her situation gets worse, I need to be around more and more. Luckily I live with her and can be there pretty much any time she needs me. Painting has always taken me away from the stresses of life so I’ve tried to make it necessary that I do at least a few pieces here and then to keep from going insane. The pain and stress of what I’m going through has definitely made me want to go even darker with my work and make more old ladies ask what the hell is wrong with me! You have no idea how many people have asked how well I sleep at night hahaha and my work really isn’t even that dark compared to most of the guys I admire!
9. Finally, plug yourself! Where can people find you and your work? Any new shows, new projects you're excited about? Anything and everything you want to get out there!
You can find me on Instagram @AL_GRIME_ART or on Facebook : Al grime art. I sell work through my personal profile on Facebook: Al grime Lin or through direct message on Instagram! Depending on how chemo goes, I may have a booth at the Live Free Or Die tattoo convention in Manchester, New Hampshire July 19th through the 21st. I also show work at my friend Eric Escobar’s shop in Milford called “Wicked Ways” when he hosts art shows and I also have paintings up at my friend Tj schunemanns shop, “River Rose Tattoo and Art Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire, David Cheas shop, “Glass Street Tattoo” located in the mall of New Hampshire, Scott Flanders shop, “Capital City Tattoo” in Concord and Ryan Thomas, “Word of Mouth” in Concord, New Hampshire! Go check out all those guys cause they have all been great friends in and out of the art community!