Recently, while at a show opening, I was strolling through the collections from previous shows and I came across this large photo of what appeared to be a masked man screaming. Something about this photo really sucked me in, I couldn’t stop looking at it. There was just something about the haunting nature of the character, the framing of the scene, and editing that made me want to see more. So I hunted down the artist, whose name seemed equally as ominous as the work, and that’s when I found Brian Sheehan, aka LGRDMN. The body of work I found was truly impressive, immersive, and diverse. Sheehan has two sides of his work that come together to form one fascinating portfolio. On one hand, he’s got a collection of photos just like the one I was so drawn to at the gallery and these are a brilliant combination of artistic elements. Sheehan creates, or collaborates with other artists to create, all of the costumes in the photos which are highlighted by these really freaky masks. The photos are representations of, what seem to be, wild performances that show these characters going nuts or being spooky, often in the real world. The photos are just so fascinating, they range from highly edited to almost no alterations and the more you look at them, the more that’s revealed whether it’s the subtleties of the character, the environments or lack thereof, and the push/pull between the two. Deeper into the work of Sheehan is a series of designs that take all of the elements I mentioned in his photo work and push them beyond the realms of reality, creating these detailed and mind melting works. The macabre nature of the photos is pushed even further when the structure and realm of reality is melted in this design work. Yet no matter how wild the design gets, it’s still so clean and crisp. Sheehan blends and breaks the elements and sections of his design so well that no matter how layered or intricate they get, it never feels busy or overdone.
I could ramble on about the ins and outs of Sheehan’s work because I’m entranced by it since finding it, but I was fortunate enough to get to talk with him about the nuances of his work. We dove into the details of creating his photo work, how he builds and pushes elements of his photo in design, and a whole lot more. He gave tremendous insight into his work and all that he’s got going on and it was a great interview. Take a deep dive into this wild and crazy work and enjoy the interview!
1. I always open with the background, so what got you into art? Any schooling? Big inspirations? What helped shape you into the artist you are today?
There is an early memory of my mother telling me to "draw it yourself." I remember asking her to draw me different characters/ creatures from the books and comics I was into growing up. Maybe around 7, I traced my first T-Rex out of a Jurassic Park book.
Over the years I've gotten away from the illustration, and more dependent on photography. Though, I still wouldn't consider myself a photographer. It's just simply the dominant medium being exhibited.
Sometime down the line and started playing in bands. I always listened to music visually. With that came the need for flyers, t-shirt design, and album art. Again, with the help of more adept peers, taught myself Photoshop and later additional programs from the suite.
I was falling out of love with illustration and more drawn to manipulating photography. Crude, public domain, vintage photos Id scavenge and cut/ collage together. Inevitably it became restricting and frankly, kind of lame. I started shooting on my phone (people, statues, textures) until buying a used camera from my roommate at the time.
Everything I do now is attempting to combine (almost) all of my interests into one form. Costume/ prop making, poetic, surreal storytelling, photography, graphic design, performance art, etc.
2. You've got quite a unique style that's built largely around the use of characters and masks. How did you begin developing this style? Was there any inspiration specifically to the look? How has your work with these subject types developed?
The classic horror films (Universal Monsters, Hammer, the silent greats, Godzilla), countless more contemporary films from the 80s and 90s were probably my biggest influence. Eventually you want to create your own. I started working at haunted attractions at the end of high school. It really changed the way I perceived what art can be. Performative, character design and craft, and spontaneous. I had the good fortune of more adept friends who were kind enough to show me techniques and help make things physical.
3. Are you hand making all of the costumes that you use in your photo shoots? Are they made specifically for a certain shoot or do you just make a costume and build the set around it?
For the most part.I prefer to use my own pieces unless full permission from the maker/ artist has been granted. I've done some collaborative stuff with other makers and friends. Missy (MM Fabrications) has had me out to LA a few times now to collaborate.
I try to leave as much room for experimentation during the shoots. I'll often have specific items in mind for certain models. However, the more impromptu sessions end up being more fortuitous.
4. It seems as though your photo shoots are almost more performance than shoot, are you working with a model for these shoots? Are you doing any of the performing? What is the actual shooting process like when you've got these characters maneuvering around a space?
Yes, I've been taking a more voyeuristic approach. Falling back in love with long exposure after a couple years away. For me, it helps tell the narrative in a more dramatic way. Working with different people gets different results. I try to keep it as collaborative as possible without compromising my aesthetic.
Aside from that, I don't want to reveal too much about the process.
5. For your more straight up photo work, how much editing and manipulating are you doing? Is there any variation in the editing for when something is just released digitally vs. when it's sent to print? What do you typically?
It depends. Gravitating more towards the photography these last couple of years and keeping the manipulation/ digital painting/ collage secondary.
6. Moving into your design work, how do you maintain the style of your photo work in these more elaborate and crazy designs that sort of push the boundaries of both mediums?
Thanks for saying so! I do graphic design & photography for a living. My "day job" is designing licensed apparel for retailers. Both brick and mortar as well as online storefronts. I come home, and dive right into the freelance and personal work. Design is an immense aspect to the work and how it's presented. Again, my art is me attempting to encompass all of my interests.
7. A lot of your design is pushing certain photo elements with illustration elements, how do you go about this process? How do you push real life elements into design and stretch the boundaries of reality? Is it a rigidly planned process or do you just allow the work to present itself to you?
Both! Most of it is trial by fire but some pieces just manifest on their own. Sometimes the narrative comes before the visual piece and vice versa. Working digitally opens new doors I wasn't able to experiment with when I was illustrating.
8. You've got a very limited/muted color palette in your work, how do you decide if/when you include color? How do you decide when to add the few vibrant colors that you use?
It's really just comes down to my preference each time. I try not to do everything grey scale, but try not to add color just for the sake of it. Subtle reds/ crimson adorning the grey scale usually hits the sweet spot. While there are some cases in which color is an intentional part of the narrative, it's often just an aesthetic preference.
Growing up on black and white films steered me into the unsaturated realm. I've always been drawn to it's overly dramatic characteristics.
9. You've also got an array of client work, how does your design process change when working for someone? Do people have an idea of what they're getting when they approach you or do you have to lay that out for them?
It's both. The best are the clients with little to no guidelines. It's why I can't establish flat rates. Every project is different and the price fluctuates based on the creative freedom, deadlines, and if there is too specific of a concept to where I'm just being someone's hand. All are good and I welcome any commission. I just can't do them all.
Band artwork is kind of my bread and butter and I'm honored to add the visual to the audible. Would love to do more work for movies, books, games, etc.
Have been getting a lot of requests for video work over the years. Finally getting comfortable with it and planning to do more in the not so distant future.
10. Finally, Plugs! Where can people find your work? Any shows/events coming up? Anything you'd like to share and anywhere people can find your work, fire away!
My friend Nate (Red Devil Made This) and I just launched our new art collective "The C.O.I.N." and announced chapter II of our immersive art exhibition Cagliostro. A DIY, immersive art exhibition taking place in a historic 19th century haunted house, transformed into a gallery space for one night only.
Will also have work in the 2020 edition of Detroit's Dirty Show.
The Catacomb Saints Exhibition in San Antonio, TX 02/22/2020.
Performing with my band, Fell Ruin, as well as vending my art at Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival 2020 in Fredrick, MD. We will be doing a few dates in route to be announced soon.
Will be announcing a show curated by Gretchen Heinel in Nyack, NY April/ May 2020.
A few other projects in the works that I can't really reveal yet.
Also, planning to release my second book sometime 2020. Work is already well underway.