Art Whore

Art-Talk – Andre Brimo + ‘Lovecraftian Lego’

Andre Brimo is a wonderkid artist outta Sydney, ConvictTown. Andre produces experimental films utilising his talents as a visual artist, musician, set designer, character maker, and most importantly, film-maker.

Andre’s initial work was primarilly influenced by the world of acclaimed author H.P Lovecraft, but he has recently begun including many other references and influences in his work.

 (Photo below of Andre Brimo)

Get to know Andre, his art, and most importantly his video work, in the interview below…

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

Andre Brimo, born 22nd January 1996

City, State n Country you’re Repping?

Sydney, NSW, Australia. I’ve grown up here but I was born in Connecticut, USA.

Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Brimo’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, films, toys, women, school, college… ANYTHING man.

* age 10 – pre pubes:

I was obsessed with Bionicle, LEGO in general, and drawing. I loved watching the old Cartoon Network shows like Courage the Cowardly dog and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Around this time I also got an illustrated book of myths and legends from around the world that ended up hugely influencing my art.

   (Picture below of a LEGO figure Andre uses as a protagonist in his films)

* age 15 – pube rage:

 When I was 15 I was a pretty unhappy teenager. I had few friends, I hated school, I listened to Marilyn Manson, all that stuff. I also had no idea who I was, but I guess at 15 barely anyone does. My drawings became darker. I’ve always drawn monsters, but then I was drawing more ‘horror movie monsters’ than ‘fantasy and sci-fi monsters’. My parents had bought me a camera for my birthday that year, and I started making LEGO animations. My first ones weren’t very good, as you’d expect, but I kept practicing. Then my brother Christian gave me an old book of Lovecraft stories, and I loved them. I was won over by the atmosphere and the monsters, but especially the way he dealt with questions of religion and deities, which I was also pondering at the time.

* age 18 – slight acceptance of pubes:

 I’m only 17! Around the time I turned 16, I had (and still have) a strong circle of friends and school was good. By this time I knew what I wanted to do with my artistic talents, and I stared to ‘educate myself’ by watching a lot of the horror classics, like The Shining, and looking at how exactly the filmmakers created mood, atmosphere, and horror. I also gained a more sophisticated understanding of Lovecraft’s work, and I started to introduce more story elements into my videos. I gained a more sophisticated understanding of horror as well, and began to see the value it had as a way of exploring humanity’s fears and dark sides, as well as our own, on an individual level.

Personal motto/quote?

 I could write something here like follow your dreams, or never give up but those have become too cliché. What really resonated with me was something my Dad said; “You can only be hurt by people you care about.” Another good one was said to me one day in school by a friend of mine; “I don’t like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.”

(Picture below of some LEGO characters customised by Andre for use in his films)

Favorite band(s)?

 I listen to a lot of classical music, and more specifically, Romantic and Baroque. My favorite composers are J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Sarasate and Holst. I listen to a lot of movie and game soundtracks as well. As for existing bands, I enjoy Mastodon, Manowar, Graveyard Train, and Voltaire.

Favorite TV show(s)?

Doctor Who, Sherlock, Avatar: the Last Airbender, the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Adventure Time!

Favorite sport(s) + teams?

 I don’t watch or play competitive sport, but I enjoy swimming and tennis, which I play at school.

Favorite movie(s)?

Many, but if I had to pick one it would be Pan’s Labyrinth, which inspired me to make films and convinced me of their power. My other favorites are Hellboy, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix, The Shining, Psycho, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Blade Runner, Alien, and District 9.

Favorite books and comics?

 The stories of H. P. Lovecraft of course! I also love the His Dark Materials trilogy, Horns by Joe Hill, the Harry Potter series, Frankenstein, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, and Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and ‘Golem’ by David Wisniewski, a retelling of the classic narrative of the Golem of Prague illustrated with gorgeous paper collages. My favourite comics are Hellboy and Calvin and Hobbes.

Specifics on Art

Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, narrative video, art-video, re-hashed crap?

I consider what I make to be art, although some of my first animations were just me shamelessly showing off my LEGO monsters. I’ve sometimes called my work ‘Experimental film’, which is my code for, ‘It’s not a proper short film and I don’t know what else to call it’.

When did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?

(Picture below of a drawing by Andre)

 I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been playing violin since I was 4. I only started making videos around the age of 15.

Have you had any formal artistic training? And how has formal art training added to your work?

 Aside from some workshops put on by schools and universities, the only formal art training I’ve received was from school. This stopped in year 10, because I had to choose between music and art; I chose music. The formal training I did receive is a huge factor in the quality of my drawings and music, but I didn’t have any formal training in animation, except for one workshop.

Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?

(Picture below of a landscape Andre hand made for use in his films)

 A short while after I started making animations, I put them on Youtube so I could get constructive criticism from other animators. When I started it was just a hobby, but then I became passionate and serious about making films. So I entered one of my shorts into the 2012 A Night of Horror festival, and to my surprise it was accepted. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend at the time, because I was only 16. I plan to enter at least one film a year into a festival.

Company/personal motto?

 Many directors have said this, so I will paraphrase; “If you love movies and want to make movies, start by making a movie.”

Favorite medium to make art outta – I notice that you make short films, figures to feature in your stop motion videos, props for your videos and drawings…dear god!?

 That’s actually an important thing for me; a film combines almost every form of art (music, visual design, writing, etc.), and for a while I could not decide what kind of art I was the most passionate about, because I loved all of them. If I had to choose only one besides film, though, it would be drawing. It’s so liberating and individual.

Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?

 My favorite filmmakers are Guillermo Del Toro and Stanley Kubrick. My favorite visual artists are Mike Mignola, Keith Thompson, and Salvador Dali. While I admire H. R. Giger’s work, it honestly terrifies me.

Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

 Because of the internet, your competition becomes the whole world, but I think the benefits of that outweigh the negatives.

Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

My work being seen by like-minded people and getting feedback and constructive criticism, and how easy this is now because of the internet and social media, and meeting and connecting with said people.

Andre Brimo Art Questions

Describe the method of making an Andre Brimo piece –

(a) …your video work?

  • Have idea. It’s usually either a Lovecraft story I want to adapt, or a monster/prop/character I want to put in a film
  • Plan the film extensively in my head
  • Storyboard/script if there’s dialogue
  • Work out what I need to make and what I already have, and what materials I’ll use for characters, props and sets. I often paint Bionicle pieces, and make paper decals for LEGO minifigure parts.
  • If the video cannot be made at the current time, write down a general outline and save it for later
  • Make sure there’s enough creepiness and monsters in the video
  • Film the video. My animations generally end up being 12 fps.
  • For animations, I save the scenes into separate video files beforehand, so I don’t end up with 1000 photos in a project, which would be impossible to edit.
  • Edit the video. I used windows live movie maker until last Christmas when my family bought me some decent video editing software (Corel Video Studio pro X5), so now I use that. I spend a large amount of time on this, because I feel that pacing is incredibly important to my films. If I feel that the pacing isn’t exactly right, then I may shoot additional scenes.
  • Now that the visuals are done, I recruit my brother and/or a friend if I need voice acting that I don’t do myself. I make creepy sound effects with my voice and/or Audacity and record those if I need them.
  • Music is added last; for most videos I browse Kevin Macleod’s Royalty free music site until I find the right piece. I’m starting to make more work with my own music. For the two films I entered into A Night of Horror, the music had to be original.
  • Add intro and credits
  • ‘Proof-watch’ film to make sure it’s the best work I can do
  • Save as a video file/burn to DVD, upload to Youtube!
This makes it look like I’m more meticulous than I am; a couple videos of mine were made on a whim in a couple hours, but I still followed this method.

(b) …your drawings?

This may be a bit basic, but I’m not too good at explaining my drawing process, so here goes:
  • Have idea/experience/be inspired by something (usually a movie, book, other artist, etc.)
  • Choose material to draw with. I use charcoal for a more abstract, dark, emotional feel, and pencil if I want a more precise and sensitive drawing. I sometimes use ballpoint pen, which can make a piece more rough or aggressive.
  • Draw. Once I start drawing something, it just ‘evolves’. I can’t really explain it that well.
  • If I can’t think of anything, I draw the first thing that comes into my head and go from there.
  • Scan it in to my computer, use Photoshop to colour or slightly edit if necessary.
  • Upload to Deviantart if it’s good enough

Why does your video work use LEGO + Bionicle so much? The ease of use? Or is LEGO + Bionicle an integral part of your artistic world + vision?

(Picture below of a creature Andre made using Bionicle that was used in one of his films)

 Both of those. I’ve always loved LEGO and Bionicle, and as a result I have colossal amounts of both. Bionicle for me represents a stranger, wild and alien side of LEGO. The use of LEGO people and Bionicle monsters, or beings, is integral to my depictions of ‘normal’ people dealing with the strange, alien and unusual, and this is especially important in my Lovecraft animations. I also liked the ‘tribal’ and mystical feel combined with technology that was in the Bionicle storylines and designs.

All of your videos thus far have been shorts of about 5 minutes or less, any desire to make a feature film, or a long short?

 I’m actually working on a longer short at the moment. I won’t make a feature film for quite a while. I need much more practice and experience before I’m ready for that.

Your videos occasionally feature music, is any of it made by yourself? If so, how? If not, how do you choose what is appropriate?

 Some of the music is made by myself. I used improvised violin melodies in ‘From Beyond’. Most of my music/noise is edited and sometimes made with audacity, a basic sound editing program, because it allows for some really freaky effects. I use my violin, my voice and sometimes our piano. On the piano I can play monophonic melodies and that’s it. Otherwise I use Kevin Macleod’s excellent Royalty Free music. The way I choose an appropriate soundtrack is always by waiting until the film has been shot and edited. Then I can decide what musical atmosphere I want to create. The video may need an intense soundtrack, or it could be subtle and creepy. After playing an instrument for a long time, you develop this weird sense; you just know when something sounds right.

Your videos also occasionally feature a vocal track; do you do all the voices for the characters yourself, or work with collaborators?

 I did one video where I did all the voices myself (the Innsmouth video), and I cringe every time I watch it. My friend generously offered to provide his voice after this, and so did my brother Christian. Now I work with collaborators, unless the film has only one character/vocal track.

Your videos often include hand made landscapes which your characters exist in. What materials do you use to make your landscapes, and what is the process involved in producing them?

(Picture below of a building and landscape made by Andre for use in his films)

 I use found materials, mostly cardboard, tape, boxes, and hobby materials like fake grass. I use acrylic paint to finish. They have a more natural and creepy feel than LEGO, and I’m not as skilled in the use of normal LEGO as I am in Bionicle. The naturalism is essential in creating that difference between the ‘normal’ LEGO people and the alien Bionicle creatures. I do use LEGO for certain elements, such as the machine in ‘From Beyond’, and bases so it’s easier to animate character movement and walking. I try to keep them simpler than my characters and elements (houses, etc.), yet still evocative. I still find it funny that I used a bedsheet for the ocean once

You are also an accomplished musician – being very skilled in the violin – how does music affect your art, and vice –versa?

 Thank you. Playing the violin has helped me gain a sense of the right kind of music I need for my films, as I mentioned earlier. There is a lot of emotion and sensitivity involved playing an instrument, and I feel this has carried over to my films.

Your videos have been shown at independent film nights, such as at ‘Night of Horror’ in Sydney, ConvictTown. What is the indie film scene like in Sydney?

 Most screenings at A Night of Horror festival are 18+, so I’ve only been once. From what I’ve seen of the community, it’s full of unique and talented people who can be really supportive. To meet like-minded people who are making art of their own is a great thing.

The vast majority of your videos are inspired by the writings of H.P Lovecraft, and you even named your video brand – ‘Lovecraftian Lego’ – after him; how has Lovecraft and his writings affected you as a person, and an artist?

 I named my video brand that because when I started I didn’t know I’d be doing anything else! Lovecraft inspired me because he had an incredible imagination, and this shows in his aliens- they’re not green men from mars, to use the stereotype. They’re not even remotely human, to the point where they consider us ants and we might consider them gods. I found this a really interesting interpretation of deities, religious beliefs and their place in our lives. Another thing is that his protagonists are mostly professors, scientists- very educated and intelligent people. Seeing them try to understand these completely incomprehensible beings was really intriguing. My reaction to this was mostly ‘Wow, I never thought of it like that before’ as well as ‘Damn, that’s a scary concept.’ From a creative standpoint, I was inspired by how he created atmosphere and tension, and used subtlety to create a mood of terror. I’ve always loved big scary monsters, so of course I loved the Old Ones and their Lairs.

The vast majority of your work references the occult and esoteric religious practices. What role does religion/the occult play in your life? And what role do you think it plays in today’s increasingly atheist society?

(Picture below of a sigil by Andre)

 I was raised in a catholic family and I go to a catholic school. I’ve seen how religion and faith can have an immensely positive impact on individuals and a community, but it never had that kind of impact on me. So I ended up drifting away from religious belief as I got older. That is not to say I don’t see the value in religion. I use religious symbolism in my art, as well as taking inspiration from the Bible, religious artwork and music. In today’s society, religious communities and beliefs have a great capacity to support and help people that we don’t see from the major religious organisations. We see extremists using religion to justify hatred and violence. We see priests who take advantage of their reputation to commit horrible acts. In many cases yes this is a minority, but that’s all it takes to ruin people’s perception.
 Many people now think of a radical Muslim whenever they hear the word ‘terrorist’, although this can be blamed partially on sensationalist media. Many people are moving away from religion because they don’t trust organised religion anymore and are seeing the harm it can do; discrimination, violence and radicalism. But this has always happened throughout history. I think people are realizing that you don’t need religion to be a good person, and now, with an incredibly fast transfer of information, people know more about the harm religion can do. So I think organised religion plays less of a positive role in society than it has the potential to, but personal faith and smaller religious communities are still very important for offering support to people who need it.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

 My friends and I are making a live-action horror short film.

Any major projects you want to hype man?

 I can’t really say right now, because I have the HSC to do, but after that I’ll certainly be making some more live-action films.
Thank you very much for this interview!

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