Eric Himle is an artist who has worked with such bands as Bane, Expire, and Brotherhood. Based in Utah, he's also an art teacher and hardcore connoisseur, so he's a natural fit for this site. In this Q&A, I chat with Himle about his work, early inspirations, and who he would love to collaborate with in the future.
First off, what came first for you, the love of music, or the love of drawing?
My first love was always drawing. I used to draw army men whenever I could. My Dad was in the Army and would feed my addiction to G.I. Joes. So most of my early drawings were army men and helicopters that had legs. In the first grade my teacher made us write books and illustrate them. I still have a few. It really put a spark into me to pursue drawing and illustration.
Music came later. My first memory was when I was seven, I got ahold of my Mom’s Beach Boys' Greatest Hits tape, and played that until it was dead. I didn’t get into anything else until I was in Junior High and heard Weezer’s "Buddy Holly." I spent a lot of time in D.C. growing up and on Sunday nights WHFS, the local alternative station, would have a pseudo independent music show on it. I hear Sunny Day Real Estate and Frank Black. That led me to be open to new things and I was always searching for something different that cool kids in school didn’t know about.
So, how did you first get into hardcore and punk music?
I first got into hardcore when I was 15. My freshman year, my brother would drive me to school. We had to listen to awful country music every morning. After he graduated, and I was a sophomore, I had to find a ride with someone else. I eventually met this guy, Jay Bales, who would drive me to school, he would blast a lot of that mid-'90s “new school” hardcore; Earth Crisis, Strife, Integrity, Harvest, a lot of D.C. bands like Damnation A.D., Battery, were on constant rotation, along with Judge’s first EP. I was hooked.
Unlike the heavy stuff my Junior High friends would listen too, like Pro-Pain or Pantera, hardcore had a positive message, the people seemed down to earth, and people were, on the whole, clean and sober. I didn’t like the party crowd, they felt alien to me. I wanted to be around people that wanted to better themselves and the world around them. In retrospect I feel pretty lucky to have lived in the D.C. area in the mid to late '90s, to have gotten into the scene there, and to have had an amazing High School to go to. I went to West Springfield High, and the list of hardcore kids that came from there seems pretty incredible to me. I feel lucky to have been there.
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Who are some of the artists that inspired you early on?
I’ve had many artistic influences over the years. In the hardcore scene the first artist that I really started noticing again and again is Linus Garsys. I really loved his output in the early '00s. I visited D.C. once, a while after I had left, and he had been rooming with a friend of mine, I was excited to meet him, but he had moved out just before I got there, it kinda bummed me out. Although, not a primary influence I am in awe of how many fantastic album cover Sean Taggart has done. It is incredible.
For a while was doing '80s skateboard graphics, in the style of Jim Phillips, but moved into realism and started looking at how far I could take things. I would be lying if I didn’t say that Pushead or John Baizley aren’t primary inspirations, along with Kevin Crowley.
When I first saw the Abused artwork, I wanted that record, needed it to study the art. But of course, in the late '90s all you could get was the Lost and Found CD, who I didn’t want to support, so every time I went into the record store I would stare at the cover. I never thought I would have the patience for stippling in my art, but I guess that is what happened eventually. Also, I am very happy to have the Radio Raheem reissue of that LP, so I could stare at Kevin’s work without feeling guilty.
Mike Sutfin, from Charles Bronson, is an incredible artist and inspiration to me, he has been kind enough to give me encouragement and advice over the last year.
In terms of the hardcore world, who are some bands, past or present, you think have a strong visual point of view?
This question stumped me for a bit. I really had to think about it. I thought of classics like Chain of Strength, Side by Side, and Sick of it all. But I really thought about it, and the two older bands that really had incredible visuals and direction are first the Misfits. All of their albums feel consistent. Dark artwork, but with an edge of fun to it.
Second, I would say Septic Death. Pushead’s style both in the '80s and his current work, all feel so consistent. His work can be spotted across the room and it is fantastic.
Right now, GIVE has an extremely strong visual style. I think too often many bands don’t make a concerted effort like GIVE does.
What is your toolbox like these days?
The tools I use are: for pencils, Tombow Mono and Prisma Col-erase light blue pencils. For inking I use a Pentel extra fine brush pen, which I load with Dr. Martin’s ink, in fact, that is the ink I try and use the most. I also used a Tachikawa maru pen nib (t-77 and t-99) and pen holder. And finally Rotring rapidographs, I wish I could use Dr. Martin’s ink in some Isographs, but they just clogged up too much, the rapidographs work good enough. For substrates, I work on either Strathmore 400 or 500 series smooth Bristol board, or I work on ampersand’s Claybord.
How have you gone about getting the word out about your work? Is going after commission work something that you dread, or do you find it to be a relatively painless process for you?
I have been awful getting my name out there. I do send some show posters I’ve done to labels from time to time, and I post on Instagram and Facebook, and that’s about it. Pretty minimal. I have kids, and a full-time job teaching art at a high school, so art is not something I can do all the time. I squeeze in any fraction of free time I have to do art, and with my other responsibilities I have to be careful how much work I go looking for. In a way I wish I had lots of jobs, but I really can only handle so much.
Last year, Ron Guardipee, from Brotherhood, was posting about a band called Lowest Priority. So when they came through my town, I made some posters for the show, I had a few leftover and sent one to Ron. He asked me to create a Brotherhood poster, which was a huge honor to be asked to do that.I have just sent the design to the printers, being professionally screen printed, and have them for pre order at my shop, ehimle.storenvy.com.
I’m hoping to sell a lot of them, since I put quite a bit of money to get them printed, and I hope some hardcore kids want a cool collectors item. I have other classic bands on a list, who I have loose connections to, that I would love to do posters for, but we will see if this Brotherhood poster sells at all, or if I lose my pants on it.
To be honest, it is hard trying to get hardcore kids to buy art prints. Essentially, I am trying to spearhead a new avenue of collecting, which is and has been dominated by T-shirts and Records in the Hardcore Scene.
In recent years the screen-printed poster has exploded in indie scenes, both music and movies. I am hoping that it will catch on in the hardcore scene. Though, it looks to be a tough road. It really is a supply and demand in effect in the collecting scene. Its kind of a pure libertarian economic experience in a way. What drives the indie scene is if a poster sells out then resale goes up and some will flip the poster and others hold onto for dear life, making the supply low and prices raise more. That social aspect, of placing value on something, drives it.
To be honest, I stink at music, and I’ve always wanted to contribute and put my stamp on the scene, however small that may be. Rain on the Parade’s song, “Just One More," has played a lot in my has through the years, I want to make something to better the scene, so art is what I am trying to do. Hopefully some kids see that and help support me put more posters out, like you would a label or a band. Just hope it doesn’t become the Rain on the Parade song, “Guest List” [laughs].
Who are some other bands/brands you’ve worked with to date?
Although I haven’t done illustrations for him, I have worked on graphic design for Fred Hammer and his It’s Alive label. Fred is a top-notch, high-quality gentleman. He doesn’t have a lot of money or anything but, designing stuff takes a fraction of the time an illustration does, he also gives me a lot of time and is very flexible with my busy schedule.
I’m working on the Half Off demo rerelease design right now, and hopefully everyone sees all the love Fred has for Jim Burke, who passed away many years ago. Fred is dedicating the album to Jim and you can really feel his love for his friend in the care he making in releasing the demo.
Most of my illustration work has up till now just doing posters for bands when they come through and when it fits my schedule. I try and pick two to three shows a year to create art for a show. I try my hardest to get in contact with the band before hand, and create the funnest, coolest piece I can. Sometimes I just have to contact the venue. I have to give props to Konrad Keele, who runs the Underground and the Beehive Social Club in SLC. He always lets me do posters when I can. If you’re ever touring and in Utah, try to play one of his venues.
I have done 4 posters for Bane. Aaron Dalbec, who was my contact, was always extremely nice in letting me do the posters. In fact they have been the best sellers. Everyone loves Bane, how could you not? I liked that after their shows Bane would sign them for people. As a kid I would’ve thought that cornball rockstar stuff, but as I watched the members sign them, I realized how cool and down to earth that was for them to do that, very opposite of rockstar. In fact, I wish anyone who picked up a poster of mine at a show would get it signed by the band, how incredibly unique and personable that is.
I would love to hear what some of your dream projects would be.
First and foremost, my dream is the screen printed classic hardcore band poster thing I’m trying to do takes off. I would love to run it like a record label, releasing limited posters of classic bands. I have the next band lined up and will be working on the art for it this summer. I hope I can recoup the investment in the Brotherhood poster so I can release this next poster. Secondly, I would love to do some album covers, I try and keep my pricing cheap, but I am really methodical in drawing and it usually take around 80+ hours to draw an illustration. Stipple is pretty intense. So if quote you a price realize I am still pretty much working for pennies even though the price may seem big. I love the scene and if I could afford to work for free I would, but I think my wife would kill me for missing so much time with my family. So i have to charge something.
As far as dream jobs for bands, I would love to do something for Primal Rite, they are so fresh and classic sounding all at once. I feel I could do some interesting and dark illustrations for them. I would love to do something for a D.C. band from my roots, like a reissue of Damnation A.D.’s No More Dreams... I think would die if I ever got a call from Sick of it All. That band has been in my life nearly the whole of my hardcore listening experience and they are so incredible.
If I’m really dreaming big, I love to see Bane do a one off reunion album, and they would ask me do the cover (a guy can dream can’t he?). There are lots of things I would love to do, but basically I would just like to have the opportunity to do something great. Drop me a line some time.
Gun to your head, what is your favorite album cover?
Any Hot Water Music album with Scott “sinc” Sinclair art on it. I could stare at those album covers forever. Runner up is In My Eyes’ The Difference Between from Pushead, simple but effective, plus it’s very nostalgic for me.