Interview with Nathaniel Barlam
We recently published an article about Nathaniel Barlam an architect based in New York and an amazing artist.
One of his best known works is the illustration of the rock opera by the British band Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, an extraordinary creation that impressed the audience on Youtube.
Nathaniel kindly granted me an interview, which I feel honored to publish here.
Hi Nathaniel. So many thanks for your time with us here at QOOBIX.
Q – I know you are an architect. How do your job and your artistic vein combine?
A – The work I do for my job is very detail oriented and technical, which is rewarding but also a bit dry. Illustration provides an outlet for my creative needs, so it helps to balance my day job.
Q – Rock music and figurative arts, which one was born first in you?
A – I would say figurative arts, in that I have been interested in creating art since I can remember, but rock music has also had a long-lived impact on my life.
Q – I get the impression your work is akin a biopsy of the songs you illustrate. I mean, it’s as if you took out living tissue of a living entity and began analyzing. So, what’s this creative process like?
A – That is an interesting analogy. Generally, I start with the broad strokes for a song’s narrative, then work on images in sequence to build up a cohesive story from start to finish. I apply artistic styles that fit the feeling of the song and illustrate images that mesh with the accompanying lyrics. My conceptualization of the song evolves through the illustration process, so the end result is often quite different from my initial ideas.
Q – In artistic terms, what are your main influences?
A – Chris Ware has had a major influence on my illustration work, while James Joyce (in particular his book Ulysses) has had a deep impact on how I approach narrative. I love a wide array of music, but have to say that The Band is probably my favorite group, after The Beatles of course. One of the formative influences on my comics was watching the Yellow Submarine movie on repeat as a kid. To this day, I think it is a textbook example for how imagery can elevate music when shown in sync.
Q – I know you are already renowned but let me ask you, how do you see your future as an artist and what would you like to do?
A – That is kind of you to say, but I have no lofty aspirations for the comics. I do them in my spare time with no fixed schedule. It has been a pleasant surprise to see them become so popular over the years, and I am very grateful for all the fans who have supported me in my endeavors. My last major project, illustrating the entirety of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, was a huge exertion of time and energy, so for the future I plan to do smaller projects for a more diverse selection of songs.
Q – Thanks again for your time. I’d like to send you a poem I wrote some years ago and that I’m revisiting now. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to do something together.
A – You’re welcome.
Image Credit: Burning Man Art Installation Concept by Nathaniel Barlam