An interview with Uzi Emperado.

It’s been sort of a thing now where I’ve been e-interviewing artists and this post is no different. We’ve got a college dropout who, according to his Facebook page, makes his livelihood by drawing things that makes your mom upset at the comfort of his own home. Who says we need to get a college degree to do the things we love at our own personal pace and get paid for it?

We have none other than celebrated artist, Uzi Emperado. Name any metal band and he’s probably designed a t-shirt for them. But it doesn’t stop there, he’s also designed for a lot of international brands. He’s done various art shows and exhibits. Truly, his art style is unique and fascinating. It’s also hard to stomach for those who aren’t accustomed to skulls and gore.

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Uzi Emperado, Freelance Artist

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• Grateful to be interviewing you, Sir! But before we go any further, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you ended up becoming an artist.

One ends up becoming an engineer by studying Engineering. One ends up becoming a nurse by taking up Nursing. Although it wasn’t “art” then, I’ve always loved drawing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, the backs of my school notebooks would be filled with drawings. Whenever the teacher wasn’t looking, I’d doodle like crazy. I wasn’t very good at drawing. It even came as a surprise to my family when I discussed my interest in taking up an Art course for college. But since Day 1, I’ve had an interest in art even if I didn’t know what it was.

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• Seeing your art style, it seems beautiful and twisted all at the same time. Could you tell us more about your influences and how your art style has developed over the years? Was it always about skulls and horns or was there ever a point in time when you were drawing Anime or Cartoon characters?

I am influenced by a variety of sources. But like most illustrators my age, I grew up being influenced by the strange, borderline-surreal, and often crass kids cartoons of the 90’s (Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, Cow & Chicken, etc.). I believe that’s where my appreciation for creepy, gross, and disturbing subject matter started.

But it wasn’t always skulls, no. I was hugely inspired by the cartoons I watched, and I did draw a lot of it. I still do. And I did have a short-lived Anime phase (everybody was doing it, and it was getting a bit boring to draw). I, for lack of a better word, “outgrew” all that when I discovered the sci-fi/fantasy illustrations in a magazine called Heavy Metal. I believe it’s safe to say that HM was the culprit for shaping my art for what it is now, that it is perhaps the biggest influence on my art.

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• What are 3 surprising things that people don’t know about you?

There isn’t a day that a person doesn’t call me “Miss” or “Ma’am”. Go figure. Then again, that’s not really surprising , is it? Haha.

People have this crazy and far-fetched (yet not uncommon) assumption that I worship the devil, and that I am not capable of being morally upright, especially after learning that I’m an Atheist/Anti-theist. It’s difficult to convince them otherwise, especially with the kind of artwork that I make, but I’m really just like everyone else. I just don’t find it necessary to believe in the promise of heaven to convince myself that I should uphold kindness.

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• You do a lot of designing at your own pace and comfort. How different is it when you actually go and do an art show in a public place? Do you ever get the jitters? (e.g. THE Clothing, Sonic Boom Sinulog Blast-off 2011)

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Live art painting for THE Clothing.

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It’s really just the same thing. The only obvious difference is that the surface is usually bigger when I’m painting live, so I paint with my whole body (shoulders, arms), and not with my fingers and wrists. I see live art more as a ‘performance art’.

I don’t get the jitters, no. I’ve painted publicly several times before, so I’ve gotten quite used to it now, to be honest. When I’m painting, I channel out everyone else anyway, and just focus on what I’m doing.

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• Now, on your Facebook page, it says that you draw things that make moms upset. I’m curious, has there ever been a case where a mom or dad called out your work and blamed you for letting their child wear such ‘blasphemous’ designs?

There hasn’t been such case because, let’s face it, nobody knows or cares about the artist behind the design. But if that ever happened, I’m ready to defend myself because I’m not guilty of anything. Now that I’m running my own local clothing line, we’ll see what happens.

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Does this look “cute” to you?

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Different story, but there was this one time though, at the store, when some middle-class mom picked up a shirt I designed (Doom Bringer for Black Bile), and almost bought it. She said it was “cute”, but her lady friend thought it was “creepy” and discouraged her from getting it. They didn’t buy it, but I think I was more insulted by the “cute” comment haha.

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• What does your work set-up look like? Are there any rituals you have to do before you begin work? (Rituals might not be the right word here, but what the hell.)

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Apartment and office, all rolled into one.

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I work on a dual-monitor set-up (23” flat-screen attached to my laptop). One monitor is for my graphics program (Adobe Photoshop), the other for my e-mail/Twitter/Facebook feed or for watching movies while I work. I use an Intuos4 graphics tablet.

I spend at least 2 hours preparing myself to work. That includes brewing coffee; checking my e-mail, Facebook, Twitter; browsing Tumblr; do some push-ups; setting up a movie or my music player; taking a shower, etc. None of them actually help me become more productive hahaha.

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• You’ve got a lot of great designs and I’m guessing it’d be hard to choose, but what are your 3 favorite personal designs?

That is indeed a tough one, so I’m going to change the question to “what are the 3 designs that you enjoyed making the most?” haha.

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Infernal Emergency

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I LOVE drawing sexy women (stems from my Heavy Metal magazine influence?), and I love being able to do full-color designs. This poster has all that.

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Seasons of the Witch

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I always love a challenge. I was asked (by a fellow artist that I greatly admire) to design for him. We work in the same style, and we think alike, so I felt that I had to exceed his expectations.

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Necrophecy

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Boobs. Nuff said.

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•  It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally excited that you’re releasing a clothing line here in Cebu called Black Bile. What prevented you from launching a clothing line earlier in your career? Also, could you tell us a little bit more about Black Bile.

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Who doth ruleth the world?

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Just never gave it much thought, I guess. That sounds strange/funny considering that I practically work within the clothing industry. But all I really want to do, and care about, is make drawings. I don’t want to sell t-shirts. I want to draw.

As I’ve been telling some people, Black Bile is an avenue for me to share my art locally. I love to draw, and I like sharing it, but my brand of art has got no place in the galleries of Cebu. The only people that I feel my art has a stronger connection with are those outside the scope of art galleries. They’re the ones who truly appreciate my art for what it is and, through the medium of t-shirts, I am able to share it with them.

Also, I was getting tired of not having a straight answer every time someone from the Philippines asks me where to acquire the shirts I’ve designed. Haha.

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• I’m looking at these previews and teasers and I see these cats. I’m assuming them to be yours.  Did you ever envision your pets to be a device to spread the darkness of Black Bile? Was this some diabolical plan to use how evil cats look or are you just a cat lover in general?

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Snow — Pet cat AND model of darkness.

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The pictures I have been using for my Black Bile posters are of my pet cat, Snow. True, I acknowledge that there’s an innate arcane quality that all feline creatures share, but using my cat’s picture was intended to be nothing more than a joke. I love animals, not just cats.

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Every dog has its day.

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If I had a better picture of my less-popular (less-photographed, rather) pet dog Bart, I might’ve used that instead. Unfortunately, he moves a lot and would rather play & wrestle than have his picture taken.

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• June 6, 2011 is the scheduled release of Black Bile. What are your thoughts and experiences on launching a clothing line? I’m sure it must be different than just designing the shirts for the brands and bands since they take care of the marketing aspect. How did the release fare and what have you learned from it?

The release was quite OK. Went exactly how I expected it to go. I even correctly predicted how many shirts I’d sell on the the first day – so far, so good. Considering that I’m a new player, the business is going pretty well.

I was also able to predict which designs from Black Bile would sell faster, and which ones wouldn’t. In the two weeks since the line’s release, I was able to see that most people like colorful, flashy designs, with the brand name on it – very typical. The less popular designs, which I personally liked, mostly appealed to the designer/artist types. It’s an interesting insight that I, and other clothing lines, could learn from and explore/exploit.

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• The shirts are being housed over at Nick’s Doodle Store. Your thoughts on Black Bile being sold alongside some of the prolific brands like Nick Automatic, Scars and Killapinas. Would you also consider it to be a friendly and competitive rivalry?

Definitely. The Doodle Store alone houses some of Cebu’s finest clothing lines, and I’m honored to be part of the family. There’s definitely a healthy competitive spirit going on between the brands. That’s because the brands don’t try to outdo each other by riding the current trend, but instead they put their 100% in what they each do best – there’s variety. They’re good people too.

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• What advice could you give any aspiring artists who want to show their work to the world? Are there any general rules or codes that you live by?

There are no rules if you want to show your art, but if you want to start becoming a professional and be treated as one, you got to act like one.

Here’s my anecdote that most people in the scene can relate to: Nobody likes a show band. Show bands cover other artist’s songs. They ask for little pay, but try play at every possible bar/gig to earn. In attempts at writing an original song, they copy other artists to stay marketable. They’re not very creative, and they sell out all the time. Only people with no taste like show bands. But in the end nobody really becomes successful being in a show band.

It’s the same with the design world These are the designers who rip other artists. They charge very little, and don’t choose their clients. They’re willing to copy another artist if a client asks them to. They lack imagination because they don’t try – they’d rather use a shortcut and earn a quick buck.

A lot of designers follow the ‘show band’ path without knowing it’s wrong and self-destructive. In the end, you have to realize that working that way will destroy the industry and yourself.

Be professional. Know your worth. Above all, have some self-respect and respect other artists.

If you check out interviews by other professional artists, you’ll see that they all have the same answer to this question.

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• What do you do in your free time when you aren’t designing?

I’m always drawing, even if it’s not for a client. Sometimes, I read books, watch movies, and take pictures to keep the creative juice flowing.

I also like to walk around the city a lot. I have a car but I don’t drive it – I’ve only used it once or twice. I’d rather just walk, really. Whether it’s to go to my favorite cafe, or buy art materials downtown, or just for its own sake. In addition to staying healthy by walking, it helps the environment haha.

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•  I have to ask this. Where is the best place in Cebu to get your fill of Coffee and Pastries?

I prefer to brew my own coffee, Colombian Dark Roast being my favorite. I do go to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf occasionally. Their coffee is quite good, but their blueberry cheesecake (paired with a cup of Americano) is to die for. Twice the price than most, but definitely worth it.

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• I’m pretty sure people are very excited with your work and what you’ve achieved. If anyone wanted to contact you for a design, where could they reach you and where could they scan your personal artwork portfolio?

Portfolio: http://uziemperado.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/uziemperado
E-mail: uzi.emperado@gmail.com
Mobile: +63905 520 9357

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• Also! Could you tell us where people could get their official Black Bile merchandise?

Black Bile is available at Nick’s Doodle Store and, for those out of reach of the store, through the Facebook page.

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• Thank you so much for the interview! I hope people had fun in reading this segment and got to know you better as a person and an artist. Are there any people you’d like to thank? Any shout-outs?

You’re very welcome. Thanks for interviewing me too. Shout out to my homeboy, Satan.

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So there we have it! I hope you found that interview entertaining. It’s good to know that the artists we have on the local scene have lots of good opinions on a lot of issues. A bit of a lengthy read, but there are a lot of pictures as well, so get on reading!

For those of you who STILL don’t know where the Doodle Store is located, I have a blog post that’ll help you to get there. Check it out here.

That’s about it. Hopefully, I won’t be so lazy and use school as an excuse that I can’t post as frequently. Truth be told, we really aren’t that busy yet. Who knows. Might as well use my free time wisely and post as much while I still can!

Until next time, Cheers!

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