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Adam McCarthy - Interview

A man of many talents with a palette of experience art. The one that defies simplicity and stagnation, continuously bringing more and more jaw-dropping and controversial, yet spectacularly stunning creations. Both audibly and visually. The one and only - Adam McCarthy.

Interview by Lariyah Perrin

ViaOmega - Adam, your name is bringing up everywhere around and in so many publications. Must be all those ladies just dying to be painted by you, isn’t it! [jokingly] How have you been doing in this post- or almost post-pandemic world?

Adam McCarthy- Things have been really great for my art career post-pandemic.  I obviously had a lot of time to hole-up and focus on art while most of the world was shut down.  There were a few galleries that were doing online shows, so I was able to still show some work.  I also had a solo show at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, CA that came on the tail-end of things in LA opening back up, and the attendance at that show could have been better, but now it feels as though things are slowly getting back to normal!

VO - Ok, so we will get back to the ladies soon but my first question is more concerning your past. Have you always been an artist or did it just develop in you through the inspiration of music and surrounding of it? Frankly erotic imagery is not a stranger to black metal.

A.M - I’ve definitely always been an artist, since I was a child.  As I got older, and into Heavy Metal music, I used to draw album covers of my favorite bands, and also did local band’s logos and album art.  My love for the female form was also formed at that time, and I used to draw the girls from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues!  When it was time to go to college, I decided to focus on a career in art, and went to school for Graphic Design.  Shortly after college I got a job at a small video game development company, and the rest, as they say, is history!  I’ve had a very successful career as an Artist in the games industry for 30 years now!  Sometime around 1999-2000 I started really thinking about getting back into music.  I was a drummer in High School, but after starting my career, moving around a lot, and having kids, I had sold my kit and just wasn’t focused on music.  So, since I was super into the extreme metal scene, I decided to try my chops as a vocalist, and I started looking for musicians who wanted to form a band.  Before too long I had met the bandmates that would eventually become Sothis, and we started writing and recording together.  Within a few years, we had a demo recorded, and managed to get a recording contract with Candlelight Records from the UK.  We were signed by the same guy that signed Emperor to that label many years prior.  For the next 10 years+ my focus was 50% on my career, and 50% on my band, and I didn’t have time for much else!  During this time, all of the artwork created for the band was done by me, including logos, album art, Tshirt designs, ads, show flyers, and I also directed, edited and produced all of our music videos.  Therefore all of my creative energy was band-driven.  When that band broke up around 2012 (long story!), I suddenly had a ton of free time that used to be focused on the band, and that’s when I started focusing on my oil painting work, and started building relationships with galleries around LA.  I did join another band around 2014 (Witch Casket), but this time I was balancing the art duties for that project with my oil painting business as well.

VO - How many years on stage was there for you? 

My first time performing on stage as a vocalist was in 2004, and my last time on stage was 2018.  My last show was with my band Witch Casket, and we played at The Regent in Los Angeles, opening for Thy Antichrist, Dark Funeral, and Septic Flesh.  So, I guess that’s 14 years!

VO - For many artists that have some good time put in their musical career there are some good and some not so good memories. I know you’ve played some significant gigs but are there any moments of those times that you recall were a negative of an impact on you and your enthusiasm to it?

A.M. - I have to say that my experience as a musician was 95% positive.  Of course there are always things that happen on the road, like equipment not working, vehicle problems, bickering with bandmates because everyone’s exhausted and hungry, etc., but for the most part it was honestly some of the best times in my life.  One thing I can think of though is having to deal with some of the shitty attitudes in “the scene” as it pertains to where we fit within it.  Sothis was a very polished Symphonic Black Metal band, and not as gritty and dirty as some of the more underground USBM bands, and so we sometimes criticized for being “Sell outs”, etc.,which is ridiculous, because we never made a dime and the only financial thing that band did was drain my bank account! But, our image was very polished with high production values, detailed stage attire, etc., not unlike what Dimmu Borgir was doing at the time, and so we drew some negative attention from the “trve” USBM bands.  One in particular (and I’m not afraid to name names!) was Blake Judd from Nachtmystium.  Our first show in LA was supposed to be opening up for them, and when Blake researched our band, he decided that we weren’t “trve” enough to open for his band so he had us kicked off the bill.  We ended up playing a show the same night at another venue and so we were still able to play, but it just really sucked being “gatekept” but this guy, and it felt shitty to not have the respect from some of the other bands with which I would have preferred to have a camaraderie with.  I will say that I did meet Blake several years later, and he did apologize and expressed regret over that move, but it was a thorn in my side for a bit!

VO - Of course your visual art is various, with many media, some of my favorite are portraits you’ve done - that one of Robin Williams is simply majestic - however the main theme is women. And don’t take me wrong as I think it’s absolutely amazing you focus on such, but I’m curious where is that passion for female bodies with a connection to the darkness coming from in you?

A.M. - That’s an interesting question, it has given me something to think about!  So, I’ll try to explain my process.  I tend to come up with my concepts for paintings in a very non-cerebral way.  I’m not sure if that quite covers it, but in other words, when I think of ideas, I’m envisioning an IMAGE in my head, as opposed to the IDEA or the MEANING behind it.  Although some of my pieces do contain imagery that is symbolic of a deeper meaning, the concept usually begins just with a mental image.  It’s difficult to explain, but these images just sort of “come to me:.  It starts with the inkling of an idea, and then I cultivate it in my mind, and slowly build and build and add to it, all within my mind’s eye.  Once the image is clear in my mind, I just have to execute the creation of that image. SO, that said, my process is very instinctive, and the subject that “instinctively” inspires me the most is the female form.  I do paint men, on occasion, but most of my ideas are of females, as that is the subject that I am most inspired by and attracted to!  I also tend to portray the female figures in my work as being VERY strong and powerful.  Yes, there are dark themes, but these are not women who are victims, they are the SOURCE of beauty, strength, and power.Also, since you mentioned the Robin Williams portrait, there’s a funny story behind that one too.  I actually drew that when I was VERY drunk, and only spent a couple hours on it.  I normally don’t do celebrity portraits, and I prefer to shoot all my own reference as well, but I had a friend that wanted me to teach her my charcoal drawing technique, so I just picked a black and white photo that I liked and thought I’d use it for the lesson.  Since I had been drinking with some friends earlier, I had just kept going and by the time I drew that, I was pretty lit!  Anyway, I got a HUGE positive response from that piece, and although I appreciate that response, I do know that when people see that portrait, they’re reacting to the films by Robin that they love.  They’re reacting to his tragic suicide, and the emotions that that event evokes.  They’re reacting to the gorgeous lighting and glint in Robin’s eye that the photographer captured.  So, as much as I appreciate the positive response, I don’t take nearly as much pride in that piece as I do in some of my work that I have created from the beginning, from the first inkling of an idea, to finding the right model, and lighting and shooting, and preparing and execution of the piece. My goal is to capture that type of positive response based off of the emotions that my WORK evokes, as opposed to capitalizing off the work of the actor, and the photographer, as I did in that piece.  Therein lies the challenge!

VO - How do you choose your models? Do you get inspired by looking at someone you come across or do you take commissions and base your vision off of it or what is the procedure you follow? 

A. M . - When I first started painting, I used my friends as my subjects, and then as I got more involved with promoting my work on Social Media, I started finding models through those platforms.  I’d say at this point, 90% of the models I work with are people I found on Instagram or Facebook.  Sometimes a model will inspire a vision for a piece that I create, and sometimes I envision a concept on my own, and then go out and try to find a model that will fulfill that vision.  It really depends, but I do have to say that working with models is one of my favorite parts of this process.  It’s a creative collaboration with another artist.  Many of the amazing images I’ve captured have come from ideas that the model has brought, and on top of that, I’ve build many friendships with the models I’ve worked with.  Some are close friends now, and others we just sort of keep in touch. Creating art together… it’s a bond that can be very powerful, and can go very deep. I refer to my models as “muses” because that’s what they are to me!

VO - Lately it is not a secret a little beauty, now called your wife, takes a very special place in your inspirational creativity. First of, congratulations! I am certain it is hard to get bored of someone who constantly keeps you in awe! How do you two work together between your schedules? 

A.M. - Thank you SO much.  YES, I have been very fortunate to have found my #1 muse, and I love including her in my process.  Although we met through a mutual friend, she was aware of my artwork before we met, and so she has been a fan of my work since before we met.  She has an engineering background, so once we started becoming more serious, she actually hand-built me a motorized easel after she heard me complaining about the adjustment limitations of my previous easel.  She is INCREDIBLY supportive, and she also helps me with model shoots. She has done some modeling as well, and so she can be a GREAT second pair of eyes while I’m working on the shoots.  I respect and value her opinion SO much, and so when I’m on the fence about any creative decision, her input is always super helpful.  As far as our schedules, we both work normal office hours in our careers, and so our evenings and weekends together allow us to collaborate creatively quite a bit!

VO - Aside of being a published artist, you are also an art director! Could you tell me a bit more about this duty of yours? 

A.M. - Yeah, so I’ve had a career as an artist in Video Game Development for about 30 years now. I’ve done a ton of artwork for games, but my career has taken me to more of a management position now.  I’m the Studio Art Director for a mobile game company, which means I build and manage the studio’s art department, manage the Art Directors across multiple projects, and work with the artists on personal development and career planning.  It’s much less of a creative position, but it’s important to have a strong art background since I’m mentoring and growing the careers of other artists.  I get a ton of satisfaction in working with artists and helping them find their way across their career paths.  I’m fine with not being in as much of a creative position these days, as I prefer to create artwork without limitations, which is something I can do in my personal artwork. At work, I can influence the culture and influence policy at my studio, which ends up making it a better place to work.

VO - How often do you set up art galleries?

A.M. - I’d say that I show at galleries about 3-4 times a year.  I’ve had about 4 solo shows in the past few years, and more often will put a few pieces in group shows.  I’m trying to expand outside of LA and build relationships with galleries in other states.  I haven’t yet gone International, which would be the desirable next step.  I recently had a solo show in Santa Fe, NM., but the logistics around getting a bunch of artwork shipped outside of my own area gets VERY expensive.  For the Santa Fe show I decided to rent a car and drive the artwork out there instead of shipping, to keep the costs down.  That said, it’s worth it to get my artwork out there in markets other than LA, so that I continue to build my presence within the art scene.

VO- Now a curious question - amongst everything you do that is described above already, what is something that your fans don’t see that you do behind the scenes? Any hobbies that you keep rather to yourself or any special skill kept on a side?

A.M. - I can’t think of anything art related that is kept secret.  I’m VERY transparent about my process, I post a ton of behind the scenes videos on my social media platforms, I’m always happy to talk to other artists about my process and share tips with them on a regular basis.  I’ve had other artists come visit me while I work in my studio as well. Outside of my art and my career, I just like spending time with my wife, with whom I’ve recently picked up the sport “Beach Tennis”, so we like to get out to the beach and play and get some exercise.  We love going to metal shows as well, and traveling when we can.

VO - What’s the next big goal for you?

My biggest goal is to get to the point where I can support myself financially with my painting, and quit my day-job!  That’s a very difficult goal though, and it will take some time.  That said, I feel that I’m up for the challenge, and that my work will only continue to grow!

VO - Adam, thank you so much for your time. Truly honored to have you with us. Lastly, what would be a word of an advice to those who share similar passions and try to combine music and visual art worlds together and get lost in their paths? 

A.M. - The best piece of advice I can give anyone is to KEEP AT IT.  Being an artist is a life-long journey.  You don’t wake up one day and say “I did it, now I’m a great artist!”.  You will ALWAYS feel that you have more to learn and you will always fight discouragement and self doubt.  The important thing is to keep going and never keep learning and growing as an artist.  My favorite piece of advice to give artists is:  Don’t compare your work to your favorite artists.  Compare your work to your OWN work from last year.  If you follow that advice, you’ll find that you’re always improving and growing, which proves that you will continue to do so!


Thank you Lariyah, it’s an honor to be interviewed by such a talented artist!

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