Fighting: Inking Through Darkness

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In the hands of lesser men, a palette of skulls and evil Vikings, daggers and ’70s-inspired hippie nature themes would come together like some bad t-shirt display at Urban Outfitters.

That Fighting whips these elements into collages and illustrations that are timeless rather than trendy is a feat–one that wouldn’t be possible if not for the duo’s keen eye and serious drawing abilities.

Fighting is Lukas Geronimas and Niall McClelland, both 27. The pair grew up in a suburb outside of Toronto; they grudgingly met when their parents decided they would carpool to high school together. They bonded over Star Wars and eventually moved to Vancouver, where they began collaborating on t-shirts, zines, and commissions for avant-grindcore label Fathme, snowboard giant Burton, and Color, a local skate mag. Geronimas has since decamped to Brooklyn, but the pair continues to collaborate on gallery shows and clever t-shirt designs, among other things. We had a chat with them about some of their favorite things: skulls, fantasy creatures, and peach-infused pork.

XLR8R:You do a lot of collage work. Is there a way you usually start, and do you have a concept in mind from the beginning?

Lukas Geronimas: Collages are a way to appropriate and exhibit some of the terribly fascinating imagery that has been published and hidden inside books on library shelves where no one will ever see it. The library is like our soil, or our Petri dish, or whatever (it’s a fertile place). It gives us all the source imagery we could ever need, which allows us to go in whatever direction our brains ask us to go. Niall and I spend a day, at the beginning of large collage projects, sifting through volumes, marking pages, and making photocopies, and then we go home and start cutting our pages apart until we feel ready to begin the arranging and pasting process. We have concepts, yes–they consist primarily of wanting to make things awesome and rad.

What are some of your shared obsessions?

Niall McLelland: Basketball, exploring, rock ’n’ roll, forests, Kinkos, the library, and ramblin’ on.

LG: We nerd out to dark fantasy shit sometimes, and black holes, and we both really dig on eating and soaring guitar licks and the woods. Girls, too, although we don’t share them. Bud-dum ching!

What is your favorite fantasy creature?

NM: I’m not a huge fan of heroes or of villains, so I’m not overly keen on creatures who match the archetypes of “fantasy” realms. My current favorite is a dwarf named Tyrion, with mismatched eyes, a bumpy face, and half a nose, from a series of books from George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire. He is neither the hero nor the villain, but simply a very intelligent, grotesque man of high birth with a love for whores and booze.

LG: The Japanese have demons called yokai; they are tricksters and fiendish but I think they’re sensible. They’re my favorite category of creatures. I really like thinking about the Leviathan, so maybe it’s my favorite single creature.

Will skulls ever go out of style?

NM: Sure, but fuck style. They might go out of “fashion” but skulls are timeless symbols of rebellion, of outsider thinking, of questioning authority. Sure, skulls are being pawned off on the masses right now, but you can always see the phony ones from the legitimate. I don’t think metalheads and punks are giving up skulls anytime soon. And like... Georgia O’Keefe was big-time into skulls, and 60-year-old moms the world over still love her work, right?

What was your favorite moment of 2007?

LG: The first bite of celebrated chef Matt Dillon’s ultra-tender, fat-infused, peach-topped, home-butchered pork at Seattle’s Sitka and Spruce restaurant. Holy heaven.

What was the worst trend of 2007?

NM: People being “over it.” Is that an ’07 trend? Can we lose that one? How ’bout people referring to themselves as “cool kids”? Isn’t that rule #1 of being cool? Don’t ever talk about being cool. Jesus, fucking internet.

Does your work for clients influence your personal work?

LG: I keep the business and the personal stuff on two different planes of existence, and I don’t know how to travel between the two using the same vehicle.

What things do you find scary?

NM: A large spectrum of things: spiders, murder, war, drowning, flying, failing, disease, decapitation, rape, basements... Too much really!

LG: Zombie movies. Dreaming about the death of family members, that’s scarier. And scariest is lying (p.s. joking and lying are very different).

What is the scariest song/album/band you have ever heard?

LG: The Wolf Eyes album Dead Hills. I bought it because it made me feel like shit on a beautiful sunny day. My roommate Catherine and I listened to it one Halloween and it really did us in, even with the lights on. It makes any death rap or black-metal stuff sound like lollipop gumdrop happy-pappy parade songs.

Where is your Graves zine available?

LG: We’re making them, but we haven’t published any yet. Niall and I are what some folks call “in a financial slump,” and other, less prosaic people call “being broke.” They’re going to get re-vamped online, and then we’re going to put them together in a little omnibus. We started making them to go along with our second season of shirts, back in 2005.

What is your dream project?

NM: Designing a city park? All the signage, the playgrounds, the paths. I’m interested in making wild things that are integrated into the lives of a large demographic, things that function at a high level but also challenge the standard form.

Is constant dissatisfaction with one’s work an important part of being an artist?

LG: If it’s a constant, I think all you need to do is account for it. Accounting for it is important, though, yes.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

NM: Years ago, a friend was talking about his line work, and how it rarely showed any signs of error or uncertainty. He just figured, “Draw every line with confidence, so even when it’s off it doesn’t make a difference because it communicates the same thing.” Not sure if it was the best piece of advice I’ve received, but it definitely affected the way I drew from then on.

LG: I don’t think that’s something I can quantify. I think an eagle once told me that being the token of freedom is a warm drag, and that might have blown my mind.