Discussing emblems and album art with Reuben Sawyer

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Reuben Sawyer

I first got in touch with Reuben Sawyer, probably back in the realm of 2009 or 2010. And at this point, I can't fully remember the initial start up of our correspondence, but in the time range, Reuben would help me craft some artwork for music I was creating at the time. We even had a couple conversations about creating some collaborative musical projects, and a few tracks that have since been vaporized into the ether were birthed, but… As time passed, I saw the transformation and progression of Sawyer's work into the goliath that now presents itself as Rainbath Visual.

Sawyer has carved out a niche or highly refined, stylized work that covers an array of styles, while maintaing a fully realized vision. He has made a name for himself working with acts like Deafheaven, fashioning their debut LP, and Road To Judah's brilliant cover artwork. He's maintained that profile by continuing his trade and continuing to trailblaze, working with a diverse list of artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Russian Circles, Moss, Destruction Unit, and more. And while Sawyer has become the go-to man for his artwork, he has also found a place in the world with the music he himself creates, under project names Hollow Sunshine and Blood Bright Star. I took some time to sit down with my old acquaintance and find out the hows and whys of his creative process and future goals.

How long have you been doing art? Even more direct, how long have you been doing the type of art you've come to create nowadays, what people have come to know you, specifically, for?

I've been doing art my whole life; 2008-2010 laid down the groundwork for my career. I became active in the local music scene, designing show fliers while working part time for a clothing company. I eventually moved on to more in depth illustration summer of 2010. From 2010 – 2013 I've mainly worked in the metal/experimental scene crafting album covers and shirt designs. This year has seen a new light of bold emblem work, which is a complete 180 from my textural, heavily detailed illustrations. I needed a new perspective on my work and carving a new path provided a great deal of personal growth and satisfaction for me. Having a dramatic contrast in styles allows me to expand and stay refreshed with my work as well as maintain a decent balance in personalities.

What drew you to art and who and where do you find your influence and inspiration?

Environment in general is what drives me to create. It's either a personal reflection of that said environment or a complete cleansing. Catharsis is bliss. Repression only leads to poisoning the psyché and disrupting the natural creative flow. It's really hard for me to boil down and extract exactly what inspires me day to day. I would like my work to be up for interpretation upon the viewer. I would rather define myself by my natural creativity, not genre or styles. Of course it is undeniable that all art is influenced by other artists in some way or another, and that isn't a bad thing at all. To list a few inspirations: Harry Clarke, Austin Osman Spare, Gustave Doré, William Blake, Denis Forkas, Zdzisław Beksiński.

Deafheaven's Road To Judah

You are a musician yourself, how does that help play into the fact that you create a lot of artwork that is intended, at least in some facets, to be used in tandem with musical output?

Up until recently I kept my illustration work from spilling into my musical output, mainly because they are two completely different emotions for me. Subconsciously, I was able to blend together this contrast and now I feel that it intensifies the potency of my work and allows both aspects to feed off each other and really work as a team. This also depends on the feel and style of the project. With certain releases I also incorporate photography and in house designs from labels, etc. I would like to hire other artists to illustrate album covers for me in the future and get a new perspective completely.

On the music tip, you're involved in the projects Hollow Sunshine and Blood Bright Star — who you recently performed as on a split with High Aura'd. Where do these two projects come from and where do they separate?

I started Hollow Sunshine in early 2010 as a funeral doom/shoegaze project which eventually turned into striped down heavy pop songs in 2012. This year marks the first full length for Hollow Sunshine and it will be released this winter on Robotic Empire.

Blood Bright Star came into formation in 2011 and a year later recordings surfaced. This project represents the shadow side of my personality where as Hollow Sunshine is bright and extroverted. Blood Bright Star is a mixture of intimate occult practice and subconscious interplay. Musically I would describe the current sound as “death motorik” leaning heavy on the krautrock influence but with creeping guitar textures and murky vocals. A new Blood Bright Star record comes out this winter as well on King Of The Monsters (LP) / Ascetic House (Cassette).

Do you feel as though your spirit moves towards physical art or musical art more? Have you found that your art and your music translate a similar message or tone, or do you use them to specifically channel elements?

My spirit is definitely more inclined to music as a cathartic vehicle. I have pure freedom and creativity when it comes to music. Illustration operates as a completely different function and I view it as both a job and hobby versus music strictly being a hobby. For a while, I was getting a bit burnt out and overwhelmed by illustration. I believe that when you are involved in something creatively you have to put everything you are into it regardless of what comes out of it. That alone can be extremely overwhelming and detrimental to your health if not channeled correctly.

Deafheaven emblems

Emblems created for Arizona's Ascetic House and Body Of Light

How did you come to work with the artists you've worked with — ranging from album designs to Deafheaven to logos and t-shirt designs for Arizona's Ascetic House Collective all the way to Chelsea Wolfe and Russian Circles?

First of all, I would like it say that it has been a huge honor and reward to be working with such a diverse range of talented musicians. My clientele is a mixture of people I know in real life, relationships I have built through networking, word of mouth and people just seeing my work out there. It's been a gradual process and I hope to continue establishing such great relationships.

Chelsea Wolfe emblem

Russian Circles emblem

Earlier on with your art career, if you will, you were better known for sweeping, highly intricate illustrations; your new work with logos and emblems remain highly detailed and stylized, but it's quite a different realm. How have you learned to tone down your work?

I think more so then toning down my work, it's taking on a whole new approach together. I'm using completely different line structures and patterns and I like to repeat certain themes throughout my emblem work. You will notice most of my work is enclosed in a shape of some sort. In a way I am more constricted when it comes to this type of illustration but it allows me to streamline everything. I still am doing a lot of the intricate detailed work and I use emblem work as sort of a refreshing breath of air. I hope to maintain consistency with both styles.

Do all of your emblem pieces come from your own pen or have you referenced other illustrations and imagery?

It's a mixture of both. It also depends on my clientele and what they are looking for. I've referenced everything from dried up roses hanging on my wall to old O.T.O lamens and archaic woodcuts. I use what I see fit to create a new and refreshing vision, whether it be fragments of the old aeon or a everyday object in front of me.

Destruction Unit's Void.

If you had the chance to collaborate with any artist — be that visual or musical — who would you like to see yourself working with? Even in, like, fantasy land?

I would like to be working with bands doing the same type of illustration I do now, but in the late 70's through the early 90's. That would have been interesting. Born too late! I think designing a emblem for a motorcycle gang would be pretty awesome. Bold iconography is always something I'm constantly drawn to. Designing movie posters would be great as well.

Moss' Horrible Nights

What are some future projects you've got going on, in the art and music fields?

More emblem work! I also have two new full length records coming out this winter with my projects Hollow Sunshine and Blood Bright Star – really excited about that. I try to stay active in both areas as much as I possibly can.

Is there anything in the art or musical world you've been really drawn to as of late?

Recent music I can't get away from: Brainbombs (non stop), Saturnalia Temple, Songs: Ohia, His Electro Blue Voice, Glifted, The Goslings, new Raspberry Bulbs LP, new Loss Of Self is really great. Working with the Ascetic House Collective has been solid. Really good scene going on there. I can only think of a few labels off hand that have pretty much no online presence, no web store and maintain such integrity and quality of product. Also huge shout out to Sargent House for being awesome.

How can anyone interested in getting their hands on your work or getting work done contact you?

Simply email me at rainbathrainbath (at) gmail (dot) com and we can go from there.