I’m a big movie fan, two of my favorite genres being horror and sci-fi. So you can imagine I’m over the moon with classics in which these two meet, for instance the fantastic Alien films (well, they weren’t all great, but you get my point). One thing that makes these films stand out is the gorgeous set and creature design, done by the late H. R. Giger. I was excited when I discovered the artwork of Italian digital artist Daniele Valeriani: his work continues the dark, organic feel of Giger’s work for the Alien films! I was curious to know more about these wonderful works, and asked Daniele to share some insights on his work and inspiration. Enjoy!
Bleaq: Can you introduce yourself and your work in a few sentences?
Daniele: My name is Daniele Valeriani. I was born in Rome in ‘74, living and working here as a graphic designer. I’m a digital artist, my tools are programs such as Photoshop and 3D software like 3ds Studio Max and Zbrush. The latter in particular has revolutionized my work, allowing me to get unexplored solutions. Zbrush is a modeling software developed by Pixologic, used in movies such as Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and Prometheus, but also in the game industry, jewelry design and more.
Due to its versatility and fluidity Zbrush allows me to have a more pictorial and sculptural approach, imagine a sort of Photoshop where each pixel can be pushed in all directions of space. Compared to my past, where I used basically Photoshop and hand-drawn sketches as basis, with Zbrush I’ve changed and explored new styles and forms expanding my technical skills to represent my views better.
You created artwork for bands like Dissection and Dark Funeral, and recently did a portrait of Ghost singer Papa Emiritus II. How important is music to you and is it a big influence for your work?
Daniele: I made five artworks for Dark Funeral (3 studio and 2 live albums). Then I also worked for the Electric Hellfire Club, Alien Vampires, Acheron and others. Regarding Dissection: I made a simple design for the back cover for their album tribute to Jon Nodtveidt (Live Rebirth) who committed suicide a few years ago. It was just a restyling of a drawing but i was really honored to contribute on this release. All those works are now old compared to my newer style, yet I take this opportunity to hail my friends Lord Ahriman, Ricktor Ravensbruck, Nysrok and Set Teitan of the bands mentioned before. I’m proud to have worked with them.
The 3D model of the lead singer of Ghost was pure fun, I made it just to get some experience in 3D modeling. It is not a work that I would include in my portfolio but it came out pretty good. I wanted to do something closer to photorealism even if I like to represent what dwells only in my mind, surreal things, unconscious… I don’t like photorealism in general.
I’ve just finished the cover artwork that will mark the return of the legendary Industrial Black Metal band Mysticum from Norway, the album is entitled ‘Planet Satan’ and will be released on 27th October on Peaceville Records. It was hard to follow their guidelines and reflect their concept. I’m really satisfied to work for bands I worship, it’s the only situation in which I allow myself to work on commission and with a deadline. Besides is great to see people wearing shirts with my artwork.
To answer your question: music is a great source of inspiration for me and has always accompanied me while drawing. Not only Black Metal, but also other genres: ambient, electronic, classical, symphonic, psychedelia, and more. The music I love the most are the sounds of nature in all its manifestations.
Besides making work for black metal bands like Dark Funeral your personal pieces also show an interest in dark and satanic elements with portraits of Baphomet, Lucifer and Belial for instance. Can you tell about your fascination for those hellish elements? Where does that fascination come from?
Daniele: Those works you mentioned were used by Dark Funeral but I made many (and so in the future) that deal with such themes depicting demonic and dark entities that dwell in my fantasies. Hell for me is a kingdom where somehow I feel comforted, depicting demons or other deities probably helps me to exorcise and exercise my own visions, sometimes I identify myself with them. I love dimensions that transcend the earthly human nature that I abhor, Hell is my Pandora’s box in which I look at in constantly finding inspiration. My reality has always been twisted since I was really young. Nothing I observe is as it is. Maybe my mind and soul are elsewhere in a parallel reality that is only mine, that doesn’t terrify me in the common sense but fascinates me. As a modern Ulysses I like to explore and immerse myself into the unknown and that is why I’m spellbound by darkness.
– ‘Belial’ and ‘Baphomet’
Your work shows a connection to the works of the late H.R. Giger. How did he influenced you as an artist?
Daniele: H.R. Giger is my Master, a father for me artistically speaking. I’ve grown with the dream to show something to him and receive some advices. Unfortunately he is recently deceased as you know. I remember my first ink on paper, it was Alien. I was thirteen and was extremely impressed by the design of Alien. I wanted to know who was behind all this and found the Master.
I remained speechless throughout his artistic career. Alien made him famous, but the scenarios painted to his sculptures are even more incredible. A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit his museum in Switzerland, it was an amazing experience. Giger has always had an important role since the early days of my career as an artist, now with Zbrush I could enhance this bio-mechanical look even more trying to be different and trying to explore new directions. Many of the works I made ultimately are true tributes to his art. Obviously, my research leads me to go further for more personal solutions, an artist cannot stop learning.
Who are your other favorite artists? How do they inspire your work?
Daniele: The artists I look at with admiration and who have inspired me are many. Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali for instance. Dali was a real genius! His book was probably the first I’ve read, given to me by my father who was fascinated by surrealism and then influenced me at a very young age.
As I told you before I must mention H.R. Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski for its doomsday scenarios and unique style , Pomodoro for his primitive yet futuristic sculptures, M. C. Escher (can’t wait to see his gallery here in Rome just in those days), Gustave Dore, William Turner, Ernst Haeckel, Wayne Barlowe and Agostino Arrivabene: in my opinion the greatest living painter today. In addition of being a friend and having worked with him with a pair of three-dimensional works that he has skillfully adapted for his paintings during his show in Milan, I consider him a master of exceptional skill. He is very humble too… Actually he is influencing me a lot. I could say I’ve experienced the same shock that I had for the Master H. R. Giger when I saw Arrivabene’s painting for the first time. Working with him was a true gift.
Your work is very cinematographic: it would be a great inspiration for a sci-fi film! Have you ever been asked or considered working in the film industry? What kind of films do you like?
Daniele: Thank you very much. It would be a dream to see something of mine on the big screen. For example, I created a Cenobite that I would like to bring to the attention of Clive Barker since I know that he is thinking about a remake (or a new episode, is still not certain) of Hellraiser. I called it The Pentagram Cenobite. It’s a terrifying female character, still work in progress but I want to show you anyway. Movies are a great source of inspiration. I could mention Hellraiser, Alien, Altered States, Deep Red, Lost Highway, Elephant Man, Lord of the Rings, Old Boy, Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner and Vertigo are among my favorites. I could go on for hours but I’ll stop here.
– ‘The Pentagram Cenobyte’
It’s probably like asking parents which of their kids they like best, but do you have a piece or pieces from your work that you like best? If so, why that one?
Daniele: I more or less love them all even if some of them are just experiments or unfinished. Among my works I could mention the Garden of Delights series made entirely in Zbrush. I had the honor to appear as a Top Row on Pixologic’s forum probably for my innovative use of Zbrush to make those weird landscapes for that series. This series of works are inspired by Ernst Haeckel, I voraciously consumed his ‘Kunstformen der Natur’. I think new works in this way will come. Then I would say The Nest, perhaps the first work where I’ve reached a certain level with Zbrush technically speaking. This work has contributed to forge my own style. Vanitas I is a work i love too, freely inspired by Arrivabene and finally the piece Hellbound Heart, a work I’ve done soon after Giger’s death. However, these are difficult choices, tomorrow I’m sure I’ll prefer other works.
– ‘Garden of Delight IX’ from the Garden of Delight series
– ‘The Nest’
– ‘Vanitas I’ from the Vanitas series
– Hellbound Heart
With many social networking websites it’s almost hard to keep track of everything! How important is the internet for you as an artist?
Daniele: At first I didn’t care about social networks so much… I even hated the idea but of course I knew the importance about having a portfolio online. My girlfriend guided me and still I would like to thank her for support and patience. It’s not easy to stand next to someone like me.
At a certain point I felt the need and I understood the importance of receiving critiques or appreciations from others to grow, having the opportunity to know artists, sharing views and techniques, obtaining collaborations and learning a lot by others. I take this opportunity to thank people who in one way or another have contributed to my education and in a short time have also changed my views on some aspects of the art, they know who they are. Without internet I would not be here to answer your questions :)
Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?
Daniele: My latest discoveries are Denis Forkas Kostromitin, Kris Kuksi, Bielak and Nicola Samorì – I really love their works, amazing artists.
About movies: I’m really disappointed today! There are too many prequels, sequels and remakes: total lack of ideas. I had faith in Prometheus but it had outrageous dialogues despite its amazing special effects. Although this is not a film the documentary H. R. Giger Revealed is a must-see.
That’s all for today, thanks for reading! A big thanks goes out to Daniele for being so kind to answer my questions. Daniele recently launched a Facebook page for his work, make sure to give him your like. Have a lovely weekend!