Wednesday Work Day is a series started by editor Hillary Leftwich to showcase and support creatives who offer services, both in-person or online, and are impacted by the pandemic and the shutdowns both statewide as well as in other countries. The series will showcase one business or individual that is still able to provide a service during the shutdown, whether via remote service or some other way. The hope is to overcome the struggle creatives are enduring through these times and have you, dear reader, get to know some folks who might be able to help you or someone you know with their services. Read a conversation with graphic designer Brian D’Agosta below.
I spoke with local Denver artist Brian D’Agosta, who is a father, a graphic designer, and “nerd,” over email exchange. We talked about his work over the years as a Colorado creative, the struggles of being an artist and the joys, his work collaborating with death metal bands, as well as his recent work with a local haunted historical brothel (now turned hotel). Learn more and buy his art and merchandise at Gostworks.
Gostworks is a blogfolio that features the art of Brian D’Agosta. The name of the blog is twofold, as it is part of his last name, and is also a play on words, as in “Ghost.” He is an artist and also works as an independent graphic designer in Denver, Colorado. He has a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and is interested in all art mediums.
If you’re interested in purchasing something on the site or inquiring about design services, please let Brian know by writing to: GostworksArt at gmail dot com.
Hillary Leftwich: I think most folks who know or don’t know your art can see it’s dark and haunting. Can you tell us when you started drawing and what compels you to create what you do?
Brian D’Agosta: Thank you for this conversation, Hillary, much appreciated.
Like many artists, it started at a young age. I always had drawing to occupy myself since I don’t have any siblings and wasn’t really popular or athletic like my peers. I liked movie posters and album covers and kind of picked up on those themes and techniques, gravitating towards some of the more intense work of sci-fi, heavy metal, and the like. It does skew a little dark, but I try to be very intentional with some type of mystery and mood rather than in-your-face and be respectful to many different ideas I allow into my art.
I love personal accomplishments, and presenting my work to others is probably what drives me the most. Over the past couple of years, networking, community, and the ability to be present at art shows and building an online store are also important.
HL: I think a lot of creative folks can relate to this as well. It seems to be the familiar path regarding being somewhat of a misfit for a better term. But what comes of it is amazing. Do you feel folks would benefit from schooling in the arts, or does it even matter? I’ve heard arguments for both, and I’m curious what your answer is.
BD: Good question. While some of the arts’ technical aspects can be intimidating to those that don’t have an interest in it, I feel that it can benefit in different ways. Like how a shop class can teach you math and planning skills or Literature education isn’t so much a foundation for a career as a writer, rather being able to structure your words or see a concept or character’s wider meaning. I feel art has that same layering and be useful in bringing out critical thinking in just about anyone. If you really parse it, everyone benefits from the arts—be it architecture, fashion, anything streamed or broadcast, motor engineering, city planning, etc.
HL: The best answer I’ve heard to this in a while, Brian! What are you working on now?
BD: I am working on surviving uncertain times. We all are. I am plucking away at a bunch of different things. Currently, I have a few paintings in progress, still in the chosen lane that I’ve been in for about a year—kind of a minimal greyscale/metallics palette with a dark sci-fi/pre-code film/metal kind of feel with some room for application style depending on my mood. Recent album [cover] releases from locals BleakHeart and Roäc and upcoming releases from UK/German friends Godthrymm, Darhk, and Iconostasis. An upcoming YouTube chat with Chain Reaction Records. I am also trying to be more attentive to the business side of things by learning the ropes with social media engagement and expanding sales—hoping to fill the void that came crashing in like a plague(!) on my newfound joy of popup art markets and meeting people in fun settings.
HL: This is a lot to have going on! For my own selfish reasons, I’m curious, can you tell us how you became so successful with creating album covers for several black metal bands?
BD: Thanks! I’ve been asked that question a few times over the years in casual conversation. It sort of grew out of writing (on paper!) to bands for tape trading or whatever. Maybe submitting some art to a publication or a shirt design would happen. Eventually, bands started asking me to draw something for a 7″, and it sorta spiraled upward to more visible bands. Once you’re in that ecosystem, you build on your ‘visual resume’ and end up getting work by word of mouth. I think
I’m at the point where I could solicit new commissions and not feel pressured to be just a draftsperson. Most of the genres I’ve done up to this point have been a lot of crusty punk/doom metal/thrashy grindcore, but my recent work kind of leans in on gothy/black metal-ish stuff with a feminine touch, and I’d like to explore those opportunities more.
HL: That sounds like a lot of hard work on your part in combination with your own interests, and it worked out to your advantage for sure. I love your designs and the black metal inspiration as well, but I’ve recently noticed you’ve been commissioned to provide artwork for The Black Monarch. For people not in Colorado, The Black Monarch is a historic building located in Victor, old mining and ghost town, which used to be a brothel and is reported as haunted. How did you choose the artwork for this project, knowing the background of the hotel and its dark past?
BD: That is kind praise, and I’m sure you know similar paths, many of which have to be forged on your own (and a smidge of luck along the way too).
The Black Monarch opportunity just kind of crept up. My friend Aaron Flores [tattooer, Alternative Arts Tattoo, Littleton] had recently stayed up there and suggested I get ahold of them if they might be interested in a piece. I was really keen to, being a history/antiques nerd and growing up around old mining sites in Northern Nevada. Timing was such that they were, and are, continuing to renovate the building and needed some art and said my work world fits well. I agree it does! So, I finished off the works—five in all—with varnish and framing to fit that upscale yet definitely off-kilter vibe their brand is becoming. I’m really excited to branch out with this and expand/uplift our larger pool of Colorado oddballs.
HL: It’s true! Most creatives find that a mix of hard work and luck is usually what brings the best success.
I think you phrased it best when you say, “Colorado oddballs.” There’s a lot to be said about the artists and writers who aren’t part of the larger academic pools and forged their own paths with support from many local retail shops and breweries, like True Brewing, which also has featured a lot of your work. Last question: Do you feel this pandemic world can still support creatives, and if so, what’s the best way to show support?
BD: I think so. While just about everyone has pivoted to exist during the pandemic, I think creative types are among a handful of other groups that really have to be inventive with getting through it all. A few steps others can take to support creatives first is encouragement. Of course, other suggestions would be to buy whatever they’re offering or commissioning something—having sales or a new purpose goes a long way beyond the obvious. Another proactive way you can support people is to share their work and give referrals. As creatives, we should follow that advice and look out for each other too.
Hillary Leftwich is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (CCM Press/The Accomplices 2019), which was featured in Entropy’s Best Fiction List of 2019, and was a finalist for the Big Other Book Award. Currently, she runs At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series, and freelances as a writer, editor, journalist, and teaches writing at Lighthouse Writers. She is a Kenyon Review scholarship recipient for 2021. Her writing is found both in print and online in The Rumpus, Entropy, The Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, Hobart, and others. She lives in Colorado with her partner, her son, and their cat, Larry. Find more of her writing at hillaryleftwich.com.