Omar, the mysterious artist behind the moniker The Black Arrow, blends different mediums of art – from music to photography layered with ink sketches- to create visuals that are sensual and stunning. Collaborating with musical acts like Dpat and Atu, artists who use slow, R&B style beats to carry a rhythm that is dangerously sexy, The Black Arrow effortlessly compliments those he works with to create an experience that is aesthetically delightful, dark and irresistible. The Philadelphia based artist was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, check out the interview below.
LF: Hi Omar, can you give Live FAST Mag a quick introduction to The Black Arrow?
Omar: I’m an illustration artist from Philadelphia. The Black Arrow is a project I created about a year and a half ago to express myself through all forms of visual art. Making art is something that’s really fun for me. It’s creative problem solving except that you’re not being assigned a problem from an outside source -you’re assigning yourself a problem to solve. With The Black Arrow project, I’ve been challenging myself to be more creative. It’s interesting but very frustrating at times. I got just good enough at it where I gained some recognition very quickly. In the beginning, I realized I had so many weak spots so I always try to intuitively figure them out while learning new skills and techniques. The idea of taking this project more seriously came when a good friend of mine and cancer survivor, Al Grimaldi gave me a book about Salvador Dali’s work. Both Al Grimaldi and Salvador Dali’s philosophies towards art inspired me to approach my work in a more meaningful way. It opened up my imagination to the possibilities art can show you and how it effects people.
LF: I actually found your work from when I was on Sound cloud listening to the track “Way I Feel” by Atu. How do you approach creating album covers for different musicians?
Omar: I’ve been fortunate to work with great musicians who are very talented. First I talk to the artist about their motivation behind the project. While I listen to their music I usually write down a few key words that come to mind and use those words to begin a rough sketch. Particularly with Atu’s album Pictures on Silence, I wanted to create a female character who was going through a relationship while having this out pour of emotions exploding from her. So I tried to show that very literally. I explained the idea to Atu and he seemed to be excited about it. We were inspired by each other’s ideas and it pushed the collaboration further. It can be very challenging but I enjoy helping musicians create their ideas visually through my work. It feels good to collaborate on a creative level and reach a mutually realized outcome. I’m glad to be a part of Atu’s project because all the proceeds go to EveryChild Foundation to provide assistance to those less fortunate in Malawi.
LF: What is a typical day like for you?
Omar: A typical day for me is searching for inspiration by consistently consuming information from books, films, interviews, and music. I’ll try to keep a very childish attitude while analyzing it all. I like to stay extremely curious and open to new ideas. I also like to practice drawing by making little doodles. Even though I might make something that isn’t complete, when I do things like that it’s not great but I’m experimenting. It’s a way for me to see my flaws and mistakes. It’s not so polished and certainly not ready to be seen but to me I get something off my chest.
LF: Who/what are your three top influences?
Omar: My top three influences are Bjork, Salvador Dali, and Ralph Steadman. Bjork is an all around great inspiration. She has a very infectious energy about her that draws me in. I feel like she is a beacon for the future in terms of breaking new ground with music, fashion, and visual art. I am inspired by her honesty and her ability to have no creative restrictions. Dali is a just a genius. His work is incredibly unique. Every time I look at his work I always seem to find something new. His paintings seem to be very authentic and true to his imagination. I also loved how he includes his wife Gala in many of his paintings. He seemed to have great love for her and it shows. Ralph Steadman is an amazing cartoonist and painter. His visual style is so raw and I love how he shines light on the darker side of humanity using satire. I learned a lot from his work. He taught me to improvise and that there are no mistakes only opportunities. These artists are fearless and have a strong sense of self without losing any excitement for creating. They’re all very influential in my style.
LF: What five tracks do you have in rotation on your current playlist?
1. Ben Jamin – Wanabee
2. Ilushus – Two Trees (Cadillac Chexmix)
3. Nicole Millar – Taken (Paul Maxwell Remix)
4. Goldroom – Embrace (Baptiste MCMXCI Remix)
5. CHVRCHES – Lies (Tourist Remix)
LF: Describe your creation process for us:
Omar: My creative process can vary but it usually begins when I’m observing something to the point where an idea strikes me as a potential concept I want to share. The best way I know how to express those initial ideas is to write them out or draw a quick sketch before the idea fades away. On the heels of that concept the basic structure is born. I’ll have periods where I become very inspired and periods where I’m filtering everything that came out while I was inspired. And then I go into periods of long dry spells where I feel depressed and think I’ll never make anything good again. That’s when I start reading and developing an appetite for film and music. Having done this for a little while I’ve realized that the dry spells are just as essential as the inspiration. My process is research – I’m wandering around to the point where it looks like I’m doing nothing but I’m actually formulating ideas in my head. Then there’s this unconscious moment when it all comes spilling out. After that I’ll become like a scientist piecing together parts of the puzzle until it’s finished.
LF: How fast do you live?
Omar: I don’t know how to answer this question. Someone told me to write “like a shooting star” so I’ll go with that.