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Bicycle Day is the first graphic novel that beautifully illustrates the story of Albert Hofmann’s discovery when he intentionally ingested an experimental dose of the new compound known as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and embarked on the world’s first ever acid trip. It is also Brian Blomerth’s first full book and most ambitious project to date, published by Anthology Editions on June 25. Combining the extraordinary true story of the discovery of LSD with the artist’s own whimsically gritty and timeless comic style, the book offers an engaging, Technicolor adventure filled with carefully researched bits of information.

Brian, you are an illustrator and cartoonist based in Brooklyn. We can find your comic illustrations regularly featured in Vice and Merry Jane. Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers and explain to us how your career in art started?
I always loved to draw. I went to VCU and studied painting. Realized, a couple of years later in life, that I just wanted to draw and so started doing that. I have done flyers and covers for people and friends for years. I made some comics and one of the editors at Vice saw them and asked me to do some comics for them, and then they asked for me to do the comic weekly. Between that and other drawing gigs, I was able to focus on drawing full-time.
“I wouldn’t really say I’m a true illustrator because the specifics of my own drawings are a little bit harder to bend into other peoples’ visions, but when it works, it works”, you explained some time ago to Amadeus Magazine. What are the challenges you usually face as a visual artist?
Probably just repeating myself or not being able to just relax and draw without a real purpose. What I meant in the quote is that I can really only work in my own frameworks. If you want what I do, that is great and it will work. It only becomes a problem if someone doesn’t understand that I really only have my world to draw in and on and can’t really shift out of that. I actually really have fun drawing. Deadlines can be hard and a huge amount of work sucks but drawing is always fun.
And what’s the most challenging aspect when working on a commissioned project?
Well, a commission is kind of dance. Sometimes, people don’t know what they want and that’s alright. However, if you don’t know what you want but also make me feel like I don’t have the freedom to kind of go wild, it’s just not going to work out. My favorite commissions are when record people really throw me a ton of visual information – their favorite records, their childhood home, etc. – and just kind of go, ‘Hey, let me see your take on this’. That’s fun and I can really run with that. I can’t read minds, so more information is always better than less and freedom is always better than something highly specific. Throw me a couple of things, describe a vibe, talk to me and then it usually works out.
What’s your creative process like? Do you tend to stick to a specific method of creation?
Pretty standard. Sometimes I get a little experimental but always the drawing part is straight Rapidograph Pen on Bristol Vellum paper. I use a bunch of rulers – T-square, 45/33 Angles – and my mom’s electrical engineering templates. I got a drawing desk. Draw until the idea is done. Use a white-out pen for mistakes and then scan and color it. No pencils.
How do you start an illustration and when do you know it’s finished?
I walk the dog and think on it. Or I’ll consult the archive of images for a while. Sometimes, an idea has been floating around for a while, and then I finally get to put it somewhere. Finished? I kinda know where I’m going and where I will sort of end up. Sometimes, there are a couple of bends in the road or I will fall in a pothole or get bit by a snake, but that’s all part of ‘the drawing trail’.
We can find your work on CD covers, tapes, comics, and even on sweatshirts or t-shirts. Looking back, your unique witty visuals with classic underground art styles have been pretty consistent since the very beginning. How would you describe your style in just a few words? And how much is it a reflection of your personality?
I would say it’s 1000% a reflection of my personality, but also, a reflection of all the drawings from other people I really like and have liked throughout my life. It’s funny how you drag all of this visual information through your life and as you get better at drawing, more things come into focus that you didn’t think were possible before. Also, it’s fun to look at all the drawing as a puzzle or a weird game that you are interacting with.
One of my favorite things is to enter a corn maze and try to shut down all of my mental faculties so I am just scared and running through the maze. Usually, I have to crawl out the side. There is no other way out. I would say drawing is the reverse of that. I’m embracing everything and relaxing and saying hello and waving to little plants and critters. It’s a true delight. So, I guess you could describe my style as the opposite of a corn maze.
Bicycle Day is the first graphic novel made about the first synthesis of LSD. A stunning graphic novel that guides viewers through the story of Dr Albert Hofmann’s discovery when he first tripped on LSD and bicycled home from his lab in Basel (Switzerland) on April 19, 1943. Being your first-ever full book, this is also your most ambitious work to date. Was creating a book something you always wanted to do?
Always wanted to do a book. I am beyond grateful I didn’t get to make a book until now and I am beyond happy with it. I have a couple of books from illustrators who only got to make one in their whole career and if this is it for me, I am beyond fine with it.
Who is this book for?
Probably just me but I’m hoping other people get a kick out of it. Obviously, it’s for the subjects of the book (Albert and Anita Hofmann) and if a couple of people donate to MAPS or the Hefter Research Institute, because they read about it in the back, I would feel like I did something good with my one-shot at a book.
Bicycle Day has two hundred pages of pen on paper illustration with digital coloration, neon Pantones, and spot colouring. It also has your signature dog/human hybrid characters narrating every page. What’s the influence behind such way of portraying people?
There’s a genre of illustration/comics dubbed ‘funny animal’ comics. I like to refer to my version of it as ‘adult contemporary dog-face’. It’s an older and weirder method of cartooning and I just love the genre and am constantly finding inspiration in it. Also, what I really love about it is that it becomes normalized in the reader after a while and then it will just hit you again like, ‘Oh, all of these people are dogs. What is wrong with the person who made this?’ Really wanted to do a biography of someone I really respect in this format and glad I finally got to. Also, I love to tell people the dog face is how I see them. That is a joke that keeps giving.
Published by Anthology Editions, Bicycle Day will be released next June 25. What are you most excited for? And what other projects do you have coming up?
I guess I’m most excited about people actually seeing the book. I’m doing a free broadsheet for Desert Island called Cornhatch’s Party Patch. Other than that, I’m just living life swamped on commissions, which is beyond amazing and I couldn’t ask for more.
And just to wrap things up, we’ve also found you on Soundcloud, sharing a series of disturbing tunes that recall video game sounds and noises from outer space with manipulated voices. Can you walk us through this experimentation on sound production?
My twenties were a pretty screwy weird ride. I’m about drawing now and I have no defense for any of that except that now I’m just trying to draw and relax. Gotta sew some oats before you can eat at home… is that a saying? If it’s not a saying, that kinda sums up my ‘music career’. I got to entertain myself. Like the hokey-pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

The book Bicycle Day by Brian Blomerth will be published on June 25 by Anthology Editions.

Words
Marina Pérez

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