Sep 26, 2011

PROFILE | Paul Romano

Paul Romano, The Portal. Screen Print, 19 inches x 25 inches, May of 2010.
I first came across Paul Romano's work after becoming a huge fan of Atlanta, Georgia prog-metal band Mastodon, who used Romano's work for their album artwork on 4 of their first 5 records.  Mastodon's music is intricate and aggressive, and the band is known for dedicating whole albums to concepts like astral travel and wormholes, as well as an album called Leviathan that follows the adventures of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Paul Romano's work reflects many of the themes in Mastodon's music; whether it be giant monsters to three-headed wizards to horses self-combusting, Romano can do it all in a complex but awe-inspiring way.  His immense talent is only surpassed by his immense imagination, and Mastodon's bassist Troy Sanders is quoted on their website as saying, "We give him all the faith and trust in the world with anything that he touches artistically relating to Mastodon."

Paul Romano, Love Unconditional. Screen Print, 19 inches x 25 inches, October of 2009.
 Paul Romano has recently launched two websites, one for his more personal works, and one for his commercial works, though both sites look very similar.  He also has a personal blog and a facebook account, where I was pleasantly surprised to find that he eagerly accepts fan's friendship requests and responds to personal messages in a relatively timely manner.

Romano is currently living and working out of Philadelphia.  He's lived in the state of Pennsylvania for his entire life, and he attended both the University of Arts - Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  I first became interested in Romano's story because he started out doing commercial art for big companies, but found he was unable to truly express himself artistically.  He worked lucrative yet constricting jobs as an in-house illustrator, designing children's software, a successful line of greeting cards, and multiple websites.  Though I consider myself an artist, I currently work at a small publishing company in Austin where the design work is very limited and lacks creativity, and I was immediately able to relate to Romano's story.  In 2000, Romano finally decided to "pursue a client base that would marry his recent education in brand design with his long time adoration of fine art" (Work Hardened, Bio).  He left the world of commercial art and began doing freelance artwork, something I myself hope to do someday.

Window decal from Romano's show in Philadelphia on October 10, 2009.
Inside Romano's solo exhibition at the Toothless Cat Art Gallery in Philadelphia.
Romano's work consists of mostly paintings, screen prints, and some photographs.  He works predominantly from home, and he recently delved into the tedious task of creating 1,000 10" x 10" pieces of artwork that he will eventually sell for $100 each.  On his website, he helps us understand his mindset during this period of his work:
Project XxXxX (or 10x10x10) is to be 1000 works, all 10x10 inches. It is an exercise to push myself with experimentation in mediums, techniques, mark making; to continue learning. It is also an exorcise of expelling and exploring ideas quickly, as in my lifetime I will never be able to produce physically the amount of work that my imagination creates. It is a process of weeding out and allowing myself to be more playful. The works themselves lie in a limbo between sketch book and a high polished "finished" piece. The mediums and surfaces will range. Printmaking processes will be used, however all works will be original and one of a kind.
Though very well-known in his home city of Philadelphia, Romano is best known nationally as an artist for indie and metal bands.  His website is predominantly made up of album artwork for over 30 musical acts, along with a few quotes from band members.  Many of the artists are very passionate in their opinions of Romano's work. One example that really caught my eye is Erik Rutan of the metal band Hate Eternal saying, "I put my heart and soul into music, so as soon as I realized he does the same with art, I said I wouldn't work with anyone else again."

I'm a big science-fiction fan, and I like to let my imagination run wild when creating artwork. Paul Romano is clearly the same way, and he creates some of the most fantastical, imaginative art I've ever experienced. I can only hope his artwork breaks out of the Philadelphia underground scene and someday garners the national critical acclaim that it deserves.

-Will Tullos

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