Gerald Leung's drawings reflect his own inner world. February 14 2017

Outre Gallery Gerard Leung

Australian raised, Hong Kong born artist, Gerald Leung, conjures up an infinite world of heroes and heroines who make up the baddest gang from the Under Underworld, 'Brutal Brackmetal'. He uses 
graphite, ink and screen tone sheets to feed life into these intricate characters and their worlds. For Gerald the characters are "unique individuals with their own personalities and back stories" Each character he draws is a little part of him, "they are living my dreams, they can accomplish my goals, they live up to my ideals and they can even have traits which I feel like I personally lack." His brain was fed comic books, video games and cartoons as a kid, and so his work reflects these imagined universes devoid of reality. 

We caught up with Gerald Leung to discuss the process behind transporting his characters from his head into our dimension, where he draws inspiration, and the work he now stocks at  Outré Gallery in Melbourne.

Gerard Leung - Brackmetal
There is a strong aesthetic to your drawings, when did it all begin for you, in terms of artwork?
I've pretty much been drawing since I was a child. But I guess most kids drew right? Back in primary school I had a group of friends who all drew. We sat together in class and were known to be the "drawing kids" of our grade. I remember feeling like I was the worst out of the bunch. I kept drawing though. I wanted to get better at it. Since then it's always been a hobby. Some years I drew more, some years I drew less. Tried out many different styles and mediums. It was only until 2011 when I decided to take it seriously. I had my first solo exhibition that year.
When you were younger you enjoyed video games, comic books and cartoons, what was the switch whereby you began to draw your own fantasy worlds similar to those you were influenced by?
I think I've always been doing that to some extent. Growing up, instead of creating worlds I would always draw myself into the world of whatever cartoon/ comic I was obsessed with at the time. I would try to mimic the art style of the show and then design what me and my friends would look like if we were in it. I would make up scenarios and drew us interacting with the show's characters. When I was younger it was shows like Dragon Ball or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and as I got older it went from super hero stuff to tough guy, gangster films. There was a short period time when I was even the fourth member of Blink 182... Anyways, I think it was only natural that I would eventually take this mishmash of influences and create a world of my own. It's fun!

As a kid and even now how has your imagination helped your drawings?
I think anyone could draw if they practiced hard enough. For me it's more about what you draw. Imagination is everything. Drawing is just one tool for bringing imagination/ ideas into physical form. It's almost like a summoning ritual to open a portal. With the use of a pencil and a series of careful steps I'm essentially transporting a being, stroke by stroke, body part by body part, from my head into our dimension. Dang, I literally only just thought of that. I think I like it.
Where do you naturally gravitate to when seeking to be inspired?
I love dark, gnarly metal stuff but I also love super cutesy kawaii stuff. Throw in a bit comic books and fashion and that's pretty much me.

Has there been other creatives who you have looked up to in terms of aesthetic or technique?
Too many! Growing up all I did was copy the work of all my favourite artists. I think that's the best way in learning how to draw. Eventually I took the bits and pieces I've learnt from copying different artists and gradually developed a style of my own. Though, to this day I still sometimes find it hard drawing side profiles without them looking a bit Jamie Hewlett-ish. Haha
Anyways some of my favourite creatives are Q Hayashida, Yoshimoto Nara, Hikari Shimoda, MR, Ashley Wood, Christophe Szpajdel, Frank Frazetta, Taiyo Matsumoto, Richard Scarry and Pendleton Ward.
Could you describe the mediums you generally work with?
Generally it's graphite, ink and screen tone sheets.

What would your typical process be when creating a piece of work?
I usually start off by roughing out the drawing on tracing paper. After I'm happy with the image, I use a light box to transfer it onto finer art paper and start the inking process. Many people don't realise but I actually don't use any white ink on my drawings. All the white lines, like the wrinkles in the clothing, is actually just the colour from the paper underneath. It takes a bit longer inking this way but It allows me more control with the line work and it also makes the lines look crispier. After inking, I go in with the tonal work. I use graphite a lot with shading or I would stipple with a fine liner. For patterns and fabric textures I would sometimes use screen tone sheets. That's pretty much it for most of my character drawings. Besides from maybe editing the levels or the contrast a bit after scanning, everything is hand done.
Where do you do the majority of your work - do you have a studio?
I work from home. I don't usually work too big so all I need is basically a desk and a chair. Never really found the need for a studio.
Are you concentrating on any themes or characters in particular at the moment ?
Just to continue to build on the Brackmetal gang and their world around them. I've made it my life's work! All my personal work I've been doing and going forth, ties into the gang in some way or form. I want to forever be adding new recruits to the roster. I've also started looking into other mediums too. Sculptural, animation, comics, clothing, the plan is to do whatever I can to bringing my gang from my head and into our reality. 

Who are the characters in your paintings, do they represent anything larger to you? 
They are all members of Brutal Brackmetal, the baddest gang from Under Underground. They live in a world not bound by time, physics and even reality, or at least not our interpretations of it. I like to think that all the characters are unique individuals with their own personalities and back stories. But if you want to go deep for a second, I guess in a way they are also all 'me'. Or at least little parts of me. They reflect my interests and even thoughts or feelings I had at the time I was drawing them. I should probably say that they're even bigger than me as they are living my dreams, they can accomplish my goals, they live up to my ideals and they can even have traits which I feel like I personally lack. Every time I draw a character I feel like I'm giving it a bit of my personal life force. I usually draw the eyes last as I feel like that brings them to life. We all only have a limited supply of life force/ time in our lives. I sometimes wonder how many members I'll end up with by the time I die (hopefully a lot!). But in saying all this, half the time all I really want to do is draw some cool ass dudes.
What emotions do you seek to show through the characters in your work?
I don't know actually. I don't really think about that. Even if the viewer doesn't feel any emotions from the work, I hope they're at least enjoying looking at some cool ass dudes.
You will be stocking prints at  Outré Gallery in Melbourne, could you briefly describe what these works are about?
The team at  Outré Gallery and I worked together in picking out a selection of our favourite characters from the gang so far. It's actually my first time making prints of the gang so this is pretty special to me. I'm excited to see these guys go out to the world.
Gerard Leung - Brackmetal
Could you describe one of the works in finer detail?
Meteor<C> is one of my relatively recent characters. She is captain of the 'Meteorites', BM's para(normal)trooper team.  She is the absolute death from above. The skull she has strapped to her chest once belonged to a waste troll that had an extreme fear of heights. Every time she goes for a jump the skull releases huge amounts of adrenaline out of fear, which in turn is absorbed and powers up our girl to be extra savage when she hits her target.  I'm quite proud of this drawing. Definitely one of the more detailed characters I've drawn with her harness and all the little pouches. She inspired me to do a whole series or paratrooper characters after her.

Words by Nicola Mitchell.
Gerald Leung will be stocking a range of prints at  Outré Gallery this month.
249 Elizabeth St
Melbourne VIC 3000