From Wizards of the West Coast and DC comics to Doom II and Van Helsing, Brom is an acknowledged master of gothic fantasy. The illustrator’s vision has been inspiring the nightmares of fantasy lovers since he first joined TSR in the late 1980s.
His often bizarre or haunting work jumps out at you from a choice selection of novels, role-playing games, comics and films. In between times, he says, he’s trying to reach a “happy sing-a-long” with the many demons dancing about in his head.
Today, Brom concentrates on bringing his creative vision to full fruition, from words to pictures. The artist is currently promoting his first graphic novel, The Plucker: “Essentially, an evil children’s book for adults,” he explains. Ever busy with his work, Brom’s got another instalment on the blocks.
Brom spent his formative years hot-footing it around the globe in tow with his father, an aviator for the US Army. This he recognises as important: “I credit living in such places as Japan, Hawaii, Alabama and Germany for my somewhat altered perception of reality.”
“Art helped me to be accepted when moving into a new community and was my friend when I was alone.” Though it provided a formative creative impulse, travelling the world as a child probably isn’t all fun and games. Brom’s early subject matter makes that obvious: “I started out with monsters eating people.”
From there he progressed through standard art school fare of still life and landscapes, leading to a four-year stint “as a commercial illustrator doing cute products.” This really ran against the grain and had to be dropped: “Now I’m back to monsters eating people and am very happy.”
Escaping from cuteness wasn’t that easy: “It took four years, but somehow I managed to get together a fantasy portfolio between jobs. I sent this off to TSR (now known as Wizards of the West Coast). They hired me.”
But even at the home of D&D, things didn’t immediately click. “I did a few covers for Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, but my style clashed with those worlds.” Until then, fantasy had a clean and soft image, while Brom was anything but. Fortunately for him, Dark Sun came along. TSR wanted something completely different, something gritty and nasty. Who you gonna call? “After seeing a few of the paintings I’d done on my own, the crew putting Dark Sun together flipped,” he remembers. “It was just what they were looking for.” Brom indulged in the luxury of a free rein: “They ended up writing much of the world around my paintings. It was a blast.”
Brom’s work is produced in time honoured fashion: on canvas, with oils. “I do use the computer occasionally,” he says. “For pre-production and touch-up work, but nothing can replace the physical intuitiveness of brush on canvas.”
For all that traditionalism of technique, Brom is self taught: “I didn’t have the benefit of learning directly from another artist. Most of what I learned came from studying and emulating the work of artists who I admired, such as Frank Frazetta, Norman Rockwell, NC Wyeth, Waterhouse, and Mucha.”
The Plucker, a novel, is Brom’s latest project. “It’s been an obsession,” he admits. “Haunting my days and nights for the last several years. Now, at last, it’s finished and on its way to scratch out the eyes of children of all ages.”
With 160 pages and 100 illustrations, The Plucker is a beautiful object, a gothic nightmare disguised as a children’s story. His second project? “Another horror novel.” That one’s due to hit the shops in 2007.