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  • Writer's pictureHakan Öztunalı

I Will Guide Thy Hand w/ Obsidian Nibs

With the shifting of the seasons, I feel much more quiet. In this episode of my personal journey, I would like to introduce you Mihai, as known as Obsidian Nibs with his artist alias. I was stalking him for a long time to grasp what's he into. Decent artisan from Romania, expert of dark pen and ink art, dedicated vast part of his life to the observation of mediums. You may find Mihai in the thick layers of mist of a forest. With the nightfall and shrouding clouds upon you, he will guide thy hand along the way.

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Sitis" - 4 / 9 from the "Maleficas" project, 2023 - present(ongoing project). 40cm x 40cm, pencil study on Fabriano 180g paper.)

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Black Phillip" - A "The VVitch" movie based artwork. 42cm x 72cm, Giclée, Limited Edition of 18 on Hahnemühle Albrecht Dürer 210gsm paper, 2022.)

Hello Obsidian Nibs. Thanks a lot being part of my realm. Please introduce yourself to the audience to know you further?

Obsidian Nibs: Hello Hakan and greetings to you, kind reader, very glad to be here and to share with you insights from my realms, my past experiences and art. My name is Mihai(Michael), the creator behind Obsidian Nibs, a Romanian dark artist using 16th century woodcut/engraving visual style representation for my pen and ink creations.

The predominant topics for my works these days relate to a variety of occult thematics, having a witchy or dark aesthetic vibe and sometimes I'm drawn to a gloomy sci-fi side as well.

I started scrambling with pencils in an early age(1 year and 8 months), and mother used to collect my doodles and date them on the back side of the paper, keeping them in a large briefcase until the point I finished highschool.

But due to her religious views, she decided to threw away the ones who were a bit darker, representing monsters and such.

Ha-Ha...Those were indeed the ones that I loved drawing the most, somehow I've always had an affinity for the beauty within the macabre and it was always the easiest for me to render.

I followed the art school, and after that, graduated the university of arts and design, and started my master studies as well within design. For a period of 8 years or so, I've collaborated only with bands from specific niches of metal music, and dedicated my artistic side just to create album art and designs, band merchandise and full music festivals graphics.

However not while ago, the desire to have my own creations and projects in my own time and demands grown stronger and stronger inside, so I took the decision to stop doing band related art and to start my own personal art projects.

Under Obsidian Nibs, I wanted as an artist to have a bigger pallete of self-expression, where to incorporate photography and video too, as those were also two big passions of mine. For the name itself I simply knew it had to represent something strictly related with my inner emotions in totality, a clash between the inner calm and its fluid state with the burning fire and its untempered side. I would say the naming idea came quite easily and ..uhm ..naturally :)

I'm simply drawn to these dark thematics, to the old ways, to ages that have long passed and they all feel natural to me. The more I indulged myself in countless self studies over engraving masters of the 16th century, the more it felt to me that it is a path I clearly must follow for my artistic approach.

I reviewed your photography. Obvious that you have such a rare discipline and communication with nature. Entire album looks hyper-realistic and fascinating. How do you touch the environment and then decide the theme?

Obsidian Nibs: You can throw me in any place where man has not touched soil and I'll probably feel like home. Since I was a kid I used to ride my bike to the forest nearby the city I grew up and just feel the calm of the surroundings. It is there where I used to play with images in my mind, a mental exercise of creating sceneries, similar to how a 3D environment artist works and creates his visions.

Now, after 30 and what not years later, I'm doing the very same thing. When I'm at the base of defining the main construct of a concept, I tend to escape from the existing social bubble-sphere that surrounds me, and retreat to places less attended by people as much possible.

It is there in the wild, where my senses get sharper and my pulse beats slower, where I leave my social cloth that defines me as a person, and receive the visions that shape my works. Usually it starts with a question or a single direction towards a possible artistic idea coming from my side, ending up with answers and vivid images in my head.

You interconnect nature and art all together. Tell me about the content and your preparation?

Obsidian Nibs: I am a methodic person when it comes to my art, and over time I've developed a self methodology of work that I use, probably like other artists have on their own.

My workflow sums up in several stages: the preparation, the research, the sketching, the pencil study, the inking part, the preparation of the final digital priniting file and lastly, the art printing.

The initial one is more like an inner preparation, a sort of cleansing if you will, from the daily interactions and thoughts. To be fully submerged and focused onto something connected with the inner emotional side, one must clear its cache similar to a computer, or this is how I see things at least.

Also as I'm a person obsessed with music I do have a vast palette of styles to use depending on what I'm working at. Usually at the initial stage I prepare specific music playlists which I would play over and over, until the artwork would be complete. Its more like choosing or defining a soundtrack for the whole process to use in order to achieve a specific mood.

The genres themselves are different one from another, they could be metal, atmospheric metal, instrumenal, psychedelic, progressive, folk, classic or even soundtracks from games or movies. The pencil study is probably the stage which occupies the largest amount of time and attention for every art piece I do.

Because I consider my pencil studies to be the main foundation to a concept, each stroke representing a highway for the ink strokes that will come later. Therefore, I like to take time on them, and to render details in the same manner and mindset I would with the final ink piece, although they tend to represent 80% of the re-traced inks, where often other details which couldn't be rendered in pencil will be traced there.

This process also helps me to get used with the necessary hand stroke movements, and thus within the inking stage everything would ocur in a fluid manner.

For large pieces, I also take at least one hour after each day of work, take a sheet of paper, and analize everything with harsh self-criticism, writing down everything I conclude to be important and which needs to be modified in order to reach as much possible the vision that lies in my head.

The inking stage is more relaxing, where everything is already set and defined. Here I take the final sheet of paper and start to re-trace everything back again, without any rush in order to not make any rendering mistakes. Once something is traced in ink, it is quite a fuss to correct it although they could be, but I prefer everything these days to be immaculate from start to finish.

Over time I concluded that if I'm not in my best moods when I'm doing something, its probably better to just pause and return back to it when I consider myself ready to continue, trying this way to avoid fuckups at all cost.

Once the ink piece is finished, I start the scanning process of it, creating a 1:1 high resolution printing file, and work on it digitally if it needs so, making more adjustments, and ocassionally adding wash tones to it in order to reach certain depth of fields, better contrasts, or a specific overall aesthetic.

Last stage consist in choosing the right art paper on which the final digital file will be printed in a giclee manner, a 1:1 size copy of the original containing every tiny detail or perhaps even more if they were added digitally.

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Commistio", 2023. A4 format, archival ink on 200g Canson paper.)

Based on the art form, what is the message you convey to the audience?

Obsidian Nibs: I like to think that my work passes emotions rather than straight messages, which gives the viewer the liberty of interpretation in his own judgement and will. Thus I play with contradictory inner states in the attempt of mixing opposite poles of the emotional spectrum, that create mixed feelings or raise questions regarding the overall perception of a piece. As for motifs I'm drawn to very well known social taboo or religious topics as a main playground, which may create controversy on some cases.

I sometimes tend to use metaphors in order to give sense and weight when I'm speaking with someone. I guess this practice spills upon my artworks as well, a sort of "as above, so below" thing. What intrigues me is the human mind and its condition, the state of denial in front of arousement, the social and its stigmas based upon moral values.

Although the images themselves are pretty self-explanatory I think, I often add the symbolism part in the process, placing hidden messages perhaps for those who are able to read them. This would probably sum the "How" and "What" as for the "Why"... believe me, I've spent countless hours thinking about why I'm doing what I do, and couldn't find a more elaborated explanation for this question except for an ambiguous answer: "Because I need to".

Where do you find the aspirational motives to create your reality?

Obsidian Nibs: Sometimes I feel more like a vessel instead of a straight creator, and often I feel like mere tool of communication between something coming from an ethereal plane and rendered into an image. I guess my subconscious is like a sponge who absorbs everything that catches my attention and make my spine tickles, storing those things within a deep vault and ocassionaly ideas emerge to the surface.

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Lux Lunae Chorus", 2023. A4 format, archival ink on 200g Canson paper.)

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Initiatio" - 1 / 9 from the "Maleficas" project, 2023 - present(ongoing project). 40cm x 40cm, pencil study on Fabriano 180g paper.)

As you you’re an artist fond of cinematography and music, I know you have exceptional enthusiasm for the movie The VVitch (2015), please describe the significance of the movie for you, and recommend any other type of movies or books likely?

Obsidian Nibs: Oh mightie Father forgiue me for I have sinned, bvt I wovldst like to liue deliciovsly indeed!

I'm quite obsessed with that movie in particular, and can't recall how many times I have seen it and study it so far. I am a big fan of Robert Egger's works, but from all his movies, probably The VVitch is closest to my heart. I'll try to be short however in response and sum a few things which reached me deep down inside regarding it. Firstly I admire his determination and will of being accurate toward a specific historical time frame.

I love how the script may seem so easy to understand at first sight, and yet it is wrapped in so many symbols which can give totally different perspectives and points of view, shifting one from another as the movie gets closer to its end point. The cast who've all done such an astonishing acting in creating some parts that remained like a stain in the back of my mind long after the movie ended. The technical side of it, how the camera was used in order to highlight certain messages or to induce certain moods, and the overall tones which shape a memorable dark folk aesthetic.

And last but not least, the whole soundtrack part made by Mark Korven which was done in such brilliant manner and fits like a perfect glove, empowering everything with it for the entire movie, giving it its own pulse. His talent blew me away and I love it so much I actually added it to my own working playlist related to witchy themes, and while working for the "Black Phillip" project I've listened to it on repeat for the entire process in order to embody my emotions on the strokes that concluded the artwork itself.

Often when I'm overwhelmed by something, I get this urge inside of giving back some sort of recognition. Thus my determination to create a The VVitch movie based artwork grew stronger and came to fruition with the "Black Phillip" piece and knowing that it actually reached Robert Egger's hands and sight I consider to be the pinnacle of my achievements so far.

I'm very attached spiritually to this particular project, considering it perhaps a magnum opus to this point, and plan to bring up future variant limited editions of it. I recommend all movies directed by him as I'm very fond of his work and approach. As for other movies, they mostly depend on the genres where they're places.

I do enjoy horror types, psychological thrillers or dramas, sci-fi, historical, and can name directors whom works I adore such as Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa, Lars von Trier, Fritz Lang, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Francis F. Coppola, Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Torro, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky, Andrei Tarkovsky, Denis Villeneuve, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie ...the list can get very long.

For the past years, I'm more into reading art albums or art studies, artists diaries or analysis, and in a peculiar way I do find myself sometimes late at night with a need for olde english texts so I randomly open my King James Version quatercentenary edition bible by Oxford with the 1611 text.

How do you boost your motivation whenever you lost the ethereal energy?

Obsidian Nibs: Sadly I didn't figured out a recipe for this part, and I deal with lots of art-blocks lately. I do have periods when I feel depressed, or I'm at tea parties with my anxieties, and my

empathic nature does not help me at all with this part. For me in order to be able to create something, specific elements have to align, and just like within alchemy, if one's missing the result is null.

Also I am not a content creator, I'm an artist, and I want my peeps to acknowledge that and to understand that I can't create my works overnight, as some can require a very large amount of time from my side.

The best thing someone can offer help to his favorite artist is just to show support, which he can manifest not only by pressing the like button, but verbally or by written interaction too. Plus that the social media these days has a growing tendency over a toxic mindset approach driven by consumerism and is not helping some of us at all in this direction, as we are not machines to constantly imbue parts of our souls onto sheets of papers, sliding down the lane like in factories.

I did tried to create smaller and simpler pieces while working on larger ones just to stay in line with the social media demands, but ended up with a larger burnout instead. However, what I do when I'm within these bitter phases, I turn to my other passions, photography or traveling, as they are part of my process as well and bring me the state of calm.

I also found artists from different domains to whom I'm proud to have them as friends, and with whom I periodically exchange thoughts. Some, simply by sharing their views can ignite some sparkles inside, enough to help you lift back on your feet or at least to raise your head up. To those people I'm very grateful and happy to have them close within my circle.

Would you like to share your final thoughts?

Obsidian Nibs: Thank you Hakan for inviting me here to your special place, as its a real pleasure for me to be a part of it and to share with you and your audience insights from my artistic side. I admire the dedication and effort you put in order to bring artists closer to the eye of the public.

I value and respect that deeply, so thank you for doing this. And thank you kindly fellow reader for taking your time and patience to read my thoughts. I do hope these minutes spent here were worthy of your time, and if you can, do throw an eye upon the stories of other artists placed here as well.

Blessed be!

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Superbia" - Pride, from the "Septem Peccata Mortalia" project, 2022. 21cm x 12,5cm, Hahnemühle Federzeichenblock paper, Copic Multiliner SP 0.05.)

obsidian nibs
(Courtesy of Obsidian Nibs "Sangvis est vita", a "Bram Stoker's Dracula" movie based artwork, 2023. A3 format, archival ink on Fabriano 180g paper.)


To reach the official Instagram page of Obsidian Nibs, tap here: @obsidiannibs_ink


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