All images by red5standingby
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Interview by Cosmo Lee

Some time ago I stumbled across a wonderful gallery on Flickr. It had images of Kerry King, Steve Harris, Dimebag Darrell, and other metallers — rendered in stunning fidelity with MS Paint. (I nicked a portrait of King Diamond for this review of his reissues.) Yes, MS Paint: the primitive art program that comes bundled with Windows. It’s not just a tool for scatological jokes. Simon, aka red5standingby, has elevated it into a brush of the finest caliber. I commissioned him to do the above rendition of Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth. Then I asked him some questions about his talent.

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Who are you?

I’m Simon, 33, and live in London. I work for Channel Five ensuring that all our TV shows look nice when they air.

What is your artistic background?

I have practically no artistic background. I’ve always enjoyed doodling and printing t-shirts with stencils (many with weak metal puns), but for the main part I’m an art appreciator. From getting my first cassette of Live After Death for Christmas to ordering a Book of Black Earth t-shirt a couple of days ago, I’ve loved heavy metal almost as much for its artwork as the music. Even when I got heavily into dance music and breakbeat in my early twenties, nothing looked as good in the record racks as Manowar records did.

Eat & Destroy

Why is MS Paint your weapon of choice?

I’m not so hot with computers, so when designing stencils for making t-shirts, I started using MS Paint, as it was easy to understand and pretty much did what I wanted it to. I’m a firm believer in keeping things simple when I can. I wanted simple images, so [I] used a simple programme. An added bonus is that MS Paint is on my work computer, so when I’m bored at work, I can get on with something fun.

How did you get the idea to MS Paint-erize metal musicians?

Like I said, I’ve pretty much always loved metal and have spent hours painting band logos onto bags and jackets as well as doodling invented band logos during important meetings. My first computer art/metal interaction, though, was recreating a pretty accurate Annihilator logo back when I was 15. Bored at work one day a couple of years ago, I thought it might be fun to doodle over some photos with MS Paint and see what the effect would be like. Naturally enough, I chose something close to my heart and made a start with a photo I found looking for “black metal” using Google Image Search. From there, I thought I’d do musicians I really liked, and have been knocking them out fairly regularly since then as and when work allows!


Why do your pieces have funny lines going through them?

The funny lines are a quirk of MS Paint when you hold the mouse down for too long. They don’t always happen — the Trey I did for you guys is free of them — but sometimes I leave them in, as I think they add to the pictures. They’re not, as some people might think, a tribute to The Omen. That would have involved way too much thinking for me!

What makes subjects easy/hard to MS Paint-erize?

First off, the bigger the photo I can find, the easier it is to do. I like them to be recognisable without me having to say who they are, so there’s got to be something distinctive about the person. Corpsepaint when it’s for an individual is great. King Diamond is a favourite. Sometimes something as simple as a beard or guitar can give it away. My Eddie Van Halen looks like pretty much every hair metaller there is, but his signature guitar gives him away.

On Fire

Who do you have planned next to MS Paint-erize?

I’m always up for suggestions, and the only restriction is whether I can find a good photo of the person I want to do. I’m keen to do all of Manowar at some point, and despite a lack of knowledge of the genre, there must be plenty more corpsepaint wearers who are distinctive enough to do.

Do you plan to publish your MS Paint pieces in any formal way?

My friend put some together in a small zine. But when I’ve got enough together, I’d like to do an all-metal zine or an all-black metal zine myself. Long term I’d like to turn some of them into paintings and maybe prints or t-shirts.