The Fantastical Otherworlds of Adam Burke

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Adam Burke of NightJar illustration has created some of the most fantastical album covers for the occult-themed, psychedelic hard rock/heavy metal music you need to be listening to right now, such as those found in Devil’s Daughters/Women In Occult Rock Parts One and Two.

With dark, classic imagery that hearkens back to some of your favorite science-fantasy Heavy Metal Magazine art, or the pulpy, cosmic horror-tinged style of a particularly lurid used bookstore H.P. Lovecraft paperback — you know, the one with the eyeball we all have on our shelf — Burke’s art feels both deceptively familiar and fabulously strange.

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Although raised in a restrictive religious environment where this type of subject matter was off-limits, Burke speaks of a childhood-and-beyond love for the excitement and visceral energy of those 20th century fantasy illustrations, and taps into that sense of passion and intensity for the custom, commissioned works he produces for musicians and bands. Burke, who acknowledges that this older fantasy-style art is oftentimes relegated to the realm of schlock and kitsch, admits that while he brings his own tongue-in-cheek approach to his creations, he also attempts to give them a sense of beauty, grace, and mystery.

“…FANTASY AND DARK SUBJECT MATTER,” BURKE REMARKS, “CAN ACCESS OUR DEEP FEARS AND MOTIVATIONS, AS WELL AS PRESENT A SENSE OF MYSTERY OR UNKNOWN IN A WORLD WHERE THE UNKNOWN SEEMS TO BE EVER-SHRINKING.”

Valley of the Snake (art for Ruby the Hatchet)

Valley of the Snake (art for Ruby the Hatchet)

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Adam Burke spent a great deal of time in the woods. As an adult he has come to find that is still where he prefers to be. A science nerd enthralled with plants, fungus, geology, and ecology, he believes that there is infinite inspiration in nature and natural processes.

This fascination with the myriad wonders of the natural world and the flora and fauna which inhabit within is expressed in the name of his website. According to Burke, Nightjars are birds in the genus Caprimulgus. They are beautiful, but seldom seen, mostly nocturnal birds that have gorgeous markings and a distinct flight pattern. His fascination is also glimpsed in his more personal works: dim-lit, moody landscapes of craggy cliffs and marshy bogs shrouded in mists, populated with woodland creatures and wanderers alike. All are seen through the vaporous veil of a haunting dream, perhaps an entirely different world, or another time.

Burke muses that this otherworldly quality stems from his tendency to be a daydreamer, and perhaps from a bit of a disconnect with the world of humans. Noting that, “I’m a humanist, and I think we’re capable of amazing things. I value my friends and family more than anything in life,” he then went on to say, “I think humankind’s presence in this world is increasingly destructive and meaningless. I use art as a form of escape; to create a place or feeling that I wish existed or where I wish I was.”

Hagg Lake II

Hagg Lake II

A musician himself, Burke reflects that as an adult, he started creating art again when he returned to playing music. After a period of time when his creativity was channeled into some more practical pursuits, his life began to fall apart in “some pretty major ways.” As a result, he found that his creativity, (his “art brain”), was much easier to access, and art and music became his comfort zone.

Red Witch

Red Witch

As to which medium he prefers–visual or sonic– he notes that while painting gives him the platform to explore his deepest interests and impulses, nothing compares to the thrill of playing music with people whom you love, to an audience who’s participating in that electrifying energy.

And so, Burke began playing music and making art for his band, Fellwoods. “I wanted to create nature-inspired fantasy pieces because we drew from ’60s/’70s psychedelic and heavy music, so I taught myself to paint,” Burke reveals. “Other bands saw the art I created for Fellwoods and started asking about commissioned work, so I just kept going with it. Now it’s my living.”

Ghosts of the Anthropocene I

Ghosts of the Anthropocene I

(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)

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