For over four decades, Alaskan artist Ray Troll’s illustrations of odd sea creatures, dinosaurs, and fossils have entertained fans of all ages. His art has been featured in many major natural history museums, as well as in galleries, books, and on a popular line of t-shirts.
Troll finally takes center stage with a new collection of his work entitled Spawn Till You Die: The Fin Art of Ray Troll from Clover Press (and now available to back on Kickstarter). Featuring a foreword by David Craig of Willamette University, and an introduction by Brad Matsen, author of Titanic’s Last Secrets and Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King, Troll’s artbook is a feast for art and animal lovers alike.
Troll spoke with us about the origins of the book and his impressions of the final product in this exclusive interview.
How did your new art book “spawn”?
Ray Troll: Well, the spawning was a long yet somewhat “spawntaneous” process (pun intended). I had heard via a few artist friends about all the cool books that Clover Press was doing. I was sent a copy of Pete Von Sholly’s History of Monsters book and was blown away. When I saw Ricardo Delgado’s Dracula I was absolutely convinced that I loved what Clover Press was all about. Cool edgy graphics. So, I dropped them an email and paid them a visit. It all fell into place when I met Robbie Robertson and realized he was a fellow fish and fishing fanatic.
You previously mentioned that you were surprised at some of the finds that the team at Clover Press found for the collection. Is there one piece that stood out to you in this regard?
Troll: I sent Robbie a hard drive stuffed full of my art with literally hundreds of images and said, “Here you go man, have at it”. I was curious to see what he’d pick out and how he’d arrange it design-wise. He’s picked out some of my very early works from the 1980’s that I was surprised by. Some forgotten little gems like “Fishing in Troubled Waters’ or ‘Life is But A Stream’.
In terms of the book design, what impressed you the most?
Troll: Robbie’s got an eye for the edgy and more unusual pieces I’ve done. It all comes down to the page compositions and flow in a big book of art. You want to keep turning the pages and I can see he’s done that. You’ve also gotta’ establish some sort of narrative, linking the images to one another. There are some simple categories one can divide my work into like fish, sharks, fossils, humor, skulls, evolution, bears, weird random things, patterns and so on. But making them all connect and relate is a challenge but Robbie’s done that. Those subjects can blur nicely into each other.
How did you initially become interested in the world of nature, particularly the quirky side?
Troll: I blame dinosaurs for the natural history interest and Ratfink and Mad Magazine for the quirky humor as the main culprits in my early youth. Zap Comics and Monty Python along with art school in the 70’s sealed the deal for me.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
Troll: There’s a two-page spread of my “Eternal Salmon” artwork that just looks killer in the book. My pal Memo Jauregui did the digital coloring on that one and it’s simply bad ass. It’s got a great environmental message behind it too.
Out of all the bizarre creatures that you illustrated, which one do you find most unusual?
Troll: Without a doubt it would be a prehistoric ghost shark called Helicoprion. I spent 20 years of my life obsessed with it. I worked with a team of scientists that finally settled the argument over where its wickedly weird spiral of teeth fit on its body. When the scientific paper came out in 2013 we dubbed it the ‘Buzz Saw Shark’ and that name has stuck.
You can back Spawn Till You Die: The Fin Art of Ray Troll until August 29 on Kickstarter.