David Brener has never lost his love for comic books.
And while he may not collect them as voraciously as he once did as a child, his love of the art form is a driving force in the illustrative art he creates. Brener is the featured artist for the 2019 Murage Fall/Winter collection, the first large-scale drop for the streetwear brand.
“I was pretty young when I figured out I enjoyed art, probably when I was in elementary school,” Brener said, “and I took a lot of art classes as electives in high school. When I was in college I was painting skulls and comic book heroes and shit like that.”
Brener graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art with a concentration in Painting from Maine College of Art. Believing he would follow a path associated with an education in the fine arts, Brener’s life took a different direction when he started gravitating toward a new Mac computer at his college that no one used.
“It was pretty much abandoned,” Brener said about the new computer. “The college professors didn’t even know how to use it.”
Teaching himself rudimentary Photoshop and Illustrator by way of trial and error, Brener found he had a knack for the craft and enjoyed creating art on the computer.
“I think there are some things that are quote, unquote easier with computer art than traditional art,” Brener said. “When you work on a computer there is always that undo button,” he added, laughingly. I really do enjoy working in a digital space more than I do getting my hands dirty with paint. And there are things I can do and replicate in Illustrator that I can’t do with paint.”
His knack for graphic design led him to go back to school, this time to Pennsylvania College of Art and Design for a degree in Web Design and Development, a profession he has worked in the past eight years.
Brener has continued his love affair with skull art and counts the Skull piece he created for Murage among his best work.
“I am a big fan of a cult movie called Beyond the Black Rainbow,” Brener said, “and while the film is set in 1984, it still has a futuristic look to it, so the piece for the collection is based on that movie.”
Skull is also loosely based on the Sugar Skulls Brener saw while on his honeymoon in Mexico. A lifelong fan of human skull art, the design contains many deep layers of linear texture, some of which are challenging for the human eye to see.
“Technically, it was a very challenging piece for me to create,” Brener said. “For me, it came off as pretty successful from where I started because it was a very rudimentary piece. If it speaks to people because of the look of it and they think it looks cool, then I will be happy because I think it is cool.”
Interestingly enough, the design takes on a different look, even though it is exactly the same pattern, on a white garment versus black clothing.
“I think that it is cool because it plays off both positive and negative space when it is on the right background,” Brener said. “There is more power to the design and oomph to it when it is on (the) black (tee and hoodie) as opposed to write. However, on white, it kind of changes the whole look to it. So I’ve come to find that to be very cool looking. It’s definitely different from color to color.”
A second design created by Brener called Hexagram pays tribute to the heavy music song of the same name by the group called Deftones. The use of multiple layers of linear design leaves the viewer with an impression of a skull instead of the outright representation of a skull, according to Brener.
“Hexagram was conceived around the same time as the Skull and the interesting thing about it is that I was leaning toward a build up of all of these crazy lines and seeing what I could do with it in Illustrator,” Brener said. “It was not be as powerful as Skull as far as the image is concerned, but I feel it did what I wanted to do in creating an impression of something. I was really trying to push Illustrator a little bit more and see what kind of cool effects I could get out of it.”
The final design Brener made for Murage is called Manhattan, which pays homage to Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen comics and other figures from comic book lure. Manhattan’s cosmic vibe utilizes blocks of color representative of bursts of energy, a stark departure from the other two linear creations Brener crafted for Murage.
“Manhattan is my ode to these omnipotent comic book characters, these quote unquote Gods who come down and either save humanity or doom humanity,” Brener said. “The idea behind it is that it has this comic book character physique…The design leaves you wondering what are the motivations for this character. Is this character benevolent or someone that’s been sent to cause chaos?”
Brener noted that his influences and favorite artists include: Jim Lee, the Co-Publisher and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics; Rob Liefeld, a prolific comic book creator; Jack Kirby, a comic book artist who co-created Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Captain America, among others; and Tracie Ching, an illustrator and graphic designer best known for her alternative movie posters.
Brener is also a big fan of heavy metal music and counts among his favorite bands Metallica, Slipknot and Converge, a Boston-based band whose lead singer, Jacob Bannon, is a visual artist.
His work has definitely influenced a lot of what I’ve done,” Brener said. “His work is influenced by the band’s music and vice versa.”