Five Great Outsider Artists and Musicians

The following creators are not necessarily mainstream in their music or their art. But all are insanely prolific (sometimes literally) and driven by darkness.

All of them push their creative abilities to the extreme to exorcise their own personal demons, be they mental illness, emotional abuse, or a fear of the unknown. All have carved out a niche in the avant-garde or outsider arts, often combining music, prose and art as an all-inclusive creative statement.

While their efforts might not receive the attentions of, say, Lars Ulrich's lavish fine-art habit, their output deserves no less respect and attention.

5. Dan Melchior Melchior and his wife Letha are from what has been described as "the most artistically productive household in the country." In Dan Melchior Und Das Menace, the two have churned out some absolutely top-notch post-rock-influenced blues, but both are also tremendously talented artists.

Letha was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, which has made touring with acts such as The White Stripes, The Fall and Interpol difficult for the couple. Melchior makes his living is an intensely productive musician with more than 40 albums and EPs in the last two decades.

If you know anything about a working musician's salary, you won't be surprised to hear that they have also set up a donation fund to help with medical costs. Unfortunately, the stream of donations has slowed recently, so the Melchiors also depend on Dan's even more expansive visual-art repertoire, available for sale online.

Abandoning his usual dark sense of humor, his 2012 album The Backward Path dealt with staring into the uncertain void that is his wife's illness, and came released in a limited "art edition" with handmade artwork.

4. Tyla In the early '90's, Tyla fronted what was possibly the least misogynistic hair-metal band, Dogs d'Amour. Rather than the ashtray manners of a trashy party boy, he carries himself with a sense of whiskey-drenched romance.

Tyla cares about the entire listening experience, crafting special artwork for each of his releases, like 1993's All or Nothing, which came with limited-edition postcards. His most iconic image is the lonesome, wandering Guitar Man that has graced many of his album covers over the years.

His style has grown less cartoonish and more refined over the years, but the subject is always often a lone figure wandering a desolate landscape, a possibly ruined society in the distance. He adds text that evokes a poetic sense of yearning, and has said that he "always wanted to read stuff and see pictures while I've listened...every time you look at it you might see something different."

3. Nick Blinko The guitarist and lyricist for Rudimentary Peni has always made his artwork an integral part of his creative vision, and Blinko's incredibly detailed ink drawings bear the same macabre imagery as the messages in his songs.

Having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, he often forgoes treatment, believing that it negatively affects his creative output. Blinko has published several books that incorporate the text of the stories into his hand-drawn illustrations. His work has been shown in several international exhibits, including "Encritue en Delire", a show which also contained works by the "Realms of the Unreal" creator and outsider-art icon, Henry Darger.


2. Daniel Higgs It's difficult to pin down just what it is that Higgs is best known for. He is the front man for Lungfish, the longest-running band on famous Washington, D.C. hardcore/emo label Dischord. He is also a highly respected and renowned tattoo artist known for bold, thick lines that give a personal twist on the traditional tattoo style and have earned him props from artists as esteemed as Ed Hardy.

But it's Higgs' visual art, often intended to be a set piece to his ambient jaw-harp droning, that truly displays his resonance within the cosmos. Borrowing here and there from flash design and religious iconography, his work is reminiscent of a stripped-down Mark Ryden.

Higgs has said that he likes for artwork to tell a story with minimal elements, and his images have quite a tale to tell.

1. Billy Childish Childish's art career rivals his musical career. As a musician he has inspired everyone from Kurt Cobain to Kylie Minogue to Jack White (for whose esteem Childish had little appreciation). He's also the godfather of modern garage-rock, whether he wants to be or not.

Childish had a hand in founding Stuckism, an anti-conceptual art movement with the mission statement: "An artist who does not paint is not an artist!" and leads the British Art Resistance. In both his music and art, he takes an amateur's approach, stating that professionals who are doing it for money and lose their sense of fun.

But Childish doesn't approach his creative enterprises as merely a labor of love, he sees art as a way to "become an adult" to work out your issues and find peace. For him, this has meant anything from exposing in song the man who sexually assaulted him as a child or merely engaging honestly with the world around him, such as in his drawings of the "tea huts of hell," his term for the shanties he observed while working as a stonemason's apprentice.

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