The Art Behind Horror Illustration: Interviews with the Artists

Apr 28, 2013 No Comments by

Horror Illustrators are oftentimes able to capture in their art the thrilling, haunting, and even the most terrifying moments of fear we genre fans enjoy.  The visual creativity of artwork inspires people of all types, as we are fascinated by those silent scenes before us. I grew up around artists in my family who were great creators just like those featured in this article. Before I became a writer, it was a piece of artwork that inspired me to quickly pen a vivid, three-page based on an idea inspired by one painted, framed picture. During a basic Google search, it was not difficult to find countless examples that same process.  Not only do images inspire us to write, but many great illustrations have been inspired by movies and written works themselves.

Ravenous Monster chatted with several artists recently whose work is terrifying.  Below, each artist features their own style and skill, which is shown via a three question interview for each spectacular artist. Enjoy!

Jason Bender (2)J. Richard Bender

RavMon: Since I’m a huge fan of imagery, I would like to start off with a memorable introduction so please tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

JRB: I have collected comics for a long time, and there was a specific moment when I realized that I could purchase back issues. I found a long box entitled ‘bargain bin,’ and decided to give it a whirl. I was 13, it was at a flea market in McKees Rocks, and I hurriedly searched through the box. Finally, one issue caught my attention, Marvel Team- Up #12. Marvel Team-Up was a title that had Spidey team up with various heroes and villains to combat a different menace, monthly. I was a huge Spiderman fan, and more recently, I was entering into my exploration of horror faze, thanks to a little known TV show on a fledgling Fox station called, Werewolf. So to that, I found that Spidey was teaming up with a character called, Werewolf By Night. I was curious as to why Spidey would team up with a werewolf, as, up to that point, they were only evil creatures in my eyes.

I bought the issue and discovered that Werewolf, aka Jack Russell, had been under a family curse to change into a werewolf from his 18th birthday on. He was a good man and tried to do right, and had subtle control over the beast inside, but more of an instinctual right or wrong. The story itself was very corny and hamfisted, but the art was fantastic. It led me to seek out other horror comics, coming across books like, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson, Tomb of Dracula, I Vampire, and of course, Ghost Rider. These books had an amazing sense of storytelling, artistically, and the artists seemed very adept in creating amazing mood and ambience, lending excellently to the stories.

But, to answer the question, I actually didn’t start really trying to draw until the end of 10th grade, and it wasn’t until I found some old reprints of the Werewolf by Night series that my horror comic romance came back, and I learned that I wanted to draw said things. So I owe a lot to Werewolf, and, of course, artists Gil Kane, Ross Andru and Mike Ploog for their endearing and enduring inspiration.

RavMon: How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

JRB: I began just really copying and tracing the werewolf stories I started to collect. But I had an amazing art teacher in high school named Mrs. Shear (she was first Mrs. Bickonvski, but her husband divorced her, so she reverted to her maiden name), who lent me a book called, How to Draw the Marvel Way. It helped me lay down the foundations for how I would approach drawing. And John Buscema, one of the authors and an amazing artist himself, got me to think outside the box a lot.

As for the ‘what to draw’, typically anything from vampires, werewolves, to ghosts and things that go bump in the night! I especially like werewolves, Celtic and Fae creatures and Japanese mythological creatures. The Japanese have such a lush and amazing mythology, with creatures like the Yukionna (Ice or Snow Maiden), to the Oni (Ogre’s or Demons) and pantheon creatures and beings like Raiju, Fujin and Majin. Very cool stuff. But I also like the Celtic and Fae beings a lot.

Currently, I am working as an independent with my friend Josh Loughrey, a local film composer and musician for the Celtic/Irish folk/synth band, Ghost Estates (Please check them out, they kick arse!). Josh and I are huge comic fans, and met actually while working on short films. He was composing a short film that I wrote in film school (about a werewolf, no less) and I was director of photography on. He and I met through the director Chris Nicholson (also a very good friend, and great upcoming filmmaker), and have had a connection ever since. He is going to compose my body-horror film score when that gets going soon.

Anyway, he and I decided one day that it would be cool to collaborate on a book together, and it ended up that we were on the same wavelength, and it was the same type of book that we wanted to do. I don’t want to give too much away yet, but it’s called, Grey Roads, and it deals with spirits, death and a Celtic-themed underworld, which is going to be awesome! Oh, and for those who know what they are, a Dullahan will be making its presence known. There is something people can look up and wonder what we are going to do with it.

RavMon: What are your future plans and where can fans find you?

JRB: Future plans… ‘No one knows what the future holds’… I guess, I have a slightly horror-themed book that I someday want to get off the ground called, Pariah, about a Nephilim who is charged with the hunting and eradicating of demons that have broken a sacred pact and physically manifested in our world. He’s not had a happy life, and it’s about to get worse before it gets better. It’s a book of redemption and revenge, and a lot of dark humor and one badass hero.

I also am a filmmaker, as indicated before, and I am working on a body-horror picture called, Ey3s, which is going to Kickstarter once we shoot a demo reel for it, because I have a great crew and cast lined up, but it will require some capital to handle all the complex and amazing FX we have planned. Oh yes, they are all, ALL practical!

I have a ton of other things on various slates and plates…but these are the two most close to completion at the moment. Check me out on Facebook (I am in the process of getting a whole new site up so title and such pending), but, JasonWolfmanBender is the profile name. I update that a lot with ‘in-progress’ art and when things get released. And hopefully by the beginning of summer we should have a Facebook and Google+ page for, Grey Roads. I also would like a whole web page for that. The label that Josh and I publish under is, Graveyard Boogie Studios, so look out for that too.

Cheers!

Ed Quillin (2)Ed Quillin

RavMon: Please tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

EQ: I remember being in kindergarten and being sent to the principal’s office for drawing something horrible, can’t remember exactly what I drew, couldn’t have had boobies in it since there is no way I had seen boobies at that age, so it had to have been a picture of death…I just remember drawing something bad with a black crayon….ever since then, I just knew I wanted to draw.

RavMon: Now, tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

EQ: I work for myself…I draw what I want, I’ve tried working for different companies doing different things – everything from concept designs for haunted houses and being an in-betweener at a commercial animation company to furniture designs for a bald crackhead spastic maniac.  I’ve decided that it’s best if I just do what makes me happy, which is grabbing a marker, having a beer, and drawing something that I hope somebody can use.

RavMon: What are your future plans? Please include contact details and promotional items, even notable past works:

EQ:  I just want to stay out of trouble.  Right now I’m working on the cover for Tim Gross’ next book, The Big Ass Book of Gross Movie Reviews 2.  I have some other things going on that I’m keeping to myself and others I just can’t think of at the moment because I suck at being organized. I’m cool with mentioning Deadburgh Designs & Illustration on Facebook, that’s the best way for people to see more of my work and contact me for jobs, for now.  Thanks Christine!

Jason Webb 3Jason Webb

RavMon: Please start off with a memorable introduction and tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

JW: For the last 10 to 12 years people have been set on the world ending, springing all kind of ghouls, mainly zombies. Like most people, I have been obsessed with them.  I developed a shirt that I named Zombie Claus. It sold very quickly. From there, I have been drawing zombies and other things to this day.

RavMon: Now, tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

JW: I have been drawing since I can remember.  Art is more of a passion than a job. I draw anything that comes to mind, inspiration is everywhere. I work for myself trying to get my art and my name out the best that I can. I’m looking to find that spring board that takes this to the next level.

RavMon: What are your future plans? Please include contact details and promotional items, even notable past works:

JW: My future plans include a children’s book named, Tim Chance has Big Dreams, published by Moore publishing. Tim Chance will be out in April. Its sequel, Tim Chance versus the Darkness, will follow shortly after that.  I also developed a fan page on Facebook called Uncommon Artist to help myself and others get their work out there.

Thank you for your interest, Jason Webb.

Marlynn WhiteMarlynn White

RavMon: Since I’m a huge fan of imagery, I would like to start off with a memorable introduction…tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror, in particular. The more vivid the memory or inspirational moment, the better:

MW: My artwork has always seemed to lean more toward horror. It wasn’t ever anything I did on purpose, I don’t try to make things dark and spooky, it just happens! My actual horror drawings have been around for only a couple of years but I remember one of my first horror inspired artworks. I found an old doll and made a cast of the face to create a sculpture. I loved how wonderfully creepy this clay face was so I created several more and made them into a baby face platter of sorts. It was a little disturbing and a little funny; not taking it too seriously. My current horror portrait drawings have the same feel to them, humorous but mildly unsettling.

RavMon: Now, tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

MW: Although I have created a darker style of art for as long as I can remember, my horror character sketches started just a couple of years ago. I wanted to get more into photorealism and portraiture just because it wasn’t something I normally worked with and was ready for a change. I began looking for interesting photos to work from and started leaning toward classic movie monsters and such. I fell in love with the strange features and distorted humanlike faces.

My mini portraits are probably my favorites. I try to capture details and expressions onto a tiny 2 inch canvas. Seeing a spooky character on such a little canvas is just so fun.

RavMon: What are your future plans and where can we find you?

MW: I am a high school art teacher as well as a horror artist, so creating new work and making appearances during the school year is a little difficult. However, my business partner/sister, Melanie Stone, will be vending plenty of events without me until summer. Find us on Facebook and Etsy: DarkWhite Arts.

Shawn Collins (3)Shawn Collins

RavMon: Please tell us about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

SC: I was four or five, and in kindergarten. My teacher had read to us, Where the Wild Things are, and then asked us to draw pictures of our favorite “Wild Thing.”  I never looked back since then.

RavMon: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

SC: As pretentious as it may sound, I draw with my mind’s eye when I’m doing it as an exercise. It’s similar to automatic drawing. Sometimes, I’m almost looking through the paper rather than at the paper itself. When I’m actually designing something, it starts very loose, and gradually the form becomes disciplined and refined until it takes the shape I want it to.

I usually focus on characters. I am fascinated by anatomy and physiology. As a result, I design special effects for independent films. I also love anything mechanical, and try whenever possible to marry the two. I usually have the intention at some point of creating a 3-dimensional sculptural variation.

I sometimes work with my friends at Toetag Pictures when they need something particularly disturbing for a film. I’ve also worked solo on various productions. I specialize in creature design, puppetry and animatronics.

RavMon: What are your future plans?

SC: I’m currently looking to move into different arenas. I’m working on my own line of toys and hope to have more news of this in the coming months. I can be reached via email: lefthandsh8k@gmail.com.

Cheryl AdamsonCheryl Adamson

RavMon: Tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

CA: I can say the exact moment was the first time my mom took me to a Pittsburgh Comicon. I was probably 15 years old. I was blown away and to me, these artists displaying their work were like rock stars. Two guys specifically, Dave Devries and Tommy Costello, really blew my mind. They were different than all the others ’cause they had a twisted and sinister point of view with their work. I still have both the prints I bought off them 15 years later and every time I walk past, seeing them on my wall, I still am amazed and hope some 15 year old kid will see my work and aspire to give up the “9-5, no-window, work-job” and take a chance. The reason I do mostly horror movie paintings is simply that I just love horror movies and I just paint movies I like and hope others like the same movies.

RavMon: How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

CA: I always drew things that my mom hated. I can vividly remember her finding things and crying. I think about it now and I wonder if she does too. But I can say the old book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark would be the catalyst to drawing horror. I can honestly say I wasn’t really allowed to watch horror movies when I was young, so I read a lot. I’d read Stephen King and Clive Barker and all that jazz and my mind would race with ideas of things I wanted to draw. And this brings us back to me saying my mom would find the pictures and cry. But a hormonal 15-year-old reading, Gerald’s Game, can be very creative. As for who I work for, I’d say I aspire to work for no one. I just paint what I like and hopefully it will pay a couple bills. I’m not out to get rich, I am just trying to put my own perception on my favorite movies.

RavMon: What are your future plans and where fan fans find you?

CA: Future plans are as follows: Reopen my gallery, which I had to close to spend time with my beautiful son. Aside from that, just do as many horror conventions as I can afford to do so that my paintings proliferate and be in every house around the world.

I have two paintings on display at the Carnegie Mellon University entertainment technology center and I’m pretty proud of that plus a pretty cool dragon mural at Legions Hobby shop on Route 19 and a Batwoman painting in the store window at New Dimension Comics in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall. But I guess I’ll put my heart on my sleeve and say I would give anything to have a career like Basil Gogo’s and do a long run of monster magazine covers!

Matt ReynoldsMatt Reynolds

RavMon: Since I’m a huge fan of imagery, I would like to start off with a memorable introduction…tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

MR: I was in a bookstore looking for books on Mummies, anything with pictures or cover art!

I just so happened to come across a book titled, Scared (how to draw fantastic horror comic characters), as I started to look through the book, I started to notice the name of an artist, Bryan Baugh. I consider Bryan to be a Master at drawing Monsters. It was that moment I knew that I wanted to draw Monsters!

RavMon: How did you begin sketching horror? What do you draw? Whom do you work with or for?

MR: As a kid, I would draw superheroes and such but could never get the proportions right. After I bought the book, Scared, I began to draw a lot of zombies. With drawing monsters, you can do anything you want with the proportions, there are no rules! The best part is, all the monster sketching helped me to draw the right proportions on normal people! Now I work for FEAR FILM MOTION PICTURE STUDIOS (FEARFILM.COM).

We just shot a short film called, Creepy Crawly, where I was offered the chance to design the creature, what an amazing feeling!

RavMon: What are your future plans? Please include contact details and promotional items, even notable past works:

MR: As FEAR FILM moves forward, we are planning on releasing FEAR COMICS, along with working on a T-shirt line, horror-oriented, of course. We’re also planning on working on a few more short films along with a full-length film.  As for myself, a sketchbook is underway, something I am really excited about because it’s my first attempt at this!

I can be re ached by email: Matt.fearfilm@gmail.com and through my personal website: www.Monsterrot.com, Fear film website: Fearfilm.com, FB page: facebook.com/monsterrot.

Future events:  Spooky Empire’s May-hem May 24-26, 2013 at The Rosen Centre, Orlando, Fl.  www.SpookyEmpire.com .

Fearfilm.com will be updating future events!

Notable works:

-2007 Spooky Empire’s Zombie Walk Flier

-2009 Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend Program

-2009-2013 FreakShow Film Festival Clown Mascots (freakshowfilmfest.com)

-2010-2011 Yearbook Cover (for local school)

-2010 Pin-up artist for Breast Cancer Awareness Auction

-2012 Creepy Crawly Short Film Creature Designer

-2013 Horror Artist for Team Robin Fundraiser (facebook.com/goteamrobin)

Spencer Richmond 2Spencer Richmond

RavMon: Tell us a story about the first time you realized you wanted to draw horror:

SR:   From the age of four or five I have had an illness known as schizo-effective disorder. It has caused me to hallucinate in all five of my senses. This has worked to my advantage as an illustrator of horror because I have visions that lend themselves to vivid illustrations. No matter how horrific these visions might be, I draw them anyway.  Ever since I can remember I have loved monsters. When I was young and saw, Gremlins, for the first time, I was hooked. I was enthralled by the chaos the gremlins caused in human society. Comic books were also a huge inspiration to me. The images in those books influenced me as well to draw the things I do today.

RavMon: Now, tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin sketching horror professionay? Whom do you work with or for?

SR:   I have drawn monsters and horror images since I could hold a crayon. I watched anything having to do with monsters religiously after I got, Gremlins, in my system. I draw a trilogy which is science fiction, horror and fantasy. I can’t get enough of those three. I draw for myself and for others. I am currently working as a freelance artist.

RavMon: What are your future plans?

SR:   I plan to create my own company which I will call, Eye of Reality Studios, and I will use to create art for new clients. To those interested in my work or work of their own, I can be contacted via email at spencerrichmond101@aol.com. I am also on Facebook where elements of my portfolio can be viewed.

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Thank you to all the illustrators above. That wraps up another horror artist episode. I happen to find that the story behind the initial inspiration can be just as intriguing as the artist’s visual work itself.

If you want to see additional photos in a video display of the artists in this article, be sure to check out the brand new journalistic arts “webisode” on the YouTube page for Christine Soltis and SolsticeNightSky Productions.

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About the author

Christine M. Soltis was born and raised in Washington, Pennsylvania. Her deepest passion is in fiction writing and has been for the past eight years. She has written dozens of books, many of which can be accessed via Amazon.com. In addition, she is co-writer on several film scripts and creates her own book cover photos and promotional videos. Christine is lead writer for travel sites EscapeWizard.com and WhatsCheaper.com. In the past, she has contributed to the Yahoo Network, Verdure Magazine and The Front Weekly. In 2011, she was an exhibitor at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. In addition to her writing, she made her acting debut in A Chemical Skyline, which was an Amazon best-seller for monster horror. She attended Point Park College for Broadcasting and has worked in newsradio since 2002. Currently, she is pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies. Websites: http://darkwriters.tripod.com or http://christinemsoltis.yolasite.com or http://solsticenightskyproductions.angelfire.com
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