ART :: A CENTURY OF HORROR CLASSICS

The 19th century gave us some of the most indelible images and stories of the horror genre. The monsters and men set forth in the books of that era continue to haunt us today and form the basis for our modern scene.

As I have mentioned, I am a designer by trade and I love to play with personal projects. I thought I would share a concept that I have been working on to pay homage to the great horror masterworks of the 19th century. I’m calling the project “A Century of Horror Classics.” I have designed and illustrated shirts representing 7 incredibly seminal works from that era. Here a list of the works in chrono order ::

~ “Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus” :: Mary Shelley (1818)
~ “Melmoth the Wanderer” :: Charles Maturin (1820)
~ “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” :: Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
~ “The Picture of Dorian Gray” :: Oscar Wilde (1890)
~ “The Great God Pan” :: Arthur Machen (1894)
~ “Dracula” :: Bram Stoker (1897)
~ “The Turn of the Screw” :: Henry James (1898)

Annnd… Here are the designs in an order I thought presented well for the blog ::

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Drop a line and let me know what you think of these. I know I will wear them in honor of the horror greats they represent.

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LITERATURE :: REVIEW… “SUMMER OF NIGHT” BY DAN SIMMONS

From Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night ::

“Sometimes I think I’ll come into the room and be feeling around for the light cord…you know, it’s sorta hard to find…and instead of the cord, I’ll feel this face.”

Dale’s neck had gone cold.

“You know,” continued Lawrence, “some tall guy’s face…only not quite a human face…and I’ll be here in the dark with my hand on his face…and his teeth’ll be all slick and cool, and I’ll feel his eyes wide open like a dead person’s…and…”

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Summer of Night is truly a modern horror classic, a lush story of youth and summer framed in genuine chills. This FINALLY made it to the top of my reading list. I have just finished it and wanted to make sure I reviewed it here.

The publisher’s book description actually offers a great intro to the story ::

It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break.  From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood.  But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town.  Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood—against an arcane abomination who owns the night…

IMHO, great horror stories draw power from the juxtaposition of common settings and the gentle rhythm of work-a-day life with truly horrifying concepts and scenes. This is central to the power of Summer of Night. Simmons deftly uses this power to create a story with as much charm as it has horror.

The book is rich with the verdant, warm summers of youth. Though the story is set in 1960, so many of the details of the childlike aspects of summer depicted here resonated in a very personal way for me. From dusty dirt clod wars and the sound of bike tires on loose gravel to secret, leafy forts and outdoor community movies, Simmons puts the reader in those halcyon, coming-of-age days with a beautiful eye for detail and a heady tactile sense. This provides the base he builds his terrifying tableaus upon.

Those tableaus are at once ominous, threatening and  at times bloody in the best way they can be for a story of this sort. Simmons conjures the terrors of childhood and makes them manifest. Though his uncannily experiential style you can feel, see, smell and taste the substance of those fears.

I highly recommend this book, especially to those looking for a way to put some real chills in the steam of their summer.

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RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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ART :: BELLEFONTAINE CEMETERY, A PHOTO ESSAY

Two years ago on my birthday, my lovely wife and daughter treated me to a perfect day. At the center of the day’s activities was a “photo safari” amongst the peaceful, yet deliciously creepy Victorian gothic splendor that is St. Louis’ legendary Bellefontaine Cemetery.

Bellefontaine was created in 1849 and has hosted 87,000 burials as of 2012. It is an exquisite example of the grand Victorian tradition of the “arboretum cemetery” or “rural cemetery.” It is also a wonderful illustration of the Victorian fascination with death and the dead. Truly gorgeous tableaus abound and there is no shortage of beautifully morbid imagery rendered in the silent, stately stone of the headstones, monuments and crypts throughout the rolling grounds.

I can’t say enough how WORTH IT a visit is.

As I was designing this blog, I mined the results of my photos to create the background for these pages. Looking at the photos again, I thought they would be cool to share here. Below, I have included just a few examples. Visit this link to see all of my photos from the day ::

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SEE THE FULL PHOTO ESSAY >

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Please, visit Bellefontaine Cemetery for yourself. It is a true gem for those who love their beauty tinged with a touch of historic gothic horror.

Address :: 4947 W Florissant Ave, St Louis, MO 63115
Phone :: (314) 381-0750
Hours :: Every Day 8:00AM to 4:00PM

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TRIBUTE :: R.I.P. RAY HARRYHAUSEN

What better way to kick this blog off than with a tribute to a true legend of imagination and movie monster magic?

May 7th of this year, we lost a true legend in Ray Harryhausen.

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From the original Mighty Joe Young (1949) to his first color film, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) to the incomparable Jason and the Argonauts (1963) to his last film, Clash of the Titans (1981), he gave us so many truly memorable movie monsters. His work still inspires me as a digital artist today. I feel so strongly that for all of our capabilities in the digital space, Harryhausen’s work retains a tactile quality, a “realness” that remains absent in so much of what we see in today’s over-juiced CG blockbusters. In short, the scenes have SOUL because his hands were in everything he did.

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Mr. Harryhausen person here in St. Louis a few years ago at a special screening of Jason and the Argonauts with the Webster University Film Series. It was a magical night and  as a fan, it was so incredibly gratifying to see Ray get a standing ovation after each effects sequence in the film. He was humble, relatable and undeniably awesome.

Who can ever forget the work on Talos in the Argonauts? It still gives me chills.

Annnd, the work on the final skeleton fight scene in Argonauts is just incredible. I attended the evening with a good friend and talented animator who remarked that the all the scene needed was some motion blur and it would be completely viable as a contemporary effects scene. I couldn’t agree more. WATCH THE SCENE and think about the fact that they had to choreograph the actors and hand-animate to that action. Matching the two with that limited technology is simply astounding, yet it is done SEAMLESSLY in this scene. Truly amazing.

That wouldn’t be easy to do today, but he did it with models, one frame at a time. Multiple camera angles. Integration with very fast-live action. Variable terrain. All quite seamless. It really is almost a feat of true conjuring.

Ray, you will be missed. Thank God you have left us with so much work to continue to go back to for inspiration and wonder. I know I will always return with a child’s smile.

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