When did you first become interested in drawing?
Illustration has always been a part of my life, from my earliest memories. I’m not particularly good at the drawing aspect, but I do often sketch ideas into small notebooks, and then construct them them digitally, if I feel I want them to come to life. Art has always been something I can lean on, when I feel a certain way or need to get something off my chest, it has always been there as an outlet for me, to help me make it through things.
How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?
My work has always had its feet firmly planted in the genre. It’s typically quite dark in nature, I don’t like it to be too gratuitous though, the challenge for me is to create ‘suggested horror’ rather than explicit violent acts, the impact is more effective. I try to create a more dreamlike or surreal atmosphere; horror can be a bit basic or obvious. It is more difficult to create darker art that connects with people at a cerebral level, I enjoy the anxiety of suspense, rather than a cheap jump scare.
Not being an author, I don’t really have a publisher. I’m not a big fan of them to be honest, most come across as a bit sketchy, I’ve had some bad experiences, but I’m always happy to be proven wrong. I have worked with many publishers, authors, musicians, and other artists, the reason being, each one has offered me a different challenge or interest. I don’t belong to any one person or company. I prefer to do what I want if it interests me. I like being a bit of a ghost, I’m typically a private, reclusive person. The moment I feel like I’m being taken for granted or used purely for gain by someone that I’m not cool with, I move on.
How would you classify the genre you illustrate?
Dark Fantasy, I think that best sums up my workspace, although I have supported a few projects with pure ‘horror’ imagery, I typically work in an area somewhere between dreams and reality. I like to create worlds, places to escape into. Not all my work is dark in nature, I have been populating a colorful afterlife-type Archipelago, inhabited by skeletons for many years now, that stream of my work is a lot more palatable for many of my followers, rather than the more confronting dark imagery that I prefer to make. The creation of either, really depends on my mood, and I’m pretty moody, so how I feel dictates the work that I undertake. The Dark Fantasy genre covers all of those aspects of my personality pretty well.
Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?
People like to escape, imagining themselves far from the day-to-day tedium of the real world. Stories are part of the fabric of humanity. Darker tales become cautionary, they can educate and terrify, allowing us to live vicariously through horrors without being physically harmed by them. I feel that once a story is finished, particularly horror or fantasy, it adds an enriching ingredient to a person, it allows the reader to return to their tedious life, however, now, they feel a little better about themselves, they have that “glad I’m not that person” outlook, so instant gratification, but they also have something else now, the ability to share that tale “have you read that book by…” a conversation starter that wasn’t a part of their world beforehand.
What inspires your art?
Pretty much the struggle of being human. Dreams, nightmares, thoughtful moments, other people, interactions, personal fears, thoughts of the past, fears of the future, music, film, books, other artists, anything that manages to infiltrate that blender inside my head that manages mix all of those ingredients together in order to create whatever comes out. Without art I can become a bit lost. Although I do have many interests, creating has always been a constant comfort. When I’m in ‘create mode’, I prefer to be alone, it’s a form of meditation, it’s a private release and it’s automatic, 99% of the time I start with no plans, I put on some music, and a few hours later there is usually a result.
What do you think the main differences between American horror and British horror are?
Personally, I can’t see too many differences, perhaps slightly in writing styles, but that really depends on the author. A good story should resonate across any culture, regardless of its origin. There seems to be a real cultural blur in contemporary writing, perhaps because the world is so much closer together communication-wise now, or perhaps it’s because many authors appear to be writing for the next big ‘movie deal’, rather than the next good book. I prefer that they just focus on the quality of their story.
What are your favorite horror books?
I enjoy the classics, they’re timeless, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc, but my favorite horror author without a doubt is Clive Barker. His books have so many layers to them, they are unsurpassed, where Stephen King puts me to sleep, Clive Barker grabs me by the throat and shakes, he is the complete master storyteller, writer and artist. He provides depth, horror, some humor, brutality, erotic depravity, and unimaginable beauty, he crafts them together and creates solid fully formed worlds that feel more real to me than any other authors, he also makes you care for his characters which is important. For me, the key to being a good storyteller is making it immersive, do your homework, create a back story, make it seem plausible that the events could actually take place. Barker is the only one who allows me to fully escape, and hit that pause button on the real world for a while.
I adore classic universal horror, but my wife Amber and I also enjoy watching the occasional ‘creature feature’. I don’t watch as much horror as I once did while growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, but I loved Alien, Hellraiser, Friday 13th , Candyman, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Lost Boys, Nightbreed, there are so many great original films. I’m not a fan of the new cash grab cowboy remakes. Now that I’m a little older, I prefer to follow good directors, storytellers like, Guillermo Del Toro, Panos Cosmatos, Takashi Miike or Robert Eggers. They seem to be able to create stylized films that are both well-made and original.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an artist?
Being able to raise my family with the limited skills I have was an achievement, but my greatest accomplishment as an artist has been connecting with people who ‘understand me’. People who notice and acknowledge the very personal messages or emotions interwoven throughout my work. For the longest time, from childhood to young adult, I believed that nobody thought or felt the way I did, I couldn’t relate to anyone around me the same way that other people could, those around me had very different interests and views on the world. Now as an adult, although I still struggle with some people, I have found, through the use of art, a way to break that barrier and communicate better, and put more of my true self out there. Surprisingly, not to be ridiculed, but to be welcomed by a community of people who are just like me, who like the same things I do, and feel the same way I do. That has been the true gift.
Was H.R. Giger a role model for you?
Hans Ruedi Giger, was one of a kind, a pioneer, a genius, hands-down. Not my only artistic influence, but he is a major one. As a role model, yeah sure, from what I’ve learned about him he was also quietly spoken, probably had a lot going on in his head too, he was hardworking, cared for his family, and he did his own thing his way, and he was artistically prolific. He was also fiercely protective when it came to his work, he was specific and expected a level of quality, his art was very personal, and brave, he put himself out there in a time when a lot of people had very narrow minds (some still do). He was ridiculed and labelled, but turned that all around with his art, he let his skill do the talking, and the world noticed, because now he is more than an artist, he is a cultural icon. He probably would have hated being thought of as role model. But I admire him still, and not many days go by when I don’t think about him, his work, and what he must have been like to be around. I’m sure not every day with was a feast of rainbows for those close to him, but I would have loved to meet him, even it was for just a few minutes.
It sounds cliché, but do your own thing and practice heaps, I mean a lot, write loads, illustrate every day, try to level up in any way that you can, take risks, try new things, but practice, it’s all about repetition. Most importantly, try to find the right medium and genre that best suits you, and I promise your skill level today won’t be the same tomorrow, because you’ll love it, you’ll become driven and will want to become better. You can always change to another form of expression if things don’t gel, art has few rules, don’t let anyone tell you that one form is better than the next, because it’s all personal and subjective. Try to work with good people, kind people, who share a common vision, don’t whore yourself out to everyone just because they’re waving money at you, sure use your skills to support yourself, but I feel art and writing is beyond a job, it is personal journey, one that helps you to become better a better human, and it’s a gift that will be around with you long after some random deadbeat job is over.
What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?
I think it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, the benefit is, anyone with a story can get it out there, you can become prolific and create, and nobody can stop you from being awesome, there are no limits to your creativity which is an amazing new way of working. The other side of that is, there are some bloody awful books out there. They’re unedited, badly written, and they look ghastly as a finished product. You can see a clear difference between self-published vs traditional publishing houses. Many of the platforms themselves are clunky and offer very limited options at the design stage, and the output is often expensive for the end user, your reading audience. You can create absolutely stunning books, but the average punter won’t be able to afford them. I say, shop around and find a quality print on demand platform, one that ticks all your boxes, and remember, not everyone who says that they are publisher, actually is, you can be taken advantage of, so stay vigilant, and protect your intellectual property.
What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on another book with collaborator and mate Jeff Oliver, based on another of my art streams, a world creation called the Infinite Black. ‘Infinite Black: Tales from the Abyss’ consists of Jeff’s poetry, combined with my art and a few tales that I’ve penned. The Infinite Black is a dimension raiding machine hell-world ruled by an A.I overseer named Mother, she enslaves humans, creating machine/human hybrids that power her world with their suffering. All the imagery is black and white, a slight nod to the classic horror films from my childhood.
Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself & your work.
I’ve been a graphic designer and (dark) artist for over 25 years and was an exhibiting artist for over a decade. My work consists of digital compositing, where I combine multiple layers of 3D rendered forms, with textures, and manipulated photography. I’m renowned for my work in the dark fantasy genre. I have been featured in countless publications both locally and internationally, and I’ve been the principal artist on numerous books, album covers and some film interests, for an eclectic range of clientele. Now retired from exhibiting, my finale was as part of an international contingent of (dark) artists exhibiting in Tokyo. I now prefer to focus my energy on creating things for myself, sharing them with my growing social media audience, and of course I still work on client projects or ideas that I find engaging.
Buy New World Monsters at https://amzn.to/3tq2zzD
New World Monsters is a must read for lovers of horror poetry. Jeff Oliver and Chris McAuley speak to us in whispers and screams, weaving dark verses about monsters, pain, and prisons of the mind. Illustrated by the nightmarish visions of Dan Verkys, this collection will send cold shivers down your back.
--Owl Goingback, Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of Crota & Coyote Rage