There are some artists who once you’ve seen their work, it stays with you…haunts you, and never really leaves your mind. Sometimes, it’s the image you see–a clown, a gory slaughter, or a ghost in the window. It could even be the style of the art. Though many do not realize it, an artist’s interpretation is the most important part of making the art work. The colors they choose, the lighting, and how they apply it all to the surface they work on. With that in mind, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite artists from the modern era. There are so many incredibly talented (and creepy!) artists out there, but for the sake of time, these are my top 10.
Though Gammell has illustrated over 50 children’s books in his career, there is one series in particular that stands out among the rest–the Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz. You might remember last year’s 31 Days of Halloween when Geekade members read each of the stories and scared the pants off of us from the original Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. But the stories are hardly as effective in writing without the imagery that accompanied them. In fact, this combination of grotesque art and gruesome tales has made this book series one of great controversy. I researched some of Gammell’s other children’s book illustrations to compare the two styles, and maybe it’s just me, but after seeing his dark stuff, even the light hearted stuff makes me uneasy.
If you like Stephen Gammell’s art, you’re going to love the art of Daniele Serra. I discovered him through my job, and immediately fell in love. This Italian artist is just becoming known in the U.S. for his work on comic titles like Hellraiser, and the cover art for Stephen King’s newest release, The Tommyknockers. His work is dark, haunting, often beautiful, and sometimes disturbing.
Joshua Hoffine’s art is both macabre and alluring. His imagery captivates and pulls the viewer in, especially in his series “Childhood Fears.” Drawn in by their portrayal of childhood innocence and reminded of my own fears as a kid, I found a personal connection with each of the few pieces I’ve chosen here, and the fact that these are actually photographs makes them that much more disturbing to me. It’s as if he is documenting our innermost fears as a moment in reality rather than a staged, carefully constructed piece of art.
After working for years in the corporate world, perhaps he had a lot to let out, because Tom Kuebler’s sculptures blend reality and horror in a way that makes the viewer want to sleep with the lights on. I’ve seen his work in person, and I half expected the pieces to take a breath and start moving. As he states, “To me, what is most important is to create ‘the character’ first and foremost.” He not only succeeds in this, but has won numerous awards for his work, and it is rumored that his works are even collected by Guillermo del Toro.
H. R. Giger
If you’ve ever seen any of the Alien movies, you’ve already experienced the incredibly dark and disturbing work of H. R. Giger. The Swiss artist studied both architecture and industrial design before his work took off and influenced artists worldwide. His studies are ever apparent in his pieces, which are often overtly sexual in addition to the twisted content that fills many of his compositions. I actually made an effort to not put pieces in this post that were as sexual. They made me that uncomfortable.
Though his imagery is mild compared to some of the other art I’ve shared in this article, it is worth mentioning that he was illustrating in the late 1800’s, and one of his books was an Edgar Allan Poe story. His work is beautiful, detailed, highly stylized, and a great pairing for great storytelling. He is able to draw in the viewer with detail, design, and composition, but what strikes me is the sinister look on some of the faces. Not to mention the literal darkness of each piece.
John Jude Palencar
Palencar is another example of an artist who excels in realism, but is also capable of creating breathtaking and ghastly imagery. He is well known for his surrealist style, and has also painted fantasy and sci fi pieces that are less disturbing, yet equally unforgettable. What I enjoy most about his art is that the horror builds as I look through the paintings. I’ll notice one thing that is unsettling, and as I study more of the details, I feel more of that unease. Still, I can’t look away because the work is so stunning.
Among this cast of awesome creators is Brom. In just the few pieces I’ve chosen here, there are a range of emotions, attitudes, and subjects on display. His content is not so much scary as it is captivating. The characters have so much personality and life to them it’s almost hard to believe they are paintings. In the samples I’ve chosen, I included the range of colors he works in as well, because his color choices are bold, beautiful, and unique in each piece.
This man is one of the most important artistic figures of our time, and I’m not just saying that. He helped move illustration away from abstract and back toward realism in the 1960’s, and he is one of the most well-known science fiction/fantasy illustrators out there, having created over 350 books covers over the course of his career. His work is eerie, unsettling, and varies across many subjects.
I first learned about Bernie Wrightson via his illustrations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the 1970’s. I greatly admired his haunting depictions of Shelley’s dark tale, and marveled over his technique. It was only later that I learned how many other artistic techniques Wrightson was a master over, as you can see in the double page spread from the 2012 comic, Frankenstein Alive, Alive! The man was a legend in comics and in illustration. His use of light and dark moves the eye all throughout the composition, but his expressive poses, the moods he creates, and his absolutely stunning technique has made an impression I will never forget.
At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinion of what’s scary, haunting, disturbing, etc. This was a very fun journey for me, and I hope you enjoyed this mysterious and macabre adventure as much as I have. So tell me, will any of these artists be haunting you? And if not, who does? Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween!