Mr. Lovecraft Illustration for Miskatonic River Press' "Dissecting Cthulhu", a collection of essays edited by S.T. Joshi. Thanks to Donovan Loucks for the great reference material. It seems that artists wanting to paint Lovecraft have only had around 3-4 photos to work from, and most of those have been smallish and overexposed. Thankfully new ones are popping up, it's rather refreshing. Casein on illustration board, something like 9x12"
"Shoggoth!!" Here is another double page chapter illustration for the upcoming 7th Edition of Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu RGP core rules. The left half is mostly blank because that's where the text will be overlaid. Everyone loves a shoggoth, right?? If you're not familiar, they are a product of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft's imagination, they fist appeared in his novel 'At The Mountains of Madness', currently in limbo for a major motion picture and well worth the read. Astute examiners might be able to figure out roughly where and when this takes place. As is my tradition to make puzzles for myself within my paintings, I focused on the transparent qualities of the amoebic creature. Acrylic on paper, roughly 12x18"
"Hastur the Unspeakable" This is the first of my chapter spread illustrations for Chaosium's 7th edition Call of Cthulhu core rulebook. The left side is intentionally left less busy because there will be a couple blocks of type overlaid there. Acrylic, in the neighborhood of 12x18". Does anyone else recall when the 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons book for gods ("Deities and Demigods") included rules for Lovecraft's mythos? Most destructive/disruptive was the inclusion of Hastur, because if (according to the D&D rules) one were to say his name three time, there was a chance that some of his minions (Byakhee) would come to the caller. If the byakhee were eliminated, there was a chance that Hastur would come and kick your ass. Many carefully crafted adventures were completely run off the tracks by chaotic characters constantly blurting out Hastur's name. Good times.
"Return to Yith" Acrylic on illustration board, 18x12" This is another double-paged splash chapter illustration for Chaosium, Inc.'s 7th edition Call of Cthulhu RPG rulebook. The left side is left intentionally less busy because the chapter title and other text will be overlaid there. For those less familiar, this is a "Mi-Go", a creation of H.P. Lovecraft's from his story 'the Whisperer in Darkness'. As I had a good deal of free reign with this illustration I thought it would be fun to provide a sort of 'sequel' to the cover I did for "Cthulhu By Gaslight". In that painting we see a Mi-Go about to fly off with a strange looking canister, which happens to contain a living sentient human brain. So, where is it going to take the canister? Why not home, I thought, I'd never attempted depicting their home planet of Yuggoth before. There's nothing like black basalt towers amongst inky black rivers at the edge of dimly-lit space to make one use a bit of artistic license and give the viewers something other than a black rectangle.
Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath Acrylic. This was created for Chaosium's upcoming 7th edition Call of Cthulhu rulebook as well as the kickstarter page to fund it. The Dark Young were one of the first Lovecraft creatures to catch my attention back in high school, there was something so evocative about this lumbering tree-like mass of tentacles and mouths... but no eyes or other relate-able anatomy. It's taken me this long to depict one, I'd attempted it in a personal piece some years back, but I wasn't happy with it's direction. As with most other Mythos creatures, there is often something about them which make it a bit tricky to depict- and so sometimes there is a need to use some artistic license in order to provide something interesting and viewable. So, the 'white lie' here could be that the environment is perhaps lighter out than it could/should be to summon this kind of creature. I could have painted a black rectangle, but I'm not sure if it would be as satisfying!
Cthulhu Statue with the Artist Here's another promo piece for Chaosium's 7th edition rules. Acrylic, something in the realm of 12x18" or so. Aeons ago I did all the chapter illustrations for their 6th (and perhaps 5th, it's hard to keep track) edition, and as time passed and my painting skills developed, I hoped to have a chance to update some of that art. My time has come! One of the pieces was a greyscale image of the statue from the 'Call of Cthulhu' story. I took some liberties with the design, but people seemed to like it, someone even got it as a tattoo! But, this time around I thought I could try it again but try and get closer to the text. Some sculptor's such as Joe Broers and Mark Arnold have thoroughly explored the design in three dimensions, painstakingly examining Lovecraft's descriptions and sketches, and they've been an inspiration for me. Beyond that, I started to imagine who or what could have been making these statues and where.
"Yithian Temporal Communicator" Acrylic, 13x19" My next chapter spread for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition is for 'Alien Artifacts & Devices'. I read through the entries in the rulebook, and the Yithian Temporal Communicator sounded interesting, and I really like the Great Race of Yith. It's a device which allows two parties to interact via an audio/video link, sort of like Skype but with holograms... and it can cross time and space! I hear Apple will be coming out with them soon. It is described to be made of bronze, and the crystal glows red while in operation. I based the design closely to the one in the rules, though it was a small line drawing so I had to make considerations as I translated it into a larger painting. Sad to say, I don't know who created that illustration! A lot of artists worked on that book, and often small pieces like that aren't signed, I think perhaps as to not distract from the art. If anyone knows who made it, please let me know, hopefully he or she approves of my interpretation of their design! My first question was where/when would this take place? I would assume the recipient would have to be pretty special and worthy to be allowed this access, someone with great intellect and talent. I thought rather than go for the obvious choice (yours truly ;) ), why not give some of the spotlight to lesser known folks such as renaissance artist-slash-inventors?? I was tempted to put in a lot more of Leo's famous things in there (flying whirlygigs and the like), but I felt like the idea of the communicator was a bit demanding of the viewer already, and the left side needed to be relatively blank for all the text. I wanted to focus more on the idea that it is projecting a hologram, showing some of it's translucency to reinforce the idea, all while realizing that not everyone is going to recognize the alien within the projection. I like to make puzzles for myself it seems!
Scientist of Yith 8x10" acrylic This is an illustration for Fantasy Flight Games' Call of Cthulhu collectible card game. I love the Great Race of Yith, despite their classic random pulp-style anatomy they are one of my favorite Lovecraftian creations. The challenge with this piece was in the balance act of communicating that it was doing some sort of experiment or procedure, yet have the activity still be alien in nature.
Baoht Z'uqqa-Mogg 10x14" acrylic. Imagine waking up to this?? Commissioned by Chaosium (publishers of the 'Call of Cthulhu' role playing game) for their 'Atomic Age Cthulhu' supplement. The illustration depicts Baoht Z'uqqa-Mogg, a mythos creature created by Scott David Aniolowski. Admittedly, this is one of the grosser things I have painted in a while. I think I know why, other than the obvious being it was part of the assignment. When I was just doing purely illustration I think I was experiencing some conflict between my own artistic urges and the requirements of the assignments. Now that there is a place and outlet for my own ideas, the illustration work can be more specific. In other words, I don't want to paint terrible things all the time- so as long as I have a way to express the other sides of myself the creepy stuff becomes more fun to do.
"Ghouls" Acrylic 10x15" This piece is for an anthology of Lovecraftian stories which take place in small town America. "Shadows Over Main Street". Imagining many artists were going to go for tentacles, I thought choosing a less often utilized creature would be a good route. I hadn't painted any ghouls in some time, so I went for a nice walk in a small New England village's cemetery and see what captured my imagination.
"Unknown Kadath" Graphite sketch for a craft cider maker in Salem Massachusetts; Far From the Tree Cider. For Halloween they made four H.P. Lovecraft themed ciders and commissioned me to create some labels for these highly unusual ciders. This one is the Fungi From Yuggoth, it is made with mushrooms!
"Azathoth" Graphite sketch for a craft cider maker in Salem Massachusetts; Far From the Tree Cider. For Halloween they made four H.P. Lovecraft themed ciders and commissioned me to create some labels for these highly unusual ciders. This one is Azathoth, made with ghost chili pepper and gooseberries!
"the Fungi From Yuggoth" Graphite sketch for a craft cider maker in Salem Massachusetts; Far From the Tree Cider. For Halloween they made four H.P. Lovecraft themed ciders and commissioned me to create some labels for these highly unusual ciders. This one is the Fungi From Yuggoth, it is made with mushrooms!
Whateley at Innsmouth This piece is an illustration for the upcoming CD release by metal band CRUXITER, it has Lovecraft themes in it's storyline. The idea is that when Wilbur was turned away from Miskatonic university's Orne library, he tries his luck in Innsmouth for a copy of the Necronomicon. 11x11" casein
Yog Sothoth Full page illustration for an H.P. Lovecraft role playing game. Acrylic @ 8x10". This is one of the first times I really allowed myself to use some creative license with Lovecraft's creations, too often I feel limited to previous artists' renditions. I put on some appropriate music and just acted as a channel for the concept and let it flow out. A very liberating experience!
"the Great Library at Caelano" Acrylic 30x18"/ 76x46cm This is a box cover illustration for the Cthulhu Wars Onslaught 2 game expansion by Petersen Games. It depicts the Great Library at Celaeno, one of August Derleth's contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. In a nutshell, it is a vast alien library located near a star named Celaeno. As there is limited information and description of the place, this is one of those instances where I was allowed to run more freely with my imagination. A little while back, a fellow artist pointed out that I gravitated toward certain palettes. A quick look at my gallery will quickly reveal my fondness of pthalo blue, I cannot deny! So, I inverted some of my images in photoshop to see what my compliment/negative palette and decided to use this 'alien' color scheme to depict this alien library.
Secrets This was for a cover for a Lovecraftian role playing game. I was given a fair amount of freedom for this assignment, so I allowed my personal indulgences to surface more than usual. I love both female and forest imagery, so the union of the two is a no-brainer for me. I also love working with models, and this one was a good sport. I rigged up a padded bar (resting on two 80's era stand up arcade games, one being 'Galaga') for her to hang by her knees. She braved the entire shoot, inverted, without a single peep! Though this painting is over a decade old now, it remains a favorite because of how much fun I had setting it up, and it reminds me that I'd like to do more along this line.
Life and Death This piece was created for 'An Exhibition of Unspeakable Things', a Lovecraft inspired show held at the Maison D'Ailleurs (House of Elsewhere) in Yverdon-Les-Bains, Switzerland. The participating artists were asked to base artwork from Lovecraft's commonplace book, which was a long list of brief ideas he kept for future stories. The Commonplace Book entry for this painting:1919 #27 Life and Death "Death--its desolation and horror--bleak spaces-sea bottom-dead cities. But Life-the greater horror/Vast unheard-of reptiles and levia-thans-hideous beasts of prehistoric jungle-rank slimy vegetation-evil in-stincts of primal man--Life is more horrible than death." Acrylic 11 x 15-1/2" 2007.
Ports 8.5x11" acrylic on illustration board Perhaps you can explain this one... Much of being an artist-slash-illustrator involves stuff that has very little to do with painting, but they are means to allow the painting part to happen. But, when the ratio of creating to chores becomes a little out of proportion, I can get the urge to make something in whatever time I can scrounge. I did this one a few weeks back, I had no plan but just attacked the surface with some abstract shapes and color. At some point I started seeing some forms in there and began fleshing them out and trying to apply some sense of logic to make them more believable. I used acrylic because I didn't have a big window of time to work around some of casein's slower-paced qualities, and that actually made me more appreciative of the medium I had used exclusively for years. I can't tell you what this one is about, in fact when I was painting it I wasn't even certain which side of the painting should be up or down because they all worked. I'd be curious to hear what people think is depicted in the painting.
Alien Intelligence Acrylic 13x13" This is a cover illustration for an LP by the band Cruxiter. The Cruxiter is the cube/cross-like item in the foreground and it contains all sorts of alien knowledge that is simply too powerful and bizarre for feeble human brains to comprehend. People keep trying, though, and the results are always disastrous.
the Guide 13x13" acrylic on illustration board. "vocem' is Latin for 'Voice' in case you were curious. I've been trying to carve out more time for my own art these days. I've done so much illustration that I felt I needed a little more balance, allowing my own creativity time and an outlet. When given the ultimate freedom to paint whatever I want feels a bit overwhelming to me... where to start, where to settle? So, I have continued with my experiment of painting without planning. I prepped the board with a neutral grey and just started making random sweeping marks across the surface. Much how one might see shapes in clouds, I started to see things in the brush strokes and then proceeded to flesh them out. I liken it somewhat to those stream of consciousness writing exercises, perhaps if I do enough of these I will see some patterns. I had a lot of fun with this one!
Library Amorphous 10x15" Acrylics on illustration board Another in my series of unplanned explorations. As I painted it I contemplated and pondered just how subjective the illusion of reality seems to be- if only we could truly see the world through another's eyes, even if only for a brief moment. How different might it be if there are seemingly an infinite number of things we can focus on and edit out. Between two given people there could be no overlap at all. Things we focus on (out of fear, fascination or otherwise) come into more focus, while the things that don't pertain to our personal world are left out of focus.
Akashic I had such a wonderful time creating the last few personal pieces and felt compelled to forge onward in that direction, especially after some particularly restricting commissions. I've mused that I am 'cleansing my palette' by diving back into a wholly personal piece. Again, I made some random shapes on the board and then much like gazing at clouds and identifying shapes, I refined the discoveries into more highly polished representations. I ended up seeing a shape which reminded me of the hooded figure in my piece the Guide, it's starting to feel like some sort of personal mythology is unfolding before me. So, here is is, Akashic, acrylic on board roughly 12x16" One nice thing about personal pieces is that I am not constrained by a deadline, which can sometimes mean I have to call something done before I would ideally do so. I can be a lot pickier, and many sections were entirely worked over three or more times. The danger with unlimited time is that you can then risk over-working the image until it becomes too stiff. As I painted it, a concept unfolded. The title is a nod the Akashic records, which is a concept of a collective of all thoughts and knowledge popularized by the theosophists. I imagined that the viewer of 'the Guide' has followed the robed figure though the dilapidated doorway and into the subconscious or a gateway to infinite possibilities (much like the overwhelming possibilities for an artist settling on a subject to paint). This painting risked becoming too busy, yet the desire was to convey those multitudinous choices. I also contemplated how so many people pursue different types of activities to get them ultimately to the same place (joy, enlightenment), it is often merely just a different guise or flavor on the surface which makes them seem so different. Here we see a few different potential portals for self discovery, pick one and jump through!
Take Flight 12x15" acrylic I spent a bit more time on this one, I even paused to do a thumbnail sketch at one point to clarify my direction as I felt a bit more focus and intent with this piece. Assuming this is another out-of body journey, much of what we see could well be more symbolic than literal- the way a mind might try to explain, interpret or categorize something which is highly alien. From the perspective of the viewer and the off-kilter angles, it seems to me that the viewer is perhaps flying or levitating. In the foreground we see what seems like an impossible obstacle which is dark and foreboding, yet the background seems like a worthwhile destination to me. I see the gate as something which represents how unnecessarily difficult we can make things for ourselves, but thankfully we are in flight and from this new perspective we can see how easily the trap can be avoided.
Temple of Forbidden Knowledge Continuing on with my experiment- beginning paintings without prior planning, here is The Temple of Forbidden Knowledge - acrylic 10x14". Again I started with a neutral grey surface and made sweeping marks with a darker tone, then pushed, pulled and wrangled it into something recognizable. As always, I'd be interested to hear what you make of it- if you see a story here what would it be? Once it started looking like some sort of architecture, I started refining the structure- yet it had this strange wide angled or even fisheye look to it. That reminded me a bit of the famous Lovecraftian 'non-euclidean' geometry (almost like M.C Escher art come to life), suggesting to me that this wasn't your run-of-the-mill place. I had previously been listening to a podcast about secret societies and supposed alien influences, this bizarre place I was painting seemed like a perfect place for the two groups to interface. Yet, as we see, something has happened to either or both of the factions, and nature has taken over once again.
the Tower 7x12" acrylic on illustration board. This painting was approached in a similar manner to a previous one, 'The Guide', in that I hadn't a clue what it was going to be when I started. I just made some random marks on the page and kept fiddling around until something emerged. Interestingly, I ended up with a tower-like structure, so I made it look a bit like the tower in the distance of 'the Guide'.
the Eye Acrylic on board, 11x15" This is another of my un-planned pieces (starting with sweeping abstract brush strokes until I start to recognize shapes, much like one might recognize things while gazing at clouds in the sky. Then I refined those shapes and ran with my stream of consciousness). The eye was the first part I saw, after that became a desire to see the eye set back in space to give it a much grander sense of scale. My earlier ideas made for an even more precarious walkway, though after discussing it with a friend I realized that it wasn't my ultimate goal to create so much unease for the viewer (that's no way to thank them for viewing my art, is it?). As for the stairs and walkway, I think it has something to do with making choices in life.