During my last two years of high school, I started to stray away from pen and ink work to experiment more with painting techniques. I was becoming influenced by artists like Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz, and the prospect of adding color to my illustrations simply appealed to me. However, there were two distinct artists who I considered to be at the upper echelon of black & white work, and I promised myself I would someday at the very least attempt to ink in their style. Those two artists are Gustave Doré and Bernie Wrightson.
The first time I saw Gustave Doré’s work for Dante’s Divine Comedy, everything I thought I knew about inking got flushed down the toilet. Staring at those beautiful illustrations, I just could not comprehend the amount of skill involved in making something so beautiful. To me, they just didn’t seem real… almost as if they were created by something alien. I know that sounds cheesy but try wrapping your head around this as an enthusiastic 15 year old artist and still keep your shit together. It’s just not possible.
Then one day, I bought a book called Dream Makers which changed my ideas of what was possible with pen and ink. The book featured six artists: Melvyn Grant, Julek Heller, Chris Moore, Michael Kaluta, Charles Vess and Bernie Wrightson. I was familiar with most of the artists, but the one that really stood out for me was Bernie Wrightson. As I learned more about him, I came to understand why he has often been referred to as the “Master of Macabre”. More importantly, I also came to accept that high level of inking skill can be and is completely achievable without selling your soul to the devil. At least not all of it anyway.
Bernie’s work on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was both a revelation and affirmation. Here was a guy who drew comic books AND inked with the same level of intricacy that Gustav had done. He was an instant hero to me.
Well, I’d like to say because of Bernie Wrightson I learned to ink like the devil himself, hell, I’d even settle for saying I managed to sell my soul to acquire that level of precision but I’d be lying. I gave it a shot several times and failed miserably. You have to have a certain level of skill and patience to pull off this kind of work… two things I sorely lack in.
Below are two examples of work I created in the same vein during my last year of high school. The subject matter came from my obsession with Pixies lyrics which saturated a good portion of my work as a teenager. Sometimes I took the liberty to make my own interpretations which made the work even more nonsensical but for whatever reason it seemed logical to me at the time.