9 Nov
2017

CANTANKEROUS

categories: art

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Wow. What a day. A not at all good day. These fabulously cantankerous pins from Wormwood & Rue, however, are very, very good, and arrived just in time to tell you about my current feels.

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(Back in 2016 I got to interview my favorite artist in all the world, and dear sweet friend, Becky Munich. I am re-posting the feature today because I love it just that much.)

It’s the rare well-dressed, bloody-faced siren that causes my jaw to drop to the floor and exclaim, breathlessly: “I want to wear what that vengeful ghost is wearing!”

Becky Munich’s gruesome muses, both beautiful and grotesque, evoke that very reaction– and more. On the surface these sinister, ethereal wraiths simultaneously menace and beguile, but in a strange and playful twist, there’s sly and creepy-clever mischief to be found in the details. Whether it’s a lone eyeball spinning lazily in a bare skull, a duo of ghouls gossiping idly, or a grim-faced Medusa in a party hat looking both threatening and eager for the fun to begin, one gets the feeling that Munich takes her spooky business quite seriously whilst winking at us playfully at the same time.

I recently spoke with Becky Munich about her passion for the femme fatale, the beautiful and the monstrous, and being kissed by darkness. See below for our interview with this enigmatic artist and stroll with us for awhile amongst the shadows, with Becky Munich’s looming spectres and lurking shades.

RAGE

Has art always been a passion? Tell us a little bit about your artistic background.

Becky Munich: Art has always been a part of my life, even at a very young age. I hoarded my coloring books, hating to share with other children who would wear down my crayons to nubs. My mom worked at an office, and I still remember my excitement when she would bring me interoffice envelopes filled with pristine letter-sized Xerox paper. I was like a troll with gold, keeping this paper boon to myself. I would even steal my teenage aunts’ Bambú rolling papers to doodle on, much to their annoyance, ha!

By the time I entered seventh grade, I knew I had to attend the High School of Art and Design. I had an art teacher who helped me develop my portfolio, and I was accepted into the program. If anything, my high school years exploded my brain: visiting museums, galleries, seeing art house films. Growing up in New York was the best education to go in hand with what I was learning formally. It was natural that my next step would be to attend college in my home state as well. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been so passionate and focused at an early age to pursue art and live in an environment that fed this goal!

Hecate Siren

Your work heavily features the monstrous feminine; ghosts, demons, and all manner of she-devils seduce and threaten us from the page, sometimes, I think, simultaneously! It’s clear that you have a love for horror and strange, unearthly beauty; I would love to hear about your influences in this vein, and how they inform your work.

Both my parents worked full-time jobs, so my extended family would babysit me during the day. I was surrounded by the women in my family, all of different ages, attitudes, both scary and loving in their own ways. I was free to read and watch whatever I wanted, as long as I didn’t get into too much trouble. I was told the strangest stories as a kid: about a babysitter so vain the children in her care all died, women who were dragons, dragon-women kidnapping princesses to lure the knights they were ruthlessly in love with, cautionary tales about bargaining with the devil. Added to this, one aunt would let my cousin and I pick any movie to watch after school from the local video rental place. I would pick the goriest, scariest, or most fantastical VHS box I could find. This is how I saw In the Company of WolvesExcaliburThe Wicker Man, etc.

I was allowed to stay up late on the weekends and would watch any Hammer films showing. I would then go to the library looking for books in this vein: mythology, horror, sci-fi, fantasy. My mom even bought me my first comic books! What I learned from consuming all of this is that I found the femme fatales–the woman wronged, the witch, the beauty hiding the monster within–to resonate with me. Here was my muse, she who is kissed by the darkness and more than what she seems.

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Gossip

I also get the feeling–just from a tilt of the eye or a playful curve of the lip, or well, a spooky witch in a tiny hat–that they/you are having a bit of fun with us? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Oh, yes, anytime I can I want to imbue my ladies with a sense that they are in on the joke or plan, and you’ll never guess what it is. No matter in what physical state you see them, they are not victims of the darkness they inhabit. Even if they seem passive, I want the viewer to be uncomfortable, and question the nature of the scenario. I often aim for a disturbed and dangerous quality, to hint at a backstory that isn’t fully explained. Here is where there can be a bit of an interactive quality to the illustrations, giving room for the viewer to ponder on what has happened, and come up with their own stories. All of this feeds into the life of the drawing, gives it more power.

WitchDarkling Venger

Your ghastly ladies are usually gowned in dark, elegant clothing–they’re very fashionable creatures! Can you talk about how fashion influences your art and from where you draw your inspirations?

I have always loved fashion, and originally intended to study to be a fashion illustrator. I would even draw clothes as a kid, so my mom would take pity and take me shopping for the outfits I imagined. By the age of eight or nine, I was aware of Oscar de la Renta, Halston, and Yves Saint Laurent. This was due in part to my mom bringing home fashion magazines (like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar) watching shows like Dynasty (where fashion often took center stage), and reading trashy paperbacks by Jackie Collins, because, again, I had complete freedom to consume all types of entertainment.

By the time I entered college, I had more income and access to buy foreign fashion mags. Clothing and accessories are the armor for my dark ladies, and secretly manifest my desire for the haute couture fashion that my wallet can’t afford. To this day, my reference file is filled with photos of beautiful fashion editorials, and the muses in my head go “shopping.” Seeing photos of Helmut Lang and Alexander McQueen’s fineries set fire to my hand to start drawing. Also, the clothes and accessories help to suggest more of the backstory of my dark damsels.

StrengthAndSorrow

SketchLadyPestilence

Oftentimes the subjects in your illustrations and paintings are bleeding, whether from the eyes or or nose or mouth–can you speak to the significance of blood in your art?

I’m probably going to come across as a cliché, but to be completely honest, I was traumatized when I started menstruating. Puberty hit me early, and I had my first period when I was a ten-year-old. I felt like my body betrayed me; I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Also, bleeding when I lost my virginity and the discomfort associated with the act the first time (though I was warned), was a milestone. In some ways I’m trying to make peace with all the blood loss, reclaim it for myself and what it means to me personally.

There’s so much symbolism and power to the red stuff that I want to use it as a sign of strength. Add to this mix the fact that I was raised Catholic, and it heightens this all to include ritual and otherworldly flavors. Exposed blood for my women is a show of power and the threat of a weapon. It could be your salvation or death. They are fountains overflowing with life and destruction. Even when my ladies are dismembered, opened, or parts severed, I want the viewer to be wary, and wonder if that is her blood, or someone else’s we can’t see in the picture?

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Tell us about your creative space. What is life like in your studio? Do you set aside a specific time to create or is your muse on full-time? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence as you create?

Since I live in New York in a small apartment, my dining room table doubles as my work space. My entire apartment is basically my studio. I’m surrounded by the works of other artists I admire, stacks of books, animal bones, all matter of knick knacks, and my cat. I work a full-time gig as a graphic designer in publishing, so I make it a point to fit art time in at night and on the weekends. I always carry a sketchbook in my bag, so I can draw during my long commute home, or when inspiration strikes. There are often times when an idea is “marinating” in the back of my brain all day till I can get home to work. There’s always music, regardless if I’m designing or illustrating. Music is essential and puts me in a creative meditative state. On my regular playlist you’ll find the soundtrack to Blade Runner, Jacaszek “Dare-gale,” and newer albums like Sexwitch.

LaMortPerfumeAd

I know that you have recently designed some posters for Spectacle Theatre and have contributed to several of Heretical Sexts publications — where can one see more of your work? 

I use Instagram as my gallery for all the personal artwork; my professional portfolio that is more design-centric is over on behance. I’ll post to Twitter as well, and share other artist’s work there too! Also, I’ve recently opened a big cartel online store to sell prints. I’m hoping to do more Spectacle Theater posters when they’re done with the renovations in early 2016. I had so much fun designing some recent film posters. They sell those on their Etsy shop.

MysticSkull

Can you share any upcoming projects?

I’m really fortunate to be working on some fantastic projects currently, that will carry over into early 2016! I’ll be contributing, with other artists, a few illustrations for an upcoming Heretical Sexts publication on the history and significance of gothic literature . I’m also collaborating on a T-shirt design with the band, Sabbath Assembly, that should be available for their spring 2016 tour. In between these gigs and my full-time job, I’m also collaborating on an Occult Activity Book, because who doesn’t enjoy a mad lib that might also summon a demon?

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(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active. I have edited to include current, up-to-date links.)

 

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It makes me very grumbly that Halloween is not an official holiday and that I actually have to preoccupy myself between the hours of 9-5 on this day with things that have nothing whatsoever to do with ghosts or monsters or candy. Who can we complain to about this?

Being old farts, my partner and I are forgoing spooky soirées (not that we’ve been invited to any tonight, come to think of it) and staying home to pass out treats, carve up pumpkins, and watch Monster Squad. Maybe drink some whiskey. I might not even wait until the last kid has rung the doorbell! We’ll see what kind of night it is.

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Speaking of soirées! I was actually invited to a Halloween party a few weeks ago, and I am shock–shocked!– to tell you that I had a fine time. I actually had fun. What! How can this be? Honestly, parties are pretty awful for me; I get anxious about a lot of things, but nothing sends me into panic attack mode faster than the thought of celebratory social interaction. I think what made this an okay experience is that I knew the hostess and had been to her home a number of times, I already knew most of the attendees in some capacity, and, well, I went with a date. Actually three! My sister, brother-in-law and partner were all there. Come to think of it, there was actually nothing to be nervous about. Huh. My costume, in case you couldn’t tell, was a skeletonwitch. Oh, what, you thought I was a panda? Are you blind or something? Unfortunately, this fabulous hat arrived after the event, but that’s fine. I’ll wear it while I’m watching Monster Squad and drunkenly carving children. Pumpkins, I mean. I’m not drinking already or anything.

cadabera

candles

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Though we’ve had some glorious weather these past few days with lower temperatures that lend to layers and cloaks and tights and cardigans, the beginning of October was pretty wretched, as this time of year tends to be. I felt sorry for myself and bought an obscene amount of autumnal candles, spooky records, and a number of haunting reads. Also some “trock or treat” socks from Korea.

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A few additions to the gallery over the past month: a lovely petite bat lady from Lady Weird and this wondrously elegant Martyred for Love sculpture by Carisa Swenson of Goblinfruit Studio

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Knits finished in the past month: all patterns by Caitlin Ffrench. A thick, cozy shawl {Mabon} from her Wheel book, and two smaller altar pieces, each finished in a day.

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Earlier in the month I spent the weekend with my best good friend in Orlando, who is moving out of state. I can’t believe she’s leaving, but we’ve been through this before. 15 or so years ago, I was the one who was leaving…and everything ended up being just fine. So, although I will miss her, I know this will just be a new phase in the adventure that is our weird and wonderful friendship. Anyway, she fixed the most amazing breakfast for me, during the course of our visit. Basically a toads in a hole slash avocado toast mashup. It may now be one of my top five favorite breakfasts.
Let me tell you about my other favorite breakfasts lately: rice with a little butter and soy sauce, topped with a runny fried egg and furikake; a “fake bagel”, which is basically a low calorie english muffin toasted and spread with laughing cow cheese, ripe tomato slices, red onion, and Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, and salmon jerky. For real! Salmon jerky is amazing. Do you, like me, hate sweet breakfast offerings? Cereal, yogurt, most breakfast bars, etc.? Gah, they’re just the worst.

What are you up to this Halloween? Tricks? Treats? Napping with your cats and favorite monsters? That sounds pretty great, actually.

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mosthaunted

(originally published on the Coilhouse blog, November 23, 2010)

Devoted and cultish readers extol John Allison as “a rare gem in the often hard-to-navigate web comic underbelly.” Though you may not presently be reading John Allison’s current endeavor, Bad Machinerychances are that you are perhaps already familiar with him through his older works, Scary Go Round (2002-2009) or Bobbins (1998-2002), or as an artist/chum linked to through one or more of his contemporaries.

Fans of Jeffrey Rowland’s Overcompensating for example, will recognize Allison as “The Englishman” , a British gentleman of dubious distinction who  occasionally happens upon the scene to politely antagonize the regulars. Or, through Dumbrella Collective alum, R. Stevens, mastermind behind Diesel Sweeties and 8-bit illustrator of our charming editrixes here at Coilhouse. Maybe  even through one of the dynamic guest strips he has provided over the years to one of your long-time favourite web comic artists.

Marked by clever, peculiar dialogue, absurdist humor, dotty characters (and delightful ladies fashion!), mysterious happenings and hi-jinks, and a dense mythology (though compelling and completely addictive, to which  anyone who has begun to peek  through his archives can attest)  –  John Allison’s story-telling genius is unmistakable.  And  in a medium where visuals are the reason most viewers show up in the first place, the exquisitely charming, highly stylized art is “as big a draw as the comedy”.

Scary Go Round, “Bulgaria”
Scary Go Round, “Bulgaria”

Described as “postmodern Brit horror”,  Allison’s previous comic, Scary Go Round followed the hapless denizens of Tackleford, a fictional British town beset by all manner of supernatural activity including, but not limited to: zombies, space owls, the devil, and portals to other dimensions.  Though Scary Go Round ended in 2009 [EDIT: though it periodically picks back up again!] a few of his beloved characters have moved on to Bad Machinery, which picks up in Tackleford 3 years later.  The focus is on an entirely new cast of sleuthing schoolchildren attending Griswald’s Grammar School, whose well-intentioned energies may be causing more problems than the mysteries they solve  – but they throw themselves into it all with much vigor and aplomb.

Bad Machinery Flyer Art for Thought Bubble
Bad Machinery Flyer Art for Thought Bubble

I recently caught up with John Allison about his new endeavor; see below the cut for our Q&A in which John talks about the transition between old stories and new, the state of web comics today, and the meaning behind the monsters.

The artist
The artist

UNQUIET THINGS: Right now the “Big Push”, as it were, is your current series, Bad Machinery.  When you made the change to become a full time comic-ing man in 2003-ish, was Bad Machinery even a twinkle in your eye at that time, or was it something that evolved over the years from the characters that you developed in Scary Go Round? Has it been almost a year now since Scary Go Round ended? How has the jump from Scary Go Round to Bad Machinery gone? What were your expectations regarding your fans reactions? Were they met, or exceeded? (or neither?)

JOHN ALLISON:I certainly had no notion of creating Bad Machinery when I went full-time back in 2003. That was 7 years ago! It seems like a lifetime. At that point, Scary Go Round was just starting to get on its feet, audience-wise. It had only been running for about 12 months. Last summer I was frustrated with how sprawling Scary Go Round had become, and (not for the first time) I tried to work out what would make a good spin-off. I wanted something with a tight concept, so I couldn’t drift too far off my initial idea. And I wanted something that I could sell to a publisher in good conscience – something that wasn’t a mess!

I had some vague thoughts in my mind, a kind of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys setup in the Tintin format (having read almost none of the former and admiring rather than loving the latter). I was probably very tired at the time!

The reaction wasn’t great, people loved the Scary Go Round characters. My last year of work on the series had been really spotty and I thought that readers would breathe a huge sigh of relief. And they did – as they stopped reading. Over the first month, half of the old SGR audience went south. It was a very frightening time. It wasn’t helped by what may have been the slowest introduction to a comic ever. Some readers were angry about “having to read about children”. They strongly identified with the old cast and were horrified by the new.

In that first month, while I was trying to find the mood and the tone of the piece, some long and pretty scathing reviews appeared on prominent blogs, the general theme being “by the end Scary Go Round had lost its way, and this is more of the same – but WORSE!” They tended to cite Berke Breathed’s Outland, his follow-up to Bloom County, where all the old characters slowly re-appeared. But for me, bringing back all the fan favourites that, to be honest, I never wanted to see again, made me feel ill. It was a miserable time, I went from believing in this new thing, to quickly doubting everything I did. I was fortunate that many of my friends in comics really supported what I was doing.

After a year, the comic has started to find new readers alongside the ones who stuck around, and it’s extremely gratifying when people write and say that they never read Scary Go Round, but they love Bad Machinery.

Bad Machinery, “The Case of the Good Boy”
Bad Machinery, “The Case of the Good Boy”

While Scary Go Round focused a on group of young adults in their early to mid twenties…and then later in the series you added several high school characters, this new batch for Bad Machinery are little folks, rather young – in grammar school, I believe. What prompted you to go in this direction?

I wanted to write all-ages books, kids’ literature that stands up when you read it today. I loved the Just William books, and I can still read them now, the writing is sophisticated and hilarious. It may be that this is not what the market wants, but as an exercise it was what I wanted to do. It also stops you leaning on lazy attention-getting devices – sudden death, sudden sexy times. You have to be a lot more resourceful as you write.

Scary Go Round, “Time Teapot”
Scary Go Round, “Time Teapot”

Both your comics are /were quite character driven, but the plots usually revolve around the general strange goings-on in town or the odd beastie du jour. .. previously we’ve seen zombies, vampires, dimensional portals etc., but I imagine writing about children presents the opportunity to introduce all kind of imaginative monsters and new bits of wonderful weirdness into the story. Your thoughts?

The idea of Bad Machinery is that the supernatural mysteries are a distraction from the real dangers, which are personal. All through “The Case Of The Good Boy”, the actual manifest danger is how Jack is being victimised through no fault of his own, and he can’t really ask for help. He’s the good boy! No one has spotted this. I’m probably not doing my job very well, am I? I like drawing monsters and beasts, but they’re not real so they lack a certain weight for me.20100513

With regard to “ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night” – I am keenly interested in hearing about your influences as such things go. From some of the references culled from within the Scary Go Round archive, one might be inclined to think that you’ve had some personal dealings with the Old Deceiver himself, ha! Or perhaps some passing familiarity with esoteric studies of some sort. Or at the very least a subscription to the Fortean Times. Can you tell us from where you draw your inspiration?

I’m an arriviste in this field, a dilletante. I don’t like horror movies and I’m scared of books about ghosts. There was a Dennis Wheatley book in the house when I was a child, with a picture of Satan on the back, I was scared of that too. All my work is a metaphor for actual real life problems. I did a story where a character’s girlfriend is blown up in a caravan and thereafter exists, and is seen sporadically, in the afterlife. That was about long distance relationships. When I tried to do actual mystical stuff, and I say this with no fear of contradiction, it wasn’t all that good. The problem is, when you’re generating a lot of material, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing.

Scary Go Round, “Where the Dumb Things Are”
Scary Go Round, “Where the Dumb Things Are”
Scary Go Round, “Meddling”
Scary Go Round, “Meddling”

You’ve been doing this for quite a while now, practically when there were dinosaurs on the internet (as opposed to in space) – what are some changes – for the better or the worse – that you’ve seen in that time?  Can you tell us briefly about your progression from when you got started to where you are now?

People’s attention spans are knackered. The internet has become a Las Vegas casino, a comfortable, noisy area designed to keep you disorientated and keep you spending money. Good luck trying to find attention with longform work. But I think there’s a sense now that we have to push back in the opposite direction, that people don’t want to read articles surrounded by video ads and animation.

I started in webcomics when almost no one was doing them and occupied a privileged position at the forefront of almost every movement – Keenspot, merchandising, bigger web presence at conventions, when there was less competition. Based on that, I have probably underperformed to an extent! But when people who went on to huge success cite me as an influence, I am enormously proud. I just wish they would put a huge link to my work on their website, next to a giant animated arrow.

Now that we have caught up to present day…can we expect to stick with these characters for awhile, to see them grow and mature as they continue to battle monsters and solve mysteries? Can you give us a peek into what might be in store for our young friends?  Or…do you already have something else – something entirely new – brewing?

I’m going to take a month off Bad Machinery to do a mini-series about one of the Scary Go Round characters. It’s kind of a pilot for a series, though if it became a full series I doubt I would have time to draw it myself. I’ve spent months working on the character designs and getting the look and feel of the thing. It gives me a chance to draw adults again, something i do miss. I love drawing fashion and of late have started to feel out of it – there’s only so much of that kind of design work that you can do with 12 year old characters.  But I have a thirdBad Machinery story worked out, it’s kind of ludicrous and sad at the same time. Even though it’s been an uphill struggle, post Scary Go Round, I love writing the new comic. If people get that from it, then the difficulties are by and large worth it.

The idea is to do a “case” for each of the three terms of seven years of grammar school. If I get that far, we’ll have been places together. I hope that I get the chance.

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*For extra art not seen in the main comic, be sure to check John’s blog, as well as his Flickrstream for doodles and magnificent sketch fiestas, such as this Beardsley-esque Gaga.

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23 Aug
2017

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The cauldron has spoken and Vanessa Irena is the winner of a postcard set from Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos. Congratulations, Vanessa! You will be receiving a set of postcards from the artist featuring the image below. Please email me at mlleghoul AT gmail dot com with your address!

Thanks to everyone who read the interview and left a comment, and be sure to peek back here in the upcoming months for more Q&As with fantastical artists and art giveaways!

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HEKA

I remember a piece of art hanging on our dining room wall, just above the record shelf that I hated dusting because it was cluttered with those wine colored Avon Cape Cod candle holders and piles of incense ash and various new age ephemera that I had to actually pick up and wipe under instead of working around–for I knew my mother would not fail to inspect my work. Ugh. At any rate, I used to zone out entirely while gazing at the various framed posters and prints that hung over this overstuffed record cabinet, taking in all of my mother’s wonderful art, which I don’t think I even realized had a lasting influence on me until this very second.

The poster in question, surrounded by Erté prints, and oversized posters of the major arcana from the Thoth deck (with a occasional B. Kliban thrown into the mix) was…well, I don’t exactly remember. The was a lady. There might have been a goblet, or a cat, or a long, winding strand of pearls. What I do distinctly remember was a scrawling signature at the bottom, utterly illegible except for a swooping “J”. Maybe a crooked “C” that trailed off to a distorted “W”. In my head, I began to refer to the creator of this fantastical art, as “JAW CRAZER” and I was astounded when, earlier today, I sent a text to my sister asking if the name meant anything to her…and she knew exactly which painting I was talking about. And I swear –I never, ever said that name aloud. Crazy. Or CRAZER, as the case may be.

What does this have to do with anything? I suppose I was thinking of this earlier today when I was mentally visiting the nostalgic walls of my past and the imagery that continues to influence me, even today. And when I discovered the art of Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos several years back, I was immediately taken back to the mystery and secrets of my mother’s collection, which, though small, was brimming with striking visions and potent symbolism and it quickly found a place in the dark corners of my heart, even when I am too pained or proud to acknowledge it.

Currently residing in the mountain town of Teresopolis, Brazil, Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos (b.1982) is a Brazilian artist whose work explores the realms of the mythical, mystical and occult. With a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts, and a Master’s in Visual Culture, Lupe worked as a graphic designer, tattoo artist and children’s book illustrator before start pursuing her own artistic voice.

See below for my interview with this visionary artist and leave a comment to be eligible to win a set of postcards from Lupe!  A winner will be chosen at random one week from today, on August 22, 2017. Today’s interview and giveaway is part of an ongoing series I will be running indefinitely here at Unquiet Things. A few months ago I wrote about the life-saving effect that the beautiful, profound art which speaks to one’s heart can have on one’s troubled soul, and I don’t believe this is a need that will ever become obsolete, especially in times like these.

Babalon_Tratado

Unquiet Things: In your bio you note that you’ve worked as both a children’s illustrator, as well as a tattoo artist! I love this juxtaposition of art created for young humans, as opposed to art for the 18+ crowd. Did you enjoy (or not) both experiences, and was there anything special that you learned from them, that you incorporate into your art today?

Looking at my trajectory now, I realize I did come a very long way until feeling confident enough to call myself an “artist”… I went to graphic design school (instead of art school) thinking it would be a good way of making a living as a creative, but I became very dissatisfied with the nature of the work and ended up experimenting with other things until I finally realized art was my calling. While still working as a graphic designer, I started an apprenticeship at a famous tattoo studio in my hometown. Then I opened a tattoo shop with a friend, but after a while I realized, again, that it wasn’t for me. So an illustration job came up at a local newspaper, and I decided to give it a go. It was mostly illustrations for children, and from that I started to get book commissions and work from home. It was a period of much learning, and I did my best to compensate my lack of classical education in art by studying and attending courses and workshops. I was an avid reader as a kid, and book illustrations were my first contact with art, so I was really happy to be working doing exactly that! What happened was that doing book illustrations made me eager to go deeper into the realm of fantasy for inspiration, which lead me to start doing my own thing. Pop surrealism was all the rage at the time, and seeing many children’s book illustrators making the leap and becoming fine artists made me realize I wanted to try that too. My first pieces were much inspired by pop surrealism, but as I progressed I distanced myself from that style and plunged into darker influences. The experience with children’s book illustration helped me unlock my creative potential, and as I felt more and more confident, it allowed me to fly higher.

Oraculo

How does this evocative phrase (which I first noted on your website? facebook? I forget now): “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity” figure in to the art that you create?

I like that quote so much! To me is very connected to how I perceive the work of art in relation to authorship: my work will outlive my earthly body, and to me that’s the true meaning of “living forever”…

ANoiteeumaVacaPreta

Your work explores the mythical, the mystical and the occult–I’m curious, did you have an interest in these themes before you began to illustrate them, or did the interest grow, somehow, from the practice of your craft? And I’d love to hear about some of your specific inspirations, whether they were occult artists, like Austin Osman Spare or Rosaleen Norton, or perhaps the writings of Kenneth Grant, or Dion Fortune? But don’t let me put words in your mouth! Those were just some examples from the top of my head.

I’ve always been very into fantasy and fairytales, since I can remember. I was a child who would talk to animals and plants, who collected stones and set little altars of things I found and who daydreamed all the time about parallel universes were magical things happened as a normal thing… in my teens I had a wiccan phase – it was the post “The Craft” years after all! Those things were always part of my life in a way or another, although it was in the last 5 years that I took the studying of occult literature more seriously. This coincided with the development of my own style, and the two things went hand by hand. I was exposed at first to the works of Austin Osman Spare and Marjorie Cameron, which blew my mind! At first I got to know the artists with occult-related works, and from there I started to read Crowley, Grant, Fortune, Grey… also books on tarot, symbology, mythology and alchemy. I’m also a huge fan of Jodorowsky’s books on tarot and psychomagic. I use his method for tarot reading, it’s a great tool for self-knowledge and to help others. He’s a truly visionary genius. William Blake, and W. B. Yeats are also two visionary artists with a very inspiring body of work. They have written a lot about the experience of the visionary artist, and I look up to them a lot too. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about surrealism, particularly about the women associated with the movement, and I’ve been pretty much obsessed with the subject. There was an exhibition of women artists linked with Frida Kahlo and surrealism in Mexico here in Brazil a couple of years ago, and it was a hugely impacting experience for me. The works of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington in particular struck me like lightning! I already knew their respective works, but seeing them live was life changing. I’m also a huge sucker for Leonor Fini’s work, I absolutely love her!

VANITASITempusFugit

ODAINDEOS

Are you a practitioner of the arcane arts, or would you consider yourself more of a scholar, perhaps as it relates to research for your own art? Or maybe a bit of both?

I’ve been an irregular practitioner of the arcane arts for the most part. I think I can call myself a scholar, yes. My occult practices are much blended with art producing, but in an instinctive kind of way, not following any path in particular. I’ve flirted with chaos magick, thelema and other paths, but I found very hard to compromise entirely with one thing, and I definitely don’t like belonging to anything in particular. In that sense I’d say I’m an eclectic; I like to do my own stuff, in my own therms. But I feel very connected with entities like Lilith, and the goddess Babalon, who turn up frequently in my work.

TheCupofSuspicion_300

One of my favorite pieces of yours is “The Cup of Suspicion”. Can you tell us a little bit about this work?

It’s interesting that you mention this particular piece! It’s one of the few that has a particular, personal meaning. At the time I had a health scare that proved to be very hard on my nerves. I felt an intense sense of impending doom, hence the hanging sword thing above the figure’s head. Luckily it was just that: a scare.

Lupe Studio

Lupe Studio1

I always love to get a peek at an artist’s studio, could you give us a virtual tour of the creative space, where you bring to life these mythical illustrations and paintings?

My working space is actually divided in two. I share a room with my husband in which I have my computer and a drawing table, and I also have a small painting studio in another room –that’s a good arrangement to me, as I need more concentration to paint on the easel.

Thelema_O

I’m also very nosy when it comes to what is currently inspiring my favorite artists! Is there anything you’ve listened to, read, watched, or become aware of recently that’s sparking your creative flow?

Well, lately I’ve been re-visiting the work and life of spanish-mexican artist Remedios Varo in an almost obsessive manner. From my main “pantheon” of favorite artists (which includes Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini and Cameron), she is the one which I relate in a more personal level: she was also the daughter of an engineer and spent her childhood moving from town to town; she was shy; she worked as a commercial artist before developing her own style, among other details. I’ve been very inspired by her lately, and I’m reading her biography by Janet Kaplan for the second time. Also inspiring me lately is the book Surrealist Women – An International Anthology, which is full of inspiring prose and poetry by the women associated with the movement. Another book that is pretty much in my had these days too and that I just finished reading is W.B. Yeats – Twentieth Century Magus. It’s full of great insight into the magical thinking he applied to his life and work. On the subject of music (which I love, of course!), I’ve been listening a lot to a singer introduced to me by a dear friend, called Lhasa de Sela. Her music is great, I listen to it constantly while working.
LeChasseur Noturna Tame

I would love to see a tarot deck incorporating your imagery….or perhaps an illustrated codex or grimoire. Do you have any plans for things like that, or am I just full of wishful thinking?

I do have plans for a tarot deck, but it’ll probably take a while. It’s something I want to be meaningful, not just pretty figures on a deck… so, there’s a lot to plan still. There’s other projects in the works, but I rather keep the mystery for now… I’m also a bit superstitious in regards to talking about those things too early.

Find Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos: website // facebook // instagram // twitter

Thank you, Lupe, for sharing your art and visions with us today and for the giveaway opportunity for Unquiet Things readers! Please leave a comment to be eligible for the postcard set, and a winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.

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26 Jul
2017

Feebrile1

A few months ago I wrote about the life-saving effect that the beautiful, profound art which speaks to one’s heart can have on one’s troubled soul.

This idea, and the art I shared, resounded with many people, and so I thought I’d create a small series inspired by the concept, and which will show up here at Unquiet Things periodically throughout the rest of the year.

If you follow my facebook or my instagram, some of the following pieces will be familiar to you–many of them are the kind of thing I look at and immediately think “IT ME.” Imagery that I will share on social media because I’m feeling goofy, or it makes me laugh, and I can relate to it in some ridiculous way. I thought I’d collect them all in one place, for your amusement as well! Have a peek below to see my #currentmood, #squadgoals, and various other dumb sentiments as reflected by a piece of art that caught my eye. Maybe you’ll see yourself in them, too 🙂

And check back over the next few months for some interviews with the artists who create the art I’ve been admiring, as well as some giveaways!

 

#currentmood

artist: Christine Pellicano
artist: Christine Pellicano

 

altered art by Robin Isely
altered art by Robin Isely

 

artist: Kebba Sanneh
artist: Kebba Sanneh

 

Loie Fuller, 1887. Photographer Otto Sarony
Loie Fuller, 1887. Photographer Otto Sarony

 

artist: Lisa Sterle
artist: Lisa Sterle

 

artist: Kensuke Koike
artist: Kensuke Koike

 

artist: Gosia Herba
artist: Gosia Herba

 

#feelings

artist: Charlie Bowater
artist: Charlie Bowater

 

artist: Brooke Didinato
artist: Brooke Didinato

 

artist: Julia Agafonova
artist: Julia Agafonova

 

artist: Alex Stoddard
artist: Alex Stoddard

 

artist: Leo Peralta
artist: Leo Peralta

 

#wardrobeinspo

A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.
A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.

 

Spider Lady by Caz Williamson
Spider Lady by Caz Williamson

 

artist: RUNE NAITO
artist: RUNE NAITO

 

artist: Adele Mildred
artist: Adele Mildred

 

#beachbodygoals

Art commissioned by Charles Band for the Italian film THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN. Artist Lee MacLeo
Art commissioned by Charles Band for the Italian film THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN. Artist Lee MacLeo

 

Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.
Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.

 

#careergoals

The Old-Fashioned Fairy Book by Mrs. Burton Harrison, illustrated by Rosina Emmet
The Old-Fashioned Fairy Book by Mrs. Burton Harrison, illustrated by Rosina Emmet

 

artist: Forever Autumn by Stephen Maycock and Jen Brook
artist: Forever Autumn by Stephen Maycock and Jen Brook

 

"Her majesty led this strange orchestra" by Rosina Emmet Sherwood
“Her majesty led this strange orchestra” by Rosina Emmet Sherwood

 

#squadgoals

artist: Chiaki Sakamoto
artist: Chiaki Sakamoto

 

Harpies in the Forest of Suicides, Gustave Doré
Harpies in the Forest of Suicides, Gustave Doré

 

artist: Sara Ray
artist: Sara Ray

 

art: tin can forest
art: tin can forest

 

#saturdaynight

Erik Desmazières - The Temptation of St Anthony [a reimagining of the original art by Jacques Callot.]
Erik Desmazières – The Temptation of St Anthony [a reimagining of the original art by Jacques Callot.]
artist: Fernando Falcone
artist: Fernando Falcone

 

artist: Lena Bryksenkova
artist: Lena Bryksenkova

 

The Hoard of Chaos by Sanjulián
The Hoard of Chaos by Sanjulián

 

#GPOY / #itme

artist: Feebrile
artist: Feebrile

 

artist: Nate Burns
artist: Nate Burns

 

Señorita Gato, Stephanie Chaves
Señorita Gato, Stephanie Chaves

 

artist: Sean Gadoury
artist: Sean Gadoury

 

The Spirit Feast by Kat Philbin
The Spirit Feast by Kat Philbin

If you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

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ohlala
(originally published on the Coilhouse blog, June 30th, 2011)

“I paint my demons. I paint nightmares. To get rid of them. I paint my fears. I paint my sorrow. To deal with them.” – Mia Mäkilä

Mia Mäkilä, a self-taught artist who lives and works in Sweden, describes her art as “horror pop surrealism” or “dark lowbrow” and further illustrates: “Picture Pippi Longstocking and Swedish movie director Ingmar Bergman having a love child. That’s me.”

Her work consists of digital paintings and vintage photographs manipulated and distorted to produce nightmarish mixed media portraits. The creations borne of Mäkilä’s artistic process are both uncomfortably horrific and unaccountably humorous– demonic entities lurk in the form of gash-mouthed, leering Victorian families staring from within a tintype void. Fire-breathing/ennui-stricken and dandified gentlemen ejaculate from the precarious heights of a Parisian rooftop. All manner of flaming Boschian hells overflow with cavorting fish and flamingos and God knows what else.

holiday-in-hell

Can all the world’s fears and sorrows, splashed and splattered in fiendish form on canvas, truly be this ghastly, this wretched, this… funny? Equally terrifying to contemplate: what malignant spirits might we coax to the surface, were we to make art conjured from similar soul-sourcing? Coilhouse’s recent interview with Mäkilä yields candid anecdotes about her own process; by examining the evidence of her painted demons, perhaps we can discern how to have a little fun exorcising our own.

thegame

You describe your art as “dark lowbrow” and refer to a “dark lowbrow movement”. Please tell us about that.

Mia Mäkilä: I think I’ve gone from horror art and more of a gothic style, to a more pinkish lowbrow style with cuteness/horror rather than the gothic elements, and I feel more at home with the lowbrow artists than the gothic ones. I don’t listen to Marilyn Manson or slice my wrists when I feel bad, and I certainly do not paint my lips with black lipstick. I love life and I celebrate it everyday, so my mind isn’t as dark as my paintings. I enjoy music from the ’80s, classical music and don’t watch any splatter horror movies; I love Ingmar Bergman, Hitchcock, David Lynch, John Waters and cute romantic comedies from the ’80s, like “The Breakfast Club”, so I’m not that dark minded after all.

But I love that mix of dark and cute, sad and happy, and the juxtaposition of the ugly and the beautiful. I am darker than a “regular” artist might be, but I am too light for the horror genre, so I am in between – just between a toyish and light style of lowbrow (pop-surrealism) and dark horror/gothic style.

the_rage

You mention that the horror in your art is your way of processing difficult themes such as “fear, angst, madness, rage and sorrow “, and you list Ingmar Bergman, David Lynch, Tim Burton as influences for their dark drama and symbolic inner worlds. But you’ve also said that you use a lot of humor to do this, and seem to enjoy making “… demons [have] fun on the canvas”. I am curious to hear about your inspirations and influences in this vein. What makes you laugh, what are your amusements– and how does that translate into the exquisite grotesqueries you create?

I am very amused by the unexpected. It could be funny pictures I’ve found on the Internet of a very fat naked woman with a bottle stuffed in her ass . I mean, who takes such pictures, who’s that woman, what was the actual situation like and how on earth did it get on the Internet? That’s very funny, I think. I collect such pictures, and I post them on my blog as well, just to show people how funny reality can be.

An at the same time, it’s disgusting and sad. I mean, a bottle in a fat lady’s ass is quite disgusting and sad but still very funny. I like that mix of emotions. I don’t like funny pictures that are staged or faked, I like the coincidental humor, when you have no control over the situation and it just accidentally becomes funny– like a joke made by the cosmos. I use stuff like that in my collages; my paper cutouts become jokes of scary and disgusting combinations, just like the strange images I find on the Internet.

daddyssecret

I read somewhere that you said – “I don’t believe in artist as moneymakers, but as magicians.” Do you mean magicians as in purveyors of trickery and illusions? Or perhaps in a more occult, esoteric sense? Both? Neither? I’d love to hear additional thoughts on that.

What I meant by that was, I don’t believe you can pinpoint what “art” really is, it’s when the artist has made an illusion that people can be fooled by. Just like a movie is an illusion of something real, art can be an illusion of something real or unreal. It’s very interesting, really. Art doesn’t need to feel real, but when you have made a really good piece of work, you give it life and it becomes this real and authentic world of it’s own.

Upcoming projects? Collaborations? Shows?

I’m working right now on a new collection of both paintings and digital collages and I have some projects and future show that I’m keeping a secret for now…

Smiling_Bitches_by_MyVictorianSecret

babyjane

painthingnr5

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