Foxes stalking the darkness, padding through a thicket of thorns. Shadowy snakes snarled in somnolent repose. A skull cupped tenderly, a candle’s flame snuffed. Rendered in ash, chalk-lead, and ink on black cotton rag, the funereal monochrome visions of artist and printmaker Dylan Garrett Smith reflect the artist’s views regarding our relationships with the natural world. Combining ecological and occult concepts with existential fears and anarchism, Smith stresses the importance of the cycle of birth, bloom, and decay and the ultimate triumph of nature in the end–whatever that ‘end’ might be.
More peeks and pages from The forthcoming The Art of Darkness (September 6th is coming quickly, preorder now!)
This is a piece titled Vögguvísa by Becky Munich, a long-time like-minded weirdo, kindred spirit, and occasional partner-in-crime. You may recall that Becky and I worked together on the beloved fan-favorite Occult Activity Books, volumes one and two!
“… On the surface these sinister, ethereal wraiths and monstrous femme fatales simultaneously menace and beguile, but in a strange and playful twist, there’s sly and creepy clever mischief to be found in the details, and it’s clear to see that this artist takes her spooky business quite seriously while winking at us playfully at the same time.”
I’ve been OBSESSED with Becky’s works ever since I first laid eyes on them and I am so pleased to have been able to include her work in The Art of Darkness. And as you can see in the second photo, the original Vögguvísa hangs on my wall, cautioning me every day to shush my pie-hole. Or choose my words wisely. Who knows! She is a very mysterious lady, after all.
Ok, well let me clarify: at this moment in time, in the space of this very second, the above page, with artworks by Charley Harper and Ruth Marten is my favorite page in The Art of Darkness.
It’s true, while I live to revel in the velvet shadows of a moonlit midnight and seek spirits in every lonely, crumbling corner, it’s not like I’m a gloomy Gus about it. If you can’t laugh at what lies waiting in the hungry maw of darkness, if you can’t giggle with the ghosts, or cackle into the nothing of the abyss–well, that’s hardly living, you know? If I have somehow fooled you into thinking I’m all about mystery and melancholy, monsters and morbidity, okay, well, that’s all true, I am. But it’s more than balanced with a significant sense of silliness, an appreciation of the absurd, and an adoration of ridiculousness. My favorite emotion to express is “demented glee”! I mean, I’m really just a goofy fucker, is what I am trying to say here.
So it would stand to reason that I have massive admiration for artists who can combine these sensibilities in their practice, and these works of the kooky and the macabre, often filled with sly, weird humor are some of my favorite canvases to gaze upon. Enter Ruth Marten and Charley Harper.
As an author whose forthcoming book will ooze through the darkness of the void to triumphantly appear on our corporeal plane in less than 3 months, I am told by my publisher that I need to be hyping it at least every two weeks. Fair enough. But I struggle to do that in a way that feels in line and in keeping with the spirit of the sorts of things that I already share on social media. While I do like to ramble on about my interests and passions, this is different because there are numbers and rankings and money attached to it, which sounds crass to say, but we can’t ignore it.
So in the interest of getting you all to preorder The Art of Darkness or at the very least, share it with friends and peers who may have an interest, ask your local bookshop to carry a few copies, request it from your library, etc., I am going to share it the same way I share 90% of the things here, which is to say: HERE’S SOME ART THAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT AND I THINK YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED ABOUT IT TOO!
In terms of excitement, one of the *most exciting* things about The Art of Darkness was having the opportunity to include the works of so many contemporary artists whose works I have been crowing about and collecting for myself over the years. These are artists I have shared on my Tumblr (yes, I am still over there!) I have interviewed for my own blog or the various other outlets I have been writing for since 2010, and some of whose works are hanging behind me on the wall even as I type this out! Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing these works of shadowy brilliance on my social media accounts; I am greatly indebted to each and every one of these creators and I have no doubt you are going to see some of your favorites amongst them, too.
So…let’s kick things off with Darla Teagarden! Profoundly resonant for those among us who view the world through a splinter of enchantment, Darla Teagarden’s surreal photographic narratives walk a tremulous line between fable and reality. These feverish visions are deeply imbued with fragile secrets, intense emotion, and an eerie sense of urgency – an otherworldly plucking at the senses. Teagarden builds these vividly expressive vignettes from wood, paper, and plaster for images that also include handpicked vintage props, clothing and hand-drawn backgrounds. It is this tender, liminal space, rebuilt and reimagined many times over, in which most of her darkly cinematic images are created.
The Art of Darkness is a book that was born in my blood. I have always been obsessed with what’s in the dark, and these fears and fascinations drive just about everything I do.
🖤 Before I wrote any books, before I contributed to any blogs, before Tumblr or Pinterest or Livejournal or even my AOL user profile (ha!) I’ve perpetually been compelled to connect with others via imagery that I’ve unearthed from the darkness. I’ve been shouting into the void about these things for as long as I can recall, and it’s this very compulsion that led to the creation of this book.
🖤 A desire to share the artworks I love that haunt and horrify, mesmerize and delight, a longing to have a beautifully bound piece of the void to hold in my own hands, brimming with weirdness and wonders, the melancholic and the macabre, and all the shadows of the supernatural, the surreal, and the sublime. I can’t wait for you to hold a copy of it in your hands, too!
And in about three months’ time, we’ll both be able to!
🖤 So here’s the part where I tell you that your preorders are so, SO helpful–whether via amazon or your local bookshop or bookshop.org or even requesting a copy or two at your library!
🖤 If we’ve connected via my art writing over the last few years or if something I’ve shared has tantalized (or terrorized!) you and you’ve been wondering what’s the best way to support me and my work, your preorders of The Art of Darkness are just the thing!
🖤 And don’t forget, if you fill out the form on the Quarto website, you can receive some treats including a signed bookplate, and in the meantime, I’m not sure if I have shared this yet, but here’s a FULL jacket reveal, including that devastating cover from Alex Eckman Lawn AND a midnight bloom by Chris Mrozik on the back cover!
So, about this wonderfully atmospheric image. This is a painting that I desperately wanted for the cover of The Art of Darkness when I first started plotting and planning for the book. The artist is Ludwik de Laveaux and it is a work from 1890 is called “Przestrach” or “Fear”. I have seen some blogs refer to it as Lady Macbeth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough information on the work to merit it a viable inclusion in any manner, let alone to feature on the cover, and also, not being a book designer, what do I know about what works in terms of cover art? Oh well. I hear that authors should share things that for whatever reason, didn’t end up in their book, and this is one of those things. I’m sharing!
I’m trying not to overwhelm everyone with a massive flood of barely-restrained-bordering-on-maniacal enthusiasm for The Art of Darkness, but you guys. This is the book I have always wanted to write (except for a book about perfume and jewelry and flowers! just putting it out there!) Ever since I learned as a child that we all at some point experience unpleasant feelings or behaviors or conditions, whether that be fright or fury, melancholy or misery, sadness or sickness, I have been fascinated by how we describe and communicate these things, these darker aspects of the human condition–especially as it relates to language and visuals, and in particular the way these things are depicted in art.
We all experience darkness. We can’t avoid it, and I don’t think we should. If we’re eternally trying to live the light where it’s always bright and happy, where we ignore or evade our distressing, uncomfortable feelings, then we are starved of shadows, of nuance, and risk an existence robbed of the richness of contrast. When we only validate our positive feelings, we vastly restrict our tools for looking at the world. We are neither dealing with reality as it is nor adequately readying ourselves for the random pains and struggles that life has in store for us. We deny our inner darkness at our own peril. Because tragedies and calamities are inevitable and darkness will descend at some point in your life, no matter what sort of mindset you have. Despite what you may have heard, good things don’t only happen to good people, and bad things don’t only happen to bad people, and whatever it is, your positive or negative thoughts did not make it happen. Shit happens. Pain is pain, feelings are feelings. And as humans, for our emotional health, it is important that we experience and embody the full spectrum of feelings and emotions.
Uh…so, what was my point? If you’re into any of that, preorder my forthcoming book, The Art of Darkness, I guess!
Hello, fans of moody art capturing the morbid, melancholic, and macabre! Here’s something fun!
Pre-order your copy of The Art of Darkness by August 31 from any retailer and be one of the first 100 readers to enter your information into the Quarto form and you’ll receive a lovely thank-you-package including a The Art of Darkness postcard, sticker, and autographed bookplate from me, the author! Link in comments!
Well, hello friends of midnight shadows and all that lurk in those murky corners! It is cover reveal day for THE ART OF DARKNESS: A TREASURY OF THE MORBID, MELANCHOLIC AND MACABRE.
I am so extremely-over-the-moon thrilled with the somber, surreal, multi-layered magnificence of Alex Eckman-Lawn’s cover art–it’s really a dream come true for this artist’s incredible work to be gracing the cover of a book that I’ve written. Aside from the cover art, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to work with SO MANY DREAM ARTISTS to include in these pages!
So, what else can you expect to find this the pages of this darkly artful tome?
Throughout history, artists have been obsessed with darkness – creating works that haunt and horrify, mesmerize and delight and play on our innermost fears. While these themes might scare us – can’t they also be heartening and beautiful? In exploring and examining these evocative artworks The Art of Darkness offers insight into each artist’s influences and inspirations, asking what comfort can be found in facing our demons? Why are we tempted by fear and the grotesque? And what does this tell us about the human mind?
Of course, sometimes there is no good that can come from the tenebrous sensibilities of darkness and the sickly shivers and sensations they evoke. These are uncomfortable feelings, and we must sit for a while with these shadows – with a book, from the safety of our armchairs.
The Art of Darkness and all of its dreamy, disturbing gloomy glimpses will be released into the world on September 6, 2022! Stay tuned for more details.