Like many kids who grew up in the late 80’s / early 90’s, I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. I was morbid from a very early age, so I particularly enjoyed pondering its exquisitely terrifying illustrations. Stephen Gammell reached right into the darkest depths of the human psyche and extracted these writhing, dripping, shrieking visions and put them on paper and into the minds of young children, and I love him for it. A couple years ago, the books were re-released, but with different illustrations, and there was an outcry of condemnation. How dare they deprive a new generation of facing these horrors head-on? The story of a bride who went missing while playing hide and seek on her wedding day and whose skeleton was found years later in a trunk in the attic is scary, sure, but the above illustration takes it to a whole new level.
Artist Sarah Duyer’s work takes innocent ceramic objects and adds body parts to them to create bizarre creatures. The above teapot seems to be a mash-up between Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Puts a whole different spin on the idea of a mad tea party. I wonder what the teacups would look like?
Almost everyone knows who Cthulhu is and what he looks like (hell, he’s so well known that my spellcheck underlined his name and insisted I capitalize it). The tentacle-faced bat-winged giant monstrosity from the deep can be found in card games, on t-shirts, in uber-cute chibi plush form, and even on bumper stickers (Cthulhu for President 2016: Why Choose the Lesser of Two Evils? If only…). However, H.P. Lovecraft, the master of the weird and sanity-destroying, created a twisted universe full of nightmare creatures that will drive you to gibbering madness with just one glance. Like Azathoth up there. (My spellcheck is insisting there’s no such word. Oh sweet innocent spellcheck…) CoffeeForKafka on Imgur seems to be seeking to bring to light all of the lesser-known but just as mind-bendingly horrific creatures of Lovecraft’s Mythos. Whether you thank him or curse his name is up to you.
I often have trouble with titles. When I’m finishing a story, I’ll go through several titles, and the one that eventually sticks usually does so because I can’t think of anything better. I don’t know if Tomislav Jagnjic (the artist of the above piece) has trouble coming up with titles, but he sure has a knack for them. For instance, this piece is called “yo bro is it safe down there in the woods? yeah man, it’s cool.” The perfect title puts a spin on a piece that might not have otherwise been apparent, and in that Jagnijic wins. Go check out his other works, some of which are equally well titled, all of which are really nicely done and well worth your time.
Leandro Lima’s art (more here) is delightfully surreal. I’m a big fan of surreal art, from Salvador Dali to David Lynch. One of the things that strikes me about Lima’s work is how the imagery hangs together in a cohesive whole. I think that this is one of the most important aspects of surrealism. It’s not merely coming up with random stuff and throwing it all together. The randomness needs to have a rhyme, a rhythm. There needs to be order in all the chaos, parallels drawn in the most unexpected places, where two things that seem to have no connection actually have a connection deep down below the surface. It’s hard to do well, which is one reason why I admire greatly those who can do it.
This article has some excellent examples of horror in classical art. Great art evokes powerful emotion, and terror is powerful. The above, Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son,” is one of my favorite paintings. The madness in the god’s eyes, the way his hands are about to tear the body right in half, the urgent and brash brush strokes…it hits me right in the gut. It terrifies me and yet I can’t look away.
Take a look at the paintings in the article. Which one terrifies you most? Which one can you not look away from?
When I was a kid, we were in New York City one summer, and there was a homeless man selling little dinosaurs he had made out of aluminum foil. The scale here is different but the basic premise is the same. Everything around us, even something as pedestrian as aluminum foil, can become something beautiful.
My mentor Paul McComas has a principle he calls the Tightrope of Disclosure. Give too much information to the reader and the writer falls off one side into obviousness and will bore the reader. Give too little information and the writer falls off the other side into obscurity and will confuse the reader. The sweet spot is between those two extremes, a fine line where the reader has just enough information to know what’s going on and be intrigued, to want to read on, discover more. The writer should be sure the reader knows what’s happening, and then let them figure out the why.
I think this principle can also be helpful in other artistic media. Consider the photograph above. Much of its power is in its simplicity. Its aesthetic grace draws us in, and once we’re in it tickles our brains. We know the what, the men standing silently in a forest shrouded in mist, but we don’t know the why. We’re prompted to ask questions, and then to imagine answers. And those answers are going to be different for everyone.
I love using images like this as writing prompts, but it also inspires me to infuse my own art with mystery.
I love the idea of honoring your favorite artwork by etching it on your skin. I will probably never get a tattoo (I’m really bad with pain) but if I did, I can imagine using an image from Salvador Dali. Or maybe Magritte. You know, this guy:
That would be awesome.
(Click HERE or on the images of the tattoos for more artistic homages on Vulture.)