When did you start drawing?
Probably like most people, I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. High school helped me focus my interest in pursuing art and helped me land a scholarship to the Minneapolis College of Art + Design. The twist here was that I was a film major and all my classes were film and photography! The drawing I did in art school was mostly on my own time when I would draw pictures depicting the Dungeons and Dragons games my friends and I would play.
Who inspired you to start drawing?
That’s a big question. In the real world, mostly my parents. They really reinforced the idea that pursuing creative work was something that could become a reality. In the ‘art’ world, it was a lot of fantasy and horror illustrators. Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, Larry Elmore…. and let’s not forget Derek Riggs and all his Iron Maiden album covers!
What is the best and worst thing about being a horror artist?
I believe any successful artist is one who is simply creating whatever they want to create, regardless of popularity or profit. That being said, the best thing about being a horror artist is that it is not just a genre, but a community of people who have a built-in interest in the subject matter. There is a level of support in the horror community that truly facilitates being able to do whatever I want in the genre, because it just so happens to jive with what people are interested in seeing.
The worst thing about being a horror artist is the unavoidable envy of so many other artists that rock the genre. So many different styles. So many different takes. So inspirational and so intimidating at the same time.
How long does it take for you to finish a project?
It really depends on the project, but it can range anywhere from just a few hours to maybe a full week of non-stop work. If I’m creating one of my fake movie posters or pulp novel covers, the painting normally takes about three days. Then probably another two or three days to layout the design work. Those particular pieces are all created as 24×36 shadowboxes, where the design work is printed directly onto acrylic glass and floated over the top of the original painting. That will then take another week or two to have that stuff fabricated and put together. Of course that’s a part of the process I have done by other people, but it still contributes to the time line I’ve got to consider if I’m creating something for a show or commission. Then none of this takes into account the research! Before I start any project there is usually a minimum full-day of researching the subject matter and figuring out styles and concepts.
What inspires you the most when you take on a project?
There are probably two facets to my inspiration. First is trying to depict the concept of character. At my core I’m a story-teller, so when I create something visual, it is intended to depict the subject matter in a very particular way. Could be the expression on the face of a monster, or freezing a particular moment of action. Bottom line though, is that there is always a character implying motivation, wether they be good or bad.
The second facet is the actual process. For example, If I’m inspired to do another illustration in my fairy tale series, a lot of it has to do with me wanting to recreate some texture with only pen and ink — like ‘Little Miss Muffet’ has shiny, glassy eyes on the spider with coarse hair on it’s legs, and a clean beautiful face on Miss Muffet herself. Another example is in a piece I recently did for a tribute show to the film ‘The Iron Giant’. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and I knew I could identify the scariest scene in the movie to jive with my horror work, but it wasn’t until I became interested in working with only black and white ink washes to create ocean waves in a hurricane that I committed to the show. I’d only done one other ink wash drawing before, and never worked with white ink, so that is what drew me in.
What makes you want to make horrific art?
To me the worlds of horror represent outsiders. In the same way that Goth culture embraces dark themes as an appealing concept, I want to weave together worlds where scary situations are commonplace, but they are also beautiful, inspirational, or funny. If I’m able to connect with a viewer on that additional, emotionally positive hook, then they know this is actually a welcoming place for an outsider exactly like themselves. The nightmares I create are intended to be friendly, but it may take the right kind of person to recognize that.
What is your concept of horror?
At the root I believe horror to be anything unfamiliar that exists with confidence. It is intended to be a relatively broad definition that I can fit all of my different series of work under, but really the only thing that changes from theme to theme is the perspective of who finds it horrifying. The idea that the monster from the lab is walking through town, trying to find help, is horrifying to the peasants. Tiki idols of long forgotten gods still standing on the volcano slopes of a deserted island are horrifying to the western explorers. A beautiful woman confidently wearing a bikini is horrifying to puritans. Using that sliding scale, it’s then easy to apply to real world outsiders like goths, burlesque dancers, teen agers racing cars… from someone’s perspective all of those things are horrifying, and mostly because they are unfamiliar.
A lot of your art has a retro feel to it, why do you like to make art that has a
nostalgic feel to it?
I’m a rockabilly boy at heart, and have always been obsessed with the concept of nostalgia and the perception of historical life. At the time, no one creating low-budget monster movies or magazine art thought of it as anything more than contemporary culture. But when we look back at it now, we are only using hind-sight, and what only really represented four or five years of a certain cultural style is perceived to be it’s own separate world that lasted decades and never evolved into anything else stylistically.
For that reason, I want to essentially weave a world where that culture is still going on. It’s intended to start at a baseline of an idealized past, and then draw people’s personal experiences into it. An example of a piece of mine that is well received in that fashion is “Fright 36”. It’s a large print, on very expensive paper, and replicates an advertisement page (page 36) from a 1960s horror magazine that never existed (Fright Magazine). It’s the standard collection of creepy t-shirts and mail order gags. But when some people see it, blown up and framed, hanging in a gallery, a flood of memories and stories come back to them as kids. They remember the mystery of just what the hell were you going to actually get if your parents let you order something from that magazine? And it only really works because it is implied to be of that time, and you’re forcing them to look through that nostalgic lens that is emotionally enhancing what they are looking at.
Of course nostalgia and authenticity is only the polish on the world I’m creating. In the example of “Fright 36”, that print actually ties other work of mine together. Connecting to some fake pulp novel covers I’ve painted, which then connect to more. Then across the top of the ‘Fright’ print is an ad for “Horrifying Monster T-Shirts”, one of which I have had made as a real t-shirt and make for sale. And on the hang tag of the physical shirt is a made up history of that t-shirt design and why they aren’t around anymore. When people connect those dots and see all of that work in one place, the reaction can be incredible. I’ve literally had people have to recompose themselves before leaving my booth at a trade show. Grown men, with just a look, will be like, ‘You did it. You actually created the world we all wanted to be real when we were kids.”
What are some of the other projects you worked on?
A couple of years ago my buddy Chris ‘Doc’ Wyatt and myself, developed an animated TV show that was turned into a Graphic Novel, called ‘Creepsville’, and was essentially a horror version of ‘Futurama’: Four high school kids, each an outcast for different reasons, are forced to work on the school newspaper together. It turns out that their high school is in a town, in a world, where all B-Movies are real. The outcasts are a cow girl, a zombie, a child genius, and an amphibious foreign exchange student.
I’m also currently working on a couple of art-books, one of which is a coffee table book of horrific Christmas legends from around the world. The second is an expanded collection of my fake b-movie poster paintings in the guise of a fake 1960s Horror magazine, called ‘Fright’.
My day job is working in the film industry as a designer and animator. That brings a lot of crossover with horror and general retro design. Everything from doing on-set special effects on ‘Ghost Whisperer’ to designing t-shirts for characters on ‘True Blood’. Lots of low-budget horror and sci-fi projects. And of course I designed and animated the titles for the last four ‘American Girl’ movies, based off of the dolls. This is a true story.
How did you get involved in dressing up as Krampus?
One of my series of work are classically drawn fairy tale illustrations. All horrific, of course. Depicting the most frightening moments in stories like ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘Hansel and Gretel’. As a part of that, I did an illustration of Krampus, the Alpine Christmas Demon and created holiday cards for the season. One day I was delivering an order of cards to Meltdown Comics, in Hollywood, and we were like, ‘wouldn’t it be great if someone would appear as Krampus around the holidays so people didn’t have to take their kids for photos with Santa at the mall every year?’. Cut to two weeks later and I had put together a costume and had appearances booked all over the area.
That was about three years ago. Now it’s essentially a full-time job around the holidays. There is now a Los Angeles Krampus Troupe I’m also a part of, but they are pretty legit and organize their own events and are really good at keeping the authenticity of the Austrian Krampus traditions alive. I’m sort of recognized as LA’s original Krampus who does the whole Micky Mouse thing to move merchandise.
What do you like about Krampus?
To me Krampus is that necessary naughty side to the nice that is promoted through the holidays. traditionally, Krampus is never without St. Nicholas, so it was never intended to be an overwhelmingly dark and scary addition to the holiday. Sure, the Austrian Krampus runs can get pretty intense, but St. Nick is leading it all and people are having fun.
What I like about Krampus, which reflects on how I portray him, is that he represents an opportunity for people to confront their fears. For kids they are confronting the monster under the bed. Krampus is only going to warn them not to be naughty, and they will have nothing to fear. Krampus is about not being scared.
My Krampus appearances are almost always public in nature, with a lot of strangers just stumbling upon me being there, and it is remarkable how kids really are not afraid of Krampus. When it comes down to it, kids are only afraid of what their parents tell them to be afraid of. People may have various reasons not to let their kids participate in a Krampus appearance, but when they say ‘Oh, no, my kids would be too scared to visit Krampus’, I only hear the words ‘Because I’m a disconnected parent who does not have a responsible relationship with my children’. Parents: be responsible. Let your kids get a free photo with Krampus.
Did you make the Krampus suit yourself?
I assembled the Krampus costume myself, but didn’t actually make anything. Everything is off the shelf, but I do feel there is a level of originality and character I breathe into it by how I put the various elements together and portray him. A lot of thought was put into incorporating the giant basket on my back, and the few fabric/clothing elements of the costume. It also helps that in costume, my Krampus comes out to almost 7 feet tall. You want a character who’s mere presence can fill a room.
For more information on Bill Rude check out these sites: