One of the benefits of being on the HorrorAddicts.net Staff is you get to talk to some talented creative people that have a love of horror. Here is an interview I recently did with artist J.E. Richards. J.E. is someone who was inspired to draw by the comics and magazines he grew up with and when he got older he used that passion for art as a way to express his feelings about the area he grew up in:
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Milwaukee and grew up there until I was 11. Our family then bought a 7-acre farmstead in Fon du Lac Co., just north of Auburn Lake and east of Campbellsport. We stayed there until I was 17, then moved back closer to the Milwaukee metro area living in Menomonee Falls, which is where I graduated HS in 1985.
When did you start drawing?
I started drawing about the age of 3 or 4 if I remember right, about normal for children I would guess. I just never gave up! My brother and dad were collectors of the magazines at the time, early to mid ’70’s, there was always a lot of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and the Savage Sword of Conan laying about and of course, I read them mainly for the artwork. I collected a lot of Spiderman, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter Warlord of Mars and various other titles and spent countless hours at the kitchen table with loose leaf paper and pencils. The magazine Starlog and then later Fangoria were influential as well, along with Star Trek, Quark, Space 1999 and of course Star Wars. Pretty much a very fertile ground for imagination. Halloween and vintage black and white horror movies were a mainstay, and I spent hours building Aurora monster models besides the PMC line of Pirates of the Carribean series (these things had rubber bands you could attach to the arms of the skeleton pirates, they called it Zap! Action, it was great because they could swing a cutlass or pop out of a treasure chest.) In HS I took several classes on basic art and drawing and learned how perspective, shadowing, shading and composition worked
What inspired you to draw?
I was inspired to draw because I really liked and respected the way an illustration could augment a paperback story or tell a tale in sequential art. Comic artists are among the most talented yet underrated individuals because they have to command anatomy, facial features, landscapes, vehicle, buildings, equipment and everything else in between and be able to organize those images in a way that would flow and make sense even without the script and writing. I have always loved concept art and rough storyboarding as well (Starlog always had good features on those), and the ink drawings that Frank Frazetta accomplished were inspiring. Somewhere along this timeframe, I decided I liked black and white ink work.
What do you use to draw with?
When I draw I start with a basic #2 pencil on white paper, do a thumbnail, and once it’s good I’ll move onto 11 x 14 or 11x 17 Strathmore Bristol and take it from there with either Micron markers or even Sharpies. I tried the Kohinoor Rapidograph pens for a while, but though they are an excellent product, I ended up taking too much time cleaning the tips out, replenishing ink, cleaning up spilled ink and so on, so I’ve streamlined it a bit now.
On the average, it will take me about 3 to 4 hours to complete a piece. The images that are on the Deviant Art website were all about that time span once I knew how it was going to look. That’s the most time-consuming aspect, meaning I can have a nebulous idea that I want to make a reality but I’ve learned that if I force it, it will turn into a labor and will look wrong. However, if someone approaches me with a rough idea that they have I can create a few options fairly quickly.
Can you tell us about your book The Last Breath?
The first book, A Last Breath, was conceived one August night back in 2011 when I was feeling that slight chill in the air as autumn was beginning to surface and it reminded me of the years spent on that farm in Wisconsin and all of the memories associated with it. I sat down at my dedicated drawing table ( no more working from a chipped formica and brass legged kitchen table for me) and started to do rough sketches of how those years made me feel : the fields at dusk, the smell of hay in the barn, the shadows between the silos and the splintery wreckage of barbed wire, fence posts and rusted tools, and above all the magic I always felt in a pumpkin patch or rows of endless corn stalks as the daylight faded and I knew there were things that moved about in the dark places while the world slept.
Knife Jack was the first character, soon followed by Chop Block, which kind of gave me the creeps because I had never created something like him, and in the months that followed I kept up the momentum to address every memory and imaginative musing I had out there on the edges of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Unseen things, noises in the night that you were sure was no opossum, deer or raccoon, but at the same time not alarmed because I didn’t pose a threat and so they passed me by.
However, I started to develop the idea of folklorish characters specifically created to balance the scales and make the bad guys afraid of what lives out there, and so the one-page flash fiction began for each of the 13 new entities. (I wasn’t trying to be trendy and cool by having 13 characters, my original intent was to do a set of 20 images because I like even numbers, but after Crone, my creative visualization literally shut off. This was now in Feb 2012, so I had been putting pen to paper for months trying to capture what was trying to be expressed, and it finally ran its course).
So I wrote. I wrote the words and quick vignettes I have always wanted to read but could never find. They were of cause and effect, action and consequences of a sort. If a question is asked or guidance sought, there may be a price to pay or if an individuals’ actions caused harm to others through malicious intent, well, they just might have to face something they only heard about in whispered campfire tales. Thus A Last Breath was born.
The photo on the cover is our house on the hill where I lived for those formative years, right off of Hwy D or DD, I don’t know what it’s called now, I just know I can still find it on Google Earth and it looks pretty much the same, not far from New Prospect and Mauthe Lake.
The stories were fine tuned a bit and I looked for self-publishing options which led me to Amazon and Create Space. This proved to be a good decision and since then we have established our business front of Last Breath Studios. In the last few years, we have participated in local venues, Halloween vendor shows and the fall festivals in Apple Hill, CA.
The second compilation of art and writing has been published under the title of “Cailleach Teine”, translated as Witch Fire in the Gaelic language, and is more traditional with longer stories and less artwork but still retains the feel of the first book with references to the original. In this work, I established the foundation for a third book, now a novel, The Moths Of Autumn.
How long did it take to bring it all together?
To bring all of this together takes a bit of time and effort, but depending on the project size the Last Breath Team can make ideas a reality in record time. The original artwork took 3 months from beginning to end, the flash fiction stories another month. In Cailleach Teine, the process was reversed in that I wrote the stories first and completed artwork later, but there is always a bit of crossover and flexibility.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a project dealing with the Undead in Railroad era late 1800’s
A new stylized theme of retro-modern Halloween characters is also on the drawing board and pencil concepts are in progress as of this writing.
In addition, there is a great amount of work being done on a joint venture with Travis Jensen and Jed Lean, co-creators of the newest children’s Halloween tradition, Harvest Jack: 13 Nights of Hallow.
Where can people find you on the internet?