Every once in a blue moon an artist comes along and changes how we look at the horror genre. They are able to create breathtaking images that are forever burned into our minds as something unique and inspired. “Ghoulish” Gary Pullin is one of these people and he has left an undeniable mark on the horror world.
Gary, who has an unbelievably heavy workload, has taken the time to talk with The Blood Sprayer about his past, present and future in the horror community!
The Blood Sprayer: First let me say thank you so much for taking the time to talk with myself and The Blood Sprayer readers today. I’m a huge fan of your work and am thrilled to be talking with you.
Gary Pullin: Thanks! I’m glad you dig the artwork.
BS: Let’s start at the beginning. Your grandfather was an artist, was this something that influenced you early on? and what were your early tools of the trade?
GP : We had some of his paintings around the house and when I was very young I used to study them and try and to copy them. My Grandfather would paint landscapes and oceans, that kind of thing. I can remember putting together some found objects, such as a vase with flowers and really trying my best attempt at a still-life drawing. My dad helped me with it and for a six year old, it turned out ok. I think we used charcoal. I can also remember when our family priest dropped by the house with a box full of markers, pencils and paper and I immediately started drawing monsters and villains. I often get a kick out of wondering if he knew exactly what he started!
BS: Was the horror genre always something that was present in your life? What are some of your early genre memories?
GP: Definitely. I’ve been into horror for as long as I can remember. I never get sick of telling people about it, but one of the first images I can remember is the intro to a little known Canadian kids show called Hilarious House of Frightenstein. It was on at an ungodly hour in the morning but I tuned in as much as I could to watch it. Vincent Price co-starred and would do the intros and sign-offs to the various segments. The intro featured Price’s floating, laughing head with thunder and lightning. The music alone was just so bizarre, I was hooked. But Billy Van, who played at least ten different characters, was the real star of the show. You could tell the cast and crew came out of the ’60s hippy generation, it was so psychedelic and weird. It felt like someone had spiked my cereal with acid, I loved it! It was also distinctly Canadian and filmed an hour away from my home town. I can’t say enough good things about Frightenstein, it was my gateway drug to horror and I have such great memories of that show.
BS: I know that when you were younger you admired special effects and effects artists, was that profession something you ever pursued or thought of pursuing?
GP: I never pursued it, no, but I really wanted to be a special make-up FX artist when I was a budding horror fan in the mid-eighties. I was a huge fan of the FX guys back then, Savini, Baker, Bottin, Dick Smith… all of them. I was in total awe of their talents. I read Grand Illusions, Fango, GoreZone and Chas Balun’s Deep Red. Deep Red really stood out to me from the other horror mags at the time and it quickly became my bible. Balun would shine light on the films and artists mainstream mags wouldn’t dare to and I earned a degree in cult cinema thanks to him. He celebrated the work of guys like Screaming Mad George, Bruce Spaulding Fuller and Gino De Rossi. If Famous Monsters of Filmland created Monster Kids in the ’50s, then Savini and Balun created Splatter Kids in the ’80s. It was a really great time for horror films, books and it consumed me. My bedroom looked like the clubhouse in Monster Squad for a good couple of years.
BS: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about your professional education background?
GP: I grew up in London, Ontario and after graduating high school, I enrolled into an art program at H.B. Beal for two years. Then I took a three year course for a graphic design and advertising at Conestoga College in Kitchener,which could only be described as design boot camp. I had no idea what to expect but it really opened my eyes to where a career in art could take me and I’m lucky to have made some life long friends there, such as Vincent Marcone of mypetskeleton.com. I introduced Rue Morgue to Vincent and now they’re making short horror films together. After graduating from Conestoga, I moved to Toronto, immediately landed a gig at a big commercial design firm and worked for over three years there.
BS: Did horror creep its way into your college work or in your advertising career?
GP: Absolutely, I incorporated my obsession with horror into our assignments any chance I could! One of our assignments was to design a set of Canadian stamps. So, in honour of Billy Van and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, I illustrated a set of stamps. Those in my class who remembered the show and all the profs got a big kick out of them. There where a lot of late nights in that course, getting our projects done to meet the insane deadlines, so we would wheel in an old TV and VHS player from the AV department and I would throw on tons of horror films. It got to the point where my classmates were begging for more horror films to watch and I was more than happy to introduce them to a world of horror.
BS: How did your relationship with Rue Morgue Magazine begin?
GP: I met Rodrigo Gudino at a screening of The Beyond when Fantasia Film Festival was bringing their event to Toronto in ’98. He was in the lobby selling the first three issues. I had seen the magazine before and was amazed there was something like that in Toronto. I approached him and told him I was graphic designer and illustrator, was a horror fan and would love to contribute to the magazine. He called about two days later, I brought in my portfolio and we instantly clicked on the vision we had for Rue Morgue. He had some ideas, I had some ideas and then before I knew it, I was working on just about everything he could send my way. Before I had my own computer, I would work all day at the design firm and when the bosses went home, I stayed behind and moonlighted for Rue Morgue. I attended events and helped out whenever I could. Knowing I was getting frustrated with the corporate confines of my day job, Rod asked me not to take any other offers until they could bring me on full time. I waited and true to his word, he hired me. The magazine was quickly blossoming and it felt like we had started something really unique, it was a really great time.
BS: Your work with the magazine has been absolutely stunning and it is a delight to see what amazing new pieces will be included from issue to issue. What is the month to month process for you like?
GP: Thank you! We have editorial meetings and we all talk about what we want on the cover and inside the mag. Dave Alexander, our editor in chief, ultimately decides what’s going on the cover, but it really feels like a team effort here. We all contribute idea’s, throw them around the table and once we know what we’re covering we start sourcing images or even create original artwork. Rue Morgue isn’t just a magazine any more. We have a digital version of the magazine now, a weekly radio show, an annual convention, a monthly movie night, we have our own merchandise, websites… so needless to say, a lot of our personal time goes into what we do here and we wear a lot of hats. 99% of the design and illustration is done in-house but I’m really lucky to have Justin Erickson in the art department. I needed someone who can keep up with the volume of design work required and someone who can come up with their own, fresh ideas. He’s an amazing artist in his own right and I think we work really well together.
BS: There is obviously a Famous Monsters/Basil Gogos influence to some of your work, who else has influences your designs for the magazine?
GP: Thanks, Basil and Forry’s FM have been a huge influence so any nods you see are totally deliberate. I don’t see how you could make a horror magazine without drawing from the FM well a bit, it was the grandaddy of all horror mags. I’ve always seen Rue Morgue as a mash-up of all the magazines I read as kid but with it’s own unique look and feel. I loved the simple, ‘zine-like quality of Deep Red. It felt like you were reading something “underground” with a lot of heart. I wanted our covers to have a big illustrative slant and carry that tradition FM, Creepy and Eerie started. I worked with the hopes that RM could stand out from the pack visually with large doses contemporary artwork, but at the same time, retaining that nostalgic, classic feeling that horror fans get when they thumb through those old monster magazines.
BS: Your Harryhausen cover last year and your equally fantastic Psycho anniversary cover this year have been up for Rondo awards, a great accomplishment. What are some of your other favorite covers you’ve worked on?
GP: The American Werewolf in London cover really stands out to me as a personal favourite. The Thing issue from a few years back, the Coffin Joe issue, the Freddy Vs. Freddy issue I did with Justin. I don’t know… I think the artwork has evolved over the years and there are definitely a few I like more than others but like Freddy says “They’re all my children now!”
BS: One of my favorite articles in recent history was in issue 100 and led by yourself in which you invited other artists to share pieces based on their nightmares if I’m correct. Do you have any plans to do similar articles?
GP: We recently did the same kind of thing for Issue #113, a tribute to Vincent Price’s 100th birthday and I too love getting a bunch of our favourite artists together and contributing to these unique features. They always get a really great response from the readers, so I hope we do more.
BS: What as the work on the digital version of the magazine been like? Have there been any challenges?
GP: It has been a bit of a challenge for us for sure. We’re treading new waters here so it’s been baby steps but we recognize that more people are consuming information digitally, moving away from print, so we need to have our finger on the pulse of that. It requires a good amount attention from the small team here at RM but we’re really happy with the way it’s going and we hope to reach more readers on an international level with it.
BS: Your work outside of Rue Morgue has been equally spectacular. Could you tell us about how Tales From Beyond The Pale came about for you?
GP: Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid approached me one day with this amazing idea and how they wanted me to create the brand behind the show and the posters for the episodes so I immediately said yes. The Glass Eye Pix team are one of the most successful indie-horror companies around and I was thrilled when they hired me for TALES. I loved translating the scripts into a single image, focusing more on an illustrative narrative to tell the story. It was fun to reference those classic radio shows like Inner Sanctum and The Shadow. Glass Eye Pix have a wealth of fresh ideas and it was great working with them.
BS:What are some of the challenges you face on projects? do you ever suffer from a creative block?
GP: Right now my biggest challenge is time. There’s simply not enough hours in the day to do everything, so I just take things one project at a time and try and do the best I can with it. I’m blessed to be busy but I’ve had to turn down some great gigs because of that. If I have a creative block, which does happen from time to time, the best thing for me is to step away, pick up some art books, sleep on it, watch a horror film or go for a walk to clear the mind.
BS: Your work has recently been used to great effect by Anchor Bay, are there any upcoming releases you’ve worked on or will be working on?
GP: I just finished DVD cover art for Arrow Video. It’s for a UK release of Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing, which is actually a cool little film. I love doing movie related artwork. There’s a large community of artists and designers out there creating fan-based, movie-inspired artwork. I think we’re all sick of the Photoshopped drivel that’s passing itself off as art these days. It really is a dying art form. Anyone interested should pick up Drew Struzan’s latest book “The Art of Drew Stuzan” and read Frank Darabont’s inspiring introduction where he takes artless studio executives to task over this unfortunate new trend of movie marketing.
BS: Do you ever feel like you’ve been pigeonholed into the genre? Has it ever prevented you from getting non-genre work?
GP: Not really, I’ve had lot’s of experience working outside of the genre, but I’m also really OK staying with-in it. It’s a big pond out there and horror is where my heart is. My new website has very much branded myself as a “horror artist”, but I think it also shows I can colour outside the lines if I’m ever called upon to do so.
BS: What does the near future have in store for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?
GP:Yes, ECW Press is publishing Encyclopedia Gothica, an A to Z book about Goth culture written by Liisa Ladouceur, a Toronto writer who also happens to be the Blood Spattered Guide on Rue Morgue Radio. She asked me to contribute the illustrations and cover design. It’s hitting shelves in October and we’re planning a book launch and some book signings in some cities.
It was a lot of fun to do and I’m really excited about it. I’ll be appearing this August at the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear selling my artwork and will be a guest at Wizard World Comic Con in New Orleans, January 28 – 29th, 2012. I love meeting fellow horror fans, so if anyone is in those areas feel free to drop by my booth.
It’s clear from this interview that Gary is incredibly busy and we can’t thank him enough for his time in conducting this interview. We of course would like to thank him for letting us use his images in this article:
Images © Gary Pullin 2011
You can view more of Gary’s artwork at these locations:
His Website: www.ghoulishgary.com”
And his Etsy Page: www.ghoulishgary.etsy.com