If the macabre, the weird, and the bizarre had a champion, his name was Gahan [GAY-un] Wilson, who loved all things dark and dreary. He’s been one of my visual delights since childhood, for as long as I can remember, and he gave us so much to enjoy and be disturbed by.
I wasn’t old enough to discover his Playboy cartoons, but one early Christmas I was given one of my favorite and inspiring books: Bob Fulton’s Amazing Soda-Pop Stretcher, one of numerous boy genius volumes I devoured with excitement and ambition when I was a pre-teen. The illustrations were goofy, but had a dark edge, something that thrilled me.
I kept an eye out for his unusual name, and soon found his darker cartooning, which was both disturbing and funny, like Charles Addams was, but Wilson’s work filled the page with ballooning strangeness, in contrast to Addams’s more modest form and line.
There’s a wonderful interview with him below, discussing his origins and work.
There are a few artists doing something not too far from the things I’m experimenting with. Animals in stories, more abstract forms, saturated color. Angela Harding has a woodcut feel to most of her work, and it’s edging more into the commercial print realm than I usually want to go. But I don’t want to ignore that world, either.
Harding is—and rightly so, I’m sure—taking advantage of the attention on her work to expand her venues to merchandising and business commissions. And why not? There’s more snobbish division than I like between illustration and “fine art,” and I don’t think either is superior.
Her work has an art of the mysterious, a little Gorey in there, some dark shadows contrasting the playfulness of the scenes.
I don’t put a lot of illustrators on the blog, even though I have a soft spot for many, and probably more of my art books feature them than any other type. I really like Julia Iredale’s work, however, and love her sense of color. She often chooses limited palettes, moving deftly through various line styles to suit the piece.
I’ve found quite a few that would fit a “mood” meme post, and Iredale is among the few whose work is deceptively simple, incorporating clever arrangement and scale to tell stories with image alone.