Dark arts

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Thomas Street, Providence: on the left is the Fleur-de-Lys Studios; two doors along is the Dodge House Gallery which housed an additional part of the art exhibition; the Providence Art Club is the red-brick building next door.

I’m back from Providence, returned early on Tuesday but took the day off to recover from jet lag. The city was hot and humid for much of the time but I didn’t mind that, it was good to be able to walk around in the evening without a jacket, something that seldom happens here. I don’t go to many conventions so although NecronomiCon was the best I’ve been to, there isn’t a great deal of competition. I always enjoy meeting and talking to creators of any stripe—writers, artists, filmmakers, editors, etc—and it’s a pleasure to meet readers face to face, but conventions in general aren’t always attractive in themselves. NecronomiCon was inviting for being relatively small and with a strong focus not just on Lovecraft but on weird fiction as a whole: there were panels on Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, Robert Chambers, and one on the legacy of what M. John Harrison designated “the New Weird”. I’ve been told that if there’s a NecronomiCon in 2017 the intention is to develop this area of discussion.

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And then there’s Providence itself: Lovecraft’s stories will read in a very different light now I’ve visited the city that inspired so much of his work. The one walking excursion I took to College Hill was curtailed by an afternoon of 30-degree temperatures but I did get to see a small part of Angell Street where Lovecraft lived for many years, and I also walked down Benefit Street as far as house number 135, familiar to readers as The Shunned House. The architecture of Providence is a delight, not only the Colonial buildings but the also the more recent vernacular styles of the Downtown area. Even the heat seemed connected to Lovecraft and his abhorrence of cold weather; in later years he took sightseeing trips down to Florida so I’m sure he wouldn’t have complained about the hot sun or the swampy air.

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The massive and weighty door of the Art Club.

The main reason to be there was for the art exhibition, of course, and for that the venue couldn’t have been better. The Providence Art Club is mentioned in The Call of Cthulhu as a rather staid organisation that disapproves of Henry Anthony Wilcox who works down the street at the Fleur-de-Lys Studios; I spoke to a couple of current Art Club members, and was amused to hear that the establishment still maintains a somewhat conservative position. But the presence of so much bizarre and grotesque art in the gallery was evidence of a loosening of attitudes that Wilcox and Pickman couldn’t have managed in their day. A selection of my photographs follows below; I took over 250 photos but really should have taken more, especially of the buildings. The Providence Art Club has a good collection of photos from the opening night, some of which include me caught uncomfortably in front of a camera lens.

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Some acknowledgements: I’ve already thanked Niels-Viggo Hobbs and The joey Zone for inviting me there but I’ll do so again. Big thanks also to Carmen Marusich who spent most of her time behind the counter at Lovecraft Arts & Sciences in the Arcade; to print-wrangler Brian Mullen who very generously spent an afternoon ferrying me around various stores in search of a phone charger before smartly suggesting I try the USB port in the TV at the hotel (something I should have thought of); and to Michael Rose and company at the Providence Art Club for allowing us into their beautiful building. Shouts and thanks to: Sara Bardi, Michael Bukowski, Syl Disjonk, Jason C. Eckhardt, Bob Eggleton, Dave Felton, Stephen Gervais, Mike Knives, Robert H. Knox, Allen Koszowski, Henrik Möller, Mallory O’Meara, Gage Prentiss, Skinner, Jason Thompson, Frank H. Woodward (at last!), Josh Yelle, and all those who bought artwork, offered compliments or came to see the art and the panel discussions.

Finally…Earth! I’ve been listening to the band a great deal this year so I’m predisposed to enjoy any live event, but their performance in the gilded splendour of the Columbia Theatre on Federal Hill really knocked me out. An outstanding set with great sound and great support acts too, especially Elder. All this taking place a couple of streets away from the location of Lovecraft’s Starry Wisdom church; I was in seventh heaven.

And now the photos…

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The title page entity from Lovecraft’s Monsters which was named Tentacles for the exhibition.

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My works were in a gallery room on their own, guarded by the title page thing from Lovecraft’s Monsters.

Continue reading “Dark arts”

The Gable Window

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The Gable Window (1984) by John Coulthart.

Presenting some of my first Lovecraftian illustrations, neither of which have been made public before. This drawing, and the one below, are as much Derlethian as they are Lovecraftian, depicting scenes from a short story and a short novel written by August Derleth from fragments and notes found in Lovecraft’s papers. The Gable Window was collected in The Survivor and Others (1957) which happens to be the only Lovecraft-related title I own in its original Arkham House printing. Derleth’s posthumous collaborations are often more Derleth than Lovecraft but I liked the central idea of The Gable Window which, like The Music of Erich Zann, concerns a window that also serves as a portal to other dimensions.

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The Lurker at the Threshold (1982) by John Coulthart.

Before I began adapting The Haunter of the Dark in 1986 I hadn’t made much of an attempt to illustrate Lovecraft seriously. These drawings and a handful of other pieces were more like experimental sketches, although The Gable Window is obviously a very polished piece of work. Rather than depict anything overtly monstrous, each piece began as an arrangement of ink splotches and washes applied to cartridge paper soaked with water. The Lurker at the Threshold is one of several small pictures made with this technique in 1982, none of which are very successful. This one doesn’t look too bad but the best one, depicting the climax of The Dunwich Horror, I sent to the late Roger Dobson for possible use in an issue of Aklo, and haven’t seen it since. The Gable Window refined the technique by using fewer splotches and a more detailed drawing applied afterwards. I’ve never been happy with the figure, and the books on the left are lazily done, but it’s one of the better things I was doing in 1984. The biggest surprise looking at the drawing again was noticing the crest over the window which features a triangle/crescent motif that’s very similar to the one I designed a year later for Hawkwind’s Chronicle of the Black Sword album. This wasnt intentional.

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Today The Gable Window seems like an indicator of where my head was at during this time. I was tired of doing Hawkwind-related things, and eager to immerse myself in something different; a series of Ballard illustrations was one potential way forward, Lovecraft was another. A year later I’d made a decision and, as it were, stepped through the window.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Yuggoth details
A Mountain Walked
Lovecraft’s Monsters unleashed
Lovecraft’s Monsters
JK Potter and HP Lovecraft
Cthulhu Labyrinth
Tentacles #4: Cthulhu in Poland
Cthulhu Calendar
S. Latitude 47°9, W. Longitude 126°43
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
The monstrous tome
Cubist Cthulhu

NecronomiCon Providence 2015

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Next month I’ll be in Providence, Rhode Island, where I’m the Artist Guest of Honour for NecronomiCon Providence 2015. This is an honour for me in more ways than one: the city of Providence, or its representation in the spectral prose of HP Lovecraft, has occupied a fair amount of my creative life, especially in the comic-strip adaptations I was drawing in the 1980s. I just hope the citizens of Providence can forgive the liberties I took with the city’s architecture in The Haunter of the Dark where the buildings owe far more to the architecture of Scotland than they do to New England.

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A nameless entity from Lovecraft’s Monsters (2014).

The main event where I’m concerned will be the Ars Necronomica art show at the Providence Art Club on Thomas Street. This is a few doors away from the beautiful Fleur-De-Lys Studios, a building that Lovecraft mentions in The Call of Cthulhu, and which (having done some research this time) filled a panel in my adaptation. In the story the building is the home of eccentric artist Henry Wilcox so it’s a dizzying prospect to find my own art being exhibited a few doors away. Among my works there will be print enlargements of some of the illustrations from last year’s Lovecraft’s Monsters, Ellen Datlow’s expertly edited collection of recent Lovecraftiana; and the piece I created in 2007 for the Exhibition of Unspeakable Things at Maison d’Ailleurs, Switzerland, has been refashioned especially for this show. My work isn’t the only art on display, there’ll be contributions from 50 other artists which I think must make the event one of the largest Lovecraftian art shows staged anywhere. The show opens on August 11th but the official opening will be on the 20th which happens to be Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. Big thanks to Joe Shea, Niels Hobbs et al for arranging everything.

The convention begins on the 21st, and rather than attempt to summarise the astonishing range of events it’s easier to provide links to the main schedule and the additional programming. For anyone interested in attending, there are still day passes available, while many of the additional events are open to the public. Oh, and I’ve also designed the cover for the convention booklet so attendees will be able to get their copy defaced by my signature. (I’m probably making work for myself here, aren’t I?) And I’ve just noticed that there’s a preview of the booklet cover on the convention Facebook page.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Yuggoth details
A Mountain Walked
Lovecraft’s Monsters unleashed
Lovecraft’s Monsters
JK Potter and HP Lovecraft
Cthulhu Labyrinth
Tentacles #4: Cthulhu in Poland
Cthulhu Calendar
S. Latitude 47°9, W. Longitude 126°43
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
The monstrous tome
Cubist Cthulhu

Yuggoth details

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Yuggoth Cultures (1994) by John Coulthart.

Earlier this week I spent a day scanning this painting—which I’m now surprised to find is 21 years old—so I might at last have a good quality digital copy. There’s been a copy on the website for years but that was a print made at a high-street copy shop that did nothing for the detail and range of colour. It’s quite a large piece—49.54 x 71.39 cm (19.5 x 28.1 inches)—done with acrylics on board. Since 2003 the painting has been used (in another poor reproduction) on the cover of The Starry Wisdom, the controversial collection of Lovecraftian fiction from Creation Books. The painting wasn’t originally intended for that collection, however, and doesn’t quite fit since a number of the portraits don’t feature in the book at all.

Yuggoth Cultures would have been an earlier collection of Lovecraftian fiction and non-fiction that Alan Moore had begun writing for Creation in 1993. Alan’s idea was to take Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet sequence as the basis for a collection that would explore Lovecraft’s fictional world and also draw together a variety of figures from the same era: fellow writers, occultists like Aleister Crowley and Austin Spare, and Harry Houdini for whom Lovecraft ghost-wrote Imprisoned with the Pharaohs in 1924. Unfortunately the stars were not right on this occasion; Alan took the sole copy of the half-written manuscript to London in order to read selections at an event in Soho but left the papers in a cab. Some pieces survived, having been copied and stored elsewhere—The Courtyard in The Starry Wisdom is one of these—and there was talk for a while of the lost pieces being rewritten but enthusiasm for the project flagged.

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This is Alan’s sketch for the cover, the idea being to have a Lovecraft head made of fungal growths rather like an Arcimboldo painting. The head would be sprouting tendrils whose loops would contain pictures of some of the people featured in the book. Alan’s quick sketch is actually a better approximation of Lovecraft’s strange features than my painted version which isn’t narrow enough. For the record (and because people always ask), the other people on the cover are Alan himself, Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley, Harry Houdini, Robert E Howard (not Al Capone as people often think) and Clark Ashton Smith.

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While searching through the archives I discovered these lettering designs although they’re probably not bold enough to read very well on such a busy painting. Before I started using a computer, designs like this had to be drawn at large size then scaled down using a photocopier.

Continue reading “Yuggoth details”

A Mountain Walked

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Art by David Ho.

This may be a frustrating post for some since it concerns a limited edition anthology that sold out almost as soon as it was announced a year or so ago. Even though the book was published last year it’s taken a few months for my copies to arrive. A Mountain Walked is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories compiled by leading Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, and published in the US by Centipede Press. Anyone familiar with Centipede’s more luxurious volumes will know that they don’t do things by halves, and this weighty tome is no exception: a large-format hardback (the signed edition is also cased), with heavy paper stock, colour printing, tinted sheets and a bulk that runs to almost 700 pages.

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Art by David Ho.

Many of the stories are reprints but there’s also new material from contributors including Thomas Ligotti, Neil Gaiman, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, the late Michael Shea (to whom the book is dedicated), Patrick McGrath, TED Klein, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell and many others. The artwork also ranges widely; I’d not seen anything by David Ho before but he’s very good, hence the samples shown here. But there’s also a variety of other work, even a Lovecraftian Peanuts comic strip by Julien Baznet. I was pleased that my Cthulhoid picture was placed with the introduction, it makes up for my never having responded to Mr Joshi when he wrote to me years ago asking if I’d be interested in contributing something to Necronomicon Press.

Since the book was so successful there’s been talk of doing a cheaper reprint. In the meantime, bloated Lovecraftian plutocrats (Yuggothcrats?) will find very expensive copies for sale on eBay. A few more page samples follow.

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Continue reading “A Mountain Walked”