My pastiches


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #3 (1992).

Following from the post about an art forgery exhibition (and Eddie Campbell discussing his American Gothic cover for Bacchus), I thought I’d post some of my own forgeries, or pastiches as we call them when no deception is intended.

Reverbstorm was the Lord Horror comic series I was creating with David Britton for Savoy in the 1990s. The Modernist techniques of collage (as in the work of Picasso and others) and quotation (as in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land) became themes in themselves as the series developed, so it seemed natural to imitate the styles of various artists as we went along. Pastiche is also a chance to flagrantly show off, of course, and I can’t deny that this was also one of my impulses here.

Issue #3 of Reverbstorm had marauding apes as its theme, from the Rue Morgue to Tarzan and King Kong, so I had the idea of doing an ape cover in the style of the celebrated paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527–1593) which make human heads out of fruit, flowers or animals. Easy enough to have the idea but making it work took a lot of effort and required careful sketching beforehand, something I rarely do. The painting was gouache on board, a medium I’d been using for years and this was about the last gouache work I did before switching to acrylics.


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #4 (1994).

Despite admiring Aubrey Beardsley’s work for years, this was the first time I attempted to consciously imitate his style. The end result has never looked all that Beardsley-esque to me (see another attempt below) but it did produce one of my best Lord Horror drawings.


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #5 (1994).

Reverbstorm #5 is the Picasso issue and the story switches drawing styles throughout using variations on different periods of Picasso’s career. The cover spread was a riff on Guernica which is a key motif in the series as a whole. This was acrylic on board, with some chopped-up postcards collaged at the top and bottom. You can see James Joyce’s head beside the bull on the left and Lord Horror and Jessie Matthews (based on the interior panel below) on the far right.


Jessie Matthews in Reverbstorm #5.


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #6 (1996).

The second Beardsley pastiche with James Joyce, Jessie and Horror in masquerade costumes. The bull and horse from Guernica can be seen stipled into the background. Michael Moorcock included this drawing in the 50th anniversary edition of New Worlds magazine. (The date for this is later than the pictures below since two issues were created out of sequence, a typical piece of Savoy unorthodoxy.)


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #6 (1995).

At the end of issue 6 we see Joyce take a book down from a shelf, The Weird of Spring-Heeled Jack, written by his brother (William Joyce/Lord Horror in this mythology). The book is labelled as being illustrated by Harry Clarke which was my idea when I decided I wanted to do a Clarke pastiche. As with the Arcimboldo painting, having the idea was the easy part, the actual drawing took about two weeks to complete.


Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #7 (painted 1994; issue appeared 2000).

This painting is an attempt at doing comic artist Burne Hogarth (copying his famous drawing of Tarzan astride a raging lion) in the style of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta and is acrylic on board again. I’d originally put one of my perennial black suns at the top of the picture but amended that later in Photoshop by filling it with the Reverbstorm lightning flash and a flare effect.


Baptised in the Blood of Millions (painted 1997; book published 2001).

When I came to do the cover for David Britton’s third Lord Horror novel he gave me a sketch he wanted reproduced in the style of Frazetta so I went all out with this one and did a big acrylic painting on canvas. The end result is more Frazetta-like than the Reverbstorm cover (it owes a lot to Frazetta’s Bran Mak Morn painting) and also contains some Francis Bacon-like smears which Dave was very pleased with.

The tentacles in this painting have led it to being incorporated in my Lovecraft volume, The Haunter of the Dark, along with a selection of other Lord Horror pieces including the Harry Clarke drawing. Meanwhile Reverbstorm is slowly being reworked as a single volume, other work permitting, although the completion date for that is still some distance away. Naturally, any news about it will be posted here in due course.

Previously on { feuilleton }
T&H: At the Sign of the Dolphin
Fantastic art from Pan Books
Guernica, seventy years on
The art of Harry Clarke, 1889–1931

10 thoughts on “My pastiches”

  1. Seeing all these illustrations for the first time makes me eager to see the whole of Reverbstorm. Just have to be patient I suppose unless I can chase up the original individual issues when I’m in the UK.
    There was a Tom Strong story that parodied Picasso I think or maybe it was a Tomorrow Stories. I can’t remember now. Will have to search through my huge Alan Moore collection to find it. It could have even been a Supreme. My memory isn’t what it used to be.

  2. nice, john, you are brilliantly talented.

    i prefer the term Homage to pastiche.

  3. Great works.
    I don’t know why you were not convinced by the first à la Beardsley, I recognised the inspiration immediately and less so in the second instance.

  4. Thanks, folks. :)

    Walker: Yes, “homage” is a good word as well.

    Eroom: I’d suggest waiting for the collected edition as it’ll be definitive, with better reproductions, properly lettered (!)–something we never sorted out originally–and it’ll also be complete since the eighth and final issue will be in there as well.

    Nathalie: we’re not always good judges of our own work. My problem with doing those drawings was in trying to focus too much on a particular phase of Beardsley’s career (he went through several stylistic variations) rather than trying to capture the general feel of his work. A case of not seeing the wood for the trees, I think.

  5. Amazing stuff as always John. Staggering really. What do you do with the original artwork? if you do ‘move it on’ I hope you are getting some serious money for it! I agree with Nathalie I think, about the Beardsleys. It may be that the second one is very much ‘in the style of’ whereas the first is much more ‘copying the style of’ – if that makes any sense. Of course, the Harry Clarke is my favourite, simply masterful. The cover for ‘baptised in the blood of millions’ reminds me completely of the covers of the old Call of the Cthulhu Role Playing Game books (which I played avidly as a teenager – and, perhaps, sometimes a little time after that too)

  6. Thanks Callum. :) People are usually surprised when I tell them that I never sell any of my artwork. I earn money doing commercial work and I’ve never had anyone offer me a decent price for anything. “Decent” being a matter of debate, of course. So I’ve got a spare room full of drawings and paintings wrapped in bin liners. If I’ve parted with anything in the past I’ve usually given it away or swapped it for something.

    The whole issue of selling art has always bewildered me. Why do it if you don’t have to? And I’m not the first to point out the irony of illustrators and comic artists being regarded as “commercial” while gallery artists sell their work all the time yet somehow are regarded as being above commerce.

  7. But you might end up with a storage problem on your hands…
    On the other hand putting a price on your own work is a daunting thing.

  8. True, storage can be a problem but I do less work on paper these days. Digital work presents another problem in that you have to keep copying things over and over for fear that your fragile CDs or DVDs will one day fail.

    Digital art shows us how fixated we are on what Walter Benjamin called “the aura” of the physical artefact. When something can be perfectly copied an infinite amount of times, where is the “original”?

  9. You are an absolute genius. I adore you work as well as David Britton’s, I plug Savoy as much as I can.

    Keep rockin’ dude.


  10. Hi

    Here is info on our forthcoming open exhibition.

    We hope you will submit some work.

    Best wishes


    Mark De Novellis
    Curator of Exhibitions and Collections
    Children’s Services and Culture

    London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
    Orleans House Gallery
    Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

    Tel: 020 8831 6490

    2010 open opportunities for artists at

    Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham

    Making it/Faking it

    2nd October 2010 – January 2011

    Deadline for submissions 20th August 2010

    Through its annual open exhibition opportunities, Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham helps artists both locally and nationally to showcase their work in group exhibitions. Each year, over 500 individual artists (excluding those participating in Arthouse) exhibit work in a range of open exhibitions across three galleries – Orleans House and Stables Galleries, Twickenham and the Riverside Gallery in Richmond.

    In 2010, we have further opportunities for you to submit artwork for an exhibition in Orleans House Gallery, Making It/Faking It. The theme of this exhibition is fakes, forgeries, homages and pastiches, or any works that explore the questions and notions of originality, influence and authenticity. Any media (prints, photos, paintings, objects, sculptures, film) and style are considered.

    · Artists can submit up to 5 original works. Artworks must be submitted as high resolution jpeg files on a CD, with accompanying A4 sized photographic prints or colour printouts. Original artwork will not be accepted.

    · Please clearly label each submission with: artist’s name, title of work, date, media, approximate size and price before commission if the work is for sale (the gallery adds 40% of the artist price for commission + VAT).

    · In addition, please enclose contact details, an artist’s statement and CV.

    · There is a £10.00 administration charge (which also contributes towards exhibition costs); £7.50 concessions (please include proof). Please make cheques payable to ‘L.B.R.U.T’. Your submission will not be accepted without payment.

    · If you would like images returned, please enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope.

    Successful artists will be contacted by email or in writing approximately two weeks after the deadline.

    Any queries, please email curator Mark De Novellis at

    Or call 020 8831 6000.

    Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

    Mark De Novellis
    Curator of Exhibitions and Collections
    Children’s Services and Culture

    London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
    Orleans House Gallery
    Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

    Tel: 020 8831 6490

    Mark De Novellis
    Curator of Exhibitions and Collections
    Children’s Services and Culture

    London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
    Orleans House Gallery
    Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

    Tel: 020 8831 6490

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