In my previous posts I have discussed some of the artist’s that influenced me during my developmental stage but no one inspired my early style more than Berni Wrightson. The older I get and look back on it the stranger it seems to me. I was raised in a Christian home and have been a Christian most of my life and yet one of the greatest influences artistically was Wrightson, an artist whose claim to fame is his monster and horror art. Where’s the logic in this?
Most illustrators like to recreate what they see or perhaps re-envision it but their subject matter comes from visually interpreting the world around them. Fantasy illustrators or artists (like me) like to create their own reality. So things that are not real, monsters or elves or dragons or whatever, are what appeals to me naturally. I don’t think I am in love with monsters or the macabre as much as I am in love with great execution of fantastic subject matter.
Which brings me back to Berni Wrightson. I discovered Wrightson after someone showed me Swamp Thing 3-4 years after it had come out. I only bought the 10 issues Wrightson drew (later I gained a great appreciation for the Redondo issues). I was never all that interested in the character, I was only interested in how Wrightson drew it. Wrightson’s ability to combine black spotting and line work to create volume and atmosphere was probably his greatest appeal. I followed him to his Creepy and Eerie work, even though it was more horror than monster, because I had fallen in love with his style. I also admired his willingness to challenge himself with different approaches. The first 9 issues of Swamp Thing are inked with a brush, his last issue was inked with a pen. Compare the finishes on the Creepy and Eerie Magazine stories The Pepper Lake Monster, The Black Cat and Cool Air. One is pen and ink, one is straight brush and the latter is ink wash. Of course, his work on Frankenstein is the stuff of legend. To my mind Wrightson has always been more of an illustrator than a comic book artist which is always what I have wanted to be.
By the time I turned 19, I was such a Wrightson clone that I decided to sell my entire Wrightson collection (and I had everything) because I felt if I didn’t break away from his artist influence all I would ever be was a cheap imitation. Now the Wrightson influence in my work is not even noticeable unless I am drawing something monster related (see my Garbage Man work) and then it becomes obvious. So I have moved past my fascination with Wrightson but my admiration for the quality of his work between 1972-1980 still remains.