"It's fun to be thrilled, to be taken out of your element. A place where there are no rules or expectations, and there's always something strange and exciting going on. That's what drew me in, it's such a polarizing genre and style, but those who know the secret are having a blast."
In honor of the freakiest of all seasons, we here in The Terrifying Land of Blog have decided to sit down with some of the most talented artists from the Redbubble community who specialize in macabre, scary, or demented art and discuss how they dip into the darkness to create such creepy and cool illustrations and designs.
We begin with Michael Bombon. Michael has a unique set of skills that bring out the very best from his ghoulish, Tim Burton-esque characters, and he took the time to speak to us about the dark and murky world he has imagined and illustrated. We talk animation and oodles of pop culture influences, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to A Nightmare Before Christmas. Settle in for a spooky expose on which alternate realm Michael’s best works of art been pulled from.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your characters? I notice they have quite an established style and aesthetic – how did this develop?
I love connecting with a good character. Ever since I was a kid scribbling with crayons and pens, I wasn’t really interested in drawing scenery or landscapes. I grew up surrounded by my great grandfather’s paintings, and the most impressive ones to me were his portraits. They struck me as wonderfully mysterious and moody, and I’d imagine my own stories for his artwork. Inspiration is a funny thing, I’ll see something that sparks an idea or hear something. I just stay ready for these strange characters to come to mind, and when they find me, I get easily lost in them.
My style developed through trying to find a perfect balance of my influences and injecting my own personal tastes and language into it. I also want it to be recognizable, and I can tell I’m on the right track pretty early on when sketching out an idea for a new piece.
Who are your biggest influences for your illustration and design? Do you take any inspiration from animation and cinema?
My mother is my biggest influence by far, and through her I always had an appreciation for the arts and design. One memory in particular when I was about five or six, I used to sit with her at the kitchen table and she’d ask what I wanted to her to draw. Anything I could think of. I asked her to draw a lot of baseball players back then, but the simple idea that she could draw anything on my mind was a very powerful idea.
I definitely take inspiration from movies and animation. Stop-motion has always been a favorite of mine, and when I saw A Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time in the theater, I was never the same. I was drawing Jack Skellington and that curly mountain pretty regularly for years after that.
How has vaudeville or Gothic style influenced your work? Do you feel any particular affinity with an artistic style such as pop-surrealism?
There were a lot of Edward Gorey books in the house as a child. His style is so distinct, rich, and dark in a wonderful way that it was imprinted on the back of my mind I’d say. The line work and texture of his art is incredible and looked like it took hours and hours to create, I loved that about it. Also, the architecture and feel of that Gothic/Victorian style and time period just lends so much more mystique and wonder. My pop-surrealist tendency is probably due to all the comic books and Saturday morning cartoons I grew up with.
What’s your favorite part of creating horror artwork? What drew you to the genre or style?
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was always checked out from the school library, and I made sure it stayed that way. No other book had that kind of artwork, it was edgy and macabre, and I loved the series but didn’t know exactly why at the time. It’s fun to be thrilled, to be taken out of your element. A place where there are no rules or expectations, and there’s always something strange and exciting going on. That’s what drew me in, it’s such a polarizing genre and style, but those who know the secret are having a blast.
I notice a lot of monsters in your work, can you tell us about influential monsters in your life, or monsters or characters you’ve seen that have influenced your work?
I always remember the movie Pumpkinhead. I was still pretty young at the time, but one Halloween I watched it and really understood that a monster could be so much more than just a mindless creature. I felt sorry for the character and the monster he’d become. But I also understood him in a way, and felt the seduction and terror of losing yourself to the monster hiding deep within. Also, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is another favorite of mine, a demon obsessed with the tiny sliver of humanity that’s left in him.
I notice you often put quotes about horror themes in your descriptions, can you tell us where these come from and your favorites?
I just like to let the viewer find the story behind the scene. That’s the main reason why I do that, I don’t want to leave the description blank, haha! But I also like to tip my hat to the people who influence my work, so I try to find a quote that can relate to the piece somehow. Stephen King always has great quotes, I feel like we see things the same way.
Where do you think your artwork will go direction-wise next? What artworks do you have in mind for the coming months?
It’s a pretty impulsive thing at this point, whenever an idea shows up suddenly in my head I just sketch it out and really focus on putting life into it. Who knows where it will go or what’s next! Illustration is something I can never seem to plan around.
Are you dressing up for Halloween or celebrating this year, and if so, what as?
Yes, my family will be doing our annual Halloween trip to Disneyland. We’ll be dressing up as a familiar sci-fi rebel couple and a little Ewok this time around.