I Only Paint Dead Cowboys: Nick Rose

Nick RoseNick Rose is a talented horror illustrator with publications in several Horror publications including Horror Bound Magazine, Necrotic Tissue and Tales of the Talisman. In addition to his art, he also has a number of other projects going on but I’ll let him tell you about that. Let’s get started.

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us Nick.

Anthony Sullivan: There are a lot of exciting things going on for you right now. Tell us a little about your current projects.

Nick Rose: First let me say Thank you Very much for the interest that the folks at Horror UK has taken in me and my work. It is much appreciated. As far as work goes, I have a lot going on right now. One of the biggest projects I have going on is for a company called The Evil Nerd Empire.

I am painting 16 paintings for the interior of a book called Darc Karnivale. It is a collection of horror short stories written by the best horror writers in the business. I’ve also done the cover for it as well. The book will be released before Christmas, so it will make a great gift for any horror fan, and/or a fan of my work.

Beside the works for “The Evil Nerd Empire”, between now and Christmas I have to do some movie work, A Movie Poster and DVD cover. I also have an oil painting commission to do as well as several portraits, (They are always very popular around the holidays.) And that doesn’t include the work I have to do for my own company, Wicked Kitty Productions.

For next year, I am already booking up, plus I have a very secret project that I am doing for WKP as well. It is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, but just haven’t had the proper outlet for. Now with our production company I have that opportunity. This is something really big, and I promise every Horror and Fantasy fan out there will love it and it will be a work in progress for years to come.

AS: Wow, that is a lot. At what age did you first take an interest in art?

Demon nurseNR: That is an interesting question. Unlike most artists, I didn’t really take an interest in drawing until I was in the Army. Most artist are drawing while their still in diapers. I would say I was 19 years old before I showed a real interest in drawing.

When I was around 10, my older brother’s wife was an artist and she lived with us while he was in Vietnam. I used to love to sit and watch her draw. I don’t know if anyone will remember, but way back when, they used to run ads in magazines, like “Draw Sparky” to see if you have any artistic talent. “Sparky” was either a turtle head or a mouse head, and I honestly think that anyone could have drawn him without much effort. Any ways you mailed the drawing into the address on the magazine and they would send you back a “test” to take to see if you could be in “Art School” I passed with flying colors (as probably everyone did) and they would send me lessons for some small token of money. Since I was 10 and I didn’t have much money (The story of my Life) that ideal didn’t go any further.

At that point, my creativity took a turn, and I decided I wanted to be a writer. So until I joined the Army, I would type away in my spare time. Thinking back on it, I probably wasn’t very good. But as a teen-ager I was convinced that I would be the next Edgar A. Poe. I hadn’t discovered Lovecraft at this point. I grew up in the Bible belt and Lovecraft books where hard to come by. But once someone turned me on to Lovecraft, I was hooked, and never looked back.

But I didn’t return to art again until my days of serving my country. In the Army, I was a Medic. I didn’t want to shoot people, so I decided to learn how to save their lives instead. But this meant that unless a conflict was going on, I wound up setting out in training areas with nothing to do all day. So, one day I took a few comic books and some drawing paper with me and off I went to the middle of nowhere drawing Spider-man. I know the drawings where probably awful, but they were good enough to keep me interested in drawing. So it became a daily thing. After the Army, I attended a local community college and studied commercial art. That was way back in 1979, and I’ve been drawing ever since. I had my first piece published in 1980 and got paid a whole 10 dollars, but back then 10 bucks was a night on the town.

AS: Your work certainly has a twisted bent to it. What originally inspired you to produce this sort of artwork?

NR: [Laughing] Anthony, it would probably take years of therapy to find out the answer to that one. Seriously though, that has to be answered in two different ways, one pleasant, and the other not. The pleasant version would be the way I grew up, which back in the day when you where lucky to have 3 whole TV channels to choose from. But one thing you could always count on was that every Saturday afternoon, and either late Saturday night or Friday night, there would always be a horror movie on, and you could count on the fact that my little face was glued to the tube!

Also back in the 60’s, it was safe for Parents to drop their kids off at the local Movie Theater to see a double feature while they went shopping or whatever Parents did back in those days. The double feature was always either Horror or Science Fiction. I got to see most of the Hammer films while they were being shown at the movie theaters still, as well as all the wonderful American International films and all the Godzilla movies. Man, that was a magical time! I can say a lot of bad things about my childhood, but all those Saturday afternoons at the double feature watching all the movies that would mold me into the artist that I became, for the most part.

The Dark and Twisted part comes from very deep scars inflected on me by “Family” members, some of them where family by blood and the others by marriage. At 52 years old, I still have horrible nightmares of things those people did to me when I was just a child. It took years for me to learn the difference between love and abuse, good from evil. I could look at these people and see their true faces. The ones that are just below the surface of their skin. Because of this I learned to see things in a twisted way. Now when I watch the news, I see the true faces of murderers, child molesters, and all the monsters out there. Drawing Monsters comes easy to me.

AS: How hard is it to separate yourself from the wicked themes you create?

anewfalsehopefiniwebNR: That’s another really great question and the answer doesn’t come easy, but I will do my best to answer it honestly. Like the question before, this one has two types of answers, the first is what you see on the surface and the second is what is buried down deep in the dark hidden places of my mind.

As an Illustrator my main job is to read a writer’s story and create an image for it that will help sell it to the masses. Sometimes that is a challenge but I just let my imagination take over after I read the story. So, to me, I am not really creating the Illustration, the writer is. I am just a tool that is taken their idea and given it an image to identify with. Sometimes that is very easy and sometimes I pull out my hair trying to come up with an image. Now, after that point, a little of me does come into the picture. The expressions on the character faces, the things in the background, the dark strange looking shapes that there is no name for. But those are just surface things.

On the rare occasion when I do get to paint something from the Dark Recesses of my mind, I normally don’t leave the house or talk to friends in person or the phone. I stay to myself, mostly because I worry that the “Dark Side” of me will ‘scare’ them. Someone once told me “Be careful when you look into the darkness, that the darkness does not look back” or something close to that. I believe that to be true. There has been times I felt like the “Darkness” was watching me.

As far as putting these things down on paper, well, that is coming very soon and the story that goes with them. I am not trying to be dramatic, but I really believe that some folks out there will not be able to handle what I am going to show them and the world as I see it every day. In answer to your question, I cannot separate myself from the wicked things, because I am those wicked things.

AS: Who are some of your major artistic influences?

NR: To be honest Anthony, I can’t think of a single artist that isn’t an influence on me. Every single artist has something unique about their work that inspires me. But some artists stand out a little more to me. Howard Pyle is one of the big ones since I have been trained with his teachings by Master Daniel Horne who is another major influence and dear friend. Todd Lockwood is another. He trained me for a year and became a huge influence to me. Some others that influence me because there styles are so unique are Frazetta, Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor Smith, H.R. Giger to name a very few. Some of the classic Masters that influence me are DaVinci, Monet, Picasso, N.C. Wyeth to name a very few.

AS: Horror has been defined many ways over the years. How would you define it?

NR: Before the age of Movies and Television, horror was a thing of your imagination. It was something you would rarely see in person, such as death. So in that timeframe, War was truly a thing of horror. After Movies and Television are created, death becomes an everyday thing to the average person, including children. Monsters from space and from our imagination become an everyday thing to a point and after a while we become immune to such things. Now War is romantic as well as horrible. The age of film moved horror from our imagination to a stage for celebration and dress up. The things that use to scare us are now the things that amuse us. We spend countless dollars on costumes so we can dress up like our favorite monsters and “Scare” our friends.

The face of “Horror” has changed. It takes more and more to scare us. For a while Hollywood thought, “Gore” was the answer, but it wasn’t. It just cut into the profit made from snacks at the Theater. Hollywood has run out of options. They have remade the movies of past that scared audiences 50 years ago, but now make them yawn. They have spent countless millions on special effects that do not scare the audience any more than the old ones did.

So what is the answer? The answer is in your imagination. Last year I was surfing around the internet and ran across a site that offered up old horror radio shows that you could listen too. I immediately feel in love with the site. I could listen to these classic old horror radio shows while I worked and my imagination came alive! I was seeing visions of horror I had never seen in my mind. I was truly inspired, and I realized that to truly be frighten once again, you had to go back to ones imagination, stir it up and breath life back into it.

This task will fall back into the hands of writers and artist once again. It will be up to us to bring back the imaginations of the people out there that love to be scared. It will be up to us to bring new idea’s to Hollywood and Television that will make watching a new movie something to be excited about once again.

AS: Nick, what is the best advice you’ve been given with regard to your artwork.

NR: “Why don’t you paint some Barns, or Cowboys? Something people want to see!” This was the advice my Mother gave me. Good thing I never listened to her, huh? I think the best advice I ever got was from Daniel Horne. He told me to “Throw your heart into the painting and then dive in after it!”

AS: What tips can you give to aspiring artists to help them get started?

bloodlinesfiniwebNR: If you can’t afford to go to a good art school, go here and read the book Creative Illustration. This is the bible of the illustration market. Even though the book is 70 years old, everything except for the advertising chapters still apply today. Read and study this book until you have it memorized. Work on learning and applying values to your work every day. Build a portfolio that is very strong in the use of values. Learn to draw anything and everything. Sketch at least 30 minutes every day. I do first thing in the morning just to loosen up, before I start work on the money jobs.

And last, but not least by any means, is to learn good work ethics. Learn and Practice good manners. This is something that people will remember about you and they will respect it and like it. Ask yourself, would you rather work with someone who uses bad language, doesn’t meet deadlines, and puts down other people or would you rather work with the person that always has the assignment in ahead of time and is polite and pleasant to deal with?

There are 100’s of very talented artist out there, and I don’t care how good you are. There is always someone better. The person that is pleasant to work with is going to get the job in the end. Remember this, and you will always have work to do.

AS: What is the best compliment you have received about your art?

NR: “Man, that’s freaking me out.”

AS: Nick, I want to thank you again for taking the time to sit with us. It has been enlightening.

NR: Peace and Blessings.

If you would like to know more about Nick and his many, many projects, check out his website at http://www.wickedkittystudio.com.