First Im­pres­sions

Watch­ing hor­ror films when he was a child set this artist on an il­lus­tri­ous path

ImagineFX - - Issue 141 December 2016 - Erik works on video games, book cov­ers, TCGs, and also teaches at Watts Ate­lier. You can see more of his art at Erik Gist

Erik Gist talks hor­ror films.

Where did you grow up and how has this in­flu­enced your art?

I grew up in Alpine, a small ru­ral town in the moun­tains about 40 min­utes east of San Diego. I don’t know that it in­flu­enced my art, aside from grow­ing up in a small town tends to foster the imag­i­na­tion, and the fact that the 18-year-old who worked at the lo­cal video rental store let me and my friends rent hor­ror movies when we were too young.

You’re a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing… where are you and what are you look­ing at, and what ef­fect did it have?

I was at a book store and it was re­print of an old Doc Sav­age novel – the cover was painted by James Bama. I can’t say it changed ev­ery­thing, but it was def­i­nitely the first time a painted il­lus­tra­tion lit up my imag­i­na­tion. The paint­ings that re­ally changed ev­ery­thing for me were the pulp cov­ers that Glen Or­bik and Lau­rel Blech­man did for DC, and the Phil Hale Swamp Thing cov­ers. But I was an adult by then.

What was your next step in art? Did other in­ter­ests vie for your at­ten­tion? What was the de­cid­ing fac­tor?

Art was al­ways my first love, but I didn’t re­ally learn that you could make a liv­ing at it un­til I was older. The de­cid­ing fac­tor for me was the first time that I at­tended San Diego Comic- Con in 1992.

What was your first paid com­mis­sion, and does it stand as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your ta­lent?

My first paid com­mis­sion was for a trad­ing card game from Wiz­ards of the Coast called He­catomb. I’m still proud of much of the work I did for it. But no, I’m much bet­ter now.

What’s the last piece that you fin­ished, and how do the two dif­fer?

The last piece I fin­ished was for a per­sonal project I’m work­ing on. In many ways there are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties. But I’m much more pro­fi­cient tech­ni­cally, if noth­ing else.

So what’s the se­cret to paint­ing a great book cover?

For me, mood and sto­ry­telling. You have to tell enough story to en­tice the viewer, but pro­vide enough mood and mys­tery to get them to read the book.

You’re well known for your hor­ror art. What’s the at­trac­tion?

I think it’s the lack of a true hero. Sto­ries get a lit­tle stale when you have the heroic pro­tag­o­nist, who too often does the right thing at the right time for the right rea­son. I like see­ing some­one pushed to their lim­its, not be­cause they’re self­sac­ri­fic­ing, but sim­ply to sur­vive. That, and I like that it’s the only genre which is at odds with the au­di­ence. Peo­ple go to a com­edy to laugh, a ro­mance to be touched emo­tion­ally, and so on. When peo­ple go to a hor­ror it’s a chal­lenge, as if they’re say­ing, “You can’t scare me.”

What’s the most im­por­tant thing that you’ve taught some­one at Watts Ate­lier?

To live the life they want.

Why is the fan­tasy art in­dus­try still the best place to be work­ing?

Sim­ply be­cause I just can’t imag­ine do­ing any­thing else.

Tell enough story to en­tice, but pro­vide enough mys­tery to get them to read the book

Death head “Death Head was a fun project I worked on for Dark Horse. It had a nice 70s hor­ror vibe to it.”

Death­stroke “This was a hor­ror vari­ant for Death­stroke from DC. I mashed him up with an 80s slasher.”

“Here’s one of my favourite pieces from my run on The Strain. I wanted to es­tab­lish a twisted take on the tra­di­tional fam­ily.” Amer­i­can Vam­piric

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