Monday, February 27, 2012

Gothic heroines in distress

One of the categories I've started on my Pinterest page is Gothic Romance Book Covers -- I've started just by scanning the ones that I have acquired myself, but these things are hard to come by, as every used book store I've visited in several time zones has said "No, we just don't have much call for those." I can't believe this incredible category of vintage novel has completely vanished from second-hand stores, except for the odd lot on eBay now and then.

I haven't even read any of the ones I've acquired yet (my tastes run more to the 19th century anyway, and these are more recent tales) but I actually like the sound of them and enjoy a good pulp novel, so I suspect I eventually will read at least some of them, for they seem steeped in Dark Shadowsy atmosphere of mystery, family secrets and hidden rooms. Although marketed as "romances" they have all of the key elements that I look for in my old-fashioned tales of terror.

Even before reading them, these covers have started to form some of the inspiration for a series of paintings I've been doing over the past year and change. I just love the image of ladies escaping from castles in nightgowns by moonlight. Sometimes it's a mansion, sometimes a castle, a burning tower, a mill, or a country cottage even. They are invariably wearing a long gown though and it is always night.

"The Peril of the Crimson Manor" was the first deliberate attempt I made to come up with a title for a gothic romance paperback that might or might not actually exist, and then design a cover showing a woman fleeing in the night from a building with mysteries lights in the windows. I think it's important that the protagonist have a light source like a torch, candle or lantern, whenever possible, or an artifact of some sort like an amulet. She has both!

"Terror on the Cliff" was the second painting, and although it can be difficult to capture the colors when there is a lot of white and pale grey in a painting, given my limited photographic experience, I think she scanned pretty well. Everyone needs a mist-shrouded cliff to loom over, right?

"Trouble at the Mill" sold in 2010 right after I listed it - I loved the image of a mill and the intimations of what horrors might lurk in the chamber of the mill stone. I guess movies like "The Mill of the Stone Women" (1963) must be an influence as well. There is something sinister about these structures which now mainly exist in ruins. (though there was one in New Jersey that housed a great German restaurant, for years, that I worked nearby for awhile...).


"Terror in the Crimson Castle" is a classic image from gothic horror, of course -- every single 1960s-ish film I watch seems to have a scene like this, though they are usually in black and white. I can't watch a movie without a candelabra, a diaphanous gown and a staircase (preferably spiral). Well, I can, but I always wind up back in the castle. And yes I used the word "crimson" in two of my five paintings here, but can you blame me?

"The Moonstone (I)" is thus titled because I intend to do several illustrations for some of my favorite books, such as -- well, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. I have a bunch of J. Sheridan Le Fanu ideas as well. But I will get back to those, as I have a pile of other things to finish...

"Escape to Subterranean Horrors" is my newest painting in this line of inspiration -- after reading even more ghost stories (thank you, Ash Tree Press, for your affordable line of ebooks!), and watching even more gothic horror films (thank you, Mario Bava) I can't seem to get away from candelabras!

At any rate I'll continue with these for as long as I can think up variations on the theme. Since the contemporary idea of horror bears no resemblance to mine, with a few exceptions, I will just have to keep creating my own haunted atmosphere.


  1. Love all of your new art. Thanks for sharing

    Happiness to all.

  2. These are awesome! Your own work has a uniquely appealing and very modern take on a much loved form of literature. This was a popular genre in the 1950s and 60s. Keep painting!!!