Friday, February 17, 2012
The haunted hands of Countess Regenbogen
It is a fairly well-known fact that I am rather fond of 1960s/1970s psychedelic horror movies. They don't have to be in color, but I like color a lot. And by "psychedelic" I really just mean weird and visually interesting. And mostly from Europe. And I love the movie posters, even if they have little or nothing to do with the movie. I just like how visually free and experimental they were -- the colors, the composition, the typefaces, all bear signature flourishes, with a little Art Nouveau, a little surrealism, some decadence, and a splash of je ne sais quoi. There's also a bit of garish comic book art and a good dose of pulp magazine or book cover.
I have always had a secret longing to do pulp book or magazine covers, but my style is a bit different...so I try to translate these things through my own little filter, and that's what I did with the painting above, ridiculously named for an imaginary pulp short story or low-budget film.
Some of my inspirations from the world of film are Jean Rollin, Czech fantasy films and Coffin Joe, which I'll show you below. I'm not exactly trying to recreate the movie poster aesthetic but I want to use similar elements, motifs and color schemes.
I've talked about Jean Rollin before, and he pretty much is what I have in mind when I throw around phrases like "psychedelic horror." People in masks, strange lighting, vampires walking out of clocks and fireplaces (Shiver of the Vampires), prog rock soundtracks to romps through night-lit graveyards, and wild costumes and colors. And candelabras, lots of candelabras.
This isn't a movie poster, above, but Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão,) of Brazil also uses some wild and crazy visuals, most of which (like Rollin) aren't exactly safe for work. But the color scheme in this little graphic, and the hands, are the kind of thing that I had in the back of my mind with my little painting.
And perhaps most of all, one of the most perfect movies for my aesthetic, more of a surrealist fantasy film than a horror film, is Valerie and her Week of Wonders, or Valerie a týden divů, by Jaromil Jireš. This poster image, with that shade of green and the menacing, ominous figure in black, is something that creeps through whenever I think about painting a fantasy-horror image with a feeling of psychedelic menace. Which is something I think about a lot, believe me.
My favorite elements in film which have a tendency to also show up in paintings, are probably:
Contrasts of very colorful images against a very dark or bleak setting (a psychedelic gown in a dark castle).
Candles, candelabras, torches and lanterns.
Staircases, particularly circular ones.
Masks or painted faces.
Garish spot lighting in shades of red, green or sometimes blue and gold (Dario Argento, Mario Bava, et. al. do this very well)
Lushly decorated interiors infused with decay and decadence -- brocade wallpapers in dark green, red or purple; statuary, suits of armor, mirrors, gauzy draperies, etc.
Flowing diaphanous gowns, either in white or pale colors; also gauzy black drapings or robes.
Jean Rollin hits all of these notes, as do movies like "The Girl Slaves of Morgana le Fay" and many others. For black and white movies, the Italian gothics pretty much are what it's all about for me.
And then of course there are giallos but I'll save that for another day!
Incidentally if anyone reading this is on Pinterest I'm trying to start compiling some albums of interesting images there, including a board for my own paintings. Please feel free to follow and I'll do the same for you: