Saturday, May 16, 2009

PVS and HPL






Context is everything, so in order to say something about me and Lovecraft I need to lay some out: I was born in 1950 and loved comic books, dinosaurs, and monster movies since I first encountered them. Famous Monsters of Filmland, the amazing magazine that delightfully warped the lives of so many, and which my big brother bought from issue 1, was a veritable trove of secrets and wonders that introduced (for many) and championed (to all) such cinematic luminaries as Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, O’Brien, Harryhausen and the rest and made me realize there was a vast history of horror and monsters to discover. So I stayed up and monitored our old black and white tv set for late night showings of the Universal classics and whatever else I could find while also attending showings of features like The Mole People, Calitiki, Fiend Without a Face, Mister Sardonicus, The Tingler, Harryhausen, at the local cinema. But eventually there didn’t seem to be all that much more to discover and I was growing slightly weary of gothic horrors, vampires, mummies, aliens, mutants,giant bugs etc. Especially when they were poorly done, which they usually were. One fateful late 60’s afternoon I was sitting in study hall (tenth grade, age 16 or so) looking through the Modern Library omnibus volume entitled Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. The finaltwo stories in the book (as if they saved the best for last) were by somebody called H.P. Lovecraft; they were “The Rats in the Walls” and “The Dunwich HorrorĪ“. The Lovecraft name was vaguely familiar.There were glancing mentions in Famous Monsters but there were no Lovecraft movies yet so I had no idea what to expect. I read “The Rats in the Walls”first. it was a fairly short story but I experienced a jolt unlike anything I was familiar with. There were horrors aplenty; hordes of ravenous rats, hideous nightmares, ancient underground grottoes leading off into infinte subterranean darkness and pocked with giant pits full of sawed and chewed bones of human and things not altogther human and finally a man who went mad and tumbled down the evolutionary scale to relish his ancestral cannibalistic nourishment… but maybe best of all, many hints of things just beyond the reach of the light. Hints which were even more exciting and pleasing than the overt horrors. “The Dunwich Horror” was next and it was all over when I finished that one. I had been introduced to the Necronomicon, Arkham with its Miskatonic Library, Yog- Sothoth and so many key Lovecraftian entities and conceptions which were new to me. And it excited my imagination all over again. I know the stories were written forty plus years earlier but they had not seeped into the mainstream yet. What WAS the Necronomicon? Was it a real book? Was Miskatonic a real river and college? It all sounded so plausible. Naturally I wanted even more and dug through stacks of yellowed,smelly paperbacks at used used book stores eventually finding two true gems: a collection entitled “The Colour Out of Space” and even a short novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It just got better and better as each story added new dots to connect and a vast world of eldritch, foetid, blasphemous, nefandous, sepulchral imagination seemed to be slowly revealing itself. Then I went to a “new book book- store” and we looked HPL up in a huge tome they had called Books In Print and I found out about a publisher called Arkham House and ordered the three volumes that comprise the bulk ofLovecraft’s fiction. I bought many books directly from them over the next months and years and even sent stories and poems to publisher, August Derleth- and he wrote back! He didn’t offer to publish me of course but he did respond and he was encouraging. What I sent him was crap, so that was more than I deserved! But it was what Lovecraft would have done as he did for so many aspiring young writers like Derleth himself and Robert Bloch and dozens more). Anway the things and scenes in those wild and wordy Lovecraft stories fairly begged to be drawn. The images were boiling inside and clamoring for expression on paper… Unfortunately my art also frankly sucked, so it would be a long time before I could feel reasonably pleased with anything I did. When I approach HPL as an illustrator something mysterious happens. The images just kind of bubble forth impulsively– and slowly I think some of them have started to not suck quite so bad. Mind you I have no delusion there’s anything special about what I do and have done. I have no exclusive insight into anything- I am simply compelled to do it and it’s the kind of expression that appeals to me most. I just do my part to “spread the weird.” I do have mixed feelings about illustrating HPL. In a way it seems nobody ought to do it. The best form it can ever have is the way he wrote it. Not in pictures or comics or movies. Just HPL’s words.But on the other hand you just WANT to draw the damn stuff. And it’s fascinating to see how other artists conceptualize the same scenes and monsters. I don’t know how to explain Lovecraft to anybody who hasn’t read him, I don’t recommend him to people, and I have no real reason to think anyone would like his work or should even read it. I discovered it at a time and age when it was just what I wanted, and when the context seemed perfect. Now Cthulhu runs for President and is available as a plush toy. There are Lovecraft role-playing games, many movies have been made (but not many good ones)…his influence has seeped into all aspects of horror. The world is different. We can see the planet from space. It’s harder to imagine there are Mountains of Madness in Antarctica now… although the melting polar ice may yet reveal things it would be far better not to see. The merciful shield of aeons-old frost may be all that stands between us and knowledge that will drive us all stark raving mad. “That is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange aeons death may die.” There is plenty of social upheaval and unrest and turmoil and if Nyarlathotep comes out of Egypt and begins his magical mystery tour, well… Wait, where was I? See? The stuff just kind of grabs hold of me… and that is doubtless tied to the context in which I first discovered HPL in that studyhall in that thick book. At the very end like it was best and saved for last… In my own work I naturally gravitate to themes which might be called Lovecraftian. Hidden realms and malign survivals from prehuman times. A suspension of natural laws. All the stuff I love to draw and write about is like that. I don’t know who said it but a delightful phrase about what Lovecraft did comes to mind: “H.P. Lovecraft turned the Universe into a Haunted House”. I like that. Presented here are majority of the pieces I made for an unpublished (so what else in new?) portfolio based on The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, which some call HPL's Lord of the Rings, being as it's kind of a rambling epic fantasy thing. But more eldritch...


4 comments:

Abel Diaz said...

This inspires me to reread The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, which I've always viewed as one of his poorest stories. But I see from the richness of the imagery here that I may have dismissed the story too easily. I don't remember the two-headed, walking-mountain abominations. They're incredible and terrifying! Thank you for posting these images. Your passion for Lovecraft shows through your work, and in paying homage to him you are often at your best. Any chance we will ever see the sonnet cycle Fungi from Yuggoth illustrated by PVS?

Pete Von Sholly said...

vonrex7
First, thanks for the kind words! That story was never one of my favorites but it is very rich with imagery and does in fact have a very poignant and satisfying conclusion for me. "Fungi" is a great idea for when I have a block of time. We shall see!
Again, thanks very much.

ScottE said...

Marvelous work. And I always love reading about how others first got into Lovecraft, and he has always been one of my personal favorite authors.

(I even like DQoUK.)

This post is somewhat serendipitous since I just received my copy of A Lovecraft Retrospective in the mail from Centipede Press (which has a page or two of your own work in it!).

In short: keen!

Generic Viagra said...

What a great piece of work!
I really enjoyed reading your pretty extensive blog, moreover, I enjoyed much more those awesome monster pictures.
You rock!