Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Having been born a Gemini, I'm well-acquainted with the duality that permeates life, seeing 2-sides of the coin spinning before me as it somersaults through the air before landing with one side up while I violently take my place in defense of the other. But both sides exist within me just as they exist within everyone.

I'm guilty of painting situations in black-and-white but what's truly astounding is how easily I can fall into extremities on either side. Even the most balanced human suffers from a slight touch of this and it's in this weakness that the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is universally sympathetic. 

The transformation of Jekyll & Hyde...

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As I mentioned in my analysis of my Dorian Gray illustration, each of the nine portraits in my Classic Monsters series is a self-portrait, like it or not. Like Dorian Gray, Jekyll and Hyde also draws a strong parallel to my own life experiences and is somewhat similar to Dorian Gray or even the werewolf in the juxtaposition of his nature.

Where Dorian Gray's vices tainted his hidden portrait, Jekyll's vices bleed through in the visage of his alter ego, Hyde. However, I always saw Dorian Gray's sins as primarily sexual and romantically sadistic with physical violence as an undercurrent. While I think there is a sexual nature to Hyde, I feel it is all secondary to a sense of manic violence. It's very similar to the werewolf as a cautionary tale of suppression.

Here we have the good Dr. Jekyll, an upstanding citizen, good samaritan, intelligent, sophisticated, a pillar of society. His longings, urges, and natural instincts have long been sacrificed to honor this perfect shining veneer. In Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is through a serum that our monster finds his window into our world. But it's easy to conclude that Jekyll's suppression is the active ingredient.

Jekyll & Hyde pre-coloring...

I opted out of massive amounts of symbolism in my portrait of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because this concentrated creature of dual-personality is such a strong symbol in himself. The backdrop is a nightmare imagining of Victorian London with mucky tainted smog hanging heavy in the atmosphere cut only by twisted and warped beacons of red illumination; hellish lamp posts bearing razor crowns that cut through the murky night.

Mirrors framed in ornate flourishes of black metal depict five reflections of Dr. Jekyll, searching his own reflection for truths too horrid to acknowledge, yet on some hastily suppressed frequency he is fully aware. For the most part, these reflections amidst an alarming red backdrop show Jekyll in various stages of shock and horror.

While the lower right image shows the doctor with determination, I feel it still indicates a shaky resolve - a slight hint of doubt in the eyes. The upper central reflection is the final face of Jekyll: accepting the man on the other side and daring to look him in the eye, using the last vestiges of his control to suppress what he knows is true.

Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in "colorful" Victorian London...

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Mr. Hyde has often been portrayed as hulking, menacing, and brutish but the original novella clearly states that he is smaller than Jekyll as a result of being stunted through suppression. In my portrait of Mr. Hyde, this quality manifests as a sad sort of vulnerability giving way to wild paranoia.

Make no mistake, I wanted my Hyde to be villainous to a homicidal degree, but I wanted him to be shaken by an insecurity that gives way to snarling viciousness and psychotic fits of rage. While Jekyll is clothed in benign light pink and lavender with a dull, plain gray coat, Hyde is swathed in garish hot pink and deep nocturnal black-and-blue.

Here we find him lost in the hostile London night, snarling and recoiling like a wounded animal. His hair is dishevelled and his tacky dandyish clothing is tattered and ripped from nocturnal episodes of sexual extremity eclipsed by erratic brutal violence. Hyde is mentally stunted by years of rejection and an imbalance that has left him critically severed from the source that could have, many years before, made him manageable.

In the end, it's hard to see the personalities of Jekyll and Hyde as black-and-white since the rampaging monster is actually a product of the respectable doctor. And as the story reveals (and as is the case with so many seeming dichotomies) Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same. 

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Dracula

The vampire is arguably the most explored and societally-saturated monster of the Classic Monster series and that posed a huge problem when trying to connect to my personal translation of the essence of Count Dracula. I've read so many books and seen so many movies about vampires that I can't begin to recount them all and yet, in most cases, I absorbed this material without specifically seeking it out.

This is a monster who's casually strolled the spectrum from demonification to romanticization.  Vampires have been depicted as primitive and maniacal and, just as often, angelic supermen. Sometimes their hideous atrocities, other times seductive Adonises (or would that be Adoni?). A pick-and-choose mythology is presented and it all rolls up in our collective consciousness. So, when deciding what Dracula (and vampires in general) meant to me, I had to do a lot of listening through the static to pick out the voices that meant the most to what I considered the true vampiric essence.

The Count before and after....

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I'd ignored vampires for most of my childhood and been somewhat amused by the surge in vampire-related media that happened around the time of shows like True Blood and movies like Twilight. Sure, there were a few pioneers in the dark that caught my attention before the flood like Interview With the Vampire and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the latter of which I didn't truly realise the brilliance of until some years later.

But it wasn't until the mania over vampires was already getting stagnant that I actually began to question why it still felt the perfect nerve had yet to be struck. Though I really enjoy the film The Lost Boys, I felt it was missing a vital emotional component and perhaps here I'm speaking more from the standpoint of my ego as opposed to a universal demand. 

The Lost Boys presented us with vampires who were very comfortable in their own skins as creatures of the night alongside vampires who still had one foot in their humanity. However, this internal struggle in some played against the celebratory narcissist wasn't illustrated nearly as artfully in The Lost Boys as in Interview With the Vampire.

I wanted to take the adolescent contemporary (potential) angst of The Lost Boys and combine that with the contemplative drama of Interview With the Vampire and write a screenplay for a movie that I was calling This Low. It started to come together around the idea of a teenage vampire, bummed out, sitting on a beach at night smoking a cigarette and watching the waves as well as a soundtrack of Iggy Pop, Suede, and the Velvet Underground. I eventually lost interest in it but not before developing some definition to my personal associations to the vampire mythology.

Dracula pre-coloring....

Bram Stoker's novel originally explained a deformed, animalistic demonic creature almost visible beneath the surface of the vampire; a putrid stench underlying the perfume. While certain films and television shows portrayed this dichotomy swimmingly, I had never absorbed such a strong disgust in the vampire as in Bram Stoker's writing. I wanted to capture the superhuman beauty prevalent in some interpretations as well as the subhuman viciousness in other portrayals.

So came about my Dracula, a youthful dandy (not too unlike Dorian Gray) who, I feel, also exudes a disgusting quality that's difficult to immediately place. He's effeminate with animal grace, wearing black vinyl pants like a rock star, holding up a wineglass of blood elegantly, and even mocking preconceived notions with a silver crucifix necklace.

Yet, his chest and chin are stained with blood, an indicator of his debilitating lust. The ears, fingernails, and even a hint of the fangs reveal a bit of the demon within. Dracula is ancient, allowing him to come to terms with his vices and see them as part of his nature. The human and the demon are perfectly blended in Dracula, allowing him clinical control, yet he understands the importance of losing himself in the lust of the moment and allows this. 

Sometime in the '80s, I was watching a rerun of a Halloween episode of The Monkees in which Davy Jones (who, despite the fact that I was probably about 5-years-old, I identified with) is seduced by Dracula's daughter. I recognized that vampires sucked the blood from humans, yet someone I idolized was not only kissing one, he was becoming obsessed with one. The strangeness of Davy Jones's behavior merged with my own strange attraction to Dracula's daughter and, possibly for the first time, the concept of sexual attraction dawned on me.

It was either that or Prince's video for "Kiss" and a trading card I'd found by a drainage ditch of a woman in spandex. But with Davy Jones's allegiance to Dracula's daughter, I also felt a deep sense of betrayal. This wasn't just one of the good guys, this was the best guy, and this girl was giving him something tempting enough for him to sell that all out. And this was also possibly the first time I linked a feeling of betrayal to vampires; a feeling integral to vampire mythology.

In almost all vampire stories, the vampire was seduced into a life of addiction or obsession, giving up his/her values and virtues in a desperate attempt to satisfy his/her newfound lust. Vampires are fundamentally corrupted beings but in a way that is disturbingly conscious. They aren't zombies; they remember who they were with guilt or disdain but it rarely changes their course.

At the end of the day, they still find themselves fang-deep in their next conquest. I wanted this blend of seduction and betrayal to emanate from the two most recent brides of Dracula, gyrating and writhing to his left and right. I wanted their faces to show a giving in to orgasmic pleasure and desperate horror simultaneously.

Their eyes are hidden, perhaps as a way to strip them of their identities or even their souls if you're to believe eyes are the window to the soul. Each is bound to Dracula in one of his animal forms: bat or wolf. The binding around the neck is an allusion to guilt in the hiding of the bite wounds as well as a means to tie the brides to an animalistic nature. This bondage can also be used to express a slavery to an addiction or a vice as well as, on a more surface level, sexual asphyxiation.

Death goes to the disco....

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Finally, this particular chamber of Dracula's castle features a disco ball and walls crawling with dry ice or mist. While on the obvious level, this shows Dracula's party spirit and ties him to a time at least somewhat modern, it works on another level that I unfortunately fall short of explaining.

The disco ball was one of the last aspects added to this illustration but I immediately knew it was vital. It still somehow provides the adhesive for my concepts of Dracula and vampires in general and attempting to explain it would only drag us further from the truth. 

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The Mummy

As an avid fan of '80s and '90s goth rock, I've found myself exposed to a lot of surface-level Egyptian images (I feel like every '90s goth group had a black-and-gold album cover emblazoned with an ankh) but, as you can imagine, I had no idea what any of it meant.

Likewise, I'd never seen a mummy until just a few years ago when I went to the California Science Center to see a mummies exhibit and most of those mummies seemed to be South American. Despite my ignorance, Egyptian history always appeared rich and exotic at face value and, whether naive or not, I wanted this essence in my version of the mummy. 

The Mummy is actually the first illustration I began in my Classic Monsters series, initiated by a recent viewing of the 1932 Universal filmThe Mummy. To be honest, I hadn't watched the film since around 2004 when I first bought the DVD and I couldn't really recall anything beyond the most basic elements of the premise.

I was somewhat surprised to find that, like so many of his brethren in the classic Universal Monsters gallery, his actions are often motivated by romantic impulses. In fact, it is arguably the driving force of his resurrection. 

The Mummy through the ages....

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As much as I love the generic bleached-bandaged, nameless, faceless mummies, I didn't feel that such a creature would be honoring the source of this monster's mythology so I tried to recreate my mummy from memories of the slowly decaying mummies I'd seen in National Geographic magazines and, in recent years, trips to museums.

I wanted something to allude to this timeless romantic as beautiful and effeminate in his fully restored form, so I gave him a full head of only slightly dishevelled hair, cut in the iconic Egyptian style I had seen in pop culture growing up. I wanted the bandages to be giving way, only loosely holding on to the resurrected corpse as he rises to murder his way back to his lithe grace and youthful beauty before searching for his reincarnated lover. 

The Mummy pre-coloring....

I believe less in coincidence with every passing day so it comes as no surprise that the evening after I had completed the sketch of my rendition of the mummy (including the background) I came across a National Geographic documentary on Nile crocodiles.

Perhaps I should have been less surprised when the documentary focused on an ancient Egyptian city known by the Greeks as Crocodilipolis inhabited by the cult of Sobek (the crocodile-headed god depicted in two golden statues behind the mummy). This cult worshipped crocodiles, mummifying them as sacrifices (as seen in the bound, mummified crocodiles creating the illustration's upper border). 

The crocodile-headed deity, Sobek, was considered erratic and hypersexual in nature which, in my mind, made him a perfect patron for a creature who so longed for his lover as to defy death and the sacred bonds of life in a murderous path of rebirth. Some scholars have hypothesised that Sobek's name derives from an ancient Egyptian word meaning "to impregnate."

Again, we are met with the themes of birth (or in this case re-birth) through sexual desire. A golden scarab crowns the portrait linking the kiss of the mummified crocodiles. Scarabs are often cited as symbols of re-birth and eternity, adding additional emphasis on these obvious themes of the mummy.

The Mummy looking for love....

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The columns framing this portrait are engraved with glowing blue hieroglyphs repeating the words "love/desire", "life", "death", "crocodile", "Sobek" and "Set". Set (also referred to as Seth) is a chaotic ancient Egyptian god of many things, including violence. In merging Set's energy with Sobek's erratic hypersexuality, I felt the mummy's true romantic mania and murderous disdain for anything outside of his own lustful scope would be reinforced.  

Finally, the piranhas are an integral aspect of my subconscious concepts of Egypt, defying science and logic. I understand that piranhas are Amazonian fish and that, even if it were to be argued that this was a South American mummy, the Egyptian imagery would be nonsensical. Sometimes it's these nonsensical elements that create the higher truth in an image because they go beyond our concepts into that same realm where aspects of dreams make sense to us despite being nonsense in the waking world.

Sometimes, these messages just aren't strong enough to warrant action. For example, I initially conceived of my mummy standing before an enormous blue glowing etching of the eye of Ra. The eye of Ra symbolises the sun which is a bit too distant from the symbolism I was going for with the mummy. In addition, it would have been difficult for the eye to be visible from its place behind the mummy. However, the mummified piranhas on strings make perfect sense in my mythology based on a dream I had as a child.

I was crawling through a pyramid, lit with the same earth tones you see in this illustration. There was am area of water below me and I was crawling across a narrow sort of sandbox lining the ceiling of the chamber that I was crawling through. As my hands passed through the sand, I felt a pricking sensation. From the loose sand, I pulled the sharp, spiny carcass of a piranha and noticed the sand was littered with their jagged, barbed rib cages and mummified faces.

Since then, these barbed-boned, mummified piranhas have often been a vital connection to my thoughts of ancient Egypt through a truth greater than I could ever communicate. 

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The Headless Horseman

With immense credit going to Disney's animated The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman was easily one of my favorite monsters as a child. This puts me in a bit of chicken-or-egg quandary though because I may have been drawn to the animated Headless Horseman through an obsession I've had with jack-o'-lanterns for as long as I can remember.

When I was a baby, my parents decorated my room with glowing jack-o'-lantern lamps including a scarecrow lamp with a grinning jack-o'-lantern face. Around the time I turned 2-years-old, my family moved to Florida and decided to give away these lamps prior to the move.

One of my earliest memories is watching (with bitter contempt) these lamps be given away to a family friend. Perhaps I was too young to have friends but I watched those grinning gourds leave like they were trusted and true comrades. Maybe I couldn't help but see the faces of those friends in the villainous grin of the Headless Horseman several years later. 

The legend before and after....

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It wasn't until recently that I realized I was remembering The Legend of Sleepy Hollow incorrectly and the pumpkin head was only used as a ruse by a local trying to scare Ichabod Crane. My disappointment was odd in its severity but I guess I felt somehow betrayed by my own memory. I didn't lose sleep over it or anything but to me, the Headless Horseman will always carry a jack-o-lantern head, despite how little that makes sense to the story.

I could say that my Headless Horseman smashes a seemingly endless supply of jagged-mawed gourds across his victims or holds the jack-o'-lantern head like a security blanket, traumatized by the loss of his own human head but I feel like the true answer defies explanation. It's an answer that only the ghosts can understand.

I was actually taken aback by how nefarious my rendition of the Headless Horseman turned out and, of the nine Classic Monsters illustrations, I consider this one to be the most disturbing. Perhaps it is colored by those bitter feelings I had as a 2-year-old, a dark emotional response clouding the innocent thoughts of a child.

The initial concept for my Headless Horseman illustration almost worried me with its lack of villainy. Upon looking up the traditional uniform of a Hessian artilleryman, I was actually excited by its lack of menace. I immediately thought of a cream-colored sky broken up by the limbs of dead trees. Against the blue jacket with red trim and that globular orange pumpkin, this would have no chance to be anything other than the most psychedelic and autumnal of my Classic Monsters series.

I think this shifted when, in a sort of trance, I sketched the Horseman's sword across the throat of his own horse. This not only alluded to the decapitation that made this spectre so notable but also showed his lack of allegiance. While I don't imagine that my Headless Horseman carries out the despicable deed of murdering his own horse, the insinuation disturbs me greatly, especially since the horse reacts with such complacence.

However, I feel that the horse itself is not a horse as you and I would know it. Rather, I think it is a droning entity from the phantom realms that resurrected the Headless Horseman, some sort of zombie steed with no soul in its abysmal eyes. 

Pretty grim even without the fall colors....

The Horseman's blade is rusted with a handle adorned with corroded metallic dead tree limbs and an equally corrupted metallic autumn leaf. Glimpses of the his dead skin visible between his black gloves and red cuffs exude a violet glow that also emanates from his neck and violently grinning jack-o'-lantern face.

I interpret this glow as his essence or possibly whatever passes as his soul. A pumpkin vine reaches into that essence creating some sort of brittle connection between head and body. While medals adorn his sash, they are unlike those of any army in our world. Instead, the cryptic symbols of crescent moon and dead leaf indicate some sort of merit in realms of the nocturnal and autumnal. But again, the sword crossing over the Horseman's own steed shatter any illusions of loyalty.

Anthropomorphic trees with hollow ghostly faces stretch from gray vapors to border the illustration. These loosely allude to McDonald's Happy Meal commercials from the '70s and '80s. I recall eating at McDonald's on Halloween sometime in the '80s in the Parkshore Shopping Center in Naples, Florida. This shopping center had a store that sold wicker furniture; it smelled like cinnamon and reminded me of witches. I imagine these trees smell like that store; cinnamon, wicker, and the smell of burning leaves. 

The grotesque ghost in full autumnal glory....

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The cannons flanking the horse are simply a reference to the cannons that took the Headless Horseman's head back when he was a Hessian artilleryman. The dynamic purposely recreates the Knight cards from tarot decks. A rainbow of autumn colors flanking the horse as well as the autumn colors worked into the canons aren't meant to indicate the Headless Horseman as a knight of the autumn. Rather, they're meant to create the fall atmosphere that incubates the Horseman's energy.

The peach skies and symbols create a tarot card-like collage invoking simpler times and the celebratory nature of the rustic harvest juxtaposed with the otherworldly horror of the Headless Horseman made clearer through the thinning boundary between our world and his.       

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Dorian Gray

Even before I took on the Classic Monsters project, I understood that all of the paintings would be self-portraits. Still, I feel that the flourishes and flaws of Dorian Gray draw some of the most obvious parallels to my own experiences.

Perhaps I'm deceiving myself when I imagine that everyone goes through a point in his/her life when s/he can relate to Dorian Gray and his glamorous Faustian tale. If you subscribe to the belief that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, public opinion falls away and whether you're loved or loathed, you can still see the face of a god in the mirror. On one level, this is actually healthy.

But with Dorian Gray it's a veneer and the true self-loathing, guilt, and shame are sneering just beneath the reflective surface, betrayed by ugly actions. 

Dorian Gray puts his face on...

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Unlike a lot of the classic monsters, I have no childhood associations to Dorian Gray. In fact, I was ignorant to his existence until a rather dull late afternoon when I was 19 or 20, sitting in a small, stagnant university classroom before a memorably boring history professor who looked like a soul-sucked Oliver Hardy.

The fact that I can't even recall the focus of this class (other than the broad term "history") is a testament to how little I retained of the horribly presented course material but like a glimmering diamond crowning a pile of shit, the man with no soul inexplicably assigned us to read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, possibly the best piece of literature I've ever had the honor to read.

If Dorian Gray hadn't been portrayed so effeminately, I'd maybe not have drawn the connection. Instead, he was like the evil twin to the archetype with which I most identified. But it rapidly became clear that this wasn't some twisted Gemini to my adored archetype but rather a different shade on the same spectrum. I understood that not only was I capable of this narcissism but there was actually a side of me that longed for it and felt a wounded pride in it.

In darker moments, I wanted to watch the world choke on my perfume. This wasn't a personality shift or anything of the sort; I had been exploring these fantasies and absurd love letters to myself for as long as I could remember. The difference is that I was now conscious of how selfish many of my conceits could be and I actually enjoyed this awareness with an arrogance that overshadowed guilt.

Again, I feel this must be something that everyone goes through when trying to find him/herself but perhaps I'm deluding myself for comfort. In most cases these were simply unhinged internal dramas amplified to create a self-importance that the world wasn't giving me. 

Dorian Gray devoid of color...

Dorian Gray not only explores every vice under the sun but also every vice that the sun's never touched. With my illustration, I was most interested in exploring sexual vices. The juxtaposition of Dorian Gray's angelic beauty and internal perversions creates the perfect blend for heartbreak.

It's terrifying and simultaneously exhilarating to imagine a face that's so easy to love masking a mind that delights in emotional torture. The idea that you could be the sacrifice of the night on the satin sheet altar to a god that worships himself far more than you ever could. This is the true horror of Dorian Gray and it screams in the hot blood of anyone who's ever been poisoned by betrayal and felt the strange addiction to that disease.

In my illustration, Dorian Gray is in a state of vulnerability; the chamber that displays the insidious portrait that takes on his darkness as he remains forever young and beautiful. To reinforce this vulnerability, I wanted to frame the portrait in rejection. Amidst the metal roses and thorns, lesbian faces touch tongues in a symbol of rejection. This is the coldness that Dorian Gray drives into everyone he meets but the same frigidness to which he is impervious.

None of the women are actually kissing as I didn't want true love to be anywhere in the world of Dorian Gray. Instead, he is surrounded by animalistic lust, damaged souls licking each other's wounds with poison tongues.

The women seduce each other, corrupting innocence with the same perversion that Dorian Gray uses to corrode the people he preys upon. But as these metallic women get lost in one another, they are oblivious to Dorian, unable to see his supernatural beauty, blinded by sexual longing.

A false sense of warm radiates from their physical beauty, creating enough romantic longing for Dorian to feel the thorns of rejection. While I see lesbianism as something completely natural, the women portrayed in the frame of Dorian's portrait are simply the personification of rejection on a sexual and emotional level.

Their symbolic preference of lust for one another over the crippling emotional longing Dorian invokes in the world around him doesn't derail Dorian by any means but rather serves as an unnerving reminder that in some dimension, his weakness is conceivable.  

Dorian Gray in all his floral beauty...

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To Dorian's left, we see a statue of nude lesbians touching tongues. One woman's hand transforms into a barbed, dead tree while the other woman's arm transforms into a barbed root system. A metal snake twists through the branches, poised before a single golden apple.

The allusion to Eve and the snake are further reinforcement of sexual corruption and shame as well as a reminder of Dorian's misogyny. Likewise, the forbidden fruit here is another indicator of rejection, but here it is the gold rejecting the cold, dark, twisted iron, the soul rejecting the flesh, the love that will always be out of reach for Dorian Gray, lost in a world of vice and deluded narcissism.  

The portrait itself recreates the first painting I did since a long hiatus. The painting, also titled "Dorian Gray" was actually put together for a Halloween costume. I went as the glittering, eternally youthful version of Dorian while holding the corroded painting under my arm the whole night. In the book, Dorian Gray's portrait is hideous.

As much as that makes sense on a symbolic level, I felt it was much more painful to have a beauty still obvious in the portrait but to have that beauty tarnished by the growing darkness in his actions. His icy, narrowed eyes are framed with a deep red, his lips stained and soaked with black poison, and traces of blood linger on his hands as he stands in proud reverence of his base crimes against the soul. Crying feminine masks vomit forth purple drapes from swollen red lips.

By contrast, the physical Dorian is casually poised, refusing to let his veneer of arrogance down enough for the symbols of his downward spiral and weakness to penetrate him. His thorns artfully tucked behind the ruffles of his ever-alluring rose, he stares out with eyes equal to the iciness in his portrait, yet somehow made safe with eyeshadow and mascara. He wears benign pink and lavender colors with playful polka dots, hiding the wounded and crazed demon just beneath the surface. 

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The painting that started it all...

Werewolf

I've never been much of a fan of the look of the Wolf Man so it came as a bit of a relief when I discovered somewhat early on in the Classic Monsters project that the Wolf Man is not public domain. It's important that I clarify that I define the Wolf Man as distinctly different than a werewolf in that I see the Wolf Man, in appearance, as more man than wolf whereas I consider a werewolf to be a somewhat evenly distributed hybrid.

It's my own definition that's left me dissatisfied with movies and shows in which the werewolf quickly shifts from man to common wolf. Where's the supernatural alarm in a common wolf stalking you through the forest?

Sure, it's terrifying in its own way, but that way isn't other-worldly. My definition of werewolf demands bipedalism. While I initially considered the legal barring to the Wolf Man a wrench in the gears of this project, I quickly felt relief that I could instead focus my attentions on a related monster for which I felt much more affinity. Still, the Wolf Man's influence was definitely felt and pondered during the course of this illustration.

Werewolf before and after his dye job...

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There was a distinct period of childhood when I felt more of a connection to werewolves than any of the other common monsters like vampires or mummies. It's difficult to trace where this started but I vividly remember a werewolf clad in jeans and a plaid shirt (lumberjack attire) making a brief appearance in a short story I had to write for my 3rd grade class entitled The Monster-Lurking Woods.

Granted, the protagonist is plagued by all manner of monster including a ghost, a phantom, a skeleton, and a zombie, but I specifically remember the werewolf, rendered in crayon, ravenously tearing through the woods in search of our hero. Luckily, the werewolf is effortlessly dispatched with a hand grenade.

Around this time, I was tuning in every Saturday morning to a cartoon called Ghostbustersthat had no relation to the Ghostbusters movie that had come out a few years earlier. One of the recurring villains of this cartoon was a futuristic werewolf with an insane underbite bearing the unfortunate name of Fangster. While I don't remember much about Fangster, I do recall feeling he was a sort of kindred spirit. 

While I was drawing the random werewolf in the margins of my notes at school, I started to believe that one day, I would actually become a werewolf. In fact, I recall pacing around my backyard, trying to figure out how to transform. It felt as though all of my problems would be solved if I could only make the shift.

I would look at my lower canines in the mirror with excitement, certain that their sharpness indicated that I'd soon have a vicious jutting underbite as I transformed into a primal creature of the night. Had I known then that I was just a human, I would have been crushed.

Just as I had years earlier dreamed of becoming best friends with Count Duckula, I now knew that everything in my life was building up to that glorious moment when I'd be neither man nor wolf but something in between. But again, this expectation was short-lived and soon my interests had drifted away from werewolves. 

Every once in a while, I would touch upon my lycanthropy fixation, but it wasn't limited to werewolves. Despite damning evidence that indicated my parents were the Easter Bunny, I harbored a suspicion that a wererabbit stalked the dew-kissed yards in springtime.

Years later, as I burned through almost all of Stephen King's books, I found myself perplexed by Silver Bullet in ways that I can't quite put into words. Maybe it felt too straightforward but anything less would be anti-climactic. Perhaps this was my first indicator that I didn't really know what I wanted from the werewolf mythology: an issue that even lingered through the beginning stages of this illustration.

The werewolf pre-coloring...

I'm not blaming Silver Bullet (and let me clarify that I actually enjoyed the book) but as I became a teenager, I only thought of werewolves as an interesting exploration of the Big Bad Wolf that stalked through so many fairy tales (fairy tales were often the subject of my high school art projects).

It wasn't until sometime in the mid-2000s when I revisited a lot of the classic monsters (as anyone who follows this blog already knows by now) that I gave any more attention to werewolves. The Wolf Man remains one of the most popular of the classic Universal horror films and it's well-deserved. In many ways, it's the funniest of the early horror films in my opinion but admittedly I have a strange sense of humor.

Combining the laughs with the fact that the story is actually decent makes it an easy film to fall into. While I'm partial to say that werewolf films are disappointing more often than not, I have enjoyed the creativity that went into many lycanthropy-based films. 

An American Werewolf in London was far too enjoyable for me to really care about the quadruped wolf and the recent television series Hemlock Grove features a werwolf character that fits into the mythology perfectly as well as one of the best transformation scenes on celluloid. I also enjoyed The Howling but this is also where one of my greatest annoyances with the modern werewolf comes into play: the werewolf as rustic hillbilly which hits peak levels of annoyance on the once-great TV series True Blood.

Not to say that True Blood really did so much for vampires or witches, but werewolves were consistently shown to be redneck biker subservients to annoying vampires. True Blood is allowed to have its own mythology but it definitely fell short of my expectations of werewolves. And again there's that whole annoying quick shift from man to common wolf. 

But where some artists degrade the werewolf mythology into something so simple, other artists take werewolves further than the confines of popularised mythology. Bret Easton Ellis briefly mentions a werewolf rampaging through Bel Air in Less Than Zero, a particularly creepy idea for those of us who have driven through the bizarrely empty-feeling Bel Air night.

I had the pleasure of attending a talk by author Trini Dalton in which she took a moment to show a photo of a severed werewolf head growing clusters of crystals; an image I found inexplicably inspiring. I've even found the phrase "electric werewolves" creeping into my own mythology; neon, hyperactive, charged and crackling teenage beasts. But this particular illustration explores my idea of the werewolf in a classic sense. 

The werewolf by the light of the full moon...

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I wanted my werewolf to be a hulking, top-heavy behemoth, dragged into a hunched form by its own bulk and muscle. I initially began by drawing the central figure but I felt it didn't quite express the chaos of the werewolf. Therefore, I added the image of the howling wolf and the other profile.

While I feel the central figure expresses the stalking werewolf, watching its prey with confidence and poised before the final burst of mania, the howling profile of the werewolf is used to convey literal "lunacy" - a loss of control through a sort of hypnosis brought on by the pregnant full moon. The human aspects of the werewolf are gone from its eyes in each illustration, but it is this howling wolf that shows just how in thrall the werewolf is to its supernatural calling.

I say "supernatural" despite my belief that the werewolf myth often delves into man's repressed sexuality and animal rage; aspects of man as an animal that are actually quite natural. But in referring to this as "supernatural" in the werewolf mythology reinforces the strength of the pull, the maddening need that actually transforms the man into another physical form.

Finally, the open-mouthed profile of the werewolf was drafted spontaneously and is possibly my favorite depiction of the werewolf; betrayed by maddening senses, crazed and consuming.

The moon is vital in the werewolf mythology and is one of the defining factors in pretty much every decent werewolf story or film. That importance is highlighted in the fact that the moon nearly overtakes the entirety of the world around the werewolf in this illustration.

To this day, when I gaze up at the full moon from anywhere even remotely forested, my mind goes to the werewolf and I feel the magic in its mythology. When the full moon peers behind the clouds in The Wolf Moon, the horror is secondary to the beauty. 

The flowers in the foreground are wolf's bane which is simply a reference to the poem recited in The Wolf Man: "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the wolf's bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." The glowing pentagram on the werewolf's hand is also a reference to a telltale sign in The Wolf Man of the survivor of a werewolf bite (and thus a carrier of the curse). 

The collapsed wooden fence posts bordering the foreground were a less specific but still somehow important part of the mythology. They're indicative of faulty barriers or boundaries and indicate a rustic, maybe ill-maintained or even abandoned farm. It's in this isolation that the man loses himself and the werewolf comes to the surface. The swollen allure of the autumn moon, the sexual bloom of the venomous wolf's bane, the deteriorated boundaries all give way to the silence and remoteness that demands the most primal of howling. 

The world around the werewolf makes no sense with red bullet streaks passing behind the werewolf but before the ground he stands upon. These bullets are the werewolf's death/rebirth, the conclusion and salvation only deliverable through someone who loves him, hence the hearts emblazoned on the silver.

Here, love delivers the beast away from savage confusion, sexual shame, and the guilt of animalistic urges. 

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Frankenstein's Monster

As a kid, I was never really impressed with Frankenstein's monster or as I knew him at that point and still often catch myself referring to him "Frankenstein". He sort of settled into Halloween fodder, a face welcome only in the symbol of a favorite holiday, a generic drone adrift in seas of sheet ghosts, pirates, black cats, and clowns.

But like a lot of things in my life (the color yellow, the Friday the 13thmovies, Baby Ruth candy bars) my initial rejection would lead to me taking Frankenstein's monster for granted…and then one day I'd wake up and realize he's really fucking bizarre. 

Some of the Wizard of Oz parallels are even more obvious in this comparison...

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One of my earliest memories of Frankenstein's monster goes back to an autumn in my childhood. After Saturday morning cartoons, one of the local stations would play low budget b-grade horror films hosted by Dr. Paul Bearer.

The show was called Creature Feature and though I would love it now as a kid it only signalled that cartoons were over. Still, something about that show, broadcast on WTOG out of St. Petersburg, FL (just a few hours from where I lived) stayed with me.

I don't think I ever sat down and watched it, rather it would stay on the TV as I ran from my room, to the kitchen, outside, and back again. But I remember a spot that would play on TV where a slowed down voice wished the audience a happy Halloween from the TV station. The voice played over cheap, wavering images of all the classic monsters, but my mind always put that deep, creepy, cheesy voice as Frankenstein's monster's. It wasn't a direct thought, just something at the back of my head. 

The first time Frankenstein's monster caught me by surprise was sometime in late middle school or early high school when we were given free reign to choose any "classic" book from the library and write a report about it. I can't really recall what books I was into at the time, if any, but guessing something by Stephen King or Lewis Carroll would probably be close. I don't remember distinctly, but I think I felt like I was settling when I eventually chose Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

To this day, I don't remember a lot of the book other than burning through it in record time. I suddenly felt that the green, flat-top, neck-bolt model of Frankenstein's monster wasn't just the oafish holiday background actor I'd written him off as but rather a mockery, a farce, a candy corn-saturated spit-in-the-face of the poetic creation that Mary Shelley had brought to life with her words.

I envisioned him distorted, strong but hunched over, hands always twisted in simian reflex, greasy black hair carelessly spilling over one side of his face and running down his back or sticking to his clammy chest in cascades of dead tendrils. His stare was glassy and dark, his lips black and mangled against his gray skin. 

Frankenstein's Monster pre-coloring...

When I was in my 20s, my girlfriend at the time developed an obsession with Frankenstein's monster. It must have been around the time that the Universal Legacy Collection came out because I didn't even own the Frankenstein DVD for a long time since she had it.

I don't remember the full extent of her fixation on Frankenstein's monster but she did go to Target directly after Halloween and ask if she could keep the giant cardboard face of Frankenstein's monster that they'd had hanging above the Halloween decor and costumes and her plea must have been passionate enough because they gave it to her.

The pinnacle of her hysteria, for me anyway, came around her birthday in February when she special ordered the infamous Carvel cake Cookiepuss but had it decorated like Frankenstein's monster. I can't recall how long Frankenpuss sat in our freezer in various states of disrepair but it felt like a year. 

All of these experiences bled into my rendition of Frankenstein's monster (and maybe a bit of the Paul Morrissey film Flesh for Frankenstein) but this version of Frankenstein's monster actually came to me shortly before I got to work on the painting. I felt like it was important for this monster to somehow be psychedelic in nature.

I wanted to keep the brute qualities of the classic monster intact but the book and film both stayed true to a sort of fragile gentleness to the monster that I felt would be expressed well in the psychedelic aspects of the painting. Immediately, I imagined him in rolling hills and fields of flowers with the cold, clinical Castle Frankenstein among jagged mountains and an omnipresent thunderstorm. 

 Frankenstein's Monster in a psychedelic world of color...

Frankenstein's Monster in a psychedelic world of color...

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The flowers were modelled (with lots of liberty taken with color and size) on three types of poison flowers: the belladonna, the daphne, and the autumn crocus. I wanted Frankenstein's monster to wander into a beauty that was at the same time vicious. But seeing as he is already dead, the flowers would pose no threat to him and instead be a sanctuary for him.

In this illustration, I imagine the flowers to exude the poison as a vapor, a venomous fragrance that keeps humans at bay. Here, the monster is alone with nature in a personal garden, communing with butterflies and bees and basking in simplicity.

Doubtless a lot of these ideas were influenced by the poppy fields of The Wizard of Oz (as well as the visual parallel between Castle Frankenstein and the Wicked Witch of the West's fortress) as well as the Nathaniel Hawthore short story "Rapaccini's Daughter". Here we feel the monster's connection with nature, perhaps indicative of a soul, while reinforcing his disconnect from the human race. 

The visual design of my version of Frankenstein's monster went through several phases and I feel like I can trace the final result to several influences. Though not much of a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (I admit, this is probably due to over-saturation more than anything) the concept of creating an attractive Adonis instead of a hulking monstrosity appealed to my glam rock aesthetic when I was a teenager.

This concept would connect with me again during my 20s when I first saw The Phantom of the Paradise and the Frankenstein-monsteresque performance from Death Records artist Beef.

But it hit its full impact when I got into Paul Morrissey's movies starring Joe Dallesandro. While Dallesandro did not play the monster in Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein, Dallesandro's role opposite the monster-as-Adonis mixed in a mental blender with his leading roles in the Flesh/Trash/Heat trilogy and suddenly I was envisioning a ripped Frankenstein's monster with long blonde hair.

Originally, the monster was to be more effeminate with slender features and a wistful look in his dead eyes. While this seemed interesting, it didn't really cover what I felt was true at the base of Frankenstein's monster. It's worth a laugh to mention that he was almost painted wearing a red shirt with white polka dots but again it felt off the mark.

I think this may have been some sort of influence from the movie Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare in which Canadian '80s metal frontman Thor appears in one scene wearing a similar blouse that for reasons beyond my explanation always reminded me of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

So, I guess I was sifting through a lot of subconscious muck to get to the end result of this illustration. Perhaps between the beefcake monsters and the stitched-up grotesque monsters, the 80s macho metal and the lost little girl from Kansas, it all comes back to that juxtaposition of beauty and poison.

I used to fixate on a line from my favorite New York Dolls song "Frankenstein": "Do you think it's a crime to fall in love with Frankenstein?" I used to ask it to my friends as a two-part question: 1.) the question itself and 2.) "Do you think David Johansen was talking about Dr. Frankenstein or the monster he created?" I can't quite figure out how this directly fits into this illustration but it still felt worth mentioning. 

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The Gill Man

Back in the mid-2000s when I was properly watching the classic Universal monster movies for the first time, I was initially most interested in watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon because, when placed alongside the likes of Dracula or the wolf man, the creature seemed really bizarre.

I'd be so bold as to say it almost seemed too left field to fit in with the classic horror monsters…not gothic enough in its horror elements or maybe I should say too exotic. The creature wasn't a refined monster with a predatory plan or even a decent human being consumed by vices and suppressed longings.

Rather it was a primal, unrestrained child of mother nature; the nightmare for anyone with ambitions of taming the wild. Unlike the majority of its Universal horror brethren, the creature had no basis in literature and its ties to folklore weren't as popularized as the wolf man or history as the mummy. But when you got past that vicious fish DNA, the creature had some sort of feelings of love or lust that overrode its instinct to maul and maim, a trait often underlying the Universal monsters.

The Gill Man in open space vs. open water....

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It was easy to connect with the natural beauty in the black-and-white underwater world of The Creature from the Black Lagoon but I'm finding it difficult to put the exact feeling into words.  The underwater scenes were filmed in Florida (though the film was meant to take place in the Amazon) so there was an instant familiarity and at the same time a sort of boredom in each beautiful shot of the creature in its natural element.

When I say "boredom" I mean the kind that comes with knowing what's behind the curtain. I admired the natural beauty of those shots immensely while simultaneously seeing the springs of Florida and all that those springs represented to me…a sort of isolation from anything exciting. I knew those springs were bordered by trailer parks and retirement communities.

At the same time, there was a slight (and I sincerely mean slight, almost non-existent but still worth mentioning) vibe of Florida's venomous flora and fauna; the mosquitos, mud puppies, lizards, snakes, and alligators. But whether they were boring, irritating, or creepy, these were the devils I knew and its through those filters that I watched gorgeous, shimmering black-and-white scenes of nature that may have been terrifying in 1954, but to my eyes just seemed leisurely.

I keep stressing "black-and-white" because I don't know that the same feeling would have come across if The Creature from the Black Lagoon had been shot in color. In fact, I can only imagine that I'd feel my skin crawl in repulsion if I saw the familiar greenish tint of the springs.

The black-and-white afforded me the mystery of a time before me, a small window for just enough fantasy to creep in so that I could actually still watch the creature mirroring the heroine and feel a sense of wonder. It may not be clear from this tirade but I actually greatly enjoyed knowing that The Creature from the Black Lagoon's aquatic scenes were filmed in Florida. 

The Gill Man pre-coloring...

I didn't try to divorce my fascination with The Creature from the Black Lagoon when I began my illustration of the Gill Man, but a certain severing of past associations with the film came naturally. I should mention that, unlike the Invisible Man highlighted in my previous blog entry, the creature is not public domain.

This is just as well as I love the look of the creature but it doesn't leave a lot of creative freedom. In order to bring myself into the illustration properly, I had to make this my Gill Man and I immediately began to incorporate aspects of the underwater world that frightened and disturbed me but still carried hints to that majesty that I saw in the serene beauty of those aquatic scenes in The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

When I was in 1st grade, my parents bought me a Siamese fighting fish (I think the politically correct term is a beta but the other name just sounds too colorful to pass up). I wanted to incorporate the confrontational frills and almost Oriental style of the Siamese fighting fish's fins into my Gill Man.

I even contemplated coloring him in blues, reds, and violets like my first pet, Syrus, the Siamese fighting fish, but it just felt like the Gill Man needed a more traditional green color. His chest and stomach were designed to resemble that of a crocodile's, easily one of the most terrifying yet interesting animals to grace our planet.

I gave the Gill Man rows and rows of disposable teeth like another terrifying but incredible creature of our planet, the shark. The Gill Man's curved, razor sharp nails were inspired by a scene that I adored in The Creature from the Black Lagoon in which the scientists are examining a mauled corpse with the South American river boat captain Lucas. One of the scientists hypothesizes that the man died from a jaguar attack and Lucas quickly shuts him down, scratching at the air and slurring "A jaguar's claws…they rip like this."

I wanted to create a humanoid, though at the same time alien look to create the proper sense of fear I wanted from my Gill Man and I think this comes across the best in the eyes. In the eyes, you see nothing to hold onto. But I purposely made the eyes yellow while making the eyes of the surrounding fish a supernatural black to indicate that the Gill Man isn't really one of these fish. Its sort of on its own frequency.

In fact, the blackness of the fish's eyes indicates that they are following the Gill Man in a sort of frenzy that defies their usual nature…almost a sort of hypnosis or group mania. (Weird side note: I got massive deja vu while writing the last few sentences). 

The fish assembled for this portrait quickly give away that this Gill Man isn't in the Black Lagoon. While the Black Lagoon is situated in the Amazon river (which is terrifying in its own right), the type of fish in this illustration indicate that the Gill Man is in the ocean. But that's really about where the scientific facts end because the fish aren't drawn even close to scale nor are they behaving in a manner that befits their species.

Many are also deep sea fish that wouldn't do well swimming near the surface. This was all contemplated before I even began to add fish into the illustration. While it would have made much more sense to throw some bull sharks or even a saltwater crocodile in the Gill Man's entourage, it wasn't what I was feeling and I opted for feeling over science and logic.

So, the Gill Man is flanked by oversized viper fish and angler fish, braving the surface. Frilled sharks swim side by side with the normally friendly wolf eels and territorial but reclusive moray eels. The barracudas make the most sense, I suppose. Gill Man aside, it may not seem that those kicking feet at the surface are in much trouble, but as the creator of this illustration, I can override science and confirm that each fish you see is very focused on devouring that swimmer.  

The Gill Man in a more natural state....

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But one of the most terrifying aspects of the Gill Man illustration for me personally is the vast blue expanse behind everything. I can recognize the beauty in the open water and the ocean depths but more than that I recognize my own terror. I can further illustrate his through an excerpt from a recent entry in my personal diary:

"A few days ago, I found a youtube video that actually showed a crocodile 'trainer' being killed by his crocodiles. I felt bad about watching it. Everything was so pixelated, I couldn't really tell what I was looking at. A man (I'm assuming) in a long black robe was walking with a long stick among several crocodiles on a bank along a large lake while people in manmade stands watched from an elevated point. The trainer was prodding the large pixelated shadows.

As he's stepping over one of the crocodiles, it turns its head casually and seems to catch him by the robe, causing him to fall. At this point, the spectators jump from their seats, screaming in outrage. When we finally see down onto the bank again, I assumed the crocodile was laying upon the trainer though I started to see commotion in the lake. It seemed like the crocodiles had overpowered the trainer and then dragged him out into the water where they tore him apart. This seems so much more terrifying than killing him on the bank."

I was really concerned with leaving so much blank space in this illustration, second-guessing myself, feeling that I could fill it in with seaweed or more fish or something. But honestly, the Gill Man wouldn't be nearly as terrifying on land. What's really scary is that he's about ready to drag that person away from what s/he knows, into that ever-darkening blue.

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The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man is a fitting choice as the first look at the monster series I've been developing for this year's Halloween season because he is my favorite of the classic Universal monsters, though I didn't actually realise this until I was in my mid-20s. In 2004, the six classic Universal monsters saw DVD releases (at least some of them for the first time) and though I knew the basic gist of each monster's story, I had never actually watched any of the original films.

My girlfriend at the time had taken a puzzling interest in Frankenstein's monster which sort of planted the seed of interest in the back of my head. Soon after watching the original movies, I was surprised by how much I either related to or pitied the Invisible Man.

All of the Universal monsters were highly identifiable as sides of humanity lost to romance or sexuality (even the Gill Man) but the Invisible Man wasn't very amorous or sexual…his drama paralleled Dr. Frankenstein's (not to be confused with Frankenstein's monster) in that he gets lost in his own ego, drunk on his own greatness, and ignorant of the pathos plaguing his tale.

Though it's not explicitly expressed, I immediately felt upon my first viewing of the Invisible Man that it's a tragedy about addiction; about losing connection with a higher source and being so seduced by delusions of grandeur as to feel one with God while being fundamentally separated in such a horrifying way that the brain can't even accept it. It was in this mania that I found my Invisible Man.

Dr. Griffin in various states of completion...

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The Invisible Man I've chosen is a hybrid of the Dr. Griffin that appears in the 1987 H.G. Wells novella and the Dr. Griffin portrayed by Claude Rains in James Whale's 1933 film The Invisible Man for Universal. I was surprised by the humorous tone of the novella but liked that Dr. Griffin was more isolated and insane.

In the film, his insanity comes on gradually, severing him from his loved ones. My Dr. Griffin seems to fall somewhere between these two. Unlike the novella version, my Dr. Griffin was not insane prior to taking the invisibility serum. While I'd like to say he is driven mad by the drug itself (as stated in the film), I also feel that the power that comes with invisibility juxtaposed with the helplessness of being unable to find an antidote are factors in this particular Dr. Griffin coming unhinged.

In the film, the specific ingredient monocane is faulted for Griffin's mounting insanity. Unlike the film's Griffin, I wanted my Griffin to already be isolated from anyone and anything that he ever loved, save his own ego, science, and, of course, his drug. I wanted amorous romance far from his perspective, rather I preferred he be consumed by a lust for power and a severe chemical addiction that brings with it a psychotic euphoria.

While a lot of the themes I've explored in my portrait of Dr. Griffin run along the same vein, they come close to outright contradicting each other so that he is basically one character existing in several realities at once that present general feelings of desperation, obsession, delusion, frustration, and mania. This Dr. Griffin is isolated and unloved but was also once a potentially great man faulted by a crippling arrogance. His insanity comes from power just as much as from an inability to regain what he's lost.

At the same time, his insanity comes from a chemical shift brought on by a highly destructive and equally addictive drug. He holds his serum up in mad triumph, but is this serum the antidote or just another batch of the invisibility potion? At times, I imagine an antidote is not even a factor as he regains visibility as the drug wheres off.

At other times, I imagine that he's desperately searching for a way to become visible again, a way that's always out of reach. But then I think that perhaps he is just struggling to recreate a drug for the high, a drug that keeps losing its potency despite the fact that Griffin is sentenced to his invisibility indefinitely. 

The Invisible Man pre-watercolor...

One of the most obvious motifs that appears again and again in my portrait of Dr. Griffin is the poppy. The wallpaper consists of simplified renderings of poppy flowers, a poppy flower has been crafted into the lower corner of the stained glass window, and poppies are being examined in a Victorian terrarium beside Griffin's microscope. In either the film or the novella (possibly in both) opium is said to be a key ingredient of the invisibility serum along with the monocane.

In this portrayal, Dr. Griffin has created a gaseous form of the serum that he is constantly inhaling through a mask, but we can see dripping syringes on the counter as well as a shattered syringe on the ground. While the serum as an inhalant keeps Griffin medicated while he works, the injections offer him a more severe high.

But I used different shades of green to indicate failed batches as Griffin struggles to improve the purity and get the right balance to make the perfect serum (presumably the one he is holding in his hand so victoriously). One more quick note on the poppy wallpaper: the centre of each poppy was drawn as a hypnotic swirl or spiral to reinforce the ideas of Griffin's downward spiral into mania and the hypnotic mesmerisation of deep addiction.  

Along with the syringes, I've worked in the less obvious swords motif. You can see the golden swords crossed on the wall behind Dr. Griffin as well as swords for cabinet door handles. Originally, swords were also supposed to be worked into the wallpaper pattern but this didn't work very well on a visual level so they were removed in favour of the poppy pattern. In the tarot, swords are representative of the air element and matters of the mind.

All of Dr. Griffin's failures and ambitions are firmly set within the realm of the mind: his science, his madness, his addictions, his arrogance. A synopsis of the character of Dr. Griffin on Wikipedia explains that Griffin's work explores optics and that his serum was born from his finding a shift in his body's refractive index, changing it to that of air, rendering him invisible through a rejection of light.

So, again, we're brought back to the element of air, its relation to the mind, and the symbol of the swords. But keeping in mind with the theme of addiction, each sword's handle is crafted to look like that of a syringe.  

Finally, I decided to give the Invisible Man a bit of a psychedelic dandy look because, despite the tragic themes of the portrait, I was listening to the '60s psych group The Herd's "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not" during the coloring process and it just seemed to be a dimension of my Dr. Griffin that fit. In some ways, it expresses his flamboyance while simultaneously communicating (at least for me) an inflated confidence in himself fanned by chemical euphoria. 

Dr. Griffin in full megalomaniac color