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...


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...


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. 


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....


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....


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.


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...


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

Prototype 0

Painted in January 2014 but conceived sometime in the fall of 2006, Prototype 0 is sort of a product of circumstance. My ex-girlfriend/roommate was throwing a Halloween party full of people I didn't know. While the rational reaction would be to talk to these people and get to know them, I was going through a pretty intense bout of social awkwardness, so instead I started working on a costume that would effectively prevent me from speaking to anyone at all. The result was an effeminate android version of myself called Prototype 0.

Prototype 0 was to be an android in progress and his mouth would still be under construction This was meant to allow me to spend the night walking around with a white piece of tape over my mouth with pink lips drawn on it, incapable of communicating except with a notepad. Not awkward at all.


The painting turned out to be a fairly accurate representation of how I looked that Halloween night, with the exception of the pale blue skin. All of the androids I've painted or drawn recently have had this pale blue skin but I can't really explain why. It could have been a seed planted when I was a kid.

I was pretty hard into the Masters of the Universe toy line and there was a character named Fakor who was supposed to be an evil android replica of He-Man. He had blue skin, yet the people of Eternia still somehow mistook him for He-Man. I think my original Prototype 0 costume had silver cheeks and the blue strip across the eyes (almost definitely influenced by Pris from Bladerunner although I feel like this style has gotten bigger than the origin) but otherwise kept my skin tone.

Prototype 0 wears a polka dot dress for reasons I can't explain and he's wrapped in red caution tape that reads "DANGER". I suppose this could be an indicator of his unfinished state. Versions of the costume have incorporated tin foil safety-pinned to the dress and wrapped around the exposed arm (in the painting, Prototype 0's right arm is supposed to be partially wrapped in tin foil).  

But the underlying theme explored by the character of Prototype 0 is a longing for romance. The dress actually featured a jagged heart on the chest made from red caution tape and black masking tape. The costume was supposed to include stiff wires extending from my hair ending in plastic hearts cut from the red caution tape.

While this design is incorporated into the painting, I didn't have the time (or more likely will) to execute it as part of the costume. The painting depicts Prototype 0 longingly stroking the lips of a porcelain mask, lips that he longs to kiss with lips that he longs to have. 

The Prototype 0 costume also made use of children's hair barrettes that featured smiling cartoonish cat faces. This just illustrates the colorful innocence (and disconnect) of Prototype 0. The painting also portrays the android in a gloomy factory streaked with pink paint. I imagined this as a toy factory but can't really say why.

It's worth mentioning that when I originally started the Prototype 0 painting, it was disastrous, but I was lucky enough to turn it around to a perfect representation of what I was trying to achieve. There have actually been radically different versions of this android (including a ballerina version with a light pink bow around the mouth area) and possibly other versions will make it into my work at some point. 


Papa Fairy and the Tiny Fairies of Angel Castle

One of my favourite aspects of working on Angel Castle is the amount of creative liberty the author, Rita Auricchio, afforded me when designing the characters. Since the book didn't go into painstaking detail to describe the look of the fairies, I was able to use their individual personalities as a guide in determining how they would look. This illustration, depicting the tiny fairies struggling to imagine the appearance of a human child, is the first illustration I did of the tiny fairies and their teacher, Papa Fairy.


Papa Fairy's design was the first and, in many ways, the easiest because Rita describes his appearance a bit more than the other fairies. I wanted to capture the slim pointy features, towering lankiness, and enormous eyes that she described, but used a robe heavily influenced by sci-fi and space opera fantasies.

I decided early on that the tiny fairies should wear flowers as hats and tried as much as I could to make some sort of sense or symbolism out of this, even if it was on a purely personal level. At one point, I had mistakenly read that begonias symbolise intelligence so Terrence, a fairy depicted as a bookish know-it-all, was depicted wearing a begonia. Initially, he was going to wear a thistle but this didn't translate well.

The maple leaf is believed to symbolise independent thinking and can also mean patience, so I used it as the tiara for the always inquisitive fairy Silky, who also wears a dress patterned in question marks and tights patterned in emphatic exclamation points. Shirley, a fairy who is always losing her temper and snapping at her peers, was drawn wearing a hat and shoulder pads of Venus flytraps.

I chose a dandelion for the soft and shy Britence more out of the feeling than any sort of symbolism. This was the same reason for using a lily to crown Starlet, a fairy who is sweet and sensitive but adores the spotlight. Crowning the mopey and constantly-depressed Grooch with an upside down rose, thorns out, was a much more obvious choice, further emphasised through the frowning storm cloud patterns on his shorts. Finally, the courageous, but a bit too helpful Skipence was designed wearing a sunflower because of his cheery disposition.

In this illustration, the tiny fairies have just met one another and are following their new leader, Papa Fairy, with a bit of hesitance and uncertainty down unfamiliar corridors of Angel Castle. I tried to make each illustration of the interior of Angel Castle colourful in different ways with different patterns so that each illustration would have its own particular mood. 


The Lovers

Choice is the main theme of the Lovers card and while that's often seen in a purely romantic context, the choices represented by this card actually stretch out much further. I tried to keep the spirit of romance in my rendition of the Lovers while at the same time hinting at the manifold choices that fall outside of relationships or, at the very least, exist as peripheral factors influencing our choices in those relationships.

Often, the story of Adam and Eve is used to convey the choices insinuated by the Lovers and though I didn't feel that particular story captured the feeling of this card for me, I did pay homage by using apples in the border to display the card number. 

The Lovers - prior to phantasy coloring

I wanted to present several choices to the space cadet in the middle so she's walking between male and female, city and country, music and sport, night and day. The girl with the tennis racket represents this sort of '60s/'70s sweet (candy necklace) yet sexual in a not-so-obvious way nostalgic teen fantasy.

She's a camp counselor in a sort of teen horror fantasy as indicated by the hockey mask on her uniform. Though she pretty much exhales the hot breath of a '70s Indian summer, I wanted her to look like she was in the same future as the space cadet, hence the futuristic tennis racket. She's meant to represent the crossroads of the seasons between summer and autumn as evidenced by the leaves.

Some people may mistake the white orbs of fluff floating around as snowflakes but they were actually inspired by the wisps of pollen in the air in the movie Legend. They're basically like whole dandelion tufts coasting on the torrid breeze. 

The Lovers in full phantasy colour


To the cadet's right we have a different side of the nostalgic coin - a '70s glam rocker in a bubbly pink and violet disco with full on Farrah Fawcett mall hair and shark's tooth necklace. This is an archetype I can connect with for reasons beyond words. His shirt, his make-up, all of it has appeared to me in visions for several years.

But I really can't explain him beyond this. The same goes for the space cadet. Perhaps it ties into some personal mythology for me; the sexually ambiguous girl from outer space with the world at her feet, the sunshine and warmth of the Indian summer girl, the nocturnal allure and plasticity of the disco glam guitarist. There is so much that this rendition of the Lovers says to me but so few words that I can think to convey the meaning. 


The Knight of Swords

The Knight of Swords came to me spontaneously amidst a lecture on the meaning of the Minor Arcana. The concept for some sort of “video tarot” appeared to me in which cards are somehow selected at random but presented as 10-second bursts of video imagery and music.

For the Knight of Swords, I saw a slowly panning shot of dead trees losing their few remaining dried leaves to violent gusts of wind in the night, lightning illuminating a twisted sculpture of metal, an indiscernible mass of razor-studded limbs, bladed helmets, and thrusting swords in a stalemate of confusion.

The Knight of Swords - pre-color

The Knight of Swords - pre-color

For the illustration of the Knight of Swords, I took the basic concept but late in the illustration, I opted out of using the dead trees and lightning because I feared they would render the illustration even more confusing than I’d intended.

Yet, when I look at it in its watercoloured conclusion, I can’t help but feel the dead trees and lightning are still there – just out of frame. I used a tornado to unite the Knight of Swords into one being because this isn’t an army of knights fighting each other; rather it’s one knight in various stages of being just as one mind has several conflicting ideas. The uses of reds and purples were to perpetuate a sense of violence that accompanies states of confusion for me personally.

The Knight of Swords in vicious color

The Knight of Swords in vicious color


All knight cards have their horses and the Knight of Swords’ horse is split, facing opposite directions, actually being pulled together and apart at the same time by barbed chains. Blades are pointed outward and inward, destructive and self-destructive, the blind desperation of confusion. I can’t say whether the metal eyes of the horse can see but the knights have no vision in their dagger-like helmets. 


The Fool

I think I fashioned myself a romantic because I grew up in a Southwest Florida suburb looking out my bedroom window and never seeing what was there but rather seeing beyond it. Every new girl I met had a mystery, every mix tape had a secret message, every sunset was really mine whether anyone else knew it or not. I was the fool. Hell, I am the fool. And like the fool, I eventually left that suburb without much of a plan.

Recently, I was asked to take part in an art show inspired by the tarot (as an aside, the show opens on July 19th, at LAST Projects Gallery in Hollywood - Not only was I honored to be joining so many artists I respect but I was also genuinely interested in the theme after having just taken a course on reading tarot specifically in the hopes of finding some inspiration for my art and writing.

As soon as I was told about this show's theme, I immediately knew I'd have to do the Fool card, one of my favorites of the deck for many reasons; chiefly because he is the romantic.

The Fool illustration pre-colorization

I had a basic understanding of the Fool card but the tarot course went much more in-depth than what I'd read in passing. But as every human has his/her own mythology, I had a lot to draw on when adhering to the symbols of my Fool while honoring the universal symbols of the card.

The Fool in all his glory


In my rendition of the Fool, he is seen, as usual, prancing toward the edge of a cliff. His eyes are hopelessly focused on a blue moon that beckons him with a grin. Originally, the clownish mask that my Fool wears (somehow inspired by Punchinello and Pinocchio) was to be his true face, but as I worked on other cards in the series, this didn't seem to make sense. Something beyond me told me the Fool is wearing a mask.

Likewise, instead of a knap sack, he's carrying a scarecrow. The scarecrow is taken directly from a dream I had as a teenager in which I was trying to impress a girl I thought I was in love with; when I was rejected, I smashed myself up against a boulder repeatedly until my spine was snapped. At this point, I became the scarecrow.

Of course, art is always up for interpretation, but when I see the mask, I see a false smile, a nose that indicates lies, possibly even forced confidence. But that confidence, as porcelain and frail as it maybe, as fake as a mask, still gives my Fool the courage to soldier onward. After all, this is his unique mask and it fits him well.

The scarecrow ties into this somewhat, providing my Fool the same comfort as a cherished stuffed animal might, despite it being a man-made effigy. The scarecrow may also represent his past foolish behaviors and possibly displaced fear over the journey (as evidenced by the scarecrow's expression). You could also see him as half of a man or a burden of some sort that my Fool has carried, like a cross, through his travels. 

The dog in my Fool card was originally supposed to be a hyena but I felt the hyena expressed too much cowardice and pack mentality when my Fool's journey is primarily his own. Instead, my dog represents a combination of intelligence, faith, and loyalty to a cause, so I created a sort of hybrid fox/wolf that is pointing the way forward.

Some may see this card as a confirmed tragedy because of the shark marauding the waters directly below the cliff, but what risk could be worth taking that wasn't the slightest bit scary? I chose a light pink color for the shark to indicate that this is actually a benign event that can look scary from afar. I have full faith that my Fool will survive his fall and make it to the island in the distance.

And what about that island? The palm trees indicate the typical paradise island setting but they surround a pink Space Mountain-like structure. This is purely a personal reference; every time I go to Disneyland, I have a huge debate on whether I will ride Space Mountain. Typically I do and it terrifies me to the point of regret.

But there's also a lot of romance assigned to this ride for me, probably owing a lot of it to that same fear. How better to describe the journey of the Fool after his initial plunge? Honestly, do we have many occurrences in our lives where we take a leap of faith and that's all that is asked of us? That's often just the introduction to the adventure.

Instead of a rose, my Fool has picked a poppy. The Wizard of Oz reference wasn't intentional, but with the poppies and the scarecrow, it's not hard to see a subconscious influence from another great fool's journey. The poppies bring sleep and dreams and the Fool is a dreamer. He offers the poppy to the moon as a romantic tribute while losing himself in his dreams.

Again, this piece will be on display on July 19th, at LAST Projects Gallery in Hollywood - You can see the Facebook event page for it here:



The White Magician

The White Magician is possibly my hardest work to define so far while also being the painting that I've shared the least. This does not mean it's any less special to's just still a work that is somewhat of a mystery to me; perhaps my purest form of taking inspiration directly from the source without asking any questions. 

White Magician.jpg


The image of the White Magician came to me in November 2013 while I was immersed in work on other paintings and though the image kept returning to me, I somehow doubted I would actually find enough focus to paint it. It was almost like a dream, just a faded gossamer wisp on the edge of my mind that cut through my consciousness for fleeting moments only to be forgotten again.

The idea of a primarily white painting seemed strange to me as painting pure white on white canvas seems like work for little result. But as I began work on this painting in earnest, the period of doubt soon gave way to results that matched the images and symbols in my head accurately. I never questioned or even thought much about what I was doing. I don't even recall if I was really conscientiously creating symbols of the elements.

A few months later, I found myself taking a course on the tarot and when the Magician card was described to have the elements at his feet, I immediately thought of this painting. I was pretty ignorant to the tarot and its symbolism so this was a strange parallel to stumble upon. I noticed that the White Magician's hands were also similar to the Hierophant's which was also unintentional. 

Naming this painting "The White Magician" is a formality - I still feel like maybe this painting can't be tied down to a name by a person who, despite having the honor to create it, does not fully understand it. It's had several titles but they all seemed to anchor it into a reality that supposes I had more control over its creation than I did. 


The Mondrian Robot

I think the Mondrian Robot first came to me as a vision early in the morning when I was walking to the Metro station (on August 20, 2013 according to my diary). Mondrian color schemes started to appeal to me about 7 - 8 years ago when I was watching a lot of Godard films. I found something both nostalgic and highly clean and forward-thinking about Mondrian color schemes; sort of like the '60s concepts of the future but maybe less innocent. That's not really the right word but it's about as close as I can get. 

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The Mondrian robot is to appear in a novel I'm writing, possibly as part of a trilogy. Without giving too much away, I'll simply include an excerpt from the novel in hopes of better describing what he means to me.

"The effervescing buzz of insects intensifies losing its shape and combining with the brightness and heat of the sun into an inundating, maddening, enveloping wave that would overwhelm human ears, but the Mondrian Robot stands amidst the long grass of the plains of the Forever Veldt, impervious, unmoving, unphased. Two yellow bulbous sensors like eyes stare at a light blue sky smeared with the remnants of clouds, fixed expectantly on the great beyond.

With back arched slightly, the forgotten soldier remains like a white statue, contours defined in black lines, deflecting heat from its frame infused with a metal alloy carved with the symbols of the Arkadian mystics. Stories told of the Mondrian Robot that haunts the vast grasslands, but it would always know itself as #3-90-09455. While robots on phantom patrols are a common hazard of the veldt, #3-90-09455 stands out because of its striking colors, earning its nickname from its resemblance to a Mondrian painting."

The Marabou stork also makes an appearance in this painting simply because I've found them to be fascinating birds ever since one made a brief cameo in Fellini's Satyricon. When I was living in Tampa, Florida, a small group of Marabou storks that had presumably escaped from the local zoo (Busch Gardens) used to stalk through my apartment complex, looking rather prehistoric in their bizarre hunched prowl. 

I'd also like to take a second to thank Joel Westendorf who helped me immensely in photographing my paintings so that I could present them on this site as well as Carisa Mellado who helped with the editing process. 


Justina the Butterfly

I've been heavily immersed in a project of illustrating a children's book as of late, a sprawling fantasy adventure from author Rita Auricchio called Angel Castle. This project has left me a lot of room to get creative with character designs and things of that nature. While I'm obviously not going to share all of the illustrations I've completed for the forthcoming book, I am really excited about the work I've put into it and so I've decided to share 3 of the 10 illustrations here.



Today, I'll be sharing the first of the 3 illustrations, this one depicting the character of Justina, a chauffeur butterfly who assists the fairies of Angel Castle during their time on Earth. Justina is often described for her beauty and I tried to capture that elegance in a way that children and adults could both understand while at the same time capturing in her an alien quality that would maybe distance her from the humans yet make her perfectly acceptable to the fairies. The design of Justina came to me as a creature so cosmically beautiful and graceful that a human rooted in our world might have trouble comprehending her gorgeousness...or possibly even find her unnerving.