Interview: Gary Pullin / by Charlie Brigden

gary1 Gary Pullin's art has graced recent soundtracks such as Re-Animator and Creepshow, as well as designing posters for the likes of Mondo. We talked to Gary about his work in the vinyl field, his influences, and how his obsession with all things creepy started.

Films On Wax: The majority of your art is based around horror movies and art. Why horror?

Gary Pullin: I don't really know, I grew up in the 80s during the big home video boom, when renting horror was really popular. I would visit just about every video store in London, Ontario looking for any horror film I could find. I collected horror magazines, read novels, and my parents were really cool about my interests in horror and I think they were just happy I was doing something creative with all of this stuff. One of the very first images of anything scary that I can recall was Vincent Price's laughing, floating head, floating among lightning and haunted castles. It was the intro to a children's television show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, which starred Billy Van, but had Vincent as the wizard or ghoul who introduced each segment. The show was an insanely psychedelic mash up of Universal monsters, sketch comedy, music and bizarre humor all under the guise of educational programming. It spoofed Dracula. Frankenstein, the Wolfman... and it was filmed in Hamilton Ontario, an hour away from my hometown of London. I was hooked on it!

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FOW: Did you ever doodle horror stuff in class?

GP: I was always scribbling monsters like Frankenstein and Freddy, heavy metal band logos, skulls - all of the average things a well-adjusted teenager may draw. I remember getting out of some class work because my teacher wanted me to draw some posters of Freddy and Jason that she could hang in class during Halloween. I recently found one and it's pretty funny to see now.

FOW: Out of all the art you've done, what's your favourite piece?

GP: I don't know, it's hard to pick a favourite. I'm partial to some of the vinyl stuff I've done with Waxwork (Creepshow, Re-Animator), Mondo (Tales From The Crypt), and Death Waltz (They Live). I love working on film soundtracks as much as I do film posters, and I have a background in commercial packaging so I love that it combines my love of horror and package design.

FOW: Can you tell us about your art for....

Re-Animator/Creepshow

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GP: Both of the the releases I did for Waxwork was great fun. I had the movies going and really researched past posters and marketing materials related to the films. There's so many directions you can go in with Re-Animator - I came up with a ton of sketches (which I blogged about) and did the same for Creepshow, but I always came back to the idea of the all of the episodes exploding from the meteor. Kevin [Bergeron, Waxwork label head] had some great ideas too and we really wanted to take full advantage of the large-sized format that vinyl offers and pack it full of art. I also had fun drawing Stephen King as Jordy Verrill, and he's pretty memorable in it. 'The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill' kicks off the movie and King's campy performance really sets the tone for the rest of the film.

They Live

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They Live for Death Waltz came about from an idea I had kicking around, and when Spencer [Hickman] from Death Waltz asked me if I was a fan, I was excited to show him my take on it. The score has a western sci-fi vibe, very ominous and atmospheric. I wanted a sinister look to it - the minimalist approach I took to the design really seemed to make sense for the score. Alan Howarth's synth score reminded me of an alien ghost town. I loved what Death Waltz did with the whole package, the bubble gum vinyl variant was a great touch.

Goblin tour poster

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The Goblin tour posters were again, a real pleasure. The timing in both was tight, but I wanted to come up with something simple. The 2013 tour poster, was done with my friend Ankixa Risk - she brought me into the fold for that. Then in 2014, keyboardist Maurizio Guarini said the band really wanted to work again on another poster, so it was great fun. Maurizio lives in Toronto and we've run into each other a lot over the years, so I was really excited to be collaborating with those guys, their music is legendary.

FOW: This is a really broad question, but which artists have really inspired and influenced your work?

GP: I've always been heavily inspired by Basil Gogos [who did the amazing cover art for the infamous Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine], the Tales From The Crypt/EC Comics artists like Ghastly Graham Ingles and Jack Davis, poster artists Drew Struzan, Matthew Peak, Saul Bass and Reynold Brown. More contemporary artists that I find inspiring are Bernie Wrightson, Charles Burns, Joe Coleman, Martin Ansin, Ken Taylor, Olly Moss, to name a few and I'm always inspired by the work of my good buddies, Jason Edmiston and Justin Erickson.

FOW: Do you have any kind of set routine that you stick to when you're given a brief for a project?

GP: I always start with rough sketches or thumbnails, jam out ideas, and then do some quick drawings. Once we narrow it down to a direction, I'll finalize the art using Photoshop, Manga and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet.

FOW: Do you listen to the soundtracks when you're working on the art? Is there any kind of playlist you have for these kind of projects?

GP: I do listen to the soundtracks. I feel that it's important to be really familiar with the film. The music often evokes imagery or can ignite an idea that may come about from the soundtrack. If I don't have access to the soundtrack, I'll listen to the movie while I work. I'm always listening to music or horror and design podcasts, or I'll throw on my John Carpenter mix - it always gets me through those long nights and hard deadlines.

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FOW: You have a pretty versatile style - with some classical painting to your line work - but do you have a favourite style you like to work on?

GP: I try to be a bit diverse, but I really just go with whatever style I think is appropriate for the project. There is a lot of planning, but at the same time I like to keep things organic.

FOW: Is there any soundtrack work coming up that you're allowed to tell us about?

GP: I can't say, unfortunately, but I just finished a non-horror vinyl that's going to drop at San Diego Comic-Con and I am just starting on a very cool horror soundtrack with Mondo as we speak. I wish I could say more, but I can say I'm doing more vinyl, more posters and more cons!

FOW: Is there one movie or show that you've never done anything for that you'd murder someone to draw?

GP: I'd love to do My Bloody Valentine or Black Christmas - something Canadian would be really inspiring. I'm working on a big horror property for a poster release this year which has been something of a dream project. But I'm just having a lot of fun taking the gigs as they come and honoured to be making a living creating art for some of my favourite things.

Thanks to Gary Pullin, and you can check out all his art at his website here.