Andy Paciorek: The Weirdfinder General Pt 2

And we’re back, with Part Two of our Andy Paciorek feature. This time we focus down on his folk horror artwork, how he does it, where it comes from and where it’s all going. And we present a range of his illustrations,  a feast for the eyes.

Not a feast of eyes, please note. That would upset the local coroner again, and we had a lot of trouble last time. You can only plead the headaches so many times…

self-portrait
self portrait, paciorek

greydog: Andy, hello again. So, weird art – it’s why we first noticed you, and what we hunt out here on greydogtales. Regardless of FHR, you’ve been an artist in your own right for a number of years. Your Strange Lands website was recognised in the Froudian Artists Awards in 2008, and covers creatures from Celtic myth and legend. Was this your first major venture?

andy: In the area of darker more mythic art, yes it was my first venture into this area. So that was extremely complimentary and inspiring that such a tremendous talent in the field as Brian Froud would select my work as one of the best of the year on his fantastic World of Froud website.

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Prior to that I was writing and illustrating comic strips for small press publications, zines, mail art projects and on community based arts projects. I then took a few years out and literally ran away with the show-folk as I joined a travelling carnival that took me from Wales to South East Asia and the Middle East. When I returned to art, it was rather different to what I had been producing before.

lunatishee
lunatishee, paciorek

greydog: Strange Lands draws on the Celtic Otherworld, as we said, but one of your current illustrated projects, Black Earth, draws on the Slavic Otherworld. What was your inspiration for artwork based on Slavic tales?

andy: After Strange Lands, the desire grew within me to approach the supernatural entities and creatures of various different cultures in a heavily illustrated field-guide type format. My father is Polish (my mother was Italian – they met in Middlesbrough in the north of England so quite a mix there) and on a visit to Poland, the idea of doing a Slavic based book took seed in my mind.

kikamora
kikamora, paciorek

At that time there were very few Slavic lore books available in English in Britain (there have been a few more since, but as myths and legends go it is still comparatively under-represented in western publication) but other work prevented me from starting on the Black Earth book for a few years, then I had to put it aside as I concentrated again on commissioned work, some smaller personal projects and then life situations came to the fore which also for a while diverted my attentions elsewhere. But I have returned to Black Earth and have made good ground on it. The writing is for the most part complete and the majority of illustrations done – however when I embark on personal illustrated books we are sometimes talking over a hundred illustrations per book not a handful so there are still a few dozen to do. But hopefully 2016 may see it released.

It’s an interesting project to work on. There are some very intriguing denizens of Slavic lore, some very dark ones also, which for me are a great pleasure to draw.

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rasputin, paciorek

greydog: We usually ask something about technique or media, for anyone who’s feeling creative. What do you prefer to use when getting down to work – pen, charcoal, acrylics? Paper, a computer screen or a cunningly scraped goat-skin?

andy: Nothing as exotic as goat skin I’m afraid, I may have to try that for a future project. My parents used to keep goats when I was a kid (bad pun). They’re feisty critters, I doubt one would keep still long enough for me to draw on it!

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griffin, paciorek

I actually prefer a very direct route from idea to image. Pen on paper suits me best. I rarely paint and when I do it is very different to my drawings, I paint loosely and quickly in an expressionistic manner (though I do think my drawing is quite expressionistic too in a manner, it is more detailed and takes a bit longer). I haven’t actually painted for a few years now and my last painting was in collaboration with the exciting artist Dr Steg on our Stegorek project.

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dr steg and andy paciorek

In drawing I used to do more sketchbook rough compositions but more recently I have used photoshop to create photo-montaged collages to work out compositions. Having completed the ink drawing I will scan it into photoshop just mainly to do basic touch-up work, but may occasionally add colour filters, but I prefer mostly to work in black and white. I reserve colour more for my photography work these days.

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paciorek

greydog: We’ve had John Coulthart on greydogtales, of course, and mentioned other contemporaries like Santiago Caruso, as well as some classical illustrators. Who do you particularly admire?

andy: Both of the artists you mention are excellent artists whom, through the wonder of the internet, I’ve been lucky enough to have had communication with. Though I have a love-hate relationship with technology (though sometimes I think on its side it just hates me! Amazing when it works, awful when it doesn’t and I do seem to attract glitches and gremlins), the internet in its favour has made it far easier to see the work of both older less familiar art and contemporary artists, and there are some truly astounding artists out there. Too many to name individually as it would be a disservice to those I’d left out. What I admire in work is a sincerity of style and motive and an interesting individual eye.

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water horse, paciorek

Of all art I particularly love the Symbolist and Decadent movement, Romanticism, Expressionism, Flemish Primitivism / Northern Mannerism, Victorian fairy painting, Golden Age book illustration, pulp art, Ukiyo-e and the graphic works of artists such as Gustave Doré, Goya and Max Ernst.

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an example of ukiyo-e – by utagawa kuniyoshi

greydog: Yes, Doré remains inspirational for so many illustrators of the weird (see also our post  john coulthart – axioms & other dark beasts) When we were much younger creatures, one of our favourite disturbing possessions was the old Dover edition of Goya‘s Los Caprichos, still in one piece and treasured today. It’s a source of monstrous images which we should cover in more detail some time.

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dover (1969)

Do you have a personal favourite among your own artistic pieces or projects, one which gave you particular satisfaction?

andy: I’m not sure if I do. With having a pretty massive oeuvre of work, there’s a lot to choose from. It’s always interesting to see which pieces other people pick out as their favourites of my work, as frequently it’s quite surprising and diverse.

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paciorek

Satisfaction wise, I’ve enjoyed working on collaborations such as those done as Stegorek and the Balcan~Paciorek projects, and illustrating the stories by different authors for Cumbrian Cthulhu and some other projects. For my solo work it’s always satisfying to complete personally epic projects such as Strange Lands.

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prince randian the human caterpillar, paciorek

For my Human Chimaera book which provides over a hundred visual and textual portraits of ‘sideshow freaks’ was satisfying for a different reason as my intention was to present the subjects both with a respectful human portrayal but also to highlight the fantastic world that their stage names or descriptions suggested. I think I succeeded in pulling that off, so that was rather satisfying.

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the aztec children, paciorek

greydog: We end with the year ahead. FHR’s Corpse Roads, Black Earth and so on – these books are all hopefully coming. Do you have other artistic plans for the year, or will these pretty much take up all of your time?

andy: They are pretty time-consuming, but by necessity I need to do commissioned work also when it presents itself to keep the wolves from the door. In recent years I’ve been fortunate to have worked on a number of books for Harper-Collins for their Element Encyclopedia and Art for Mindfulness titles. The subject matter there has ranged from vampires to adult colouring books, so that’s also been interesting to work upon and forces me to have a bit of greater diversity in my output, which is not a bad thing. We’ve had initial talks about further projects, so touch-wood they will be knocking on the door again in not too distant future.

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corpse bird, paciorek

greydog: We wish you good fortune in all your projects, and many thanks for joining us, Andy Paciorek!

andy: My pleasure, thank you for asking.

We included a number of Folk Horror Revival links last time, in andy paciorek part one. A link to the FHR book itself is on the right-hand sidebar, and many of Andy’s drawings can be found via Facebook. You can also visit Andy’s great site dedicated to the Celtic Otherworld here:

strange lands

Note for Revivalists: Our next Folk Horror article will be a feature on FHR writer/photographer David Senior, coming next week.

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FILMS FROM THE GUTTER

Before we disconnect the microphones, sweep out the studio and default on the electricity bill, a last something not connected to folk horror. We don’t say a lot about films on here (which may change, but we do have our hands full with fiction and illustrative art most of the time).

We have however mentioned the extensive news, content and reviews site that is Ginger Nuts of Horror here before, and they do cover films.

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The Nuts are now publishing their own book, which will feature the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from their popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made.

It’s dead good value, so if you like worrying, full-on horror films, you should check out the rest of the details here:

film gutter volume one

But be warned. The Nuts do have a penchant for some dark, unpleasant stuff. Not like dear old creepy J Linseed Grant and his bad-tempered ponies.

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And we should be away. We couldn’t show all the Paciorek drawings we wanted to this time, but we may slip one or two in as we charge along towards Spring. Here’s one we rather liked as a last little reminder, from The Petrification of Phillipa Hesse, a cautionary tale by Damian Leslie & Andy Paciorek (2005/6).

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petrification of phillipa hesse, paciorek

Next week on the same wavelength:  Something about lurchers, more scary stuff and we’re building up to our next big theme, the watery weird that we call Stranger Seas. We can’t help ourselves…

 

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An Interview with the Weirdfinder General, Andy Paciorek

Dear listeners, are you folk of horror or horrible folk? This is your chance to decide, as we’re proud to present a major weekend feature with Andy Paciorek, artist extraordinaire and founder of the Folk Horror Revival. In Part One, today, we have an introduction to the whole concept, and Andy talks in depth about some of the seminal works and influences which make up this genre. In Part Two, in a couple of days, we dig deep into Andy’s own artistic work, lavishly illustrated by the man himself.

Please turn your paper over and begin…

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infrared photography by jamie emerson

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Andy, and thanks for giving us so much of your time.

We have of course been following the whole Folk Horror Revival with great interest, as it coincides with our own exploration of the weird – and occasionally the Wyrd (of which more later). So we’re going to be extremely unfair to you right from the start. For those who are not that familiar with it, what is folk-horror?

andy: There is no rigid definition of ‘folk horror’ as it is not born from a manifesto with strict guidelines but is a word that has been applied after the creation of its most early examples. Basically it is a form of fantastic fiction that blends aspects of folkloric, witchcraft or pagan elements with a horror narrative. However it is a sinuous beast. There are examples of horror that could be similarly described that are not ‘folk horror’, so aesthetic and ambience play a strong part. It is frequently something that can be felt and recognised through a growing familiarity than adequately described in words. For different people also there may be some discrepancy between what they recognise as being folk horror.

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vincent price, witchfinder

A good place to start is to watch the films that have become the unholy trinity of folk horror – namely Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973) and if they take your fancy work outward to less familiar items such as Robin Redbreast, Children of the Stones and The Owl Service for instance. And from there to non-British and non-European examples and also into literature such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Harvest Home and Kwaidan for example. Then having immersed yourself in more folk horror, you may be able to feel it more and recognise it further, but may not be able to describe it any more adequately. The more you see it in media and books, you will find you hear it in music and start to see it beyond fiction also but in life.

greydog: You are, in effect, the originator of the Folk Horror Revival – maybe you could tell us something about how that happened?

andy: I have a habit, if I look for something and it is not there then I become inclined to create it, and it sometimes becomes the case that I create a monster. I rather like monsters though. Such an instance was that I was personally looking for a folk horror page to follow on facebook. I kept looking over a period of time and there still wasn’t one so I created the Folk Horror page. The change of facebook’s practise in making posts from pages more likely to be seen if paid for was another catalyst as I was not going to pay for something that was non-profit, so as tumbleweed started to roll past the lonely Folk Horror page I looked instead to creating a facebook group.

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kwaidan, toho co. ltd

I was aware that there was a different dynamic to facebook groups with far more member participation and as I was creating new examples of folk horror in my own work, I knew there were other filmmakers, artists, musicians and writers creating their own forms of new folk horror so I decided then that the group would not simply be a ‘remembrance’ forum (though nostalgia and discussion of the classics is still and always will be an integral part of the project) it would be a ‘revival’ – somewhere where people who created work relevant to the group’s stated interests could promote their creations and meet other like-minded souls on which to collaborate in the creation of further work.

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As a butterfly that is pinned down and labelled is not as vital as a living butterfly that soars beautifully in the air, so to evolve and continue, folk horror must have the space and inspiration sources to soar. A good example of this in cinema is Ben Wheatley‘s Kill List (2011) which does not only contain elements of traditional folk horror but also adds social realism and crime drama to the mix. So added to the list of group interests were the not unrelated areas of psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, cultural rituals and costume, earth mysteries, archaic history, hauntings. southern gothic, ‘landscapism / visionary naturalism & geography’, backwoods, murder ballads, carnivalia, dark psychedelia, wyrd forteana and some speculative horror where the paths cross.

I also. even at its inception, had the intention that if possible the folk horror revival would roam beyond the boundaries of facebook and the interest shown and the wealth of talent that had found their own way to the group made it apparent that this was possible. So I gathered an excellent team of adminstrators around me, each of whom possess great and different skills and abilities. The FHR team soon became not simply moderators of a facebook group but a think tank for some exciting new ventures.

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Through the skills and hard selfless work of the team, the revival has extended into a Good Reads Group, Youtube channel, Spotify playlist, Tumblr and a great new website at folkhorrorrevival.com.

Beyond the internet there has been a great Folk Horror Revival Melmoth music mix that features the sonic talents of many members of the group. We established Wyrd Harvest Press to produce books and have been busy trying to organise live events and academic talks. The first fruits of which will burst from the bud in near future with, touch wood, much more to come. By exploring other avenues it helps make connection with others who are active in or appreciative of folk horror related material.

For all of which credit must go to the cabal of FHR administrators, – Jim Peters, Darren Charles, Dan Hunt, Grey Malkin, Kat Beem, John Pilgrim, Adam Scovell, Stephen Canner, Cobweb Mehers, Rich Blackett, Andrew McGuigan, Simon Magus and Andy Sharp who have contributed to the ongoing project in many ways and have also bore well my occasional outbursts of passion and melancholia. Also the input of the Revivalists – the growing active membership of Folk Horror Revival, has been vital. I don’t mean this interview to sound like an Oscar winner’s speech but I do strongly believe in giving credit where credit is due.

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greydog: We’ve featured the first book, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, on here before. It’s a fascinating collection of essays and observations, well worth dipping into again and again. We understand that you’re hoping to follow Field Studies with further collections, is that right?

andy: We’ve been very pleased with the reception of Field Studies both for the work itself and as a charity fundraiser for the Wildlife Trusts. There are some fascinating essays in there and interviews with some great talents working in the area, but there is a lot of scope for further investigation, so a second volume of Field Studies is in production, which again promises to be another very interesting tome.

In addition we’ve decided to take the literary side in different yet still related directions, so in 2016 we have plans to release Harvest Hymns – a study of the influence of folk horror themes in different musical works and Corpse Roads– a collection of old and new poetry accompanied by some atmospheric photography. The work already received for these projects again continues to impress.

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corspe road, swindale head, by david stewart/nicholas rudd-jones

In 2017 we intend to follow with Ancient Rituals which will be a gathering of old weird and folk horror short fiction and Modern Rites which will be entirely new fiction works in the field. Both Ancient Rituals and Modern Rites will be illustrated with new images by some of the pool of considerable artistic talent within the Folk Horror Revival membership. Ideas for further possible books beyond these continue to bubble within our minds also.

Following the model of the fantastic Cumbrian Cthulhu charity book project, as with Field Studies, all of the Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press books will continue to donate 100% of the profits to the charity.

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greydog: We’ll look forward to those. Our own den of thieves here has a fondness for what we might call American folk-horror, dating from early exposure to Manly Wade Wellman, Appalachian folk songs and strange stories from the isolated groups in the hills – we might even add H P Lovecraft‘s inward-looking, inbred communities. Do you see any fundamental differences between the American and European versions?

andy: I personally don’t actually see any fundamental differences in the versions beyond cultural nuances and the nature of the individual landscape and environment. At the core there are still shared elements. These can relate to the themes that Adam Scovell suggests in his essays about a folk horror chain which can be found here – http://celluloidwickerman.com/2014/09/25/the-folk-horror-chain/

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appalachian mountains

I think there are some very intriguing strains of American folk horror. I really like Alan Lomax‘s musical explorations and the Appalachian stuff is very interesting. I love the murder ballad aspect. There are different flavours I think of American folk horror, in addition to those you’ve mentioned I would also suggest the Salem legacy which has resulted in works such as The Crucible and Crowhaven Farm. Thomas Tryon‘s great novels Harvest Home and The Other. Southern Gothic including the film version of Angel Heart. Some American backwoods dramas such as Deliverance and Southern Comfort may not have the folkloric or paganistic aspect, but do otherwise have something of a folk-horror feel. Also there is what I have referred to as Weird Americana in an essay in Field Studies, whereby elements of an American identity form the body of weird tales as delivered by such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, David Lynch with Twin Peaks and Daniel Knauf‘s Carnivàle.

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greydog: We loved Carnivàle, and might have mentioned it if you hadn’t! Now, growing up in rural Yorkshire as we did, the landscape was a huge part of that ‘different’ feel, the sense that there was always more past, with its events and myths, beneath the surface. Did you feel this during your own upbringing, or did it come to you later?

andy: I’m from Durham so that is just a spit and a stone throw from Yorkshire and yes, there is something about the landscape. Something in the air, the water. I was amused and intrigued by the fact that in the very early days of Folk Horror Revival so many of the people who found themselves at the group seemed to have come from the north of Britain.

I think that it is something that takes root at an early age. I don’t know whether as many children feel that now, with seemingly more time and attention taken up by technology. But landscape and involvement with it does have a resonance that carries over into both tastes and work. You can feel that in Rob Reiner‘s Stand By Me, the film adaptation of Stephen King‘s story, The Body. This film I feel flows to the brim with childhood nostalgia and of kid’s relationship to the environment. I also had a similar feeling in reading the chapter about dens in Paul Farley‘s book Edgelands. It’s also palpable in books as diverse as J.A. Baker‘s The Peregrine and Alan Garner‘s works.

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vincent blackshadow (2006)

This quality extends to other areas of Britain such as the Dartmoor of Alan Lee and Brian Froud, the League of Gentlemen‘s Peak District village of Royston Vasey, Richard Littler‘s Scarfolk and Emily Bronte‘s misty moors. In the TV movie, See No Evil about the true life Moors Murders there is a short scene of Saddleworth Moor and that is all it needed for me to install in my head the thought, that not just only in this film but in the actual atrocity the moor was as major a character as Brady and Hindley. This barren place, though not devoid of a raw elemental beauty, casts a dark ominous shadow.

I am currently reading and very much enjoying Andrew Michael Hurley‘s novel, The Loney. The titular Loney is a place on the coast, but Hurley did not need to say it was in Lancashire because in reading his description of the place my mind instantly returned to Morecambe Bay, a place that beguiles me both in its dangerous nature but also by its desolate beauty.

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From the highlands of Scotland, down the spine of the Pennines to the Norfolk Broads to Snowdonia and Cornwall, there is a brooding quality to parts of the British landscapes, that suggest secrets hidden but also stories waiting to be shared, waiting for writers and artists to venture into those parts and when they do, they do not entirely create the work themselves but are the conduits for the spirits of these place who wish to tell their tales through them.

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greydog: We mentioned the Wyrd (fate) earlier because of our love of old North European stuff (our technical term). As in the poem The Wanderer (9th/10th C). This is probably because the wanderer in Anglo-Saxon is eardstapa, ‘earth-stepper’. It was our first introduction to kennings – where a compound is used, like ‘whale-road’ for sea. In our teens this sounded awesome, like something out of a fantasy novel, and so we followed it up. Are you interested in the myths and beliefs of those cultures?

andy: I do have an interest in the different beliefs of different cultures. It is fascinating stuff. The word ‘Wyrd’ just has an amazing feel to it, it looks so much more enchanting than its ‘weird’ derivative, though I do like that word also and ‘weirdo’. There is a beauty and magic in words, and like places they can be the catalyst to creation. I remember reading a piece by Ray Bradbury on creative writing and he said a method of his would be just to write in a notebook titles that came into his head, ‘The Jar‘, ‘The Skeleton‘ etc and that when the time was right referring to the notebook and seeing these scribbled titles, the stories then would begin to write themselves within his head.

greydog: We do the same thing, but then forget why we wrote the words, which is less productive.  And Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is another example of a tale (and film) with folk lore elements. Right, we’ll pause there, give you an interrim “Thanks”, and pick up again later in the weekend.

We take a break for a day or so to prepare the second part of our feature, where Andy talks about his artwork, inspirations and techniques.  With lots of illustrations.

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The interview above has raised many examples of works in this area, so do get digging. For a feel of what folk horror might mean to you, greydogtales suggests two films and two books which reflect some of the dread and closed-in community unease we love about the whole scene.

Blood-on-Satans-Claw-12742_9Unapologetic British folk horror film: The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

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Unsettling US folk horror film: Winter’s Bone (2010)

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British classic book: The Owl Service by Alan Garner (1967)

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US classic book: John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman (1988 and a bugger to get hold of in the UK)

Next time: Part Two of the Weirdfinder General, and news about the first film book from The Ginger Nuts of Horror.

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Twelve Tales Which Linger

Which stories stay with you, years after you first read them? That’s the greydogtales question for today. We return to our love of early strange and supernatural stories, in a way which might entertain and vex in equal measure. Whilst rummaging through piles of books for a particular ghost story (which still hasn’t turned up), we drifted into thinking about those tales which never quite go away. So we thought we’d share a handful of them here.

The stories picked had to be:

  • supernatural or unnatural to some certain degree (no pretend hauntings, let-downs or mundane explanations)
  • memorable for their themes, key elements or imagery
  • different from the usual fare in some way, either in style, approach or resolution
  • free of the standard vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies and cthulhoids for a change

Of course, each had to be a weird tale which remained in memory long after the book was closed.

We make no excuses for the fact that many of these stories are well-known. They are well-known for a reason, and we weren’t trying to find obscure oddities so we could sound clever. We could do that if we wanted, you know. Honestly we could.

The stories are given order of the author’s year of birth, for no particular reason. The rating system is badly-thought out, unreliable and of no real value whatsoever. We understand that lists do that sort of thing, and didn’t want it to look like we hadn’t tried.

1) Sredni Vashtar
H H Munro (1862-1916)

A masterpiece in its simplicity, as so often with Saki (H H Munro). A disturbing glimpse into a boy’s life and his frustrations, one of the most inventive ‘weird’ tales ever written. As to what Sredni Vashtar is, and what it does, we can say no more without spoiling the story.

Scary rating: 8/10
Style rating: 9/10

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2) The Malice of Inanimate Objects
M R James (1862-1936)

A very short story which stands out because it doesn’t follow the antiquarian Jamesian trope, having a more contemporary feel to it. It has some of his best understated prose towards the end, and the line about shaving in the penultimate paragraph is one of the finest descriptions of a rather nasty event ever written.

Scary rating: 4/10
Style rating: 9/10

3) Where Their Fire is not Quenched
May Sinclair (1863-1946)

A piece of horror concerning love and relationships which avoids every cliché. Truly chilling if you let yourself absorb its analysis of people and what they do to each other. To her credit Sinclair takes an entirely humanistic approach where a good old-fashioned ghost, witch or cursed object would have come as light relief for the reader.

Scary rating: 7/10
Style rating: 7/10

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4) The Yellow Sign
Robert W Chambers (1865-1933)

The quintessential introduction to the concept of the King in Yellow and the Yellow Sign, this story evokes things beyond the natural order, and a genuine sense of madness pressing on the human mind. “…but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midnight sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city.” The concept is fascinating enough, but with the churchyard watchman Chambers also adds suggestions of more tangible horror to his questioning of sanity.

Scary rating: 9/10
Style rating: 8/10

King in Yellow

5) Lord Beden’s Motor
J B Harris-Burland (1870-1926)

Written in 1901, this story should already be of note because of its central use of the motor car. In fact, it’s a weird story anyway, with a wonderful sense of speed and danger as Lord Beden burns through the night in his 12 horsepower Napier, in pursuit of something far stranger and darker than his own automobile. Innovative and enjoyable.

Scary rating: 7/10
Style rating: 6/10

6) Bone to his Bone
E G Swain (1871-1838)

A marvellous Mr Batchel story. This is the epitome of Swain’s gentle humour and everyday approach, which opens up the natural presence of ghosts around us for various perfectly good reasons. It shows how a master can handle a haunting without cheap terror and trickery. Also notable for its unusual approach to bibliomancy, which is a delight.

Scary rating: 1/10
Style rating: 9/10

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7) The Whistling Room
William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

Not the best of Hodgson, but an introduction to two of his themes – scientific ghost hunting and the possibility of true abominations rather than merely scary spirits. His portrayal of a sense of danger and imminent, utter destruction stands out, as does the source of it. As has been said, quite unfilmable because of its unique imagery, but Hodgson carries it off on paper.

Scary rating: 7/10
Style rating: 4/10

8) Hill Drums
Henry S Whitehead (1882-1932)

A new consul-general arrives on the island of St Thomas, and does not ‘fit in’. An unusual story which reflects on the nature of culture in the West Indies and relies on a remarkably simple theme to achieve its effect. It would be easy to choose one of Whitehead’s more directly frightening and equally well-handled stories, but this one has perhaps more in common with James – and Swain – than usual. “Him go back to Trebizond” is a refrain which somehow doesn’t go away.

Scary rating: 2/10
Style rating: 8/10

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9) Branch Line to Benceston
Sir Andrew Caldecott (1884-1951)

Another unusual story, even for its author, which pursues possibilities of alternate or co-existing worlds – or does it? As with much of Caldecott’s work, the exact explanation is elusive, but the concept of a man seeing his life play out in Benceston even as it deteriorates in ‘reality’ is a striking one, with a worrying conclusion.

Scary rating: 5/10
Style rating: 6/10

10) The Crown Derby Plate
Marjorie Bowen (1885-1952)

A woman who deals in antiques has one plate missing from a Crown Derby service which she bought at auction thirty years before. So she tries to get hold of the missing plate. Possibly one of the most wonderfully simple and prosaic starts to a deceptive story which grows as it develops. Another one which definitely stays with you, enough so that you re-read it to check it really said what you thought. Clever and quietly scary.

Scary rating: 6/10
Style rating: 8/10

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11) The Outsider
H P Lovecraft (1890-1937)

Rather than pick a Mythos or Dream-Lands story, it seemed more appropriate for this list to go with one of Lovecraft’s most unsettling pieces, which seems modest enough until you get to the last lines, and reflect on what has gone before. All the better for having no strange gods or fancy names in it, employing instead a most Gothic feel. Also notable for the empathy which Lovecraft evokes, in a tale which at times seems almost autobiographical (if you prefer psychoanalysis to a good yarn).

Scary rating: 8/10
Style rating: 6/10

561416723.0.l

12) The Colossus of Ylourgne
Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)

A late entry, but one that stuck with us. Shedding that florid, sometimes over-written fantasy style which falls between Lord Dunsany and Jack Vance, Smith returns to Averoigne, a place which is more haunting because of its closeness to reality than its divergence from it. Except for the central activities of an insane necromancer, and the graphic nature of those activities. Memorable for both the ghastly techniques involved in what the madman constructs, and the horrors which come after.

Scary rating: 7/10
Style rating: 6/10

We would, naturally, be interested to hear what you think.

At the end of this week – a major illustrated interview with the talented Andy Paciorek, artist and originator of the whole Folk Horror Revival movement. Harrumble!

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The Dark (Folk) Arts of Paul Watson

Meet the Badb Catha and her friends. Yes, out of the cold, sodden North we have managed to produce another of our weird art interviews. We had intended to ring the vet for more of Twiglet’s medicine, but then an artist called. Next time we’ll probably interview the vet and pump the artist full of anti-rheumatics syrup. That might be quite interesting.

We’re back in the UK today, and are delighted to introduce Paul Watson, a contemporary artist with a number of strings to his brooding bow. We met Paul through the Folk Horror Revival, and here he is in the e-flesh to talk to us.

(As usual, all work is copyright of the artist, and if you click on a piece of work, you should get a much better view.)

 

paul-watson

greydog: Many thanks for joining us today, Paul. As you know, last year we became interested in the Folk Horror Revival because our idea of ‘weird’ includes both fictional strangenesses and deep-rooted myths or beliefs. Before we talk about your work, what drew you personally to the folk-horror scene?

paul: It’s a combination of things, I think. I’ve always been interested in myths, and folk horror frequently draws inspiration from myth and folklore. I also have a deep interest in what Robert Macfarlane called “The English Eerie” (robert macfarlane article link), what he called “the skull beneath the skin of the countryside”.

I grew up in the 1970s and early 80s watching Children of the Stones, Sapphire and Steel, The Tomorrow People, and Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, all of which have varying degrees of what we now call folk-horror, so my childhood was steeped in it.

I like the weird, unsettling, atmosphere in folk-horror – it’s far more interesting to me than straight-out shock-and-gore horror.

badbcatha02
badb-catha, paul watson

greydog: Folk-horror does infiltrate and unsettle, an aspect we like as well. On to your own art. Perhaps you could tell us a little about the concept of the Lazarus Corporation, which you started in 1996.

paul: When I first put together a website for my artwork back in 1996 I decided to give it a name other than my own. Part of the thinking behind it was that Andy Warhol had “The Factory” (the name the artist gave to his New York studio), so I’d take that idea into the 1990s and have “The Corporation”.

The “Lazarus” element was a reference to both of the biblical characters of that name, and also to Dennis Potter’s TV drama “Cold Lazarus” which had been shown for the first time that same year, and an earlier comic strip by Warren Ellis called “Lazarus Churchyard”.

The very earliest version of the website was simply an online gallery for my own artwork, but over the years I added a few other artists and writers to it. Now I’m using it to sell artwork as well, and by the time you read this it will have also become a publishing company of sorts as my self-published book of my artwork will bear the “Lazarus Corporation” imprint.

Forest Figure Linoprint, by Paul Watson
forest figure linoprint, paul watson

greydog: You work in a number of media, including linocut printing, photography and charcoal or pencil drawing. Do you find any one of these more satisfying than the others, or do you use them to express different ideas?

paul: I find them all satisfying in different ways. Drawing is the most personal medium for me, perhaps because it doesn’t have the mechanical aspects of either printmaking or photography.

That said, I really enjoy the mechanical aspects of printmaking, especially the way you only see the image at the very end of the creative process, after you pull it out of the press and peel the paper off the linocut.

Photography is useful for making people look twice – we’re still used to trusting photographs, so if you see something strange in a photograph it grabs your attention.

bark-mask-02
bark mask, paul watson

greydog: Whichever medium you employ, you seem to concentrate on the human form. Have you ever considered working in other areas, such as interpreting landscapes or structures?

paul: I’ve tried other subjects in the past, but I’m always drawn back to the human.

Copyright Paul Watson, 2014
blind seeress, paul watson

greydog: Your photography reflects many aspects of European mythology, particularly the dark, prophetic or even vengeful aspects of women. What led you to go down this route?

paul: The main reason for concentrating on female characters was a purely practical one: the only models available were women. I’m glad to say that’s changed now, and I started some artwork with a male model last week.

I recently had the idea of doing two versions of each character in my photography—one modelled by a man, one by a woman—and somehow blending them together, either by displaying the photographs them side by side or digitally manipulating the photographs so that both male and female were combined in the same image. I’m hoping to pursue this in the future, making the characters a flickering mix of both male and female.

The dark/vengeful aspect is simply because I find dark characters more interesting – there’s probably a lot of folk-horror influence in that! To some extent the characters are all manifestations of some aspect of nature-as-uncontrolled-wilderness, so they’re not vengeful as such, just indifferent to humans.

Forest Priestess (3)
bark mask, paul watson

greydog: We feel like that some days. You also used to produce complex collages – is this an approach that you’ve left behind?

paul: Yes, I made collages for many years, but towards the end the creative process started to feel a bit stale and formulaic – I wasn’t surprising myself any more or learning anything. Taking a lesson from David Bowie, I made a sudden and complete stylistic change (and change of medium), and moved into printmaking and photography.

untitled-figure
untitled figure, paul watson

greydog: Give us some idea of other artists who you admire. Do you look mostly to contemporaries, or do you feel influenced by what we might call ‘classical’ artists?

badb-catha
badb-catha, paul watson

paul: A whole mixture, really, from Caravaggio to Francis Bacon, via William Blake, Francisco Goya, Edvard Munch, and Joseph Cornell. Robert Rauschenberg was a definite influence when I was making collages.

I’ve also always liked Expressionist artwork from the first half of the 20th Century: artists such as Käthe Kollwitz, Emil Nolde, and Oskar Kokoschka. I think they’re one influence on my lino prints. I also like some of the surrealist painters, particularly Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst.

As to contemporary artists I admire, there are two photographers whose artwork I really like: Ellen Rogers (ellen rogers link) is absolutely brilliant and I’ve bought prints of several of her photographs, and both of her books, and Caryn Drexl (caryn drexl link) is also very good indeed, and I’ve got a large print by her as well.

kollwitz
kollwitz

greydog: We’ve always been into Munch, and we know some of the Expressionist print-work, but not in any depth. Kollwitz is striking but very bleak (actually some of it is so bleak it’s hard to look at). We do like Kokoschka‘s bold prints.

sleeping girl
sleeping girl, kokoschka

Now, we ought to ask, as greydogtales covers a lot of weird tales, do you find any of your inspiration in fiction?

paul: Yes, I think a lot of my inspiration comes from fiction. I tend to read quite a bit of science/speculative fiction: Mary Gentle, Catherynne Valente, Gene Wolfe, David Mitchell, Ursula LeGuin, Lauren Beukes, Jeff VanderMeer, Paolo Bacigalupi, Karen Joy Fowler, M. John Harrison, Ann Leckie, Robert Holdstock, Hannu Rajaniemi, Jo Walton, Nicola Griffith, Steph Swainston, China Miéville…

badb-catha-drawing-01
badb-catha, paul watson

greydog: That’s one high-powered list. We had a critique group of writing friends which included Nicola Griffith many years ago – very talented woman. Finally, give us a hint as to what we might see from you in 2016.

paul: I’m currently working on a new series of artwork based around a corn mask that I made, provisionally titled “Come unto the corn” – that should appear towards the end of January if all goes well. And at the same time my book of artwork “Myth and Masks” should be published.

I’d like to do more printmaking in 2016, but I can never really predict what direction my artwork will take. I’d like to try out some different things in 2016, but I don’t know whether it’ll be a new medium or a new style. Or both.

medea-series-2-07
medea, paul watson

greydog: We look forward to following your work this year, and many thanks again for coming on greydogtales, Paul Watson.

all-that-you-think-you-know
paul watson

For others interested in Paul’s art, you can find a range of his pieces on display at the Lazarus Corporation website, linked below. Note that the site includes occasional elements which are NSFW:

lazarus corporation

Another day, another fake dollar. We shall close, gentle listener, and plan more stuff intriguing delights for next time…

 

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