If you are a fan of Lovecraftian art, then you have probably come in contact with the detailed black-and-white imagery of Aeron Alfrey. His art has been published in numerous books and shown in galleries around the world. His work was most recently featured in the show “At the Mountains of Madness: A Tribute to the Writings of Lovecraft”, at Nucleus Gallery, Alhambra, California. He also worked on the cover illustration for Thomas Ligotti’s Songs Of A Dead Dreamer, recently republished by Subterranean Press, and many other books.
IFP: Please introduce yourself briefly to our readers.
AA: My name is Aeron Alfrey, I am an artist focused on imagery in the realm of the horrific and fantastic.
IFP: Have you always been interested in painting? Were you one of those kids doodling in his notebook instead of taking notes during class?
AA: I’ve always been creative and have loved creating strange pictures as far back as I can remember. I recall drawing incredibly detailed interior architectural designs for haunted houses when I was around eight years old. I would draw rooms that contained trap doors into pits of acid water with skeletons floating, hidden dungeon passages with monsters and spike traps. I found a small booklet of monster drawings I made when I was around eight years old; these can be found at the following link. http://eatenbyducks.blogspot.com/2008/06/ancient-beastiary.html.
IFP: Can you talk a bit about your technique and the materials you use?
AA: My primary medium is digital at the moment. I’ve spent seven years developing my technique. Originally, I worked in a more collage-like style and have been moving toward a more abstract manner of depicting things. I like to impose accidental effects and try to use the digital medium in as fluid a manner as possible. As an example of how I work, I’ll take a large photo of a pig and use the detail of the skin folds on its face to create the arms of some random creature. This will then be reworked with bits and pieces of other textural imagery to create edges, musculature, etc. I have a particular technique using photos with heavy darks or lights that I’ll run in translucent layers over the imagery I’m working on to emulate a unique means of dodging and burning and to help pull out contrasting details. I’m always working in more and more layers and investing too much time in the textural details of three translucent levels underneath of something. I use a Mac and Photoshop.
IFP: How would you describe your painting style?
AA: What I try to achieve is not realistic but a realism that can only exist in a nightmare. Things are warped, distorted, dirty, gritty, broken; parts of things fall apart, dark spaces where there shouldn’t be. Shadows bend around impossible things that march through worlds that shouldn’t exist. Nightmare realism.
IFP: There’s something about Hieronymus Bosch and Gustave Dore in some of your artwork. What other artists, movies or writers influence you?
AA: Some names that come to mind are Zdzislaw Beksinki, Joel Peter Witkin, Clive Barker, Ray Harryhausen, Wayne Barlowe, Thomas Ligotti, Giovanni Piranesi, J.K Potter, Sidney Sime, Ian Miller, Francis Bacon, Alfred Kubin, Jacque Callot, particularly his interpretations of the Temptations of Saint Anthony. Goya’s Caprichos and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. So far as film, anything from The Quay Brothers – Street of the Crocodiles is a favourite – Jan Svankmajer, Karl Zeman, Wladyslaw Starewicz, Rene Laloux, Guy Maddin. I’m a huge fan of Hammer films, cheesy sci fi horror flicks from the 50s – 80s. The film Viy from 1967 is a particular favourite. The ending in the church with the demons has always stood out in my mind. And everything I share at www.monsterbrains.blogspot.com is inspiring to me.
IFP: How did you become interested in Lovecraft?
AA: I was first introduced to Lovecraft with Petersen’s Field Guide To Cthulhu Monsters when I was very young. I was fascinated with the monsters from Lovecraft’s imagination. It wasn’t until my mid-teens that I found Lovecraft’s collected stories in a bookstore, with the amazing John Jude Palencar and Michael Whelan covers. I became an immediate fan of Lovecraft’s fantastic imagination and his unique and horrific views of the universe.
IFP: How did you begin painting Lovecraftian images?
AA: I’d always wanted to make something inspired by Lovecraft and the opportunity arose when I became involved in an exhibit back in 2007, titled “An Exhibition of Unspeakable Things: Works Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Commonplace Book”, celebrating the 70th anniversary of Lovecraft’s death at Maison d’Ailleurs, the museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys in Yverdon-Le-Bains, Switzerland. I adapted the passage from the book titled Tone Of Extreme Phantasy, which involved a man becoming an island, from what I remember. This piece was also published in the book Artists Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft, from Centipede Press. It was a great honour to be involved in the book, as it is absolutely the greatest book of art devoted to the writings of Lovecraft. And for anyone reading, I’m particularly interested in creating artwork for the covers of future Lovecraft books.
IFP: What attracts you to the horrific?
AA: I enjoy the limitless possibilities in the anatomies of monsters, the atmosphere of horror films: dark storming skies, mist-covered towns, scratching sounds behind old wooden doors, the bellowing howls of horrible things deep in the woods. My imagination is full of strange and nightmarish things; why and where it comes from, I don’t know, but the horrific and monstrous are my muse.
IFP: What are you working on right now?
AA: I’m currently creating the dust jacket for Thomas Ligotti’s Grimscribe revised edition, to be published by Subterranean Press next year. I’m also working with one of my favourite artists, Mat Brinkman, on a board game involving dungeon-crawling necromancers, monsters, etc. I have a few illustrations appearing in a book titled The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, to be published by Harper Collins next year. Caitlin R. Kiernan and Michael Cisco each wrote short stories based on those illustrations for the book. I’m also in the early stage of a book illustration for Krampus, a devil-like character based out of the Christmas traditions of Europe. Other illustrations recently finished will be published in a collection of stories by Robert Louis Stevenson and a new edition of Bari Wood’s The Tribe, to be published by Centipede Press.
IFP: What is your dream project?
AA: I have a very specific fantasy world in my head that I’ve been slowly putting together over the past decade. I’d like to illustrate it into a book. The title would be The Land Of The Moth. In it, there’s a horrific and fantastic place where a giant moth is a God. It is filled with strange cults of magicians that ride giant werewolf-like creatures; ruined cities with armies of deformed fetus things march through underground passages; vast mechanical devices with grotesque appendages drag themselves across barren wastelands. It’s my attempt to create my own mythology through fantastic creatures and strange imaginary places.
IFP: If you could travel to any time and place, where would you go?
AA: I’d like to visit the Jurassic period in history to see the dinosaurs.
IFP: If you could be a Lovecraftian character or creature, who would you be and why?
AA: Herbert West, so I could express my creativity with corpses. Maybe I could take two dozen bodies and assemble them into hulking creatures with spider-like appendages of rotten arms and legs. The head could be made up of dozens of faces stitched together, some kind of spider from Hell.
Bio: Aeron Alfrey blogs about all things art and horrific at www.aeronalfrey.blogspot.com.