Today we are talking with illustrator Jeff Remmer. His work has been featured in Malibu Comics, Wizards of the Coast, Image Comics and various fantasy magazines. He has worked in the video game industry since 1993. He has also produced numerous Lovecraftian illustrations:
IFP: Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background? Did you go to art school? That sort of thing.
JR: I have been drawing for most of my life and most of my art is based on the fantastic. I attended the University of New Mexico and have taken various drawing and painting courses throughout my career. For the past few years, I have been painting en plein aire, small outdoor landscapes based on observation, some even at night, which help my fantasy paintings have a more real feeling to them.
IFP: How did you start making fantastic illustrations?
JR: I have always been interested in the fantastic due in part to my mother’s love of monster/science fiction and fantasy movies. She got me subscriptions to all the Warren magazines and used to help me make my Aurora Famous Monster models! The earliest illustration that I remember is, when I was six, I did a crayon piece of a fire-breathing dragon destroying our neighborhood.
IFP: What are some recurring elements in your art?
JR: Well, I really try to set a mood and a sense of time/place to give the fantastic a feeling of reality. One of the main things that I get from a good Lovecraftian story is the prevailing mood, whether it is fear, melancholy, dread, whatever. Also, tentacles, I tend to draw a lot of things with a ropiness to them.
IFP: Lovecraft’s creatures must be hard to paint. After all, his stories are full of beings that defy description. How do you get around that hurdle? Or is it even a hurdle?
JR: When I set out to illustrate a scene from one of his stories, I will read and re-read the descriptions while refining the drawing. I usually copy the passages that I want, highlight what I feel is important and pin it up over my table.
IFP: So, why the interest in Lovecraft?
JR: His writings penetrate deep inside my subconscious to where I am almost in a meditative state that transports me into the story, even if I have read it before. I get the same way from a good song ( my favourite being The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”), great acting or movie or a strong painting. I had a friend in high school that saw my drawings and turned me on to Lovecraft, so I blame/thank him for my ongoing affair with his writings and the Lovecraft genre. Whenever I have nothing to read, I will read Lovecraft and Lovecraft stories by others, again. In fact I just re-read “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” just a few days ago.
IFP: Aside from Lovecraft, what are some other sources of inspiration for your illustrations?
JR: You know, just about everything except for maybe politics (heh). Dreams and daydreams are a big inspiration, also music, the natural world at its wildest, other artists. I have a sick sense of humor and can take a pretty mundane occurrence and twist it till it bleeds. My moods are also a big inspiration and you can tell how I was feeling about something when I put it down on paper.
IFP: What are some of your favourite painters and illustrators?
JR: I blame Frazetta for sealing my fate as an artist. Richard Corben is a close second then Michael Whelan, Berni Wrightson, Bisley, and Brom. I really love all good artists and art, no matter what they paint, and I do some mean seascapes and landscapes myself, even without tentacles! Here is a diverse list of other influences: Todd Schorr, Moebius, Wison Hurley, Ruo Li, Robert Crumb, along with most of the underground artists: David Leffel, Mian Situ, Mark Ryden, Geiger, Sanjulian, Robert Bateman, Ed Mell, etc.
IFP: Favourite others? Music, movies, etc.
JR: You know, my favourite song from above, and I like moody music like The Cure, Brian Ferry, Tool and Perfect Circle, Miles Davis. I listen to Secret Agent on Somafm.com. As for movies: Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential and Noir in general. Movies with a good monster in them like The Host. You know, I don’t think I have ever seen a good Lovecraft movie; some come close, but they miss the whole moodiness and prevailing sense of dread that his stories have. I liked the premise of Dagon, the whole town-up-from-the-sea bit, but it really didn’t go anywhere for me. I wish I would have thought of that premise though.
IFP: What artistic accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?
JR: Even though I am not a publicly well-known artist, I do have the respect of my peers, at least the ones who know of me. That and the really big Lovecraft retrospective book from Centipede press in which I have 5 pages and a bio.
IFP: What is your dream project?
JR: It is rumoured that Guillermo Del Toro wants to do a movie based on “At The Mountains Of Madness” and I would love to do some design work for him. My other dream project is the one that I have slowly, too slowly, been working on for a number of years. The basic premise has been the same: if two of Lovecraft’s characters were real, along with the events they were involved with, and they left proof of the story and if a long-lost relative (me) discovered said proof then escaped from some very real nasties from the story to publish the proof along with my story of what happened…. My problem has been that I keep changing how I want to illustrate the “proof”, yet I have done about five pieces for the story.
IFP: What are you working on right now?
JR: Nothing in particular other than trying to be a better artist by drawing and painting as much as I can. Plus, I am trying to help a game company get off the ground. I did try to complete a painting of the Fungi from Yuggoth for this interview that I have had in my sketchbook for years, but I couldn’t get past the drawing phase. Actually, I modeled it first in the Maya 3D program then rendered a scene out to get the angle and lighting right then drew it out for the painting. I will finish it sometime soon and, if I do, maybe I can show it here first.
IFP: Can you tell us about some future projects?
JR: I want to put a portfolio together of 4 or 5 of my more known pieces and, if it sells well, do another with all-new pieces. Then there is that whole book thing I was talking about without really saying what characters or story they came from.
IFP: Do you have any tips for illustrators tackling Lovecraft for the first time?
JR: Try to quickly put down how the story made you feel, the mood you want to set, then readreadread the descriptions for the details.
IFP: What is your favourite Lovecraft story?
JR: The scary one with the thing in it. All kidding aside I really like “The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath”, as it transports me.
IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft/Mythos character or creature, who would you be and why?
JR: Randolph Carter because his dreams last more than a few minutes. Besides, I don’t think I want to live underwater all the time, or in a burrow; trapped in another body would be cool for awhile, but then there is that whole “going insane” thing, which can be a drag.