Deep Fried Interview: The art of Gary Pullin
From Mondo to Arrow Video, Rue Morgue to Waxwork Records, if there’s an entity currently birthing unique original genre artwork into the world you can almost guarantee “Ghoulish” Gary Pullin has been one of its contributors.
The Toronto-based artist spoke to Deep Fried Movies about his favorite tools of the trade, the joy of drawing tentacles and that time he constructed a Nightmare on Elm Street glove in junior high shop class.
So about that Freddy Krueger glove…
I sometimes get asked about this, but it does make for a good story. My grade 8 shop teacher couldn’t have stressed to me enough that he could get into a lot of trouble for allowing me to make a “Freddy” glove in his class, but against his good judgment he let me do it anyways. The glove was harmless. I made it using sheet metal and I made sure to dull the edges and bend the tips back. I soldered the hand plate and made rings with blades that would fit over a ratty brown glove I found somewhere. It’s a crude piece of handiwork, but nonetheless it was pretty convincing and definitely a step up from the “nerf” version found at Toys “R” Us at the time.
I was pretty proud of it so the first thing I did that day was head to the library to show it off. The principal walks in and sees all of this. I tried to hide my hand under a desk, which he could easily see from across the room. He’s totally in shock, confiscates it and pulls me into his office and tells me he’s calling the police and my parents. He calls my home and my mother shows up almost immediately, told by the school that I’m in possession of a “deadly weapon.” I’m not really sure what she’s going to say or what’s going to happen next, but the principal shows the glove to my mom and she laughs and says, “You’ve never seen the Nightmare on Elm Street movies? It’s a piece of art. It’s something he made and I want it back. I want him to keep it.” In all fairness, now I can see why the principal lost his shit, but the cops were never called. He was in total shock that she wasn’t upset in the slightest. My parents were always really supportive of the monster films and magazines I brought home and she was more upset that they wasted her time. I have the glove to this day!
(Above) A few of Gary’s covers from the magazine Rue Morgue.
Most of us who grew up in the video store era had at last a handful of titles that even the most lenient of parents wouldn’t let us near. For me it was anything Lucio Fulci, particularly Gates of Hell. Which movie was it for you?
My parents were very supportive of my interests and I’m thankful for that. I think they were just happy that I was doing something constructive with all of this stuff. They didn’t let me watch anything too harmful and they often asked what I was watching, but generally they “got it.” I do remember wanting to rent Driller Killer and that was sent straight back to the shelf.
What was the horror film that scared you the most as a kid and tell me the story of the first time you saw it?
The Exorcist terrified me. Even though I watched an edited version on television, I was very young and utterly terrified by it. It seemed real because it messed with religion and it felt like what I was watching could actually happen. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had the same effect on me. My 11 or 12-year-old brain was telling me this was a documentary and what was happening was real. I had never seen anything like it at that time. I was used to the family-friendly Universal Monster films, which I loved, but watching a film like The Exorcist or Chain Saw Massacre, which are somewhat based in reality, is a much different experience!
(Above) Gary’s original DVD art for the British label Arrow Video.
Since you are a proud Canadian, what is your favorite Canadian-made VHS cover?
My favorite Canadian-made horror film is probably My Bloody Valentine or The Changeling. They had cool covers, no doubt – the image of the wheelchair on The Changeling poster haunts me to this day. But I will say Curtains has, hands down, the best painted cover for a Canadian horror film. It’s finally getting a special edition release on Blu-Ray from Synapse Films and I hope they use the original art. It’s amazing.
Which film that you haven’t had the opportunity to explore would you most like to do a poster for?
I’d love to tackle a Star Wars license – Empire Strikes Back is one of my all-time favorite films. Or something for any one of Quentin Tarantino’s films. If I had to choose it would probably be Reservoir Dogs.
(Above) A pair of Gary’s vinyl re-release covers for Waxwork Records.
What was the first piece of art you ever sold?
I think the first real “commission” was probably for some tattoo flash for an older tattoo shop in London when I was 18. The shop owner asked me for 12 designs and said, “Draw a lot of skulls.”
(Above) Gary’s Hobo with a Shotgun cover for Rue Morgue (left) and his original sketch for the project (right).
I struggle with drawing stick people, but for our readers who might be a little more artistically inclined can you talk a bit about your favorite tools of the trade.
I like mechanical pencils for sketching and Pigma pens for inking, but since I bought a Wacom Cintiq I’m pretty much all digital these days. I’m on a Mac and I use Photoshop mostly, but I recently bought Manga, which is a really great drawing and painting program that I highly recommend. I’m only just scratching the surface with it, but the brushes seem more responsive and the drawings are a bit tighter. I’ll use Illustrator occasionally for logo work or to hand draw text.
(Above) Original artwork for the throwback radio play series Tales from Beyond the Pale.
Two unique recent projects are your animated illustrations for the documentary Birth of the Living Dead and your posters for Tales from Beyond the Pale, an old-school radio show from the folks at Glass Eye Pix. Was it freeing to work on something like Tales in which – unlike a movie poster – you have no visual reference to be beholden to?
Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid from Glass Eye Pix had this great idea to resurrect those old radio horror dramas and wanted a strong visual element to the show. It was a nice change of pace from doing movie posters for sure. Each story was diverse from the next. So it was a lot of fun trying new styles of art to fit the Tale.
Birth was also a really great project to work on. Larry Fesseden co-produced this with director Rob Kuhns and he introduced me (to Rob). We created (a poster for the movie) first and, after some discussions, Rob and Larry wanted the film to have a more graphic punch to it, so that’s where the idea for the animations came from. I’m really happy with how the doc turned out and I’m looking forward to more opportunities for film work in the future.
(Above) Gary’s illustrations from the documentary Birth of the Living Dead.
Below, Gary walks us through a few of his pieces.
I love Neil Marshall’s film and when Fright Fest Originals asked, I dove on this. Up until then The Descent hadn’t had a print yet. I did Martyrs for (Fright Fest Originals) too and enjoyed creating something for a modern horror film, as opposed to creating a retro-inspired poster for a 70s or 80s classic.
This was tough because the original poster for the film can’t be outdone. It really is a perfect poster for the film. So both PC Collective and I wanted to try something very different and unexpected. We chose Charlie’s bedroom as if Jerry Dandridge was looking in. We wanted to play up Peter Vincent and the “horror host” aspect of the film so we felt the television was something that could make for an engaging image. I had fun adding little details like the pencils and holy water.
IFC Midnight approached me for this and after seeing the film I couldn’t say no. It’s a solid indie feature with a great premise. I had a ton of concepts for this – one we almost went for was a tentacle holding a pint glass with an eyeball in it. But I think the vintage beer ad really sells the concept. And tentacles are always fun to draw.
Video covers are fun and since Arrow has had a big hand in bringing original illustration back to home video, I get to go a little nostalgic with the artwork. Squirm is a cool little cult classic. There’s so many ways you can go with it. I was sounding them off to my buddy Dave (Alexander) from Rue Morgue, knowing he was a fan of the film. We brainstormed and then he suggested a skull made of worms – that was it!
I grew up with this movie and had watched it so many times as a kid I could practically recite it. And, again, it’s more comedy than horror, so that made it extra appealing to tackle. The moon phase/basketball motif was the first idea I had and then I went from there.