Decadent & Obfuscatory Interview with the Artist, Eric
other books have you provided art for, and where have your
stand-alone pieces appeared?
I started out being more of a comic-style artist, producing
sequential work that I wrote and illustrated. This resulted
in two chapbooks, the surreal "The Coat Closet"
and the William Blake-inspired "Meanwhile, In Hell."
I have gradually moved toward shorter pieces, either individual
illustrations or a group of images that will all fit on the
same page. Much of my recent work, over the last six years
or so, has been published in a zine named The White Buffalo
Gazette, which is assembled by a DaDa-esque collective of
artists. Meeting up with Jeff VanderMeer provided the inspiration
to produce illustrations that accompanied someone else's text.
I ended up providing illustrations to a couple of published
pieces by Jeff - to "The Strange Case of X" which
appeared in the anthology White of the Moon and to his short
novel The Early History of Ambergris. Mind you, these were
only single illustrations, the one in Early History being
part of a footnote and this in a story that had over one hundred
footnotes, but those initial collaborations with Jeff led
to the more recent and larger-scale collaboration.
are some of your favorite artists?
I have a love for the work of numerous artists, but I will
confine myself here primarily to those whom I am aware have
had a direct influence on my art. Because I work in black
and white, many of these artists have a pronounced sense of
line and are masters on how to arrange elements within a frame
for maximal effect. Picasso: for the linework in his etchings
and for his ability to break down a form into parts. Frans
Masereel: a brilliant woodcut artist, who produced beautiful
novels all told in bold black-and-white images with no words.
Arthur Rackham: one of the great fantasy illustrators who
has done much to shape how we visualize the creatures of fantasy,
whether they be elves, fairies, or talking animals . Aubrey
Beardsley: who approached perfection in his bold use of blacks
combined with some of the thinnest line work in the history
was your approach to doing the art for The Exchange?
Jeff had told me that he had imagined the characters, when
writing the story, as being reminiscent of some cartoons I
had drawn of a character named Sad Bird. So, I had that as
a jumping off point in terms of what I would do stylistically
for the characters. I also wanted the illustrations to reflect
the time in which the story takes place, which would be comparable
to about 1900 in our world. That led me to the decision to
work with a more art nouveau style, and also allowed me to
incorporate some of my Beardsley influence. Beardsley's style
is almost too perfect for the emotional turbulence contained
in the story, and so the art nouveau style comes to the story
refracted through the warped glass of German Expression.
it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of creating art, I now
use both traditional methods and the computer. I like the
slightly jittery quality of hand drawn artwork - it tends
to hold the eye better than the smooth lines produced by a
computer - so all the line work was done by me with pen. Where
the computer does help is filling in black areas in the artwork
as I no longer have to do this with a brush. Instead, I scan
the line work into the computer and then fill in the blacks
using Adobe Photoshop.
was the biggest challenge for you during this project?
It took a little while for me to settle on what the actual
images would be in the artwork. I am a firm believer that
the artwork should work in tandem with the story, and not
simply recapitulate information present in the story itself.
The reason that this presented an initial challenge is that
Jeff's story is very visual, thus illustrations could easily
be superfluous. What I resolved to do was to concentrate almost
entirely upon the characters and have the illustrations reflect
their emotional state and their responses to the environment.
you collaborate on the text as well?
The story "The Exchange" is entirely Jeff's work.
Where I collaborated to a limited extent was in the additional
text found in the advertisements and the biographical statements
that follow the story. For these, Jeff and I bounced ideas
back and forth, Jeff wrote text (often complete short stories
in themselves), and I then edited these down to fit into the
restrictions of an advertisement.
can we find more of your work? Any future projects planned?
I should be having another stand-alone piece in the forthcoming
issue of The Silver Web, a marvelous magazine of the surreal
put out by Ann Kennedy's Buzzcity Press. I will also be contributing
some illustrations to Jeff VanderMeer's collection City of
Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris due out this coming
The Exchange by Nicholas Sporlander
Embarrassing and Inaccurate Praise for
Jeff's Prior Ambergris Fiction
A Lurid Explanation of the Ultra-Decadent
Hoegbotton & Sons Imprint
contact Eric Schaller at firstname.lastname@example.org
for questions regarding art or production of The Exchange.
Jeff VanderMeer can be contacted at email@example.com.
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