Greg Chapman is the author of the novellas Torment, The Noctuary (Damnation Books 2011) and Vaudeville (Dark Prints Press 2012). He also illustrated the graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Bram Stoker Award winners Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton. He lives in Central Queensland, Australia. You can find him on the web at Dark Artisan.
Comics and mostly superhero ones; it wasn’t until I got into my teenage years that I was exposed to the more adult titles, but the superhero comics taught me the fundamentals of anatomy and storytelling. I ended up writing and drawing my own comics for many years, starting off with superheroes, but then I developed a fascination for the supernatural and I found my drawings were getting darker and darker.
What’s your most famous work and what are you most proud of?
That would definitely be the graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times that I illustrated for Bram Stoker Award winning writers, Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton. It was my very first contracted graphic novel; almost 200 pages covering some of the witch trials in Europe and the Americas from 750AD to about 1700. It was fourteen months of research and being chained to the drawing desk on weeknights and weekends. I am very proud of the finished product and it’s been quite well-received. Working with Rocky and Lisa was a dream-come-true.
Talk us through your artistic style.
I’m a black and white, pen and ink illustrator mostly, but sometimes I dabble in watercolours. I try to be as technical an illustrator as possible, and I have a pretty good eye for detail, but it’s a loose style. I picked up a lot from just reading comics, particularly superhero ones when I was a kid. I guess I try and mimic comic book artists like Pettibon, Wally Woods and Bernie Wrightson, but it all depends on the idea and the “feeling” the imagery in my head gives me. I’m a traditional artist because that’s how I was trained, but I recently purchased a Wacom drawing tablet and I am trying to master it. Somehow it feels a bit like cheating. I do use programs like Photoshop to colour my work sometimes.
I have a few horror comic related projects on the go over the next few months. Evil Jester Press in the US is planning on producing an anthology later this year. It will be in the style of the old EC comics. I’m currently roughing out a six page story for that called ‘Judith’, written by David C. Hayes. I also have chapter three of Allure of the Ancients: The Key to His Kingdom to illustrate for Midnight Echo Magazine #9 and I believe I’ll be providing some other interior art for the issue. There’s also another Midnight Echo-related horror comic project that I’ll be scripting and illustrating too. Apart from all that I get the occasional book cover or trailer commission, while I’m fiddling away with my own writing projects.
Which horror artists do you most admire?
Definitely Bernie Wrightson, Brian Bolland, Frank Miller, Kelley Jones, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, John J. Muth, Dave McKean; all those old school comic book artists of the 80s and 90s that I grew up with. As I’ve gotten older I seem to have been drawn to the artists involved in more “literary” works.
How much detail do you like to put into your graphic depictions of horror and how much do you imply?
That’s a good question. As a writer I know how important it is not to give too much away, to leave some of the imagery up to the reader. In the case of my graphic novel Witch Hunts, there was a need to depict some of the torture that the victims were subjected to. There were some scenes in the chapter about King James where some of the accused ‘witches’ were subjected to tortures like ‘thrawing’ or the ‘bootes’; not a lot of people would know what those things were so it was important that I show the reader what they did so they could put themselves in their shoes, so to speak. I think that was one of the main purposes of the book; to show these normal everyday people being killed in horrible ways, so they could be sympathised with. Early on in the book there are a few scenes were you see some victims being threatened with red hot pokers or the rack and in those instances the threat was just as evocative as seeing the actual act of torture.
It’s gritty, dark and uncompromising. I like to think that it’s realistic too.
What makes a good piece of art?
With horror, depth and atmosphere, emotion, and most of all detail; the devil is in the details as they say.
Do new digital technologies such as the iPad and Kindle provide an opportunity or threat to traditional art?
No I think these are just new tools to get more people to read – and that’s a great thing! I own a Kindle and a Wacom tablet and I love them, yet there’s still nothing more invigorating than opening a new novel or comic book and breathing it all in.
Recommend a graphic novel.
One of my favourite graphic novels is Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell; a highly detailed tome on the Jack the Ripper murders. Campbell’s artwork takes you back in time. Another one is Locke & Key by Joe Hill and the amazingly talented Gabriel Rodriguez. Boom Studios’ new Hellraiser series is pretty awesome as well.