Kevin John has been a professional sports artist for twenty-five years. He has done portraits of athletic legends such as Curtis Granderson, Joe Haden, Joe Frazier and Terrell Owens. His work has been showcased on ESPN, NBC and Spike TV. The man even works for Disney. He’s an accomplished artist to say the least, but now he’s catering to the devil on his shoulder.
John has just launched a new horror art project, taking a bold departure from his normal lineup of jock icons and trading in the boxing gloves for a rusty chainsaw.
John will be our featured artist at our Terror in the Park horrorcon for 80’s in the Park, and he’ll be creating a whole new masterwork for the event.
John swung by the tavern to shed some light on his new dark side. Read the interview and find out how you can win a set of lithographs of these gorgeously gruesome pieces!
Tell us a little about yourself, and what brings you to Tavern of Terror?
First, thank you for allowing me to pull up a bar stool and chat with you all.
About me? I am the luckiest guy in the world, I get to do what I love for a living, for 26 years now. I get to decorate people’s homes with stuff that they love to look at and make new friends every day while doing it.
I am originally from the great little town of Erie, PA and am now living on the ocean, just south of Cocoa Beach, FL.
I love music of all types, going to the gym, anything historical, and of course, anything spooky.
What made you decide to start doing horror art after having so much success with sports?
The sports art has been very good to me, it has taken me to amazing places and I have been able to create art for some of the greatest athletes of our time. However, I have little control of the subject matter. I am paid to draw or paint what the teams of athletes contract me to do.
With my contract with Disney, I discovered a new freedom to create images that I am passionate about, and one of my biggest passions is anything Horror, Halloween, Spooky and Creepy.
So, this new project is to create images inspired from classic horror films. And I am loving the process!
How do you choose what movie to showcase first?
Easiest answer ever…..hands down….John Carpenter’s Halloween is my all-time favorite movie.
You have already tackled two of the films from the Halloween franchise – the original and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The later was a commercial failure but is beloved by retro horror fans. What is your take on that film?
Personally, I love the film. I remember sitting in the theatre and thinking “Ok, when the heck is Michael Myers gonna show up?”. But after understanding that it was to be a new anthology, I love it. I wish that they would have marketed it differently, if they did, we would still be seeing new ones produced every other year or so. As it is, it’s perfectly 80’s, which I love.
The poster art that you recapture in your piece has always been an iconic image to me. It encapsulates the mood of the season so well. Is that why you chose to go with it as apposed to featuring the famous masks?
Yes, for sure. You said it perfectly. That scene in the film, of all of the kids trick or treating, then the sun setting behind them, it just oozes Halloween and the feel of growing up in a place where autumn is the best time of year. I always found it interesting that they also chose that as the poster art, the image moves us. And that is the goal of this project, to try and evoke some emotions in fans as they view the art, evoke some of the same emotions that they feel while viewing the films.
Tell us about your process. What inspires you and how do you begin?
I really begin with viewing the movie, closely. Taking in details. Also, reflecting on the images of the films that are locked in my memory. What do I see when I recall the movie? From there, I go to rough concept sketching and then I develop the original art based on that. Fans can actually watch me go through this process and create the art by following me on facebook. I regularly share videos and images there.
What materials do you use?
I am a mutt. I use whatever feels good, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylics. A combination of all.
There is a very cool splatter effect to the Myers piece, how do you make that happen and what do you think it brings to the overall effect?
Ohhh yes, the splatter and drip. Believe it or not, THAT is what got me the gig with Disney. They loved that effect! And, I’ll be honest, it’s one of the toughest effects to accomplish because too much and I ruin the piece, too little and it’s lost. If I drip in the wrong place….DISASTER. It could be a true horror show to ruin a piece after 100 hours of work.
I use it because I think that it adds some gritty authenticity. It started by doing it to replicate dirt and mud on my sports art, it just transitioned over to the other subjects now.
I notice you use very traditional Halloween colors and shades in your Halloween themed works too, sticking to the classic black, orange and white shades. Is this intentional?
Yes, very intentional. I am color blind, I cannot see most of what is going on there. I am very comfortable with that color palette though. It sets a mood with this subject matter too.
What other touches do you think add an extra sense of eerie to a piece?
I think the point of view prospective, puts the viewer into the scene. And the creepy stare that I try to give to the characters.
In the 70’s and 80’s poster art was a huge selling point for films and so much of it was done by hand. Did any of the old horror posters inspire you? Which ones?
Totally. I think that art seeped into the creative part of my brain and has taken up residence. I am actually in talks with one group of film makers to bring that style back for their films. They were all so beautifully done, often times telling the story of the plot with one or two strong images and put butts in theatre seats. My faves are The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Halloween, The Old Dark House, JAWS, Blood of the Vampire and House on Haunted Hill.
What horror icon do you think lends themselves to art with the most ease? Do you enjoy the blank palate of the Michael or Jason masks or do you prefer the crazy detail of a face like Freddy Krueger’s?
Well, I am certainly not scared of detail, look no further then my sports art images. However, with the Horror art, I like more mood setting with the pieces. Less insane detail, more focus on light and dark dramatics.
I also enjoy the simplicity of using memorable environments from films as landscape pieces, as you did with your Night of the Living Dead snapshot. What made you choose to do that?
That piece was actually done as a set prop for a new zombie movie. It is used as just a regular piece of art in the living room of the main protagonist. I designed it as an homage. to most people who see the movie, it will be just a black and white on the wall. To horror fans and zombie heads, they will recognize it instantly as a cool nod to NOTLD. Incidentally, that original, used in the movie, is for sale now at my on-line store. Someone is going to own a really cool piece with a great story behind it.
Any other horror landscapes in the works? There are a lot of famous houses of fright to choose from!
Yes, certainly on the list is Camp Crystal Lake, Norman’s mother’s house, and how about the seaside town of Amity? I would like to make these look like regular landscape paintings to decorate a home with, but to the horror fan, they are sweet landmarks from the movies.
What else can we expect from your forthcoming horror art project? Care to give us any teasers?
Right now I am working on a pretty creepy looking portrait of Sam from Trick r Treat, then I will go way back in time for a few and do some old Universal Monsters. Maybe even some cool B Movie characters.
I will have the Sam done to premiere at the 80’s in the Park aaaannnnd I will be working on a new piece at the event.
Lastly, here at the tavern, we specialize in paring horror films with good beers. What would be your ultimate fright flick and frosty brew combo?
Oh heck, ya know, I don’t drink. But I suppose if I were to imbibe with a movie, I would go with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and Johnny Rails Pumpkin Ale made by Erie Brewing Co. back home. My friends tell me it is tremendous.
Thanks, Kevin! We’ll see you at 80’s in the Park!
Follow Kevin’s artwork at www.kevin-john.com
Shop for prints at http://kevinjohnstudio.tictail.com
NOW YOU CAN WIN ALL FOUR OF THE PIECES YOU SEE ABOVE!
To win a set of four horror lithographs by Kevin, including Halloween, Halloween III, Trick ‘R Treat and Night of the Living Dead…
HOW TO ENTER TODAY:
(you must complete ALL of these steps to win!)
1. Send Kevin John a friend request on facebook
2. Like the Tavern of Terror on facebook
3. Share this article on your facebook
4. Leave a comment below telling us what horror movie you’d like to see Kevin tackle next!
One winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email. Contest open to US residents only. You must enter by Sunday, September 15th, at 10:00pm EST for your chance to win.