Thursday, July 3, 2014

Berni Wrightson: Master of the Macabre

One of  my many (too many?) hobbies is drawing.  In fact I had once considered pursuing art as a career, having studied it throughout high school and even in University.  While my life ultimately took a different path, I have maintained an interest and although it has been decades since I've done any painting or sculpting I do continue to draw.  Pen and ink is one of my favourite drawing mediums, although lately I've been rediscovering the pleasure of brush and ink as well.  I don't want to bore you or embarrass myself by posting my own amateurish drawings, but I would like to show off some of my favourite pieces by one of my greatest inspirations, Bernie Wrightson.

Wrightson is best known for his comic book illustrations and his career has spanned decades.  He gained a great deal of prominence illustrating Warren Publishing's Creepy and Eerie magazines in the 1970's and also worked for DC and Marvel comics as well.  I first became aware of Bernie Wrightson's work by way Swamp Thing, the character he created for DC comics back in the '70's.  I was only a child at the time, but I really dug the creepy and tragic story of Swamp Thing and while I didn't really appreciate Wrightson's art on the same level then as I did in later years, it definitely put him on my radar.

It probably wasn't until 1983, when I bought the Marvel illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, that I truly came to appreciate Bernie Wrightson's artistic genius.  I was seventeen when this edition was published and just the right age to be influenced by the meticulous detail of Wrightson's drawings and his macabre aesthetic.  The pen and ink drawings in this edition were completed over a seven year period and Wrightson wanted them to look like period pieces - to resemble wood cut or steel engraved prints instead of hand-drawn illustrations.

I recently purchased Dark Horse Books hardcover collection of Bernie Wrightson's stories from Creepy and Eerie magazines.  Among the many stories that Wrightson wrote and illustrated for Warren Publishing, this collection includes Wrightson's wonderful adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe's The Black Cat from Creepy #62 (May, 1974) and H.P. Lovecraft's Cool Air from Eerie #62 (January, 1975).

The illustrations shown above are only a tiny representation of Bernie Wrightson's prolific career but they are some of my favourite drawings, the ones that both inspire me and remind me that I have no talent, whatsoever.  That's okay, because the world only needs one master of the macabre and that master is Bernie.

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