My Illustrations for Four Killers

Recently released from publisher Cemetery Dance, here are my illustrations for their anthology Four Killers. Sharp-eyed followers of this page (both of you) will notice that I also created illustrations for their anthology Four Ghosts (here). 

Let me just say up front, I think these first two are some of the best pieces of art I’ve ever created. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, I just think, as an artist, they are two of the best I’ve ever done.

Now, onto the art (click on each for the larger version). 

This first piece was for Brian Keene’s Musings, a story which fascinated me. Keene is a fantastic writer, and the story has all of his hallmarks. At the same time, it seems like such a personal (feelings only, not in reality) story, and one of horror at that.

The trick for me was to somehow convey that they really are muses, and to bring in not only horror but a strong sexuality. Bringing in the erotic, to me at least, is much like working with a gory image. Sure, I could flash some breasts and some blood and call it a piece of art. But I think those extremes are the easy way out. 

It’s that fine line where art, especially horror art, lives. I’m not the type of artist that’s here to shock you, and frankly I don’t get much from those pieces. I’m here to get inside your head.

I want you to remember what you see, long after the vision is gone from your sight. I want you to think of the sexuality. I want you to be disturbed, not repulsed, by the horrors you see. In this case, I wanted the disturbing idea that these creatures are both horrific and sexy.

Did I get there? I leave that to you.

Story by Brian Keene, Musings

Story by Brian Keene, Musings

 For the second of my favorite pieces, based on the story I Tell You It’s Love by Joe R. Lansdale, I took a different approach. Where Musings shows you everything, I wanted this one to be much closer to the action. 

I was looking for the woman’s unquestioned horror here, a much more “in your face” vision. At the same time, I wanted the hand and the knife to be quite relaxed. This isn’t a killer in a hurry, nor are they concerned about anything. Which I thought was even more disturbing than the woman’s look.

It’s also one of my favorites because I was happy with how the art itself worked out. Unlike other creations of mine, I like how her face looks, how her hair feels real, how the hand and knife have a nice sense to them. There are obvious horrors, here, but I also like the subtleties I was able to keep in it.

Based on the story, I Tell You It's Love by Joe R. Lansdale

Based on the story, I Tell You It’s Love by Joe R. Lansdale

 Next up, the art I created for Ray Garton’s story Johnny and Judy Forever. I really wanted to play around with the depth of field (sharp vs. blurry, folks, like a camera would do), and at the same time I wanted to toy with keeping the character cropped out of things. 

I had briefly considered showing a particularly violent murder that happens, but again, I think the gore would have been the easy way out. Instead, I wanted to show the tough man, after the deed, and instead of the carnage merely show the aftermath.

On top of that, I wanted this horror to have happened on such a nice, bright, sunny day. That’s a contrast, directly from the story, that I just couldn’t ignore. It’s what I love about Garton’s stories, he makes it easy to come up with art because of his visual sense in a story.

Based on the story Johnny and Judy Forever by Ray Garton

Based on the story Johnny and Judy Forever by Ray Garton

 Lastly, we have Bunny is Good Bread by Peter Straub, which was a bit tougher for me to figure out. The story itself is a good story, but doesn’t lend itself as quickly and easily to a visual interpretation. I had a little bit of that question when I illustrated his story in Four Ghosts, but the baby image (here) was such a perfect choice (for me anyway).

 I’m still fine with it, but in the discussion of things I think it passes as mostly just another image. I do always strive for the very best that I can, and there are a few times, like below, that I hoped I could come up with something more striking. As I grow though, I think it’s important to acknowledge that, and to learn from it. 

I don’t know, maybe you’ll like this one too. As always, let me know what you think it and of all of these.

Based on the story Bunny is Good Bread by Peter Straub

Based on the story Bunny is Good Bread by Peter Straub


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Russell Dickerson has been a lot of things over many years. Author, artist, designer, winner of awards and recognition, pursuer of the truth, leader of the earth after armageddon.