13 QUESTIONS FROM HELL! Stephen Harper interviews artist Lyndon White
– By Stephen Harper
I’m a huge fan of artist Lyndon White. Since reading his utterly enchanting Sparks & The Fallen Star I’ve been following his career very closely indeed.
Following S&TFS he released two concertina books – Bram Stoker’s Dracula & Dante’s Inferno. Both are immaculate pieces of work and a must for any horror or art collector.
He now returns with the third in his concertina trilogy – H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call Of Cthulhu.
His Kickstarter campaign kicked off on the 14th March, so I’d urge everyone to head straight over and grab yourself a copy because, once again, White has produced a phenomenal piece of art. It’s everything a Lovecraft fan could ever dream of and obviously with Kickstarter you’ll also grab yourself some nifty perks.
I had the pleasure of chatting more in-depth with Lyndon about The Call Of Cthulhu and it’s process:
Lyndon, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me, man.
You’re very welcome, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and putting this together. I fully appreciate you taking the time out.
Coincidentally it was exactly a year ago we ran an article about your up-coming concertina book Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was having its Kickstarter campaign. I guess we’re making this a yearly occurrence now?
Happy anniversary! I should have brought you chocolates or at the very least a card.
For now, yes! I’ve specifically timed all this a year on from Dracula, which had an amazing campaign. As for next year? I’m not sure. Cthulhu will mark a trilogy of concertina books that I’ve been lucky enough to make. We need to see how this campaign goes and the response people have. If there’s demand and people keep wanting my stuff, concertina or otherwise, I’ll happily keep making it.
This time you’re taking on the mighty The Call Of Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecraft. Tell us how this all came about and why Cthulhu?
So last year I launched a concertina book for Bram Stroker’s Dracula which snow balled out of control and was incredibly successful. Starting off with a goal of £600 to cover the printing costs, the campaign grew and I raised just under £5000 by the time the Kickstarter finished. The Dracula book came from people asking me to illustrate my version of Dracula after I did a mock up of the cover while taking a break. People kept asking for it, I decided to illustrate it in the form of a concertina book. A small double sized A5 book that you can fold out and display as a piece of art.
So, long story short. That was last year. At the time I was getting tonnes of messages and requests to adapt other classic stories in the concertina format. At the time I simply couldn’t commit as I was already signed up to other projects (and this was after doing Dante’s Inferno as a stretch goal). So it’s been at the back of my mind since then. A Lovecraft story was heavily requested, and I’ve slowly been narrowing down my ideas and in the end I decided on The Call Of Cthulhu.
Cthulhu was chosen because I love the story and it was one of the first Lovecraft tales I read. I also noticed that while I was researching, people have adapted or illustrated parts of it, but never focus on the story. They concentrate solely on Cthulhu (who is great, I love him as much as everyone else), but as a result they miss all the mystery and suspense that grows throughout the story. So my version of The Call Of Cthulhu is true to the original material, all the Cthulhu imagery you can expect but it tells a complete story.
You’re obviously a fan of working in this format, but how difficult is it to create a concertina?
Planning is key. I’ve fortunately had the experience or working in both illustration studios and working for printers. Understanding how it’s going to translate from a print file to paper really helps. I work with my printer very early on so I know the artwork is going to print and how I want it to look, and this is before I start drawing everything.
When it comes to the artwork you have to make sure you’re telling a complete story. Otherwise you risk ending up with 10 drawings of Cthulhu with no link between then. I always re-read the original material and make notes as I go, listing key scenes and moments in order. I then break them down into essential moments. Finding a beginning, middle and end and then fill in the gaps with what I see as the most important scenes. There’s a term in script writing called “Killing your babies” where you’ve written scenes that you might love but aren’t needed in the story. It’s similar to that.
Once I have my key moments figured out I sketch them out and compare them. This is to check they aren’t becoming too similar. They are then edited, then pencilled, inked and coloured. At a glace it might just look like I’ve thrown together 10 Cthulhu style images, but there’s a lot in there if you’re looking for it.
Lovecraft’s Cthulhu is such a huge character, don’t you ever get nervous of upsetting fans with your interpretations or do you just embrace it?
Well I am now!
Fortunately Lovecraft’s work is out of copyright, so people like me can do their version of the work. I’ve found people to be incredibly supportive. When I did Dracula I gained a new audience of people who don’t know my comic work but loved my artwork and found me through their love of Dracula. Which is nice. I imagine Cthulhu will be a similar deal and, hey, if they don’t like it, that’s fine. Every piece of art doesn’t have to appeal to everyone. If you don’t like it, that’s OK, there’s still the original material out there and other adaptions. You are fortunate enough to have choice.
When creating something like this, what’s the initial process you go through? What structure do you use?
Because the book needs to fold up I work on each page as a panel, but I also line them up so I can see how they are sitting together. It’s just as important to see how the illustrations stand on their own (like a page in a book) and how they are going to look in a line on a wall.
As I said before, planning is key. I work all this out while I’m still sketching and planning. Rather than trying to correct it when I’ve already started throwing ink at stacks of paper.
You have such a unique style, I can instantly recognize your work. I love that you’re totally traditional. Using pencils, pen and ink seems to be getting lost slightly, I feel, with a lot of artists now preferring digital. What’re your thoughts on this?
Thank you, that’s lovely to hear and I’m really sorry, I might break your heart here – I’m actually half and half.
I do all my pencils, inks and grey tones by hand, scan the artwork in and then colour it digitally. Now, when I say digitally, I use a Cintiq (a screen that you can draw on) and a collection of brushes and tools that resemble traditional media. I still smudge and layer the paint as you would by hand. It’s just with digital I have more control to edit and change things if I need to. Which is especially helpful because I’m partly colour-blind. I don’t see colours as you do. Greens and browns merge into one another, blue and purple become blurple, yellow and orange blend, etc.
Before you think I just press a button and an illustration is magically coloured, it’s not the case. I paint on a screen as I would paint on a canvas. I used to paint huge canvas paintings, create etchings and print them, create textures with dry brush and paint, etc. All these are traditional skills that I learnt, I just now use them in a different way.
I think it’s fine if an artist prefers to do things digitally, they just need the core skills before rushing to a drawing tablet. I started working freelancing as a textile designer because a good portion of the fashion industry is lacking basic drawing skills (not all of the fashion industry, hold throwing things at me!). If you can’t draw, you can’t illustrate.
The book is going to be hitting a Kickstarter campaign, which will no doubt be successful as I believe people crave your work. What will people be able to get their hands on if they pledge?
The Kickstarter is similarly structured to last year. You can get copies of the Cthulhu concertina (all of which are signed and numbered), you can pay a little extra to get me to sketch on your copy, there’s bundles in case you want to display it on a wall or if you missed out of the other concertina books last time. There’s high quality art prints, oversized art prints, original art up for grabs and I’ve got a limited number of commission slots, if you have something you’d like me to draw.
Overall, a mix of stuff. But not over-complicating it with t-shirts, pin badges, etc. That stuff is great but ramps up the costs quite quickly.
I truly hope this isn’t just a trilogy with the concertinas, as I want at least ten from you in my collection!
That’s a lot of concertina! I’m still fairly sure that there’s only so many of this type of book you want to own and have on your bookshelf. Plus, sooner or later you will run out of wall space.
I like the idea that this is a trilogy. Horror will be well and truly covered and I feel I haven’t repeated myself by choosing a range of stories. But who knows. I got to do Dante’s Inferno last time as a stretch goal which was amazing. If the demand is there, there’s room to do another adaption this time round. A Shakespeare story is on my bucket list in one form or another. War of the Worlds could be a nice branch out into sci-fi. Wherever it goes I will make sure it’s out of copyright, the last thing I want is a lawsuit.
However, there are alternatives. If the demand is there, other book formats do exist. Some even combine words and pictures…
Diverting slightly, you’ve been hard at work on numerous other stuff and titles of late. Tell us about what’s available and projects in the pipeline?
Last year was a very busy year, I only just managed to sneak Dracula in there.
My second graphic novel, The Mind of James Svengal was Kickstarted late last year and has now been released, with myself on art and story and Jordan Sam Adams on story and script. It follows a troubled artist dealing with PTSD and getting hooked on experimental pills. It’s trippy but has a strong narrative. At its core it’s about a guy trying to keep himself together while falling apart.
I’m currently doing a 4 part mini-series with Hellbound Media, based on their character Mandy the Monster Hunter and the Spindly Man (think The Slenderman mixed with a Badabook). I’ve just finished work on issue 2 and will be starting issue 3 towards the end of the month. I’ve another Hexes story coming out with Blue Fox Comics later in the year. There’s a mix of stuff, some of which I can’t talk about.
I’m in a very fortunate position to be working on projects while sending off pitches. We will see what happens and if anything gets picked up. There’s things in the works, I just don’t show it publicly while everything else is going on.
I know you hit a lot of conventions. This is a great way for people to check out your work in person and obviously get stuff signed by your good self. What festivals or conventions have you got coming up?
As it stands I’m booked for nine so far, but there’s loads to be added. I’m at Carlisle the weekend Cthulhu launches on Kickstarter, then Leamington, Oldham, London MCM and Macc-Pow. I’ll be signing books for Small Press Day with an event Traveling Man, Manchester are hosting. Closing the year I’ll be at Thought Bubble and Meanwhile…Comic Con.
There’s a range of big and small shows. I should in theory be at MCM Manchester and possibly MCM Scotland, along with a few others. We will see how the year pans out. We have only just hit March!
Lyndon, it’s always a pleasure speaking with you, man. I’m a huge fan of your work and I can’t wait to grab The Call Of Cthulhu to add to my personal collection. Give a shout out to where people can find you and your work, and all the very best, my friend, with the campaign and your future projects.
Thanks for having me and I appreciate all the support. You can find me @lyndondraws across all social media, Twitter tends to be my favourite. You can check out my work via my website www.lyndonwhite.com, and if you catch me at a convention, feel free to come say hi. I’ll either be sat drawing, chatting or drinking coffee, I’m happy to talk to anyone.