Hidden Influences On Your Art Style Can Lurk Anywhere!

2016 Artwork horror novel cover influences sketch

Although this is another article about finding “hidden” influences on your own art style, I’m probably going to be spending most of this article talking about another example of discovering a (really cool) hidden influence on my own art style. Since, well, it seemed cool enough to write about at length.

Anyway, I was trying to find a link to a picture of an old Clive Barker book cover online (for the description for this art post), I happened to stumble across this fascinating site called “Too Much Horror Fiction” which contains a large gallery of old horror novel cover art.

If you’ve never seen classic 1970s-90s splatterpunk cover art before, then it’s really something. Although it’s obviously often fairly gruesome (seriously, how did they get away with displaying some of these covers in shops?), it also contains a really cool artistic trick that I’ll talk about later.

But, for something that instantly evoked so much nostalgia in me, I’m surprised I’d almost forgotten about this amazing genre of art (and fiction). Back in the early-mid 2000s, when I was a teenager, I was an avid fan of splatterpunk horror fiction from the 1970s-90s.

Whenever I went into a charity shop, second-hand bookshop and/or market stall, I’d scour the shelves for any old splatterpunk novels from decades past. Needless to say, I have a lot of nostalgia for this genre and, as I’ll explain later, the cover art has had more of an influence on my art than I’d expected.

Anyway, one of the cool things about old splatterpunk novel covers is that they often focused very heavily on visual contrast. Usually, they’ll have a solid black background with only a few vivid realistic details in the foreground. This contrast between the background and the foreground really makes everything stand out a lot more and it makes these novels recognisable at a glance.

When I was looking for the Clive Barker novel cover on Google Images, I happened to see lots of other horror novel covers too and – instantly – I felt at home amongst the grinning skeletons, the grotesque monsters, the gory artwork and the vivid red and gold book titles. But, apart from a lot of good memories, seeing lots of these book covers collected together also felt familiar to me for another reason.

I suddenly realised that they were actually another “hidden influence” on my art style!

It’s true! Even when I’m not making horror-themed art, then one of my favourite things to do is to contrast a vivid foreground with a dark background – as can be seen in this decidedly non-horrific painting from an art series that I was working on at the time of writing this article:

"Awesome Architecture" By C. A. Brown

“Awesome Architecture” By C. A. Brown

The interesting thing was that I didn’t really start doing this consciously. Although most of my art is fairly gloomy, when I first really started using plain black backgrounds in some of my paintings, it was mostly as a time-saving measure for my daily paintings (since I didn’t have to draw or paint a detailed background).

Still, I thought that it looked really cool even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I thought this, even when I made paintings like this:

"Purple Skull" By C. A. Brown

“Purple Skull” By C. A. Brown

But, all of it comes from reading lots of cool old horror novels when I was a teenager. This was a massive influence on my art style and I barely knew it until recently.

So, as I’ve said before, it can sometimes be a really eye-opening experience to look at the things that you thought were really cool when you were younger since there’s a very good chance that they’ve had some kind of influence on your art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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