Monday, October 25, 2010

13 Steps

The Haunted Gallery is very happy to present a very special item.
After several hours of sifting through forgotten piles of media, I have reclaimed an old college project from the ever present threat of oblivion.

The piece is entitled "13 Steps". It is a poem that I wrote many years ago. What makes it so special though is that it was recorded and edited with lots of eerie sounds and music. For the narration, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine from England who has a wonderful voice. Her accent combined with the sound effects give this poem a wonderfully spooky atmosphere.

The poem is about that terrifying moment you realize that you are in a very dark place... too far away from the light switch.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Welcome Committee

The ambassadors of Halloween. (At least for our neighborhood)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Neighborhood Alert

This year's Halloween theme is Jack the Ripper. This sign is posted out in front of the house.

Samhain Sunset (The First Halloween)

"Even in Autumn, you are not safe. Stay indoors, attend your hearths. Try to keep the night at bay by the telling of your tongue. Remember your kin, honor your ancestors. For at this time the dead begin to stir, riding upon hallowed and familiar roads, galloping through villages and wastes, flying through the forests of the mind. Such raids are reminders that the past is not a dead thing, but may return, like a hunter, to follow us for a time."
                                                               - Unknown 

It's interesting to sit and ponder what the first Halloween must have been like. I've read about the origins of Halloween and just how long ago it began. (Halloween is 1,000 years older than Christmas.) I've learned how many of the traditions we celebrate today derive from ancient customs that held a more serious purpose back then. Halloween was born in a time when man had no explanation for the mysteries of world around him. Very little of our surroundings made sense and without the enlightening virtues of science, man was at the mercy of the dark shadows of superstition and the unknown. 

It's fun to imagine the rituals and the social elements of the earliest Halloween, but my mind always brings me back to a scene that I have always felt best exemplifies the mood of such a spooky time.

I envision a young man on top of a hill. Behind him somewhere off in the growing darkness is a small village. From where he stands he cannot see it but he can hear the distant barking of dogs and the occasional laughter. The faint sounds of his village make him feel even more alone. In front of him lies a rolling wilderness. One day the forests below him will become a patchwork of fields and pastures but in his time nature still holds dominance over the affairs of men. In the distance, the sun has just set behind a line of black hills. The night is chilly and a thick fog settles in the valleys. This evening marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the season of death. The leaves have fallen, the crops have been harvested, the animals in the forest have grown quite. The future is a cold darkness.

The darkness, like a pack of hungry wolves, is creeping towards him. With it manifests the memories and tales of strange creatures and spirits that favor the night and fear the day. This night of all nights, the dead are permitted to return to spend an evening amongst the living. The young man stands near a bonfire prepared to scare away the spirits of evil and beacon those of his ancestors, although the thought of any spirits approaching at all sends a shiver down his spine. His job is to maintain the flame until the sun rises in the morning. In doing so, he will keep his people safe from the darkness.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The ScareJoe

My first scarecrow. Nothing terrifies young Soldiers like a Drill Sergeant.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lonley Gallery

Hey everyone,

It's been a bit slow here at the Gallery but I have more great offerings in the works, I promise. I have been devoting most of my free time to decorating and getting ready for Halloween. This Halloween is somewhat of a surprise gift for me this year. Early redeployment from Iraq means I get to celebrate at home! Needless to say, we are pulling out all the stops. There will be plenty of Halloween pictures, artwork and THE BEST Halloween party music playlist ever to share as this awesome month creeps along so please do stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Music for a Haunted Gallery - Volume I

As our humble gallery grows, it becomes evident out appreciation for music as both a source of inspiration and accompaniment of composition. Below is assembled a short volume of musical arrangements that can be often heard echoing through the candle-lit halls of the Haunted Gallery, no doubt by some spectral musician who occupies one of the many darkened chambers...

"The children of the night, what sweet music they make."
                                                                           - Dracula

The songs below are linked to youtube videos. The visual content is irrelevant. The videos were only chosen for sound.  

Partita no. 2 for Solo Violin - (the ghost of) Johann Sebastian Bach

New World - Philip Glass

Dumka - (the ghost of) Antonín Dvořák

Danse Macabre - (the ghost of ) Camille Saint-Saëns

Wraithmarsh - Russell Shaw (Fable II soundtrack)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

The circus has always had an underlying element of terror in my opinion. I'm sure it has a lot to do with clowns.
This song was playing in my head the whole time I was making this image. It fits the mood perfectly.
I am almost certain the video is going to give you nightmares.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I saw something back there in the cemetery...

(You may have to enlarge this one to understand why someone dropped a perfectly good flashlight.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Night Terrors

"I don't believe in ghosts, but they scare me."
                                                          - Anonymous

When I was young, my hyper-active imagination would never permit me to sleep at night in such a way that exposed my back to the large window across the room. I believed that if I did, something horrible outside could creep up on me as I lay sleeping, completely unaware. Sometimes, however, I would wake up in the middle of the night facing the wrong way. Having let my guard down, I had only one choice...

Below is a short poem that I wrote describing my advice should you ever end up in a similar situation:

If you find yourself awakened in the middle of the night
With your back faced towards the window ‘ganst the pale moon’s rays of light
And the silence is… too quiet and the darkness is… too black
And a sense that something near is sending shivers down your back

Don’t turn around! Don’t move an inch! Lie still and close your eyes
A terrifying silhouette outside your window pries
Don’t move a muscle, make a peep, or breathe a breath of air
And if you’re lucky, it may leave before it knows you’re there

It has no eyes, just sunken holes where eyeballs used to be
But don’t be fooled for it can see much better than you see
A cry for help would be too late cause though it has no ears
It finds its prey by listening to all your darkest fears

It hates you for your rosy skin, your every breath so hot,
Your pulsing veins, so full of life… It hates cause his are not
Its teeth are rotting in its jaws, there’s decay on its breath
It hates you cause you’re still alive and it is walking death

Don’t turn around! Don’t move an inch! Pray hard for sleep instead
For if you turn around this time…

It lurks beside your bed.                                        - J.P. 2003

Sweet Dreams...

October Moon

A picture I made a few years back. The giant moon gives the image a "Great Pumpkin" feel.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sleepy Hallow Inspired

While Washington Irving's original story of the galloping Hessian will always remain my preference over Tim Burton's cinematic variation, the latter did succeed to impress me with its amazing atmosphere. The one scene in particular that I have always loved is the muddy road leading into the village of Sleepy Hollow, flanked by two crude stone stag head statues. This year I will have two statues of my own, however, mine are carved from pumpkins instead of stone. Halloween is awesome!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Decorating for Halloween

To most people, it my seem just a bit early to start decorating for Halloween. For me this is a compromise. It took everything in my power to wait this long. Decorating for holidays has always been a big thing in my family and I am more than happy to keep the tradition alive and healthy. I tend to gravitate towards authentic decorations though and you will never see a life size animatronic "Jason" at my house. Spooky is in the subtle details.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome Autumn

Just a really quick composition that captures the mood of a late Autumn afternoon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Midnight Reading (#1)

I love reading old ghost stories from the Victorian era. I have a growing list of personal favorites and thought it might be nice to share them with everyone now and then.

Tonight, the Gallery will present "The Room in the Tower"  Written by E.F. Benson.

Benson was an incredibly talented writer of the supernatural genre and I highly recommend reading any of his stories, but this tale of the dreadful thing in the tower room and its recurring nightmares, is "one of the most terrifying stories in the English language."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Class of 2010

Today, I carved six more pumpkins to add to my growing collection of Halloween decorations. I love the tradition of carving real pumpkins but lately I've been making a lot of synthetic jack o' lanterns. The reason is because you can use them over and over the following years. You can never have enough jack o' lanterns around the house I think. These little guys will soon be staring at us from all of the dark nooks in our house.

The Creepiest Classical Composition

In my quest to assemble an outstanding play list for Halloween, I stumbled across what has to be one of the most disturbing classical music compositions I've ever heard.

(On a side note, I don't really consider scores from movie soundtracks classical compositions. Soundtrack scores are a separate genre altogether. Classical music pieces are works that stand alone as an individual work of art.)

I know what you are thinking, "How disturbing can classical music be?"

Listen for yourself here.

You've been warned...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Older Images

These images can be traced back to the year 2006. I was riding a little wave of creativity and punched out several compositions in a relatively short amount of time. It's always interesting to see how your style and skills develop over the years.

The Process of Image Manipulation

Sometimes seeing the process of manipulating an image into a composition is as fascinating as the final result. I have always wanted to show how a composition evolves.

Ok, so the first step is to find an image of a house that is a good candidate to look haunted. I Googled "Victorian house" and after a few pages I came across this fella. It looks to be in very good shape and the vegetation is living, but we can fix those "issues" later. COPY and PASTE!

Step 2 was to remove all of that annoying blue sky. I also removed the neighbors on the right and the tree branches. There are way more sinister looking trees in cyberspace...

Now, about that sky. I have big plans for the sky in this scene so I needed to find an image that was striking but wasn't so contrasting that it would feel out of place with the house. This was my choice.

Ok, the house and the clouds have been formerly introduced. They will get to know each other better as time goes on. For now, direct your eyes to that little tree in front of the doorway. It has to go. In my opinion, it is right in the way.

The way I remove the tree is through the use of a tool called the "Clone Stamp". Basically, the clone stamp allows me to paint over an area of the image with other areas of the image. When used properly, you can hardly tell anything was altered.

The little tree next to the steps has been reduced to a small shrub. Later on I'm thinking of some gnarly ivy vines climbing those banisters. I added the door from an image of I found by going to Google images and typing "Victorian door" - go figure. The detail work is not perfect, but I don't care too much this early on. Now that I have a fairly unobstructed house to work on, its time to age it so its not so pretty.

The Paint is beginning to peel and chip. The shingles are mildewing and the plaster is starting to crack. The house is Starting to look like it's been abandoned long enough for a few ghosts to move in.

Second phase of aging the house. Broken windows and boards. Water damage. Collapsing roof. The porch is on its last legs as well.

After another round of aging, it was time to start developing a context for the house to exist in. This is where the creativity really comes into play. After messing around with a few ideas, this is a rough idea of the vision I am going to run with. To me, it still feels like a bunch of different pictures pasted together, but as we start adding color and lighting, it will feel more intertwined.

Almost done. Darkened the house, refined the lightning. added mist on the ground and a little reflection off the trees. A few more things and this will be finished.
The final product. I wanted to give the image one spot of contrasting light to counter all of the blue in the image. The illuminated room in the top serves as an interesting focal point and adds to the mystery of the image. (probably why most pictures of a hunted house have one) I could probably sit here all day and add little tweeks here and there but as an artist, you have to find a point to call it quits. Here seems to be a good place.
Hopefully, this album give a little insight into the process of manipulating a bunch of random images into one creative composition. If you can see the fascination in it, then you know why it is my favorite pastime.

Filling the Gallery

Now that I have this spooky little gallery for all of my artwork, I suppose it's time to start hanging up some pieces! Here are a few that I made over the last few months. They should fit in nicely.

The Castle of the King

It's a quiet day over here and I was playing with Photoshop again. I was reading through a collection of ghost stories and came across The Castle of the King by Bram Stoker. If you haven't read it, its a pretty dark short story considering it was made to be for children!

The story is very rich in atmosphere and describes a garden on the border between the lands of life and death:

"The subtlety of the King of Death, who rules in the Realms of Evil, is great. He has ordered that the way beyond the Portal be made full of charm. Thus those straying from the paths ordained for good see around them such beauty that in its joy the gloom and cruelty and guilt of the desert are forgotten."

Interestingly, before reading this story I have imagined a very similar place. Here is my interpretation of the garden.Coincidentally, there is a score from Dracula that runs through my mind when I think of the gardens. The song has a haunting beauty to it. You can listen to it here: Mina/Dracula (Bram Stoker's Dracula Soundtrack)