The Art of Dan Moran (pt 2)
Last week, we introduced you to artist Dan Moran, and some of his incredible work. This week, we bring you the conclusion of our interview with Dan. And yes, there’s even more of his incredible art.
Dan Moran has worked with many mediums, including acrylic and oil paint, stone and clay sculpture, collage, etching, and of course drawing. Drawing is his favorite, and his weapon of choice is the black ball-point pen. Dan also does calligraphy, preferring ball-point or felt-tip pens for this (rather than calligraphy pens). He has done a large number of commissioned portraits and a few commissioned creative pieces, has painted some signs with both images and lettering, and has designed a number of T-shirts.
Dan Moran’s horror work has been featured in print magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Cthulhu Sex, Chronicles, and Theatre of Decay, and in online magazines such as Strange Horizons, The World of Myth, and Horrotica. He has done artwork for some black-metal bands (some local, some from as far away as Greece), for the books of horror authors Ike Hamill and Mike Evans, and has also done illustrations for the role-playing games The Burning Wheel, Rangnarok, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Most recently he has done a large number of illustrations for Lucian Harke’s latest novel, Kiba Majo no Honshitsu (“Essence of the Fanged Witch” ).
Dan does non-horror art as well. His series of Nantucket drawings is available in postcard and notecard form in the Museum Shop of the Nantucket Historical Association. He recently did a series of drawings of the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire, and prints and cards are due to appear in the gift shop there soon. Dan Moran’s work also appears on the cover of an issue of ETC: The Journal of Semantics.
THW: Your bio makes you sound like a real Renaissance man. Have you ever thought of picking one thing and going with it?
DM: Impossible. I simply have too many interests. It’s probably one reason why I still have a “regular job” as opposed to “doing what I love” as a career. I just love too many things. For my own works, I write prose, fiction, and poems, I keep a journal, I keep a blog, and here and there I have scattered notebooks with tons of thoughts, meditations, experiences written therein. I could pick any one of those to pursue, let alone my visual art, which is also varied. I love horror, but I also draw figures, portraits, landscapes, all kinds of things. I’ve done illustrations for books, magazines, metal bands, T-shirts, etc. I’ve been commissioned to do portraits of people, pets, houses. I also do calligraphy, freehand, and have painted signs for people, done cards and invitations, etc. That’s just some of the creative stuff that I can do and like to do. Then there are all the things that I simply enjoy doing that aren’t related to my own creativity. Reading tops the list. I also stay fit, going to the gym for about 8-10 hours a week. Add to that my enjoyment of skiing, hiking, sailing, fencing, and the art of iaido (which I’ve recently taken up), and that’s a lot of time I could spend without even doing anything creative. Then there’s my love of travel, and my desire to learn more languages… you get the picture. And this is all just stuff I could enjoy alone, in my personal spare time, and doesn’t even take into account the people with whom I want to spend time. Then there’s the sad fact that I actually have to work 40 hours a week to pay my bills. Focus on one thing? I can’t even focus on one book (I’m usually in the middle of 5 or 6 books at once at any given time). It’s a real bummer that I wasn’t born independently wealthy; I’d have a pretty jam-packed life even if I never had to worry about paying rent or buying food. Based on what I hear from most of the typical “Rules for Success” you hear from retired politicians, entrepreneurs, and motivational speakers, I’m doomed to stay where I am—almost everyone advocates having a single vision and focusing all energy on that. I just can’t do it. I’d rather enjoy life in all the various ways and facets I love.
THW: After checking out a handful of your terrifying pieces, I see precious little color. Why is that?
DM: Habit. When I started to draw as a toddler, I used what I found lying around, which was mostly ball-point pens and scrap paper. The more I did it, the better I got, but I also got used to it. My place of power, in terms of art, is sitting at a table with a Bic pen and a sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper. After a lifetime of drawing small things in great detail, I really have trouble with other means of artistic expression. As I got older, I did try a lot of other stuff—sculpture, painting, silk screening, collage, etc. I’m just not good at any of them. Painting is doubly hard: for one thing, I really don’t get color. I’ve learned a bit, but I can recognize when I have no aptitude for something, and I soon gave up that struggle. Not only do I not understand how to create colors all that well, but I actually don’t like color much in real life. My favorite season is winter, and what I most like to see outside is deep snow cover, bare trees, and iron-grey clouds. That kind of setting makes me feel most comfortable, most at ease, most willing to go outside. The glaring sun of summer just kills me. I don’t like bright sunlight or sharp shadows; what I like about cloudy days is the even lighting over everything. That’s the kind of light that exists in most of my drawings. The other hard thing about painting is the use of the semi-liquid medium, and those brushes. It all just sloshes around too much. My skill is with control: I need to be able to exert complete control over where I place every tiny mark or shade on a piece. Brushes and paints just slip out of my control, and seem to ask for too much cooperation on my part. The only other medium I’ve really been able to do well with is etching, which comes closest to drawing in terms of my ability to control every line and mark (but it doesn’t come close to giving me the range of shading I can get with a ball-point pen).
On a final note, black has always been my favorite color—and I’ve been wearing nothing but black since the mid-1980s.
THW: Who do you think makes the best music for inspiring horror art?
DM: Slayer, my favorite band since 1985, has always been inspiring to me. Also, anything that Glenn Danzig has done—from 1970s Misfits to his current solo stuff—is great. My favorite body of his work is from his band between the Misfits and Danzig: Samhain. I think that was his most highly original stuff, and the relatively low production values of those recordings actually enhance the dark sounds in my opinion. Even his two “Black Aria” albums are inspiring. Celtic Frost is also very inspiring, especially the “Morbid Tales” album (and of course their earlier incarnation as the band Hellhammer—for horror sounds, it’s hard to top their 10-minute “Triumph of Death,” a song about being buried alive, sung slowly in screams). Finally, I must mention Diamanda Galas, a singer, performer, and activist who can truly chill the blood with the sounds she produces. Although she’s done some “rock”-style recordings, she’s done others that sound like tape recordings of hell—hissing snakes, ominous piano sounds, shrieks and growls and evil laughter. Play it alone in a dark room at night for a couple of hours, and it definitely has an effect.
THW: When you want to be terrified and entertained, what do you reach for?
DM: Well, these are actually two different things for me. I’m a huge fan of horror, but most often it entertains me; I don’t really get terrified by horror movies. I tend to prefer the supernatural variety of horror movie—zombies, demons, vampires, hauntings, possession, other dimensions, weird creatures, etc. In general, I avoid horror movies that simply tell of humans tormenting and killing other humans. For example, I have no interest in any of the “Saw” or “Hostel” movies. For me, those are more like awful stories from a newspaper; too much of that stuff happens in real life, all over the world, and I’m not especially entertained by it. I love good gore, but gore alone is not enough. I’ll take “Hellraiser” or “In the Mouth of Madness” over movies whose villains are just twisted people.
When it comes to what actually scares me, I think the old “Twilight Zone” TV show most often succeeded. I might not be scared of monsters or of stalkers, but the unraveling of reality has always terrified me. Many of those episodes were excellent at presenting some individual beginning to confront extreme changes in his or her world, to have things slowly make less and less sense, to be increasingly unpredictable and incomprehensible, and to find that no one else shared the same experience or could understand their plight. It always seemed to happen for no particular reason, too, just like in Kafka’s work—it’s just pure bad luck and evil fate befalling some innocent character. The idea that this could just happen to you was always far more scary to me than any physical threat, and chills me to this day. It also gives me a great deal of sympathy for those considered “insane” by society, as doubtless many of them have undergone a process much like this.
THW: What advice would you give a young artist who wants to work in the horror biz?
DM: First and foremost, love what you do. For most people, horror-related work is not going to be a ticket to financial or commercial success. It works out that way for a lucky few, but for most of us we’re involved in the realm of horror because of an innate affinity and love of the genre. You have to be OK with that. I’ve always figured that my horror work would not lead to a career, so I’ve always just done it for myself, enjoying the process and enjoying when others appreciate the work. My horror stuff has been published and shown much more widely than any of my other art, but almost none of that has involved any money. The people who love that stuff are usually not the people who are rich. That’s fine. I’d tell anyone who’s into horror to just keep doing it, even if you have to have a “real” job to actually pay the bills. As with any creative endeavor, it can be its own reward. Also, keep sharing your work with people—show friends, tell them to spread the word, get into shows or magazines even if they don’t pay anything. You never know who’s going to see something. I’ve had random commissions come my way from Greek metal bands and from Finnish publishers of role-playing games, just because they’ve heard about me from someone who heard from someone else, etc. Horror may still be a relative subculture in the world at large, but its fans are often very dedicated and enthusiastic.
THW: How can fans reach out to you and see more of your work?
DM: I have some websites; my idea was always to have one site for my horror work and one site for all my other work (geared toward what I call the “regular” people, who might enjoy my style but might not be fans of horror). Right now, the horror-specific site is in limbo while some stuff gets sorted out, so people can see that stuff on my “Dark Arts of Dan Moran” Facebook page.
I’ve also had lots of stuff published in print and online magazines; if anyone’s interested, I can give them that info. In addition, this Hallowe’en I’ll be a vendor at the Colorado Horror Con, for anyone in the Denver area who wants to stop by and talk.