Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween with Gris Grimly

Greetings Society of Grave Robbers,

The smell of death is in the air. Its crisp-dry winds knock yellow and orange leaves from gnarled trees. A genocide of fauna, as they fall to their resting place among the frosted ground. Samhain, (known for mischief, costumes and candy) is our benediction and Dia de los Muertos is around the corner. I love the month of October. We are so psychically joined together that I was birthed during these cold haunting days so many years ago.

There is much curiosity to how Father Grim spends his Halloween season. I am a purist and find much pleasure in experiencing Halloween the way my ancestors did, a tradition which is sadly fading away. I still decorate with orange and black streamers, play Bob Apple and Duck Apple and run around the fire pit on a broomstick.

It is a tradition for me to make my own costume. The craftsmanship is essential to the power and strength one acquires when they wear their costume. The strength of magic on Halloween is directly linked to this act. I prefer to dress as traditional characters such as a skeleton, ghost, devil, warlock...etc.

It is a tradition for me to carve Jack-O-Lanterns. The importance of carving Jack-O-Lanterns is in home protection. A creative (not necessarily well crafted) carving lit by candle at night will keep evil spirits away. This includes boogeymen, devils, demons, spooks and haunts who are all present and on the prowl during these dark hours. This magical protection lies in a creative rendition of a scary face. Forget your Martha Stuart concepts, vomiting Jack-O-Lanterns, manufactured stencils and other mockeries of the ritual.

Music is important to me at all times. I listen to music from the moment I awake to the moment I go to sleep. The perfect playlist is essential during the month of October for preparation. Everybody has their own taste in music. You may not agree with my eardrums, but that is irrelevant. My playlist consists mostly of Halloween records from the 50s and 60s.
This includes Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, Frankie Stein, Milton Delugg, Screaming Lord Sutch, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Vic Mizzy. There are also some amazing compilations that contain classic Rock 'n' Roll Hits like "Spooksville", "Vampira", "Wombie Zombie", "Dead Man's Stroll", "Haunted House", "The Blob", "Woke Up Screaming", "Dry Bone Twist" and more. You can't go wrong with Elvira who has a few compilations out on CD and Vinyl. Some modern albums that get me in the spirit are The Cramps, The Misfits, Bauhaus and Alien Sex Fiend.

October is the month for viewing horror movies. I'm actually a musical kind of guy, but I find myself leaving my comfort zone during the Halloween season. With The Rocky Horror Picture Show you can kill two crows with one stone. October and Universal Classic Horror films go hand in hand. This is when I visit my old fiends of the silver screen: Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. I also make sure to watch the first Halloween by John Carpenter and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. And if I have time I will squeeze in some of the others in the series. A new favorite of mine is Trick 'R' Treat. I will also visit some of the children's films like Mad Monster Party, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Monster Squad.

It is a tradition to give out candy for Halloween. Whether you partake in other season rituals or not, you most likely partake in delivering candy to costumed children when they knock and chant "Trick or Treat". The reason for this is (whether you are aware or not) if you fail to deliver a treat to those who chant at your doorstep, you will inevitably encounter a mischievous trick. Some are more malevolent than others.

My favorite candy is black licorice. But that is not very festive. My second favorite candy are the Mary Jane peanut butter blobs that are wrapped in orange and black wrappers. I used to give out popcorn balls and caramel apples. But I had to stop due to some neighborhood scare where sharp objects were found in these very same treats.

It is traditional for me to sit on my porch at sundown and wait for the children to come by. There is nothing more magical during this golden hour on October 31st. There is a haze in the sepia sky as the blood red sun runs to hide from the evil coming up over the horizon. This is when the Spirit of Halloween comes alive.

I prepare a few pieces of candy with special tricks. Won't they be surprised.

Then, as night shows it's ugly head, I creep out to partake in the festivities. I lurk in the shadows and watch from behind bushes. I sneak through the streets on a night when I don't appear unusual. I love Halloween! It is the one night when I am like everybody else.

Happy Halloween from Gris Grimly and the MCP Crew.

Be Grim!

Images by Riley Kern

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Shadows

Welcome to October of 2011. In the thirty six years that I have walked this earth, I can say with out a doubt that three years made me who I am, inspire my every thought, and gives me something to look forward to. Those three years are the thirty six months of October I have experienced. Okay...Thirty five and half months of October. I was born in October. Halloween is in October. The beginning of Autumn is in October. Everything dies, the air is brisk and spooks run rampant. I LOVE THIS MONTH!

For the past four years, there has been an art show celebrating Halloween in art called October Shadows. It includes a strong and hefty list of artists from around the world in fine art, comics, film, television and animation. I have been involved every year with many other artists that I admire. This year, I did three acrylic paintings on wood inspired by Halloween, familiar emotions and social problems.

I roughed out a few ideas in my sketchbook involving werewolves, devils, witches, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and the usual Halloween suspects. When I narrowed it down to three I wanted to proceed with as paintings I had...

I started by painting a checkered pattern on the boards using oranges, blacks and browns. Than I added my figures and proceeded with the details.

When you think traditional Halloween, you think ghosts, skeletons, devils, Jack-o-lanterns and witches. We've grown up with two types of witches- the hag and the succubus.

"Which Witch" is a portrayal of these two types of witches. There is the ugly hag and there is the beautiful temptress. But no matter which witch you choose...she is still a witch.

Who in America hasn't grown up carving a Jack-O-Lantern? I'm sorry if I've offended any deprived individual who has not partaken in this traditional act of Americana. But I think I can safely say that most people have in one form or another. Jack-O-Lanterns go hand in hand with Halloween like a corpse to a coffin. Traditional depictions of gourds with haunting faces haunt Halloween paraphernalia of the Victorian era. I've always been drawn to these tricksters.

In "The Horror Inside" I've depicted a more morose gourd spirit whose cavity is opened up and spilling with confetti, bats, candy and bones. It represents the importance of expelling the dark things that build up inside us because they can and will destroy our spirits.

I'm obsessed with Halloween. I collect vintage Halloween decorations and costumes. I love the old Ben Cooper vacuform masks. But even more so, I love the netting masks of the turn of the century. They are much more creepy. I find myself drawn more to traditional costumes than modern. My favorite costume of all time would have to be the skeleton jumpsuit and skull mask. Another favorite is the traditional sheet ghost.

"Unveiling the Heart Beneath the Sheet" is about acceptance and a social commentary about judging individual's characters by their appearance. A sheet ghost is thought to be empty, apathetic and cold. In this piece, the little girl is lifting up her sheet to expose a golden heart that is the absolute opposite.

Overall, I was really happy with these three paintings. I had started a fourth one depicting a devil holding a Jack-O-Lantern. But I was unable to finish it in time for the show.

These pieces are on display and for sale at the October Shadows art show in Altadena California. This free event opened on Sunday, October 2nd at the art gallery inside of the Mountain View Mausoleum, 2300 N. Marengo Avenue in Altadena, CA 91001 and will run each Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am – 3pm through the entire month of October.

Any artwork purchased must remain on display for the first two weeks of the show’s run, but will be available for pick-up on or after Sunday, October 16th.

For more information:

Mountain View Mausoleum
2300 N Marengo Ave
Altadena, CA 91001
Phone: (626) 355-9100