Andy Sciazko Interview + Giveaway!
We all have nightmares; for some, its creepy crawlers and things that go bump in the night. For others, it could be a fear of heights or haunted places that cause them to really freak out. When we wake up, we leave those nightmares right where they originated from: in the darkest corners of our minds. But that's where San Francisco-based artist Andy Sciazko differs from the rest of us. You see, he brings nightmares to life through his haunting and mesmerizing illustrations of all things creepy. His art invokes that eerie, on-edge feeling... where you feel slightly unsettled but absolutely captivated at the same time. And although his artwork may be inspired by Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, Sciazko's brand of horror and fright is unlike anything you've seen before and will ever experience. It's chilling and intense, and will pull at the heartstrings of even the most cold individuals. His art is presented in both his personal portfolio and in the form of illustrations for the Nightmare Soup series of books. Accompanied by short stories of terrifying delight by author Jake Tri, Sciazko brings the words to life by creating and terrorizing with his beautiful illustrations. Soulless Cult was absolutely honored to be able to ask Andy Sciazko a few questions about himself and his art!
If you fall in love with his work just as much as I did, you can purchase original artwork, prints, and sticker packs at his online store. You can also purchase your own copies of Nightmare Soup: Tales That Will Turn Your Stomach, Nightmare Soup 2: The Second Helping, as well as The Nightmare Society: Volume 1 all at NightmareSoup.com, along with art prints from your favorite stories. To keep up with him, be sure to follow Andy on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and also at his personal site.
Your artwork does an incredible job of portraying creepy, unsettling scenes that are sure to leave the viewer with goosebumps! Was that always your intention or did it end up just becoming apart of your work? When I was little, I think that I was more interested in capturing whatever I thought was cool at the time, whether it be a skateboarder or a video game/comic book character. Over the years, my interests seemed to gravitate more towards the books and films I was watching, primarily the horror genre, and it started to surface itself in my artwork.
How did you decide that "darker" themed artwork is what you wanted to create? Have you always had an appreciation for horror and the macabre (and the amazing art that comes from it)? I started getting into horror films as a kid, and I was completely hooked. Everything from the bizarre storylines to the makeup/special effects got my imagination going while I sat down to draw. I was also into the darker themed comics, which all I knew of at the time were titles like Spawn and The Crow. Over the years of incorporating those themes into my work, it’s become like second nature to me.
How does the typical artistic process work for you? Do you know what you are illustrating before you start or do you just let your fingers do their thing? Most of the time I’ll start off with a few sketches before I make the plunge into the final piece. I always have an idea of what I want to capture, but I’ll think of other things to include in the sketch phase, and can find out what works and what doesn’t. But I also love starting a doodle, and watching it evolve into a final workable piece!
Do you only work with graphite, ink and watercolor? Do you mess around with any other creative devices or do you stick to what you know (and clearly have mastered!)? Actually, when I first started out I was strictly ink. I wanted to get into comics, and I still plan on it! Some of my favorite comic artists are Bill Sienkiewicz, Ashley Wood, and Kent Williams, and they introduced me to a looser, more expressive/mixed media way of illustrating a comic. That’s when I started experimenting more with graphite, ink, and watercolor, and Photoshop!
How did you link up with author Jake Tri for the Nightmare Soup series? Jake actually found me! Him and I have talked about it, and he still can’t quite remember where he initially saw my work, haha. But he does remember that one of the pieces that stuck out to him was this Venom I did a few years back.
When it comes to the books, does Jake usually approach you with a story and then you illustrate it? Or do you come up with something haunting and then pass it off to Jake to create the story around? With Nightmare Soup, Jake will send me brief synopses of the stories, and I have free reign to come up with my interpretation of each tale. With our spin off series, The Nightmare Society (horror shorts for a more mature audience), he gave me a little more direction as to what he needed.
Nightmare Soup feels like an amazing ode to the Scary Stories series of books so many of us (now adults!) grew up with. Is it safe to assume Stephen Gammell's work with those books played a huge part in how you wanted your artwork to both look and feel? Definitely. When I first picked up those books as a kid, I was so terrified by some of the drawings that I would skip certain stories! They literally looked like they could crawl right off the page and kill you, haha! I never forgot how a drawing on a piece of paper could horrify me to that point, and I love to incorporate that into the work that I do. I always had Gammell’s style in the back of my mind with whatever I was working on, and I loved that his art could look both finished and unfinished, which is an element I’ll always use in my work. It’s an unsettling feeling, looking at a image so creepy and obscure that it could only exist in a nightmare, but at the same time seeing a brush stroke or pencil mark left behind that reminds you it’s just a painting/drawing.
Do you have a particular favorite story from the Nightmare Soup series? What about a favorite illustration (either from the books or your solo work)? Yes, the story “Pretty Pumpkins” from the first book, but my favorite illustrations I’ve done would be a tie between “The End” and “The Bird.”
Have you ever had to scrap illustrations for the book that you felt didn't quite capture the story? All the time! I’ll finish up with a painting, get it ready to send to Jake, and days later get a new idea and swap out the original.
If you could turn one Nightmare Soup story into a film short, which one would you choose? The story I would love to see most translated to the screen would be “Mr. Smiley.” It’s super short and straight forward, but that will allow for a lot of creative direction! Same goes for “Drip, Drip,” a bonus story in the Nightmare Soup Sketchbook.
Have you ever created a piece so haunting it actually creeped YOU out?! There was this one tour flyer I did for a metal band from Syracuse, NY called BLEAK. They were looking for something along the lines of the more dark, violent album covers (kind of like what the band UNSANE had). The end product I gave them looks like something between the lines of an autopsy and a ritual murder. That piece doesn’t creep me out, but every time I come across the digital file on my computer, I’ll think, “Wow, I really went to the deepest, darkest fucking corners of the internet to find drawing reference for this.
Outside of creating images to keep us awake at night, what other hobbies and interests do you have? I love watching movies and writing short stories or poetry, although most of my writing feels more like song lyrics. I love searching for new music and actually have a studio project with my brother Steven; the music he does is more of the hardcore punk/metal genre. He and I are getting ready to head back to record next year, and I’ll let you know when we release some new material! I also love hanging out/collaborating/making weird noises with my girlfriend Mary Syring, who is also an illustrator and a fantastic one at that! She loves everything horror and witchy, so we go together like apples and razorblades.
What's the best piece of advice you can give aspiring artists who want to explore "darker" themes? My advice is: draw inspiration from what you know. I’ve seen a few artists force horror themes on their work, and it doesn’t look natural. Capture what you know firsthand is creepy, and the rest will work itself out on the canvas.
A very special thank you goes out to the incredible Andy Sciazko for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions and for allowing us to share his insane artwork with you! It was an absolute honor to be given the opportunity to get to know him a little bit better! Again, please consider visiting his online store and consider making a purchase to help support his art and show him some love!
ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN ANDY SCIAZKO FAN PACK!
Soulless Cult has teamed up with Andy Sciazko to give away some truly special and totally badass items! One winner will receive a signed, hand-numbered 1 of 3 "Bat" print by Andy, a sticker pack containing 7 beautiful sticky-versions of some of Andy's most haunting illustrations, a physical copy of Nightmare Soup: Tales That Will Turn Your Stomach, and one of our Soulless inverted cross enamel pins! To enter, please visit our Instagram (@soullesscult) for more details! Contest ends 12/10.