Ghoulish Gary Pullin. The name is synonymous with creatures, monsters, and all things creepy. Gary Pullin is the go-to guy when looking to create illustrations featuring such characters as The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, or Jason Vorhees! As the former Art Director for widely read Rue Morgue Magazine, Gary was tasked with overseeing the total look of the Magazine, and he now serves as the Art Columnist for The Fright Gallery. Gary also spends time dabbling in the Film Poster Scene, producing illustrations for such classics as “The Descent”, “Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter”, and “Near Dark”. We’re very fortunate to have Gary as our guest today, where we discuss horror, illustration, and the current state of the Film Poster Scene. So, without further ado, here is A Conversation With Gary Pullin…
igotbirds: Gary, we like to start off each conversation with the subject of the interview explaining how he chose a career in Illustration. Can you give our readers some background info, and how you chose your career path?
Gary Pullin: Sure, my Grandfather was an amateur painter so it’s pretty safe to say that’s where my artistic side comes from. He passed before I was borne, but my Dad had a lot of his paintings, mostly landscapes, around the house and I would try to copy them with pencils or charcoal. We were never very religious, but we did go to church when I was young and I can remember our family priest came by with a box of paper and markers. Well, I immediately started sketching a monster, I don’t think he knew just what he had started. I would draw pictures of Frankenstein, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Darth Vader, Jaws. Other than baseball, I wasn’t really into sports. I was much happier drawing, listening to music or watching any horror film I could rent at our local video stores. I grew up in London, Ontario on movies, music, horror magazines and comics. I would walk miles to get the latest issue of Mad Magazine, Fangoria, GoreZone or Deep Red. My love of horror-inspired art really kicked into high gear when I discovered Basil Gogos‘ painted monster portraits on the covers of Famous Monsters. His ghastly colour pallet hooked me in right away. I’m very lucky that my parents and teachers (most of them) were cool and encouraged my fascination with all of this stuff. They wouldn’t let me watch anything harmful, but I was watching some pretty terrifying stuff at a very young age and reading it too. My mom was a big Stephen King fan, so I would pick up her books when she was finished. All of this was fuel for my fiendish imagination. I did okay in art through high school and went to a specialized art course at H.B. Beal for two years. After that, I enrolled in a three year graphic design and advertising program at Conestoga College in Kitchener. It can only be described as design boot camp but it’s what I needed and it really opened my eyes to the many avenues one could pursue in art. I graduated, moved to Toronto and landed a junior design position with a pretty swank commercial design firm. While I was there, I met the folks behind Rue Morgue Magazine when Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival came through Toronto and basically demanded I become their art guy. The rest they say, is horror history.
igotbirds: You’ve produced a lot of Gig Posters for various bands, my personal favorite being the poster you created for Goblin’s 2013 US Tour. Can you talk a little about breaking into the Gig Poster Scene, and what challenges you face when designing for a band?
Gary Pullin: I think my first real gig poster were two posters for Electric Frankenstein, and they published them in an art book. Those got noticed and I was asked to do posters for The Gutter Demons, The Creepshow, Ghoultown and Tiger Army. Gig posters are a lot of fun to create. Unless there’s a specific direction given from the band, there’s really no parameters. You just need to create a compelling image that perhaps evokes the type of band you are creating artwork for. I guess the biggest challenge for myself as a younger designer was actually getting paid for the work or acquiring copies of the printed posters from the bands or promoters. Not so much anymore though. Although I’ve been focusing on film-inspired artwork lately, I’m just as passionate about music as I am movies. If the opportunity were to present itself, I would love to work on a gig poster again.
igotbirds: What drew you to begin illustrating film posters? Do you have a favorite illustration you have created based on a film?
Gary Pullin: I think it was just a natural progression from creating film-inspired artwork at Rue Morgue for all those years. My first very first screen-print was “Street Trash” for Mondo and I was hooked ever since. Some of my favourite recent posters are the “Teen Wolf” prints I did for Skuzzles, my “Vertigo”, “White Zombie” posters and the Tales From The Crypt 7″ vinyls I did with Mondo for their EC Comics art show. I really enjoy creating art for soundtrack re-issues, like the Re-Animator artwork I did for WaxWork Records and They Live for Death Waltz. I just finished the soundtrack artwork for Creepshow with Waxwork Records and I’m very excited for people to see it.
igotbirds: You’ve done some work for Mondo. How did you go about hooking up with Mondo to produce some Poster Art for them?
Gary Pullin: Mitch Putnam from Mondo reached out in 2009 to do the “Street Trash” poster. It was an experiment for me because it was my first screen print ever and I guess my first officially licensed film poster. Well, it didn’t sell out, so I was a bit disheartened by that and I didn’t hear from them for a while. I was holding down the art director gig at Rue Morgue at the time which left me with very little spare time, but I was committed to working with them again. I felt I had grown a bit since we last worked together and I showed them some recent work. Opening up a dialogue with Rob Jones and Justin Ishmael helped too, and before I knew it I was getting invites to their gallery shows and getting more poster gigs with them. They’re all great guys over there and have pushed me to up my game. I’m always very excited to work with them. I’ve got some cool things lined up with them and can’t wait to share.
igotbirds: I’d like to touch on two Posters in particular that I really enjoy as a viewer. So, let’s start off with the Poster you created for “The Descent”. To me, this Poster really encapsulates the totality of the film. I love that the center image forms an almost coffin-like shape. Just a really powerful piece of art. Could you talk a bit about your process in creating this image?
Gary Pullin: “The Descent” is an exceptional modern horror film, and I’m a big fan. I worked with Fright Fest Originals in the UK on it and I had this idea that the caves are like a claustrophobic tomb for the spelunkers, so that’s where the coffin motif comes from. I had a lot of fun hiding stuff in the rocks too.
igotbirds: Another Poster of yours I really enjoy is the “Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter” piece you did for Mondo. I absolutely love the colors in this print. I also like that the composition is one in which Jason is taking up the entire field of view! Very powerful and dynamic. What led you to the composition you chose for the Poster? Was it something you had in mind from the beginning or was it worked and re-worked until it was close to what you envisioned?
Gary Pullin: I am an unapologetic “Friday the 13th” fan, Part IV being a favourite, so I practically begged Rob at Mondo to do one for the Final Chapter. I came up with about eight different concepts. One featured Tommy behind a broken Jason mask, a really violent version that featured Voorhees’ death-slide down the machete, one with a nod to Crispin Glover’s infamous awkward dance, but I couldn’t use Corey Feldman and Glover’s likeness, or even place in a credit deck. But I’m really happy with the bold result of Jason coming through Tommy’s door. On my concepts I presented to Mondo, I called it “Heeeeeere’s Jason!” which is a not-so-subtle nod to “The Shining“.
igotbirds: Your great poster for “The Big Lebowski” is quite a departure from your “ghoulish” work that most fans are familiar with. Was it a nice change of pace for you to show you can illustrate more than monsters and creatures from the depths of Hades?
Gary Pullin: Thanks man, I’m really glad you mentioned that because yes, it was a nice change and although horror is where my heart is, I’d like collectors and clients to see that I am capable of creating artwork for non-genre properties too. I was glad The Poster Collective had me in mind for “The Big Lebowski”. I love all types of films and I enjoy tapping into that diversity when given the chance. I’m working towards it, but I would love more opportunities to do key art for non-genre stuff. Also, I would jump at the chance to do an officially licensed John Hughes “Weird Science” or “The Breakfast Club” poster or something from just about any Tarantino flick.
igotbirds: Looking at your Website, it’s a given that you love illustrating Monsters. Your “An American Werewolf in London” piece is just awesome, and once again I love the color palette you’re working with in this piece. I get a sense that you really respect the history of the Monster, and wish to translate that respect to the viewer through your work. Can you talk about those Monsters which are near and dear to you, and is there a Monster that you’re dreaming of illustrating in the future?
Gary Pullin: Nobody paints monsters better than Basil Gogos, so every time I sat down to create a Rue Morgue cover, it was always a deliberate tribute to him and what his art brought to the grandaddy of all horror magazines, Famous Monsters of Filmland. When I got the gig at Rue Morgue, I wanted it to stand out visually, so I would push myself to create something I thought monster fans would appreciate and also, grab that kids’ attention when they are standing there deciding what mag to buy. The art behind mainstream horror magazines pretty much dried up somewhere in the ’90s and one thing I felt strongly about was bringing some that back to genre publications. Hopefully readers felt as though they were holding onto something with a bit more passion behind the pages than the competitors and it would be something to keep and collect. “The American Werewolf” cover you mentioned is a personal favourite for a few reasons, mainly because it features David Naughton and not the wolf. I also really enjoyed doing the “Hobo With A Shotgun” cover, the Lucio Fulci “Zombie” issue, the “Psycho” issue and issue #100 which was black on black with a varnish overlay. You have to understand that once the cover story was settled, when it came time to design or illustrate the covers, we didn’t have a lot of time under the ever-present pendulum of a monthly deadline so I’m really proud of the quality of work that we were able to accomplish there.
igotbirds: Let’s talk the state of the Film Poster Scene. With documentaries coming out and Mondo prints selling out in seconds, where do you see the future of the scene? In your opinion, how big could it get?
Gary Pullin: We’re seeing more and more illustrated work seeping into the marketing of films and more illustrated posters in the multiplexes. I’d be happy to see it become the norm again. I hope it gets bigger. It’s great for the artists of course but also for film fans. Even casual movie fans can appreciate an effective poster. I’m beyond thrilled to see more and more doors swinging open for this type of art. A lot of the work that’s being produced lately is truly incredible and I hope the trend becomes the norm.
igotbirds: Finally Gary, can you tell people where to find you online? Website, Facebook, Twitter, etc…?
Gary Pullin: Sure! You can find me at:
- And my website
Once again, we would like to give a big thanks to Gary Pullin for taking the time away from his busy schedule to participate in our interview. Please be sure to click on the links included in this conversation, and check out more of Gary’s work at www.ghoulishgary.com!