What was the inspiration for the composition of the image (the zombies lurching toward the viewer, in a desolate landscape)?
Well, the brief that [Night Shade Books editor-in-chief] Jeremy [Lassen] sent was pretty loose, with the only hard details being the image dimensions and that it be a wall of zombies lined up. That’s how zombies are the scariest, when they have you surrounded. So from that, I wanted to have it be this hazy atmosphere with the impression of zombies disappearing out into the distance and that’s all you can see. Even though they’re moving slowly, they still needed to have the indication of motion that they’re closing in, which is where the strands of hair blowing across helps, and the staggered formation. To make them look threatening without being too intelligent, and also to keep the movement sluggish but present, they all have their attention directed around the viewer except for the most horrifying one who is making eye contact. I also wanted it to have this warm color scheme, like a stuffy hot late afternoon.
When I first saw the image, I thought I recognized one of those zombies, but then dismissed it as coincidence. Turned out I was right, however. What made you decide to zombify your fellow artists? And can you talk about how they came to serve as your models?
I always photo ref for my figures, and I knew I was going to be in Amherst hanging out with the Illustration Master Class at about the time I needed to start on this piece, so i planned to shoot some refs of people there. Many times, other artists make great models because they have a good understanding what I’m trying get from them, so I just recruited a few friends one by one to step outside and "act like a zombie" and everyone got it pretty easy. It’s also fun to look back at paintings and have odd portraits of friends and family in there.
Are you a fan of zombie fiction/film etc. in general? If so, what are some of your favorite examples?
I haven’t read much in the way of zombie fiction, but I’ve been a big fan of zombie film since high school. It’s tough to say which was the one that did it, but it’s a toss up between Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Fulci’s Zombie 2. I watched Zombie 2 again on the big screen pretty recently and it’s still easily one of my favorite horror movies of any kind. Those movies were a big influence for this painting though, and I always think "1970s" when I think zombies. The synth music, the colors, the whole general tone is very important. Also, though they’re more of half demon/half zombies, I’m a huge fan for the Evil Dead movies. I even have two Tom Sullivan drawings from Evil Dead tattooed on my shoulder that I got as a teenager.