Close-Up: An Interview With Vintage Horror Artist Dan Fris

Artist Dan Fris joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about his brilliant horror-inspired artwork.

Hi Dan, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Can you tell us about your background and what drew you to art?

Hi, thanks for having me, I appreciate it! I’m an illustrator and cartoonist based outside of Atlanta, GA. I’ve loved drawing for as far back as I can remember. I was a huge comic book fan as a kid, and comics really served as my gateway into art. I’m largely self-taught, although I did go to art school for a few years before I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me.  

Can you tell us about your style and how you developed it?

I’d say my art style is pretty heavily influenced by pop culture of the 1950’s and 1960’s, mixed with a wide variety of horror elements. I try to infuse some humor in my work as well, since all my favorite horror movies incorporate that. For the longest time I wanted to be an animator, and by studying animation I learned the importance clean and minimal line work, along with using shape and form as a means of expression for a character. 

I love the characters and horror worlds you create. Where do you get your inspiration, and what is your creative process like?

I usually start with a character or scenario in mind, which I’ll then sketch out in pencil in my sketchbook. I work from photo reference, so often the pose or likeness I’m working from will inform how the drawing develops as well. From there I’ll take a picture of the drawing and finish it digitally on my iPad. I find it hard to sketch digitally because the feeling of plastic on smooth glass is so drastically different then pencil and paper.  

I get a lot of inspiration from silver age comic books, pulp magazines, trashy paperback covers, and vintage movie posters. I like the idea of clearly and concisely telling as much story as possible in a single image, which is something I strive for in my art. 

I also love some of the film inspired illustrations you do, especially the one of Anya Taylor-Joy in a potential Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu remake. What is your favourite horror film?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say Return of the Living Dead. To me, it’s the complete package; it’s got humor, horror, memorable characters, amazing practical effects, a killer soundtrack, and unforgettable set pieces. If I had to pick a runner up, it would be a tie between Basket Case and House of Frankenstein. All of the old Universal Monster movies hold a very special place in my heart as well. I watched those a lot as a youngster and they make great comfort viewing. 

The ‘Soundtrack’ story section on your Instagram page got me thinking: What would a Dan Fris horror film look and sound like?

What an amazing question! It would definitely be a throwback to horror films of the 50’s and 60’s, so it wouldn’t really be that scary by modern standards. It would be colorful and eerie and fun, with a good amount of humor and a healthy dose of sleaze. For the soundtrack, I’d want a lot of surf rock and twangy country guitar, along with some Motown and Tom Waits. 

What do you get up to away from the horror artworks?

I turn more and more into a homebody as I get older, so I’m happy just spending time at home with my lovely wife and our dog. My wife and I are big geeky collector types, so hunting down old comics or books or toys is definitely a big hobby of mine. I got really into cooking during the pandemic so that’s something I get a lot of enjoyment out of. 

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

I’m working on a new series of themed drawings that I’m pretty excited about, which I hope to have done by winter. I’d like to eventually put together a book of my illustrations, or possibly get into some comic book work. Long term, I hope to grow old with my wife and dog, continue to make art, and enjoy every cup of coffee that I’m fortunate enough to have. 

Check out Dan’s website – dfris.com

Follow Dan on Instagram – Dan Fris (@dan.fris) • Instagram photos and videos

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