Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 - The Sketchy Year In Review

The year 2008 certainly turned out to be interesting. I became an actor again, and 2009 should see the release of THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and possibly THE RESTROOM, which we hope to shoot in the early Spring. The coming year should also see the release of several art projects I worked on this past year - stuff I can't show you yet. Bill Warren's revised edition of "Keep Watching The Skies" and Midnight Marquee's mystery novel "Bela Lugosi and The House Of Doom" are just two you'll be seeing soon. In the meantime, here's a quick look back at some of the classic monster art created in the last twelve months...

I wish all of you a happy and healthy 2009. I'll be appearing at Wonderfest (Louisville, KY) and Monsterpalooza (Burbank, CA) this May, so I hope to see many of you there.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays...

...to all my friends and fans!!!

Forrest J. Ackerman

Forrest J. Ackerman 1916 - 2008
Thanks for everything, Uncle Forry.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Building The House Of Dracula Part 5

After giving myself a day away from the painting, I came back to it with a fresh perspective - a new set of eyes, if you will. I noticed a couple of small changes I wanted to make and took care of them. You'll notice these if you compare the two images. I am now satisfied with the painting and have signed it.

In the end, I am much happier with this version than I was with the first attempt at this same image. This one is moodier, richer in atmosphere than the previous painting. I want to thank Kirsten Perez for giving me the opportunity to reimagine this iconic image, one of my favorites from all the Universal horror classics.

There is one more step involved, but isn't worth posting here. Once the paint is thoroughly dry, a thin coat of retouching varnish will be applied, which will enhance the paintings luster in the tones and colors.

Now, back to the drawing board!

"I believe you're in the house of Dracula right now!" - Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) from ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Building The House Of Dracula Part 4

Now I begin to really breathe life into the painting. I start with the larger areas and work my way down to the more detailed parts. I try to use thicker paint on in the "foreground" areas, thinner paint in the background. This adds to the illusion of depth.

For those interested, these are the colors I used: Ultramarine and Prussian Blues, Veridian Green, Sap Green, Cadmium Orange and Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna and Titanium White. I did not use black of any kind, and the fact is that I never do. I don't even own a tube of the stuff. I always prefer to "create" my own blacks, which are never really true black but a mix of colors that have a similar effect. Pure black from the tube always looks "flat" to me. It's a personal choice that I have stayed with since I started oil painting.

So this piece is just about finished. I don't want to over-work it, I want to keep it "painterly" - meaning a little loose and not quite so illustrative. I am actually liking this new painting much better than the first piece I did of the same subject.

The next step: The Final Step!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monsters In Progress

Here's a sneak peek at two other oil paintings that are "in the works." The CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON piece is an image I had previously rendered in Prismacolor markers, but I am so taken with that moment from the film that I wanted to capture it in oils as well. The CURSE OF THE DEMON is such a startling character, I've wanted to paint him for quite a while. Both of these I'm doing without a rough sketch, just jumping in with tones and color. It's a little more challenging this way, but a bit faster and really fun!

Building The House Of Dracula Part 3

Now I've begun to apply thicker paint to each area of the painting. The colors are stronger and more defined, but I'm still holding on to the tones I created in the previous step. I work my way around the entire piece, never spending too much time on a particular area. This keeps the painting consistant, and keeps me from "finishing" one area while the others are ignored. I finished this session by taking a fan brush and lightly softening everything.

Fanning sets up the next step, which is to dig into the more detailed areas. I'll be using smaller brushes from this point on.

The next step: Finessing!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Building The House Of Dracula Part 2

After the sketch has been sprayed with fixative (an important step, otherwise the sketch will be destroyed by this phase!), I begin painting in the tones - light, middle and dark values - which will help me keep the depth of the painting throughout the process. Again, no details required at this point, they'll come later.

I've added just a hint of dulled-down color here, but the real goal of this step is getting those tones in. As I progress, the paint will be applied thicker and the true colors will be introduced.

The next step: Thicker paint!

Building The House Of Dracula Part 1

I've been commissioned to recreate an oil painting I did several years ago, the castle from ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. This is a perfect opportunity to show you the process, step by step. So first up is the charcoal sketch, done on the canvas. I use vine charcoal, which is very easy to correct - that is to say that it erases easily. It also smudges easily, so one has to be careful not to rub an elbow or palm against it until it is sprayed.

You'll notice that the sketch is rather rough. Details are unnecessary at this point, because later I'll be covering all of this with paint. The sketch is just the foundation on which to build. It's important, however, to get the proportions correct at this stage. They're easier to fix now rather than later.

The next step: Painting in the tones...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Ink Of The Bride Of Frankenstein

While watching THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN with my daughter Tabitha this past Halloween, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed doing simple pen-and-ink drawings of the wonderful characters that inhabit James Whale's film. These are all from around 1999, and most appeared in the very first Sketchy Things volume. Is it me, or does my Bride look a bit like Scarlett Johansson? Attention, Universal Studios casting...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Never Fear, Smith Is Here

When writing screenplays, I often assign an actor's voice to a character to help me write his or her dialogue. In the script I've recently been commissioned to write, I'm using Jonathan Harris to help bring a certain character's words to light. Having his voice in my head brings back fond memories of not only Dr. Zachary Smith, the conniving gadfly he portrayed on LOST IN SPACE, but of Jonathan himself. I appeared at many conventions with Jonathan, and I still miss his sly, curmudgeonly grin and sweet/sour disposition. Seeing him drinking his tea in the morning, before the floodgates of autograph hungry fans were opened to descend upon him, always made me smile.
Thanks for everything, Jonathan Harris (1914-2002)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Western Horror From Larry Blamire

Exciting news from my friend and director Larry Blamire - a collection of western-themed horror stories. Besides being a terrific filmmaker and talented artist, Larry is a masterful talespinner, and here is an opportunity for you to read for yourself. Here's what Larry says:

"TALES OF THE CALLAMO MOUNTAINS gathers all my western horror stories and slams them into one handy trade size paperback, with a cover by me (how convenient). These tales are lousy with atmosphere, creepiness and suspense and stuff, with a hearty helping of the twisted and bizarre. Pretty traditional in a way--low on gore and violence..."

I highly recommend this book to all of my own friends and fans. You can order it here:


Frank with horror authors (and best pals) David J. Schow and Larry Blamire.

Monday, October 6, 2008


This past weekend, Bantam Street presented the world premiere of THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN! at the Mill Valley Film Festival, just outside of San Francisco, California. The movie was received with great enthusiasm and loads of laughter. We are all happy and proud of our film and it's creator, writer-director-star Larry Blamire. Following the screening, a Q&A was held with most of the cast and several of the crew. It was a magical night.

Producers Mike Schlesinger and Sara Van Der Voort, Bob DeVeau, cinematographer A.J. Rickert-Epstein, Trish Geiger, Brian Howe, Larry Blamire, Fay Masterson, Frank Dietz and Andy Parks. The 3 in the front: Susan McConnell (head turned), Dan Conroy and Jennifer Blaire.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Linda Miller, R.I.P.

Linda Miller passed away yesterday at the young age of 48. Linda was an active member of the Universal Monster Army and the Lugosiphile Group. Her death was unexpected, leaving all of us shocked and depply saddened.

The artwork she created, based on the classic Universal horror films, was stunning and unique. Her medium of choice was primarily watercolor, though you wouldn't immediately recognize it as such. She never felt the need to incorporate color, and her paintings fully captured the atmosphere of the vintage films she paid tribute to.

Linda was humble regarding her own talent, yet generous in her praise of others. A real class act. Rest In Peace, Dear Linda...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not JUST Monsters...

Believe it or not, occasionally I paint something that is NOT a monster or an actor who played a monster! Below are two examples of what's known as "Fine Art."

This is a simple still life done in oils. The challenge here was creating the illusion of the bottle being clear glass.

This was a Monet duplication. The idea is not to "copy" what you see, but to "imagine" what is was the artist was looking at when he painted it. There's a lot to be learned from the Great Masters...and the Great Monsters!

The Terror Of The Tones

In oil painting, getting your tones locked in early, and then maintaining them as you proceed is a good idea. It keeps you from getting lost, and gives you an better idea of what your final painting will eventually look like.

Here's a look at the initial tones puts down for my painting of the incredibly sexy Andree Melly from THE BRIDES OF DRACULA.

And the final painting, with the oil paint loaded up nice and thick, but the tones still holding.

Love that Andree...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Count Charcoalula

Charcoal can be a tricky medium. It takes practice to master the gentle touch required to create delicate middle tones. These are the tones that create the most depth, which is what you want if your piece is going to have the illusion of three dimensions. The lightest and darkest tones create the "punch" - the eye-catching drama - but without those vital variations of middle tone, the piece can end up looking flat.

This charcoal sketch of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula from ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (my favorite Lugosi performance) has strong lights and darks, but it is those middle values that really give it life.

"I have other ways of securing your cooperation...Look into my eyes..."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Re-Wrapping The Mummy

A little lesson on why it is sometimes worth the effort to go back and re-examine a piece that just didn't work out the way you envisioned.

This oil of Boris Karloff as Ardath Bey, a.k.a. THE MUMMY, was my very first classic monster painting. It seemed fine while I was working on it, but I was still learning the process at the time, and so I rushed it. I didn't listen to my inner Gogos, and was too much of a hurry to see the final result. It wasn't until is was "finished" that I noticed the problems with the sketch itself - the proportions were way off, so the likeness suffered.

For almost a year that painting sat on my studio floor, and every time I passed by it I would grimace. Finally, while in the middle of another painting, I had had enough. I put the new piece aside and put this one back on the easel. Within an hour, I had captured the image I had always imagined it would be. Suddenly I loved the painting I had shunned for so long. In fact, I now liked it so much I decided to take it a step further, and glazed color onto it's Burnt Umber and Titanium White tones. The result was so worth the effort, I was only sorry I hadn't resolved to fix it sooner. See for yourself...

The original painting...

The revised version...

And the final, glazed painting.

Lesson learned.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Not-Nearly-As-Dark Knight

I really enjoyed THE DARK KNIGHT, but nothing will ever replace the loving memories of Adam West (my ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE co-star) as the Caped Crusader. Utterly goofy but inescapably charming, the 60's BATMAN series provided this eight-year-old viewer with hours of two-part action-packed imagination.
This tribute is actually a composition of four individual drawings - Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, Cesar Romero as The Joker, Adam as Batman and Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. And each had their own theme music. Can you sing them all?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How To Make A Monster (Again!)

Here's another example of the three main steps in creating a glaze oil painting. Luckily I "documented" these steps while creating these paintings, so that I can actually show the process instead of describing it. A picture is worth a thousand werewolves. I mean words. The subject this time is the iconic, craggy features of Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster, specifically from ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

The sketch and simple tones are the most important steps. This is the time to make corrections regarding proportions in particular. It's a lot easier to fix drawing errors during these early stages than it is to fix later.

Next is the application of thicker paint - just Burnt Umber and Titanium White - to create a tone painting. Since it will be glazed, we'll keep the middle and dark tones about two shades lighter than normal. Corrections can still be made at this point, but you'll wish you had done them earlier!

Once this monochromatic stage is completely dry, the glazing stage can begin. Using "transparent" colors such as Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Indian Yellow with a glazing medium, the color is layered on the existing tones. The result is quite striking, and very different from a traditional oil painting.

If you're wondering why my signature is so big...it is because the painting was so small! The actual canvas was only 5 x 7 inches, and was sold during my Gallery Show in October 2006.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lycanthropy and Me

I have always loved werewolves. The character of Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, was my first monster, and I've always felt a certain bond with him. Perhaps because he was just a regular guy with extraordinary bad luck. Most cinematic lycanthropes suffer from the same scenario, or at least the best ones do. Here are a few of my favorites, rendered in various mediums...

Oliver Reed from CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, sketched with charcoal pencil

Lon Chaney Jr. and Elena Verdugo from HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, graphite pencil.

And Chaney again, this time in simple pen and ink.

Even an artist who is pure in heart...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


My friend Mike Schlesinger (Rondo Monster Kid Of The Year and producer of THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN!) provided me with this shot, taken at the conclusion of my demo at Wonderfest, discussed in the posts below. Thanks Mike!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hail, Caesar!

At Wonderfest I was asked to demonstrate my sketch techniques by drawing Charlton Heston, a cinematic hero in the eyes of many WFesters. I honored that request, and did a caricature of Big Chuck as Col. Taylor from the original PLANET OF THE APES. I had one hour, and I had left my reference photos back at the hotel. Thankfully, a gracious vendor and Linda Harrison ("Nova") came to my rescue, lending me a few of their stills to work from. The piece came out fine, and was sold at one of the WF charity auctions later that day (so I don't have a photo of it to share we you here).

It occured to me that day - as I was once again drawing Heston - that I haven't drawn enough apes. I should draw more apes.

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my brain.

Bottom: From 2000, Maurice Evans as the crafty Dr. Zaius.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Artist Of The Year

Bernie Wrightson (Rondo Award Hall Of Fame),
Mike Schlesinger (Rondo Monster Kid Of The Year)
and Frank Dietz (Rondo Artist Of The Year).

One of the highlights of this year's Wonderfest was the Rondo Awards ceremony. The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards are presented annually, representing the very best in classic horror in films, books, magazines, etc. A record number of 3,000 people voted this past year, and for the second year in a row, I was voted 2007's ARTIST OF THE YEAR.

Frank accepts his Rondo Award in Louisville, Kentucky.

It is a great thrill and true honor to have my work recognized by the fans at large. It means the world to me, and I do not take it's importance lightly. I vow to continue to encourage and promote the work of other classic monster artists, particularly those who are just starting out, as I have done on the Classic Horror Film Board this past year.

I also had the honor and privilege of presenting the Rondo Hall Of Fame Award to my very good friend Bernie Wrightson. It was quite an emotional moment for us both.

Bernie and Frank

I also want to give a congratulatory shout out to a few of my other friends who came home with Rondos this year - Writer Of The Year Tim Lucas (he got two!), Terry & Tiffany Dufoe of Cult Radio A Gogo, Danny Roebuck and Chuck Williams, Joe Dante and Michael Schlesinger. Way to go, amigos!!

Thanks to Eileen Colton for all the swell photos you see here!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wonderfest 2008

What a couple of months.

First the surgery, then right into DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, then right onto a Dreamworks animated short, and finally on to Louisville, Kentucky for the 2008 Wonderfest Model & Toy Expo. I've been a guest at this event for the last decade, and I enjoy it more every year.

The other guests this year included Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and beautiful Linda Harrison from PLANET OF THE APES, plus my good friends Bob and Kathy Burns, John Goodwin and bloodbrothers William Stout and Bernie Wrightson. I once again had the pleasure of performing with Doctor Gangrene and Nurse Moan-Eek in their Chiller Cinema live show, and spent a good deal of time hob-nobbing with all the great folks in The Old Dark Clubhouse. Thanks go out to Gary Prange for hosting the ODCH, and special thanks to Dave Hodge, Dave Conover, Donnie Waddell and the entire Wonderfest staff for allowing me to participate in what I consider the best show of the year. I'm already looking forward to next year's show, their 20th anniversary!

Robert Taylor took this shot of me with a Doc Phibes piece his cousin Sara bought last year and had beautifully framed for display.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stormy Weathering Heights

Sorry there hasn't been a new entry here for a while, but I've been very busy working on Larry Blamire's latest exercise in exquisite foolishness, DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. We have one week remaining, and then I'll be back with a sack full o' cool art to share with you all. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Screen Now! The Lost Skeleton Returns!

Last night, the cast and crew of THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN!, Larry Blamire's much-anticipated sequel to the original LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, gathered at a secret location in Los Angeles for a first screening of the film. The location was "secret" because it was in fact the sound stage that houses the sets for the next Blamire opus, DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. We begin shooting this "Old Dark House"-style parody on Monday.

It was great fun to see the Skeleton Sequel in it's nearly-completed state. The laughter was loud and constant from beginning to end, with many observing that this is Larry's funniest film to date. It was also nice to see my old cast-mates again, including Fay Masterson, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy, Andy Parks, Susan McConnell, Kevin Quinn, Trisha Geiger, Daniel Roebuck, HM Wynant, and particularly our dear friends Larry and wife Jennifer Blaire (pictured above).

Be warned...the Lost Skeleton is back, and he's got a bone to pick!

Kevin Quinn on the DARK AND STORMY NIGHT set.

Caitlin and Tabitha Dietz in the Library with the lead pipe.

Jennifer Blaire and Trisha Geiger.

Brian Howe, Cinematographer A.J. Rickert-Epstein and Dan Conroy.

Producer Mike Schlesinger and author David J. Schow.