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Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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28 February, 2009

The Monsters in Monotone: The Horror Art of Chris Kuchta

I would like to think that there are many things I can do well, and many topics upon which I can offer intelligent discourse. I can fieldstrip a .45 cal. service pistol in 30 seconds, and bake a lasagna that would bring tears of joy to Tony Soprano’s eyes. I can discuss, without embarrassing myself, both the Iliad of Homer and the latest exploits of Homer… Simpson, that is. I derive equal pleasure from Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile and Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me.

However, there are many areas in which I must profess total or near-total ignorance, and Art is one of them. It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s simply that I know nothing about it. And, as in most areas of my life, my tastes in art tend to be very conservative. Generally speaking, the more a piece of artwork looks like what it’s supposed to represent, the better. Whether it’s the Pin-up girls of Alberto Vargas, the Civil War paintings of Don Troiani, the Americana of Norman Rockwell, or the Famous Monsters covers of Basil Gogos, I like what I like, and what I like doesn’t include some Cubist nightmare of a woman with three eyes and four breasts… all on the same side of her body. Heretofore, I’ve quite comfortably avoided discussing art here, well aware that my readers don’t come to the Crypt looking for my opinions on that subject.

Recently however, a friend mentioned an artist she had encountered at a convention in Chicago, one that impressed her tremendously. While our tastes don’t always sync up, when it comes to Classic Horror, whether movie or art, we usually see eye-to-eye. She arranged a telephone introduction between this artist, a young man named Chris Kuchta and myself.

After this telephone conversation, Chris e-mailed me some examples of his work. I was struck by the unique style he brought to our beloved Monsters. Rendered in varying shades of reddish-brown on white, it’s as though he created the images in blood on bone, which has since dried to an overall sepia tint. The effect is stunning; stunning, and wholly appropriate to the theme.

Chris, a self-described Monster-fan, first fell in love with the creatures of the night when, as a six-year-old, he watched an episode of the “Son of Svengoolie” show. The feature that night was FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF-MAN, and as so often happened before and since, a Monster-Kid was born.

In Chris’ own words, he then “…grew at a geometric rate, suckled on a pure diet of horror, art, comics and BBQ chicken.” He received his formal art education at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and now heads his own school of art instruction, the Kuchta Academy. When not occupied teaching, he is a freelance illustrator and comic artist.

Horror is, in many ways, an excellent genre in which to work for artists. With so much of the fantastic to it, there are numerous examples of Horror imagery that cannot be adequately expressed except through paint on canvas, or ink on artist’s board. As a writer, I’ve always felt that the written word was man’s best medium of expression; but the old dictum “a picture’s worth a thousand words” still rings true today. I can describe the snarl of rage on the Bride’s face as she is introduced to her prospective mate, but Chris’ illustration so perfectly captures the moment that words are not necessary. His impression of Dracula in the darkened corridor, menacingly evil, shrouded by shadows, conveys in one image the power, and the horror, of Lugosi’s characterization.

As I alluded to before, I’m no art critic; Hell, I don’t even consider myself a movie critic. In my mind, a critic is someone who’s paid to convince the movie-going public that the movies they love are garbage, and the movies that can’t earn back the cost of their catering are the greatest images ever captured on film. I simply tell you what I like, and why; or what I don’t like, and why. I also feel obligated, since I have this soapbox (such that it is…), to highlight people or projects that advance a love of, and appreciation for, Classic Horror. Chris Kuchta’s artwork does just that, in blood-tinged spades, and I’m happy to offer him what support I can. So should you.

If you edit or publish a Monster Magazine, then by all means consider using his work to illustrate it. If you have a special piece in mind, he’ll happily discuss a possible commission… just contact him. Or if you just like the pictures that I’ve used to illustrate this article and would like to see much more of his work, then go to his web-site, follow the link to his Monster Art, and buy a print or two, for a very reasonable price.

Because when we find something we like in this world of Horror fandom, we need to get behind it. And I for one like the artwork of Chris Kuchta.

For more information regarding Chris’ work, or to discuss a commissioned piece, please go to: http://www.kuchta-academy.com, or e-mail him at: bloodedemon@netscape.net.

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