It’s the spookiest time of the year. If you’re a Halloween enthusiast or generally a creepy content devotee, you might be looking for horror-themed, monstrous, or otherwise terrifying art — but it can be tough finding artists who specialize in that kind of subject matter. Artists are a multifaceted lot, and most don’t constrain themselves to a single genre. Even the most talented creature designers tend to do it as a subfield of concept art. So, to help the thrill-seeking reader find some new favorite pieces, I set out on a Halloween hunt for horror artists. I had two parameters to help narrow my search:
- Their subjects had to go beyond mere scary faces and staple creatures — e.g. vampires and werewolves — into the realm of the unsettling and even upsetting.
- On the other hand, I avoided artists who specialized in gore. Some blood and guts is to be expected from any artists of this genre, but I didn’t include any whose whole body of work would be at home on Cannibal Corpse album covers.
Within these parameters, it turned out there are still plenty of artists doing fantastically frightening work. Here are six horror artists to follow if you’re looking to creep yourself out.
Content Warning: There’s plenty of scary and/or upsetting imagery, including body horror, throughout this blog post.
This post’s feature image is by Igor Krstic.
He goes by the username CinemaMind on his social media accounts, and has the same surname as legendary Night of the Living Dead director George Romero, so it’s not a huge leap to guess David Romero is inspired by horror movies. If you did so, you’d be right! Romero initially went to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to study film, but realized the visions he had in mind could be more easily realized in animation. He started out with illustration on a freelance basis, seeing it as a means to an end to practice for his personal projects. But he became incredibly prolific, racking up over 700 pieces on Deviantart alone and making a name for himself illustrating “creepypastas.” And the practice paid off, as he ended up finding success in animation too, starting a Youtube channel that’s scored a number of hits.
For example, the short horror animation below, entitled “Pleasant Inn.” Content Warning: blood and violence.
It says something when an artist can make well-lit compositions and fully visible creatures chilling. Kumpan’s paintings are colorful, with few typical genre tropes and sometimes even a sense of humor. But his work is counterbalanced by his masterful rendering of the grotesque and body horror. His creatures have a moist, fleshy, drippy quality that’s discomforting to look at, their rainbow psychedelia only adding to the unearthliness if anything.
There’s something I really appreciate about Eastern European artists. Whether it’s the cold climate or the history of hardship that inspires them, they do surreal horror like no one else. Kristic hails from Serbia and describes himself as a lover of “dark folklore,” which the region has in spades, and its influence on his art is clear. His drawings look like they could be torn from an occult bestiary, documentations of the creatures that slither from swamps, crawl from fog-shrouded forests, and pass through the veil. He also takes inspiration from classical paintings, excelling at ominous medieval-style portraits and scenes.
Kieu is a shadowy illustrator who was raised in New Jersey, attended Ringling College of Art and Design, and… that’s about all the biographical information about them on the web. Their art should make their passion for the genre obvious, though; it bristles with excess limbs and orifices on body parts where they shouldn’t be. Manga icon Junji Ito has reacted to their work on Youtube twice, calling their monsters “very novel” and “quite scary.” Those are about the highest accolades a horror artist can receive! Kieu does stream their art as a skeletal vTuber on Twitch, though. Maybe you can glean more about them there.
Martín “Dr. Korpus” Santos is a brilliant creature designer from Argentina with a unique aesthetic: he draws the kind of things you’d see shambling towards you down a hallway in a zombie video game like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. Although he does his fair share of original designs, his trademark is mutating people, animals, other horror creatures — and more recently, a series of pop culture figures — into gash-faced, toothy, tendrilled abominations with gaping maws and wiggling loose tendons.
Parker Boisvert’s work doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the artists featured in this blog post, as rather than illustrations, they create a unique form of mixed-media animation that blends low-res line drawings, photo elements, and filtered real footage.
Their videos are cryptic, often religious-themed, and clearly, deeply personal. Visually, their palette is almost exclusively high-contrast black and white; the only other hue to be found is an occasional blood red. Sonically, they create a sense of dread through drones and electronic screeches, and give their characters an inhuman quality by voicing them with text-to-speech programs. And as for meaning, their body of work is supposedly telling an abstruse story about a depressed, antlered humanoid called Ouriel and a host of eldritch angels and demons — in English, French, sign language, Morse Code, QR codes, and hidden messages. There are plenty of videos and a wiki analyzing it, but the plot isn’t as important as the poetry of the language and the feelings it conveys.
What sets Boisvert’s work apart from your average analog horror creator is that their intention is not just to scare, but to express… an emotion. What emotion? It’s hard to put your finger on it, but I get the feeling that’s the point.