Saturday, April 12, 2014

The phantasmagoria of Stephen Gammell

There must be something magical in the water in Des Moines, Iowa.

Not only has that town produced one of teen Gothic Flamingo's favourite bands in Slipknot, it has also gifted us with one of my favourite illustrators - the artistic genius that is Stephen Gammell.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Gammell has illustrated over 50 titles, including Leo Possessed by Dilys Owen, Halloween Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston and The Ghost of Tillie Jean Cassaway by Ellen Harvey. While I love all of his works, my favourites are the gloriously macabre images he created for the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series.

Gammell's illustrations were the stuff of nightmares for many children in the 1980s and 90s. For a set of spooky tales aimed at ages 9 and up, it is surprising that the publishers would select such terrifyingly ghoulish illustrations. Evidently, the 30 years of backlash and bans from schools and parents had an effect - in 2010, the books were re-released sans Gammell's images, replaced with sanitised versions by Brett Helquist. 

Yet Gammell's artwork is the reason the original 1981 edition became an instant and enduring classic. Replacing his pieces has been considered blasphemy to the series, and it is sad to think that the only way to see these wonderful works now is to strike it very lucky in a second-hand bookstore. The three original books are therefore highly prized collector's items nowadays, and I am grateful to list myself amongst the collectors. 

Surreal, haunting, mesmerising, masterpieces of horror imagery - I could go on, but I will let the illustrations speak for themselves. 

"Oh, Susannah!"
Rings On Her Fingers
The Church
Maybe You Will Remember
The Black Dog
The Dead Hand

The Ghost With The Bloody Fingers
"What Do You Come For?"
The Haunted House

Thank you Des Moines - I think I need to visit one day and try out your creativity-charged water for myself.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Welcome to Gothic Flamingo

I am a lover of all things dark and mysterious. Always have been. 

My earliest memory of loving the macabre was the day my grandmother presented 4-year-old me with what remains one of the greatest gifts I have ever received - a stuffed toy vulture. From his beady eyes to his lifelike talons, from his black plumage to his scaly throat, I thought he was absolutely marvellous. My mother, horrified, promptly disposed of my new feathered friend, declaring him entirely inappropriate for a little girl’s toy, but the seed had already been planted. 

I began to raid my grandmother’s bookshelves and devoured the delights I found there. She indulged me, of course, thrilled as she was to see that her love for all things death and darkness-related had been passed along. Together we would read through her encyclopedias about the world’s deadliest serpents - this fascination with snakes and reptiles has stayed with me. Her books about serial killers and the dark, tragic side of Hollywood were other favourites. From Poe to Cain, from Lugosi to Price, from Hitchcock to Tarantino, from Kubrick to Burton – she introduced me to them all. 

Wherever you are now old girl, thank you.

And so now, dear readers and fellow darklings, I present to you my alter-ego, Gothic Flamingo, the corner of the internet dedicated to the celebration of all things dark and birdy. 

If you share my love for classic horror and film noir, low-brow art, Gothic fiction, burlesque, taxidermy, tattoos, Gothabilly style, birds, bats and bearded dragons, join me for a stroll through the underworld, where we shall marvel at the magnificently macabre, relish the frighteningly fabulous, and revel in the divine decadence of imagination. In the words of my beloved Tim Burton, “Every day is Halloween, isn’t it? For some of us.”