I had the privilege of interviewing artist Rick Melton, here’s that interview.
First of all thanks for taking the time to do this.
I did a bit of painting back in the 70’s then got into the restaurant business and didn’t take up art again for 40 years! I couldn’t cook worth a crap to be honest, but I somehow got enough people eating my swill to get my mortgage paid off and then I decided to give commercial illustration a go. That would have been around 2008.
James Bama’s Aurora Monster Model box cover art made a big impression on me as a kid as did Basil Gogos’s Famous Monsters of Filmland covers. What really made me want to paint though, was Frank Frazetta’s covers for Creepy and Eerie. His Conan covers were better rendered because he was being paid more but his horror pieces were knocked out in a day and had a real looseness to them; loads of action and scary as hell. And, oh boy, were his women sexy! Even when he painted ’em with saggy breasts and cellulite they were sexy. Hell, even sexier! Frank’s paintings had some real power and grit to them. Like his buddy, Roy Krenkel said, you can get hurt walking around in a Frank Frazetta painting. Some folks think Boris Vallejo is a better artist but the only damage you might incur in his paintings is if you accidently walk into one of the mannequins.
Seriously, it looks like he’s nipped down to the gym, cracked a few bimbo’s over the head and then brought them back to his studio where he’s had them stuffed and mounted in interesting positions. Beautifully painted of course, but pretty dull to look at, at least I think so. Then again, Basil’s stuff flies out for jillions whilst mine goes for a few hundred bucks on Ebay so I better shut my fat gob!
Mmm. When I was 13 a school pal gave me two shillings to draw Doris Day blowing a horse. I did it too, (the sketch that is, not blow a horse!) and it turned out pretty damn good if I say so myself. Moving on to 2010 I got contacted by a guy who wanted me to paint pornographic pictures of his Spanish girlfriend who supposedly worked as a dancer at the Benidorm Palace. I seriously doubt that she did but I reeled off about half a dozen pieces of this nondescript girl splayed all over a variety of scenarios. Then one day she emails me in really mangled English to ask why her paintings aren’t up on my site. Well, the money was pretty good so I didn’t want to piss her off but then again I couldn’t have her muff splashed all over www.stunninglysavage.com so I painted some butterflies, popped them between her legs and slung her images up in my EROTIC HORROR section.
The next day I checked my emails and there’s an irate one from her screaming “DOS YOR WIFE HAVE INSEX UP HER PUSSY!!!???” Well, that pretty much dried up (the job, not my wife’s pussy!) but it’s true that I attract more unsavoury assignments than my peers. Last month I painted a wedding party eating shit for the cover of a VHS box containing a rubber turd and that was one of my classier commissions!
I’m lucky in that I always have a lot of work on but It’d be nice to be a respectable illustrator like Graham Humphreys and win an occasional award. I haven’t even been nominated for one. I really can’t think why!
Well, when I was a kid I drew everything; trains, fish…. Old Yeller. Folks would pat me on the head and say “how nice” then carry on with what they were doing. Then I started drawing pop stars…. Cat Stevens, The Monkees… and folks would tell me how lucky I was to have such a relaxing hobby and then carry on with what they were doing. Then I started drawing women and ‘BAM’ it’s suddenly “Hey Rick, here’s two bob… sketch Doris Day blowing a horse!” I think I spent a good whack of my school days rendering filthy pictures of 60’s starlets and eventually started making enough cash to give up my paper round.
Yep, I was on to quite a good thing until a teacher found one of my smutty etchings pinned up in the toilets and my parents got called in. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun watching my mother swallow her tongue while the school principle unveiled my shame. Having said that, ‘Lulu and a Troop of Horny Chimps’ really was a fine piece of work.
A year later I went to art school, promptly got slung out (don’t ask!) and then hardly painted again until I was 53 when I did two nice oils of Freddy Krueger. These came to the attention of an Arrow Films publicity agent who hired me on to paint covers for some Italian Giallo movies. “Make ’em mucky” he said. So I did. Eventually I got fired after sticking a big, fat, bare arse on the front of a treasured Dario Argento classic but by then I’d cranked out about 30 nippleliscious covers for Arrow and my reputation as a smut merchant was sealed.
The stuff I’m most proud of would be my renderings of old 50’s creature feature movies like The Alligator People, The Crawling Eye etc. Technically these aren’t my best pieces because they’re knocked out in two or three days to auction online but I just love ’em. I recently took out a full page ad in The Dark Side magazine which features paintings of my 18 year old niece, Suzi, being ravaged at various sea side resorts around the UK. These alla prima pieces are created in about 12 hours and feature Suzi being attacked by pterodactyls in Hunstanton, a blood beach monster in Skegness and giant killer crabs in Frinton. Naturally her butt is hanging out in all of ’em!
I find that the faster I create a piece the better it is because the brush and palette knife strokes are bolder and more interesting than something that’s perfectly rendered.
Oh, by the way, I don’t really have an 18 year old niece called Suzi who walks around with her butt hanging out. I should have though!
First up would be The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It doesn’t matter how good CGI gets, hundreds of guys placing little dots on a screen for some pixelated critter to follow can’t possibly capture the magic of one man and his model.
Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the first ‘horror’ film I saw. I was about 8 and my mum and dad had this really big argument about letting me stay up to watch it. “It’ll give him nightmares!” shrieked by mother “Don’t be so goddam’ silly” growled my dad “it’s a frikken’ Abbot and Costello film!”.
Well, I got to sit up and watch it and half way through I literally shit myself. For the next 3 years I was scared to flush the toilet because I thought the Wolfman was going to come howling out of the bowl and rip my throat out. God knows why, he never does that in the movie! Boy, my dad really got a verbal kicking THAT night and it can’t have been a whole lot of fun for him having to wash the poop out of my pyjamas either!
I loved Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations. I got my first memorable boner watching Hazel Court bounce through dry ice in a see through nightie in Masque of the Red Death. It was memorable because my mum had sent me off to the matinee in thin khaki shorts and my stiffy still hadn’t gone down when I walked out of the theatre into the bright Montana sunshine. Boy, what I’d give to have that problem nowadays!
I’ve just painted Blade Runner for a new Sci Fi magazine called Infinity and also Horror Express for the next Dark Side magazine. Both these jobs are for Ghoulish Publishing who are bucking the current trend by selling more magazines than at any time in their history. Editor Allan Bryce puts the magazine’s success down to the quality of it’s writers and I put it down to the quality of its covers, obviously, because I paint ’em all!
The best thing about working for Allan Bryce is that every movie I’m asked to paint is a good one. The worst thing about working for Allan Bryce is that he’s tighter than a gnat’s chuff and the money sucks! Still, this isn’t too much of a problem because I work in oil paint and can flog the originals. If I worked as a digital artist the Melton’s would be out trapping squirrels for lunch! The other good thing about working for Ghoulish is that if I get in trouble for painting say, Veronica Carlson with her tits out, then they take all the flak. So far I haven’t been sued but I did once get a shitty email from Barbara Shelley’s sister. Nothing so far from Doris Day though, thank God!
Horror movies today are every bit as good as the films of my day. The only problem is, I’ve seen it all before and as I’m getting older I’m finding it harder to suspend disbelief. CGI doesn’t help. As soon as the first digital snowflake floats down or digital mist drifts in I’m like “Yep, it’s only a movie” and I’m taken out of it. William Friedkin said in his commentary for The Exorcist that nowadays he’d just CGI breath on his cast rather than stick ’em in a freezer box but seriously, would 3 nice warm actors pretending to be cold be anywhere near as convincing as 3 actors actually freezing their arses off? Of course not.
My wife got me into The Walking Dead but then unfortunately we watched The Talking Dead which featured a selection of smug well paid actors giving twee answers to questions asked by a bunch of people who can obviously suspend disbelief way too much. That finished me for that show but there’s still a few gems out there. Coincidently ‘Fear Of The Walking Dead’ is one of them. I absolutely love that show.
Definitely. The first thing would be to learn to paint traditionally because that’s where the money is. Illustration rates stink nowadays and no artist can make it on print sales alone so digital artists are at a distinct disadvantage unless they’ve nailed some high paying job, which will usually be in children’s books. Original artwork, especially oil painted artwork, has a stand alone value so it’s best to just suck it up and learn how to paint because dealing with DVD distributors today is a nightmare.
Here’s an example. Last year I was out shopping with my wife, got bored, and wandered into Poundland which believe me can knock your head back on a warm Summer’s day. Anyway, I’m jostling my way through a crowd of people who are happy to spend a quid on everything but deodorant when I spy the DVD section. I picked out a few titles including one from 101 Films called Maneater which had a goofy looking bear’s face on its cover. I got home, popped the movie on and amazingly it wasn’t too bad. There was one scene in the film where a half naked hot model gets dragged down into a frozen lake by a giant mutant polar bear and I’m thinking “Shit, I’ve gotta paint THAT!!!”.
So I contact 101 Films and say “Look guys, I’ve just picked your disc up for a quid in the bargain bucket at Poundland which is hardly surprising because the cover boasts a Barney the Bear look-a-like apparently choking on a lemon. Let me loose on this sucker and I guarantee that I’ll have people ripping it off the shelves.”
I never heard anything back.
Again, I really can’t think why!
Yep. If you want to paint horror then learn to paint everything. I work along to Youtube videos all day long and there’s guys on there drawing nothing but skulls and they can’t understand why they aren’t making it or drawing zombies and they can’t understand why they aren’t making it. The last thing folks want to blow their cash on nowadays is a piece of artwork so if you want to flog some it’s got to be dam’ good and getting good takes time. But, if you have the aptitude and talent you can make a really good living in this field.Failing that though, you can still make a few bob sketching Doris Day blowing a horse!