Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Peculiar Person of the Month: Monster Impressionist David G. Hardy

David Rondinelli

(Hardy, right, with Sara Karloff)

Artist David Hardy specializes in bringing his own style to the macabre. An avid fan of monsters since the time of his boyhood, he derived a lot of inspiration from the old creature features that would be broadcast every Friday night. Combining his love of art and monsters, he became an impressionist in many different mediums from pencil to pastels. Hardy, who will gladly take commissions, displays his work at many retro shows and comic cons in the tri-state area. He describes his work as “kitschy” subjects from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Here at This Peculiar Life NYC, Hardy opened up about his love of monsters, comics, growing up in what he considers a wonderful age of art and striking a familiar chord with folks who never quite fit in.

This Peculiar Life NYC: What got you into doing portrait’s specifically?

David Hardy: I have always had a fascination with the human face. It is, after all, “the mirror to our soul!” Being perverse in nature, I chose the hardest subject to conquer! I have a drive to get the best likeness I can no matter what media I’m using! If it is someone famous, of course I want to make a work that is instantly recognizable, but even the most seemingly obscure subject deserves the same dedication!

TPL NYC: Do you use any other forms or mediums to express your art? If so, which ones do you prefer?

DH: Right now, I’m working primarily in pencils, brush, and ink. Because my subjects generally lend themselves to gray scale (I do a LOT of classic monsters from black and white films!) I have worked in just about every medium from oils, acrylics, watercolor, and pastels.

TPL NYC: You have a special interest in monsters and monster movies what do you think it is about these monsters that appeal to you so much?

Hardy's rendition of Sammy Terry
DH: Yes I do! I think there is a bit of the perceived “oddity” and outcast hiding in all of us if we are honest with ourselves! I think the classic monsters such as Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, are all extensions of ourselves placed in a context that most intelligent people can understand. I see a LOT of myself in these misunderstood fellows! I was an extremely shy and introverted little boy growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana in the late fifties and sixties. The “Shock Theater” package was being sold at the time to stations around the country. Most stations created a local ghoul or mad doctor to introduce the films. In my local area, we had Nightmare Theatre horror host Sammy Terry!  I LOVED those magical Friday nights when I could immerse myself in those glistening, silver gray, shadow filled, storm drenched masterpieces of gothic horror. Although, the master, Boris Karloff, hated that description of what he did and preferred to refer to his “babies” as TERROR films!  I saw myself in those misunderstood, perceived “monsters.”  I too was outcast somewhat and misunderstood by many! Still am ha!

TPL NYC: Do you have a favorite monster that you enjoy following and drawing the most?

DH: My favorite monster to watch is The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Again, I can relate to this shy, imposed upon creature simply trying to live his life and be left alone. My favorite monster to draw, however, is the Frankenstein Monster. Boris Karloff’s interpretation, of course 

TPL NYC: What was the first monster movie/book/t.v. show that you remember seeing?  

DH: Wow…the very first one? Hmm… probably the original 1931 Frankenstein. I remember it took me a couple of tries to get through it.  Obviously, it made quite an impression on me!
TPL NYC: You have a preference it seems for the old B-movies and horror movies of the 40’s and 50’s. What is it about this time period that you like so much?

DH: That’s true!  Well…for one, I am of that time period! I was born in 1955. I think it was just a wonderful time when all the “stars” aligned to create this great golden era of fantasy and science fiction films! We will never see the like again. Great directors such as James Whale, Tod Browning, Karl Freund, Earl C. Kenton, Roy William Neil, also great actors and actresses such as (Boris) Karloff, Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr., Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye, Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Gale Sondergaard, Evelyn Ankers, etc…a wonderful era!

(Hardy's rendition of The Creature from the Black Lagoon)

TPL NYC: How do you feel about the state of horror movies today? What do you like about them and not like about them?

DH: The state of horror films today?!  Uhh…don’t get me started! Ha! Seriously, I don’t see the quality of acting or the strong hand of a GREAT director in today’s films. I don’t believe that they are character driven stories anymore. Everything today is special effects and “bigger is better!”  Some of the best horror films ever made were made for little money and the directors and actors had to build that story for us and make it immersive to us.  I see that lacking in today’s work. I’ll stop there.

TPL NYC: You share a very famous birthday with a famous horror icon? Who is it?

DH: Yes I do!  The one and only “Karloff the Uncanny” and his daughter Sara are also born on November 23rd. No wonder we have a connection!

TPL NYC: Do you feel that you share a lot of similar qualities to Karloff?
DH: I would like to think so. According to his lovely daughter Sara Karloff, he was a gentle, loving man who had a special affection for children and dogs. I’d like to think he and I shared a work ethic as well, do the best you can at whatever it is called upon you to do! Give one hundred percent EVERYTIME!

TPL NYC: Have you gotten a chance to meet any of the people that you have drawn? What was that experience like?

(Hardy's rendition of Karloff as the monster)

DH: I’ve met many of my youthful idols. I’ve met Van Williams who played the Green Hornet on
t.v. I’ve met three of the Hammer Girls Martine Beswick, Caroline Munro,  and Veronica Carlson, I’ve met Judith O’dea, but probably my biggest thrill so far has been presenting gifts sketches to my all time crush the lovely Miss Julie Adams of  The Creature From the Black Lagoon fame and Richou Browning who played the Creature in all three films! When I met Miss Adams, the first time I couldn’t even talk to her, my wife Tracy had to go up to her and ask her if I could get an autograph and a picture!  

Another of my favorite subjects that I’ve met is Miss America 1955 and well known actress Miss Lee Meriwether! She is one of the nicest and most beautiful women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!  I’ve met Miss Barbara Steele who made all of those iconic Italian gothic masterpieces in the sixties. I’ve met Miss Sara Karloff, daughter of my favorite monster maker Boris Karloff! A HUGE thrill! I’ve met Lon Chaney, the grandson and great grandson of Lon Chaney Sr. and Lon Jr. I’ve been a very fortunate man!

TPL NYC: How long does it usually take you to compose an image from initial conception to finished drawing?  
DH:  I work FAST! I usually get an idea for a piece, research images, and decide on a particular one that says what I want it to say and then I go at it!  I find that if I work to slowly, I start over thinking the process. I like to channel that original enthusiasm into the final product!  Depending on the size and detail…perhaps one to two hours!

(Hardy's portrait of Vincent Price)

 TPL NYC: Tell me about some of your travels? What are some of the places you have gone to in order to promote your work? Are there any special conventions or exhibits that you have showcased at?

DH: I’ve been to quite a few conventions. My favorite is the Monster Bash held annually in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s three days of immersive monster fun! This past “Bash” I was especially honored to have some of my artwork in Monster Bash Magazine. It made the experience that much more satisfying for me!  I’ve had my work at several different venues such as the Clifton Comics Expo, Hasbrouk Heights Comic Show, Sketch Con, The Geek Flea Market, and I did Free Comic Book Day at Comic’s Explosion in Nutley. I’ll be the guest artist of the month at the upcoming Wayne, New Jersey Toy Show. I’ll be down the shore at the Jersey Shore Comic Con. I’ll also be appearing at the SCR, Langhorne Square, PA, Mini-Con at the end of this month!  I keep busy. Ha, ha!

(Hardy does Black Canary)
TPL NYC: You also draw some lovely ladies that in a pin-up style. Is there one that you like to draw the most or that you use to reference as inspiration?

DH: Yes, I love to draw pin-up style girls! I love women! I’ve done pieces with Bettie Page, Diane Webber, and I like to just make up my own ideal girl a lot of the time! It makes her more personal for me!  I love the work of Gil Elvgren, Frank Frazetta’s women are gorgeous, Fritz Willis, Zoe Mozart and many great artists who captured the beauty that is woman!

TPL NYC: Aside from monsters, you also do a lot of images of superheroes and comic book characters. What comics got you interested in drawing?

DH: I do some comic book characters. I grew up during the Silver Age of the late sixties and seventies, so I gravitate to those characters. My first idol in comics was Batman. I love the fact that he has no super powers! He is a true hero who is willing to face death every time he combats evil.  I’m a fan of the Sub-Mariner and Green Lantern. [When it comes to] newspaper strips [I liked] The Phantom, Rip Kirby, Hogarth’s Tarzan are some of my favorites!

TPL NYC: Are there any comic book titles that you still follow? If so, which ones are you reading?

DH: I still follow The Rocketeer, when it’s handled correctly. I’m loving this new book combining Eisner’s Spirit with The Rocketeer it looks great! And the story seems solid, which for me is a very important element!

(Hardy's rendition of Jack Nicholsen as the Joker)

 TPL NYC: Aside from you art, what else do you enjoy doing? Any other hobbies or interests that you would like to explore?

DH: I love to read!  I enjoy listening to music. I love nature, walking and taking photographs for possible future paintings!  I like to play the guitar … I LOVE classic film obviously!

TPL NYC: Of all the pieces that you have worked on, which ones have you found to be the most rewarding?
DH: The ones that I feel “flowed” from me. I consider myself an impressionist. I work fast and I strive to build that kinetic energy into my work. When I feel as though every stroke is right, every shadow falls where it should, every highlight is spot on…that’s when I feel I’ve done my job! Ironically, most of the work I thought was my best usually doesn’t illicit a strong response from the public. Ha!
TPL NYC: Also, which ones do you find to be the most challenging? 

DH: Most challenging?  Probably commissions I couldn’t connect to in a personal way. Pieces I had to sort of “piece together” from reference given to me. I’m a very individual (read that as PECULIAR! Ha! ) artist and I find it very difficult to do work that I don’t connect to on some personal level.

TPL NYC: Of all the different characters that you draw, which one do you feel customers have demanded the most?

DH: Easy … Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster!  Although, Godzilla also does quite well, and Mars Attacks! aliens!

(Hardy's rendition of the Wolfman)

TPL NYC:So this blog is about Peculiar People. What is the most peculiar thing you have every witnessed or been a part of in your life that you can recall?

DH: It is ironic and highly appropriate for me to be in an article honoring the peculiar! Since I am proud to count myself amongst them, the most peculiar… I guess me dressing up as a mask luchador at the Monster Bash Night of Mexican Wrestling Films.

TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have ever experienced in New York City?
DH: I LOVE New York City! [I like] going into the city at Christmas time to experience Rockefeller Center and seeing a group of clowns talking to Santa Clause. AWESOME!
To learn more about David Hardy you can follow him on his Facebook page Retro Reflections and Modern Impressions of David G. Hardy. His

portfolio is also featured on the main page on the official Boris Karloff website (www.karloff.com).

To meet him in person, Hardy will be a guest artist at the Wayne, New Jersey Toy Show on Saturday, October 6th.  Then you can see him at the Jersey Shore Comic Con on November 3rd in Forked River, N.J. You can find out more on his Facebook page.
(Hardy combines Bettie Page with Wonder Woman)

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