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Jason Ahlquist
Fantasy Artist
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: How would you best describe yourself?

JASON: With lots of grunts and whistles, followed by some wild hand gestures. Then some howls and moans, eyes wide with mixed terror and amazement. The description would then finish up with about an hour on the toilet, getting rid of all my egocentric, sanctimonious crap.

Q: What got you interested in being an artist?

JASON: My parents were always fond of reminding me that I've wanted to be and artist since I was five years old. So I guess I don't really remember what got it started. Comic books maybe. Then again, both my folks were creative types, so I'm sure they did a lot of nudging.

Q: Whose work, if any, are you most influenced by?

JASON: My first big influence was Jack Kirby, the master comic artist who visualized The Fantastic Four, Thor, and so many others. His characters were both ugly and noble at the same time. And there was always something beautiful and deco about his environments. Today, I'm profoundly influenced by a veritable salad bar of artists, musicians, writers andthings I see on the road. Visionary artist, Alex Grey had a deep impact on me (http://www.alexgrey.com). I've never seenblood and guts made more beautiful. Alphonse Mucha's work from the 20's and 30's introduced me to those swirly lines I use so much. But I'm also influenced by popular music. These days, punk and hip-hop really fuel my work, but I've done stuff inspired by all sorts of music. As far as writers go, I get a lot of ideas from the likes of William Burroughs, Joseph Campbell(how's that for a trendy name drop), Natasha Vita More, Poppy Z. Brite, H. P. Lovecraft and my all time favorite, Phillip K. Dick.

Q: What do you like the most about the horror/sci-fi field?

JASON: I'm a pretty brainy guy a lot of the time. I have a rabid curiosity about history and science and philosophy and politics and everything heavy and deep. I have that sensitive artsy part of me that feels things deeply and passionately. You know - I'm a goddamn cliché. But the rest of the time I'm just a big kid. I love monsters, and cool toys and over the top tales of heroes and villains and scantily clad women. The cool thing about horror and science fiction is that I can be both of those guys. Both genres are the perfect fusion of both Jeckyll and Hyde.

Q: Your day job keeps you on the road a lot--how to you coordinate working on your art?

JASON: Ah, the "day job. " I guess it is one of those isn't it. It's hard to think of it in those terms. I work as a newsroom consultant for money and for kicks. I'm on the road over fifty-percent of the year and it's hard not to want to do art. In the past seven years I've seen 46 states in America not only through my own eyes, but through the eyes of hometown. It's been a transformative experience. I've been though all sorts of natural disasters, witnessed the reporting of all sorts of human evil as well as a lot of human nobility. It makes ya feel pretty frail sometimes. At the end of some days, I certainly need to do something to sort it all out in my head. Art is the bestway I know how. So I guess I don't coordinate my art with my "day job. " More accurately, the art and the day job coordinate me. There are a lot of long nights in hotel rooms and diners, hunched over a drawing board or laptop computer. And I drink a lot of coffee. In some respects, it's easy. When you're all alone in a strange town with nobody to socialize with, art is all that you can do when the day is done, except roam around town like a wayward tumbleweed. And that usually makes me want to create art even more. But on the other hand, I can get obsessed and forget important things - like eating and sleeping.

One summer I had to go to the hospital for dehydration. I was all by myself in a strange town in rural Ohio. I must not have drank much over the weekend. Boy did I get a lecture from theattending nurse. I was an idiot. Things are different now though.

Q: Besides yourself, who is your favorite artist?

JASON: I'm such a fickle slut when it comes to favorites. Today it's Mark Ryden. Last week it was Wayne Barlowe. Before that it was Jae Lee. I have a grand total of 23 CD's in my music collection because I keep selling them off to buy newones. It's the same with art. My tastes never seem to settle down. I can still look at old favorites with appreciation and awe, but this monkey boy's eye is easily drawn to any sparkling,glittery thing that struts by.

Q: You recently did a picture for Clive Barker's website. How did that come about?

JASON:Well, it's not on the site yet. Deborah (the president of Lost Souls, Clive's official fan club)assures me it will be, along with all info on the fundraiser associated with it. Here's the story. I first did a quick sketch of Clive while on an airplane to Atlanta. It was really just to limber me up for an unrelated project. But It came out okay, so I posted it to the Lost Souls forum and the response was enough to give me an idea… how about a bookplate instead of just a portrait. So I started with that while I was in Montana and finished it up in Manhattan. If you look at the finished product I think you can tell which part was done where. Anyway, I posted it to my site and set it up so that Clive fans can download a printer friendlyversion and have a sponsor make a donation to the AIDS Network of the Tri-State Area. I also sent it off to the webmaster of Clivebarker.com. She liked it and the rest is history.

The cool part is that if you print the bookplate out and send it to Clive (my site has instructions), he will sign it and mail it back. I can't think of an easier way to obtain a collectible from a brilliant horror writer and help a good cause at the same time.

Q: Do you also use live models for some of your work?

JASON: I use a lot of live models. But because I'm on the road, I'm working from photos I take of them. That's been kind of an adventure by itself. I use a lot of friends as models, but somewhere down the line I've gotten myself in the good graces of a lot of pinup models from around the country as well. They bring a lot of professionalism and glamour to my creative process that wasn't there before. I can't describe to you well enough what its like to be the guy who drives up to the nightclub in a black Mustang filled with barely-dressed, pretty girls and camera equipment then get shunted to the front of the line and not have to for pay cover. These girls are like rock starswith hundreds (sometimes thousands) of loyal fans and every one of them has treated me like a movie producer or agent. It would be easy to tell myself that this is proof of how cool I am, butin reality, I suspect that it really the friendly nature of the girls shining through. It's really a nice experience. But its also dangerous. It would be all to easy to discard my vision and try to be the next Olivia (two of the models I've drawn were actually the subjects of some of her recent work). So I've gone back to doing shoots with my friends for a while until I can clear my head.

Q: What are you working on now that you want people to know about?

JASON: I'm starting to get out to conventions more. I'll be at ConJose (http://www.conjose.org/) this year and I'm going to try to make it to ConTraption (in Michigan) as well. I've been trying to stay away from commercial or commission work for a while to devote more time to my latest monster - Combustion City Folklore. CCF will be a gallery show when it's done, butthis is my first attempt at trying to market my work under my own name instead of latching on to some other work like a cover or story illustration does. I guess I'm branding myself with it - that's right, crass commercialism from an artiste - oh thehumanity! The show revolves around images of mythical creatures - like angels and devils and zombies -living in a city filled with nothing but their make-believe brethen. The city (Combustion City) is like every bad neighborhood in every big city: full of big problems and residents who dream of escape. They do horrible things to each other, but also form strong bonds. I'm trying inject a lot of punk and hip hop imagery into the work because that's what spoke to me in every urban area I've ever visited. I'm not approaching this as big project that I have to completely finish before I let everyone see. In fact I'm doing the exact opposite. From day one, I've posted production diaries and photos on my site(including some with the afore mentioned pinup models -wink, wink). I even post progresspictures of each work as I make it. I've gotten a LOT of positive response - its been pretty surprising actually.

Just today, I released "Dev of the Holy Finger," the first finished piece for sale in the form of limited edition prints (and t-shirts). Test prints auctioned very well at conventions, so I have high hopes. Anyone who wants to buy a print(or any of the others as they come out) can do so at my site.

Q: Give us your website info…

JASON: www.jasonahlquist. 20m.comand the 'fan' club

find information about Jason Ahlquist at imdb.com find horror stuff by Jason Ahlquist

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