Welcome to Haunted MTL‘s “People behind the mask” interview series where readers are introduced to fantastic horror content creators.

This week the interview is with artist Stefan Decarlo. Stefan studied at the Du Cret School of Fine Arts in New Jersey and has an active Instagram account full of the grotesque, creepy, and awesome. Stefan will walk us through three art pieces from his Instagram account and answer some general questions.

Welcome to Haunted MTL‘s “People behind the mask,” Stefan. Can you tell us all about this amazing Leatherface illustration?

Stefan: Well, simply put, he’s quite an iconic figure in the horror genre. A genre I have always felt extremely connected to an inspired by. I mean, the first time I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre my mind was exposed to a whole new type of art form. I couldn’t help but take a crack at such an iconic maniac.

As far as the technique for this one went, I wanted the image to kind of look as though it was drawn by a psychopath (debatable whether it was or not), so I did what I sometimes do and pull a blind handful of a few markers, pencils, pastels, and ink, and just committed myself to put the piece on paper as best I can, with what I grabbed. Keeping the drawing loose, almost to convey motion. Similar to how Francis Bacon would show motion within his characters in a way that seems haphazard, but with a steady intention underneath.

Now, this image is far from original… it’s quite well known and has become as recognizable for horror fans as Micky Mouse is in the Disney community. Albeit, fun to draw nonetheless. 

How about this revealing figure?

Now this one is an original character of mine. It was done in pencil, from what I remember it was a 4H, HB, and a 3B for those who care to know. I started this one, not unlike I do most characters of mine, with a blank page in front of me and an unstable cast of strange and somewhat intimidating thoughts slithering through my head. I tend to not know the meaning, (if any) in the drawing until it’s at least halfway complete.

I realized there was an overabundance of images online and in the media in general of this exhibitionist culture that was so prevalent, it was practically a wallpaper in every young heterosexual male’s brain. And the idea of this young women flashing, and men howling like troglodytes gave me an idea. How unnerving would it be for a woman to reveal her naked body, only for these howling gawkers to then see themselves, along with their comrade’s faces looking back at them? And looking quite animalistic to drive home the point of how distilled their emotions become when libido is doing the driving.

It was a fun piece to draw and got more than a few reactions that justified my sentiment. So, I continued the theme in future drawings. But, changed the overall message with what the woman was exposing.

This one just freaked me out.

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Oldie crop #dental #planetstef

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This one is an example of the uncanny valley I try to portray often. I love the idea of taking a feature and distorting it to a point where the viewer can almost feel uncomfortable from trying to make sense of what they’re looking at. This was done in colored ink and marker.

It’s really an image of a woman who lost all feeling and has become obsessed with tugging away at her teeth and jaw. Slowly becoming something far from relatable. It’s really just meant to give you the cringe factor. Whether it does that or not I’m not sure. 

Where did you train as an artist?

I spent three years studying fine art at the Du Cret School of Fine Arts in New Jersey. This was years after I had already had some success as a freelance artist and many years after I had decided that my future commitments would be to learn as much as I can about the artistic process. The school certainly helped me as far as learning how to control oil painting. I fell in love with oil and still to this day, there is no more rewarding feeling than painting with oils. The chemistry, the techniques, the limitless variations, and potential when working with oils will forever be my chosen medium.

Second only to the ballpoint pen. A stark contrast indeed, but my love of fine art, paired with my adoration for cartooning, has been the main ingredients in creating the style that I continue to develop today.

It seems like you have a fascination with the grotesque.

Guilty as charged. I’ve always had a fascination with revolting viewers. I love being able to give people a visceral feeling when looking at a drawing or painting of mine. It’s about as close to the feeling I’ve achieved something as I’m ever going to get. Though, I’m very careful to develop and study the graceful, the beautiful, the archetypes of perfection in all things so that I may properly mangle them at my leisure.

I suggest strongly to anyone whenever I’m asked how they can add a touch of the vile to their art, that it all really stems from studying and practicing the proper form, colors, composition, and shape of all things. Study idealistic art. The more you can capture the recognizable, the easier it’ll be to alter sometimes one small feature and evoke disgust in all that stumble upon it. And that’s a success in my book.

I painted live models almost daily for two years, and never once tried to get expressive while in class. That’s for after. That’s a private mission that artists should explore on their own time when you’re lucky enough to have live nude models posing for you, you should take full advantage of the chance to focus on your techniques in capturing exactly what’s in front of you. 

What is your favorite horror story?

My favorite horror story may seem a bit top shelf but Frankenstein really is the perfect tale of horror. I mean, forget how it’s been portrayed. I mean the book. There’s so much more vivid exposition that always captivated me. It’s truly a story of man’s thirst for playing god and the suffering that the monster experiences is really something I can say gives me the full range of emotions through the story. I’m not going to explain the well-known tale here. But, I suggest anyone who hasn’t read it to do so. 

I also like Bram Stoker’s Dracula because of how the book is written. It’s done in a series of journal entries, letters, and publications that kind of make you feel as though you’re a detective, weaving this story together.

I do have to say though, as far as the big screen goes, the movie Jacob’s Ladder is an all-time favorite of mine. The movie is truly terrifying. You’ll be left a hollow shell of a human if you watch it alone in the dark. The imagery is sure to leave an impression on you, and the story will have you asking questions that are on par with the deepest philosophical inquiries known to man. I watch quite frequently, and it does impress me more every time. 

Do you have any upcoming shows coming up?

As far as upcoming events or exhibitions go I am currently working on a collection of oils for a show I plan to have before the year is up. I can only say to anyone who’s been to one of my past exhibitions, this will be a more comprehensive and personal look into what makes me afraid to sleep.

I don’t particularly love talking about my art as it’s a visual medium, so I feel explaining it can tend to lead the witness in a way and not allow people to have a fresh reaction to something, and more so try to… figure out what they heard when they look at your work. Nevertheless, I am not opposed to trying to give a little context into what I love to do. This is the only thing I’m really comfortable doing. I couldn’t imagine not being an artist.

The very thought scares me more than any horror flick ever could. 

If you would like to explore more of Stefan’s work you can find him on Instagram. There is also a fantastic write-up on Stefan’s work over at Juxtapoz Magazine which you can read online.

For more interviews with horror content creators, be sure to check out “People behind the mask” here at Haunted MTL.

About the Author

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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