Envisioning the impossible – an exclusive interview with peruvian artist Mohloco

beyondDITWHconceptartsquareWeb3(1)It is no secret that we here at From Beyond would venture through the mists of both time and space to search out the macabre tales of woe and terror that we need to thrive, searching both far and wide for horror in all of its many shapes. But there are things out there, lurking in the shadow, that are lacking in shape, and could perhaps best be described as ethereal incarnations of darkness.  One of the best examples of these very rare specimens is the Dreams in The Witch House-rock opera that we’ve been following and charting since its very conception.  But while the sonic séance at first might seem to summon up visions of the impossible, there is one man who has managed to brought it’s many characters and creatures to life: Peruvian artist Mohloco, the rock operas official concept artist.

Together with Bruce Kulick (former Kiss member), Douglas Blair (from W.A.S.P, that I had the pleasure of talking to last year) Broadways Alaine Kashian (whom I had a lovely chat with last time she visited Stockholm) and Swedens own Stefan Sauk (Who we had a nice meet up with in Stockholm after a Lovecraftian reading event), Mohloco is currently at a signing event at Dark Delicacies in Burbank. Since it also happens to be the official gallery of Clive Barkers maddening artwork, and a real hotspot for horror hounds, the stars seemed to be perfectly aligned for an interview with the talented artist. Taking a break from his busy schedule, From Beyond had the pleasure of sitting down with him for an exclusive interview, and even got the honor of revealing his latest work to the unsuspecting public. And speaking of impossible visions, this one is quite the looker…!

Manu of Our readers has had the pleasure of viewing some of your art up close and personal before, since some of your artwork were showcased during the annual Stockholm H.P Lovecraft Festival last year. However, they didn’t get to the meet the artist himself. So, to rectify that, why don’t you start off by introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Well, I’m from Peru, and currently a freelance artist living in Los Angeles.  From a very young age, I always loved to draw. My favorite subject was animals. I used to collect books with lots of photos and information about different animal species, spending hours studying them and making sketches. My room eventually ended up saturated with tons of papers spread out all over the floor. Now that I think about it, I remember my artistic goal wasn’t to make an exact copy of what I observed in those books, but rather I wished to explore the mood and demeanor of the animals.  It’s that organic element that always fascinated me as a kid, which later would become part of my design approach and style.

After completing High School, I decided to pursue an artistic career. I applied to the National Art School of Peru and that period became the genesis of my professional Fine Art exploration. While attending the school, I made many good friends, all who had different art styles which encouraged me to discover my own. Once I finished Art School, I began to sell my Fine Art in the traditional market with good results, but little by little I felt an attraction towards the Digital world. Some of my friends were already immersed in modern digital means of creating art, so that motivated me to start experimenting with digital tools. I eventually ended up exchanging canvases of the pencil line for the computer screen, and brushes for graphic tablets. The transition was a little rough at the beginning, but after numerous sessions of intense practice I started feeling more confident with my technique. The next couple of years I worked as both a digital and traditional artist in different markets. It was in 2011 that I finally got the chance to move abroad to learn new skills and find a wider audience for my personal work.

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Example of Mohlocos more traditional artwork

As your portfolio clearly shows, you seem to be very capable in a lot of different art styles.  Name some of your influences, and how they’ve affected your work.  Are there any specific artists that have been with you, influence wise, all the way from the beginning?

I think Drawing is the key for any visual art. I always carry a sketchbook to make quick sketches of the people around me. I like to study people, which can sound quite creepy, but I try to capture their gestures in just a few lines without their knowing I’m intently examining them. From this process I’ve become a good observer, capturing people and transforming them into basic outlines, a crucial element of the whole artistic process.  It’s all about simple lines that eventually become basic shapes and forms, and how those merge together into objects that have a pulse and life. After I’ve defined those basic shapes, I use lighting and shading to inject a dramatic effect on the subject.

Following these principles, I made the transition to painting. I also went from Drawing to Sculpting, which is yet another passion of mine. I worked with clay for a while when I was studying, but now I’ve transitioned to Digital Sculpting, which is what consumes most of my time these days.

I could name so many different artists whose work and technique I absolutely admire. But when it comes to the kind of influences that actually changed my artistic perspective, three names come to my mind: Francisco de Goya, William Blake and Hieronymus Bosch. I could spend hours talking about how masterful their artwork is to me, and the circumstances in which I discovered them, but in a few words I have to say that these guys harnessed their dreams and madness, while possessing the extraordinary skill to communicate it through their work.  As artists, there’s an inherent need to take an introspective journey into the subconscious mind by embracing the inner being that inhabits the dark and ghostly inner landscapes of the soul.  By translating those worlds onto a physical or digital canvas, we then hopefully communicate to our audience our most raw and honest human emotions.

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Mohlocos vision of Bruce Kulick as a demonic Gate Keeper

The concept art you’ve done for Dreams in the Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera all have a vivid yet stunning, macabre flavor.  Tell us about your own relationship to horror.  How did you first discover the genre?  What pulled you in and got you hooked?  And, of course, please indulge us a bit with your relationship to Lovecraft.

I grew up watching Horror movies. As a kid in Peru I remember staying awake until late at night just to watch really creepy 1980’s horror movies on TV. I wasn’t given permission to watch those movies, but that just made me want to more. Every Saturday I snuck into the living room and turned on the TV, preparing myself to be frightened. Most of the Horror movies from those times are about blending atmosphere with visceral action and gore, producing some haunting images that really scared the crap out of me as a kid. Nowadays I do love to watch those same films, but this time I mostly chuckle. Return of the Living Dead, Critters, Re-Animator or Night of the Creeps don’t scare me anymore, but I can still appreciate the visceral action and view them nostalgically as a product of their time.

On the other hand, there are films that rely more on elemental fear.  Movies like The Fly, The Exorcist and The Thing, which is my favorite, have passed the test of time. Whenever I watch any of those movies again, they still produce an unsettling feeling due to their chilling atmospheres or insane creature designs.  They became more than Films, but also works of Cinematic Art.

When it comes to Lovecraft, in my youth, the name Cthulhu was always around but I never knew where it came from. I always assumed that Cthulhu was a creature like Dracula, the Werewolf or Frankenstein, a monstrous beast that existed in global folklore. It was during my first year in Art school when I read my first Lovecraft novel: The Shadow Over Innsmouth (which still happens to be my favorite story). Back in those days I used to read poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and while researching about Poe’s life I read a quote which named him and HP Lovecraft as the greatest influences of their genre. So that afternoon I went to a book fair and bought my first Lovecraft novel. It was like an epiphany once I read the origin of Cthulhu and immersed myself into the cosmic horror of the Mythos. I gradually realized how Lovecraft’s work had a strong influence on all the movies and videogames I loved. Now whenever I see something in Pop Culture that emulates his work I say, “Hey! Lovecraft did it first!”

5) Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting nigh on almost everyone who’s been involved in Dreams in the Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera, but we’ve yet to hear about how you joined the international team of rockers. So tell us, how did the teams most mysterious member get roped into the cultist covenant?

Haha! Thanks so much for the compliment! Actually while living in Peru I started posting my art online. I think some of my pieces eventually called Sean Branney’s (The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) attention who put me in contact with Mike Dalager, the project’s Executive Producer (With whome you can read an interview with here). Some months later I moved to Los Angeles to an area not far from H.P.L.H.S. World Headquarters, so I got to meet the guys in person and Mike then talked to me about Dreams in the Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera, which was in the final stages of development. The project needed an Album Cover that embodied the Rock Opera’s tonal horrors in one image.  Mike and I clicked, and I got the job.  Right time… right place!

 In your concept portraits you’ve given all the cast members quite unique characteristics.  Describe the process behind these concepts.  How much of the portrait is based on Lovecraft’s Witch House characters, and how much is based on your perception of the artist portraying them?

DBlairFromBeyondAfter completing the cover for the Album, Mike mentioned that Doug Blair (W.A.S.P.) was quite intrigued by my art. I created a Fan Art concept of him while Doug was in L.A. recording guitar solos for the new W.A.S.P. album.   After completing the piece, I got the chance to meet him personally. Doug is such a great guy!  I remember listening to W.A.S.P. in High School and I never even dreamed of personally meeting a member of the band. I was so happy to discover how humble a guy he is, and how he seemed to love the artwork I did for him.  That piece lead to more explorations on the Concept Album and its characters.

My conceptual universe for the Dreams in the Witch House Rock Opera is about creating a visual atmosphere in relation to its sonic counterpart. The way the Rock Opera is musically presented as an uninterrupted story guided me to envision colors and organic shapes emerging from a bizarre dimension, manifesting as nightmares of shape, color and sound. The protagonists and antagonists of this chaos are a combination of characters from Lovecraft’s story, and the singers and musicians who form their identities through the musical journey of the album. I put a lot of thinking into how the band members would look inside this dream world, and how they would both form their environment and become affected by it. Mike and I started meeting regularly to establish some key elements for each conceptual piece, but he encouraged me to make them my own, to visually explore and mutate with the music in mind. Violet was the basic color palate starting point for all the pieces, and I immersed each character in an environment dominated by violet tones.  It was as if Lovecraft were painting through me.

For the official Witch House concept art of Doug Blair, I explored his personality more. In that piece, my perception of how he would look in the Witch House Universe is both decisive and deadly, while lingering in a Lovecraftian Garden of Dark Eden. Doug has his own mystique as an Artist, a tranquil guy and deep thinker, but once he shreds his guitar in concert, he unleashes pure madness with his rotating, Bladed Beast!  I used similar methods for each concept piece…  Alaine Kashian’s Rock Goddess Witch, Sean Branney’s Witch burning Father Iwanicki, Bruce Kulick’s Demon Lord guitarist Gate-Keeper, and Stuart Ambrose’s fanatical Joe Mazurewicz.  More Concept Art will be created in 2015, and eventually Mike and I have plans to release a book of my Witch House art.  We’re hard at work on making that dream a reality!

And finally, it’s time to reveal your latest piece. Madness taken shape, chaos incarnate – tell us about your newest masterpiece in your own words. 

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Well, what can you say when it’s The Crawling Chaos himself?!  I was really excited to finally have the chance to work on one of the most famous monster-deities of the Lovecraftian Mythos. The Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep, the Black Man of the Witch Cult, call him what you wish, but he’s the only active deity that walks on Earth while events unfold during Dreams in the Witch House’s cosmic story arch.  The goal was to combine Lovecraftian traits of a Deity, a Human and a Monster, while maintaining consistency with the rest of the characters. Mike and I spent many hours pondering his presentation –having liters of coffee in the process—while discussing the approach and execution to this new piece. We went back and forth with some traits and we’re finally pleased with the result.  His “chest mouth” is a beckoning beast that roars the name of “Azathoth”, summoning the ultimate figure of doom in Lovecraft’s Mythos world.  The floorboards of the concept‘s environment feature Necronomicon text branded into the wood.  And the “head serpent” is reminiscent of many Nyarlathotep concepts.  Look closely, and you’ll see the shrieking faces of his past victims mutated into the serpent flesh of his tentacular crown.  In this case, the most challenging aspect was to get the right skin tone – not too human, not too alien.  He’s known as The Black Man of the Witch Cult, which we attributed to his flesh being made of cosmic Dark Matter.  In this presentation, he crawls, his hind legs clicking ominously with cloven hooves, his pose paying tribute and standing guard over the Eye of Azathoth in the background.  Jody Ashworth (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) never looked so appalling – a hideous harbinger of Lovecraftian Horrors.  I hope the readers of FromBeyond find him both disturbing and beautiful.  Thanks for giving him the web introduction I think he deserves!

 

And with that we had to let Mohloco get back to the event at Dark Delicacies. As most tales of cosmic scopes this is however but the beginning, not only for the Peruvian artist, but for the rock opera itself. New songs and new cast members has been added throughout the year, and no one seems to quite know just how much the sonic beast will end up growing. But ever vigilant, we will continue to track its inky black tendrils through the vastness of space, time speakers and canvasses – the future is truly looking bright for all things Lovecraft!

 

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 Johan Axell; Editor in chief 

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