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Home | Culture | Art | Interview: Illustrator Nick Rose

Interview: Illustrator Nick Rose

HORRORNEWS.NET: I know you’ve had a long trip in the art world, but could you start by giving us the skinny on your earliest inspirations into doing what you do?

NICK ROSE: When I reached Junior High School, I started realizing that I wanted to write and draw. At that age, my urge to be a writer was much stronger than my desire to draw. I didn’t start drawing on a regular basis until I was in the Army. I was surrounded by monsters all through my childhood. Real ones and imaginary ones. I had a huge stack of “Famous Monsters of Film Land” and all the Universal monster models. I had Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the “Curse of the Demon” posters all over my bedroom walls.

The old school sci fi/horror/fantasy themes seem prevalent in your work, and I know Frank Frazetta was inspirational to you. How much of an influence were people like Frazetta and Ken Kelly to your work?

I think it would be safe to say that all the artists out there close to my age bracket where all very heavily influenced by Frank Frazetta.  I was in a community college when the first collection of his work was published. I spent a lot of time in the book stores back then and ran across it one day after school. From there on, I knew I
wanted to paint. Nothing else meant so much to me. I knew I had to be an artist from that point on, and the long road began.
I meet Ken Kelly a few years ago at DragonCon, and that was a very special moment for me. Ken is the nephew of Ellie Frazetta and because of that he got to be trained by Frazetta.  At the time I meet
Ken, I was being trained by Master Daniel Horne and Todd Lockwood. He was trained by a living fantasy master, and so was I.  To me that was really a special thing and a very special moment. During my training Daniel sent me a book of Ken’s work during his training period, and when I felt like I wasn’t doing well, I would look at Ken’s paintings during his training period and fell much better about my work. He struggled just as much as me. Of course these days, Ken is a master himself and his work is awesome. But like everyone else, he had to learn and had his share of flops. I was really impressed that Ken let the book of his early works be published. I would be way to ashamed to let folks see my early stuff these days!

Describe to our readers your thought process when you’re working out a piece, specifically between the old school painting style to the modern digital day?

First it depends on what I am doing the illustration for.  If it is a cover assignment for a publisher, after I have read the short version of the book, I work on thumbnails of different ideas and layouts. I do the same thing whether it is for digital or traditional. Once we have an idea of where the painting is heading, in some cases I do value studies of the chosen thumbnail to create the most dramatic effect that I can come up with. This also
helps you map how you want the viewers’ eye to move through the painting.

Further on that, I know you went through a period of time where you put the art dream on hold-was this a particularly dark period for you, and what instances brought you back to the fold?

You are referring to 1995.  I had reached a point to where I didn’t feel like I was ever going to get anywhere with my work. I had done some commercial work and made a lot of money doing it, but the age of the computer was moving in and I just could not see the value of it at that time. I turned to drugs and drinking very heavy. For 5 years my
art supplies stayed packed up.  I got married to a woman I don’t even want to talk about and my life was a living hell.  Then in 2000 a young man showed me the internet. I saw how artist had put websites of their work on there and how easy it was now to be in touch with publishers.  I had a website built and sent samples to 5 publishers. I haven’t had a day off from art since them.  I must have worked for every small press publisher there was. I even became an Art Director for a couple of years. I was in charge of 3 magazines and a book company.  A lot of the emerging artist you see these days, I was the person that discovered them and put their work on or in publications.

Shortly after that time, my health went to hell. I drove myself to the hospital having a heart attack. They found out I had a blocked value. My blood presure was sky high, I was a diabetic, and I had the beginnings of COPD. All the years of partying, drinking, and smoking had finally caught up to me. This was in 2005.  Once again, I felt like I had been given a death sentence. I had supported myself through all those years as a floor installer. Now I was told I could not do that anymore. I didn’t know what to do, and had no one to turn to. Then I got a e-mail from Daniel Horne. He was commenting on a painting I had done, and he had went over the painting and made notes and sent it to me. He also sent me his phone number and asked me to call him.

It took me a week to get up the courage to do so, but I did.  I had meet Daniel in 2001 at a convention in Roanoke, Virginia, called Shevacon. I was a guest and he was the guest of honor.  He was one of my heroes. I had followed his work for years, and at the con he told me to stay in touch, so I did. Every once in a while I would send him a new painting I was proud of, but he never said anything until the painting he critiqued me on.  When I called him, he told me he wanted to train me. So, I became a Master’s apprentice and the rest as they say is History in the making.

When you did come back, how was it balancing your earliest methods with the dawning digital means of painting? I know you’re a big proponent of using technology, but can you also hold to the fact that
there’s a certain level of magic within old school organic creative means, just like there’s an inimitable quality to make-up, puppetry and costumes versus excessive CGI in the film medium?

As I mentioned before, the main reason I took up digital art was because of time restraints, and then I was force to continue it after my move to Michigan.  Digital art does have its place with me and it should with every artist. It is getting to the point if you want to make a living doing art in publishing, you have to learn to use a digital program and use it as another tool as you would oils, pencils or inks.

There are 2 big strikes against digital art thought.  A lot of artists, including myself, blame digital art for the low pay that Illustrators now make. Publishers are more interested in getting an Illustration done quick and cheap compared to the days when an artist could make a decent living doing Illustration. Now, the mindset is to turn out as many digital pieces as you can to make more money, instead of taking the time to turn out a painting of quality and artistic value.  I have reached the point to where I don’t have to do that anymore. I can spend a month on a painting if I want to, but a large majority of artists have to do Illustrations as fast as they can to support themselves and their families.

The second big strike against digital work is that some of the programs out there do all the work, and it doesn’t takes hardly any skill as an artist to use them. Using these programs is like taking photos of different things and putting them all together and then signing your name.  You see a lot of this in the very small press, and the work is even in art shows which is an insult to all the artists that spent years developing their talents.

There are programs like Illustrator, Painter, Paint Shop Pro and so one that are similar to doing real art. I do respect them and the artists that use them. I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to be an artist to learn traditional means first, then digital second. As a professional, you need to be able to use all the tools available
to you so you can stay completive in today’s market.  There is plenty of call for it. Look at all the computer animation that you see in movies these days like Avatar. It brings worlds to life that could only be dreamed about before. I am by no means saying anything negative about computer art; all I am saying is that there are different levels.  Some levels are simply like using a coloring book. The programs like Poser are fun for anyone that just wants to have fun, but if you are using a program like that and want to be taken seriously, then you need to rethink your position.

Where do you feel you stand now in terms of what you’ve learned over the course of your career? Have the lessons have you learned and mistakes made really impacted you as an artist?

Right now I feel like I still have a ways to go as an artist. Every day I learn something new, and I hope until the day I die that I keep on learning. I think if an artist fells like they know it all then they will grow no more and their work will still look the same in 10 years. I know a few pros like that. It is very sad. To me, Life and art are a growing experience. Every day is a new day and at the end of each day I go to sleep knowing that I have learned something new, and a lot of times I realize I was wrong about something. The more you grow the more you realize that you didn’t know what you where talking about. I am sure in 10 years, when I look back at this interview I am going to say to myself, “Darn, I was an idiot for saying that!” I always stress to folks to not take my word as a artist or a man as fact, because I will probably change my mind in 2 years.  To me that is what makes life and art so exciting, and to me the two are the same. My life is my art, and my art is my life. I have learned tons from my mistakes, and lord knows I have made a million of them.

To this day, what are some of your favorite books, films and music which serve as particular inspiration for your art?

Wow, that is a huge question.  When I was younger I was an avid reader, now I listen to audio books while I work as well as music.  As far as writers there is just so many of them to name them all, but here are a few, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorc**k, Steven R. Donaldson, Steven King, Clive Barker, Joseph D’Lacey, Madison Johns, Anne Rice, H.P.Lovecraft, Poe, J.K. Rowlings (Yep, I love Harry Potter) and the list goes on.

Movie wise, anything horror or sci-if from the 30’s till now. I have a huge DVD collection of Movies. I have well over 10 thousand now, including the complete Dr.Who series from 1963 to now. I have been watching the Hartnell episodes recently. I love all the B movies and a lot of the C movies too. I have a lot of friends that work in
Indie films and I collect them as well, especially my dear friend Suzi Lorraine. I am stoked about her new movie “Won Ton Baby” She also turned producer as well as actress with this movie.

I love all the Universal Movies, the Hammer films, anything by William Castle and of course all the American International Movies. I’m also a huge fan of Vincent Price and have all of his movies, as well as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi

I love all the Charles Band movies (Full Moon) and got to hang out with him a few years ago, I also went home with a box full of his movies all signed by him to me. Big Grin!  I can’t forget the Troma films. I love them too. Movies and TV shows have had a huge effect on my imagination and I have loved them since I was 5. I can’t even tell you how many times my Mom tanned my hide when she would catch me watching them. I can still remember running home from where the school bus would drop me off to catch the start of “Dark Shadows’

Music wise, I love everything from Classical to Metal, from hip hop to country. I have a huge library of music including movie soundtracks. If I am not listening to music I am listening to audio books.  Recently I have become a big fan of a steampunk bank Abney Park If you haven’t heard them, you should really check them out. They have a very unique sound.  When I want to get all dark and moody I listen to Midnight Syndicate: awesome background music for anything dark and scary.

I grew up on Grand Funk Railroad, Rare Earth, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, CCR, and my main man Alice Cooper.  These days I am a big fan of Marilyn Mansion, ICP, Kid Rock, Metallica and AC/DC, but there are hundreds more, but these are the bands that come to mind right off. I love anything with that blues/rock sound.

What are you working on next? Could you fill us in on any future plans

I will tell you what I think I will be doing, but you know how things change on you. Mostly I am working on my own projects. One of my projects I work on here and there is my first journal/novel called “The Book of Rose” and it will be filled with new illustrations. I am hoping to have that out in 2012. I will also be doing instructional books and DVD’s.  I am hoping to do more in the movie business. I keep getting plenty of offers, but they never seem to develop. I am sure they will at some point.

In 2011 I will be focusing on creating merchandise of my work, including sketch books, collector cards and about anything art looks good on. People can go to my website http://wickedkittystudio.com to see much more art and buy prints and other merchandise over this coming year. If you want to be friends on Facebook, look for NickRoseTwo and if you want to read my blog to see how things are going for me or pick up some art tips, you can go to

I hope you will look for us at conventions and come by and say “hello!”

Article Author: MetalGeorge

Author Site: www.twitter.com/metalgeorge


  1. I appreciate the wonderful interview and the interest Horror net has taken in my work. Since the Interview was done, I have signed on with a Agency that is going to take my work to even new heights. In about a year you should be able to find my work in about any place that sells art prints or posters, t-shirts ect. I hope to see you all at the conventions. Peace and Blessings.

  2. Nick is a great artist who has a keen eye for design and knows what makes for a good work of art… I love his horror paintings, they have inspired myself as well as allot of other artists.

  3. A very good interview–Nick is both a good artist and a good man and I hope his career continues to thrive. It probably will for at least one simple reason–he is focusing on craftsmanship and good story telling. This is a one-two punch that is hard to resist!

  4. Great interview! I love the “Brainbugers” painting!

  5. This is a wonderful interview and FANTASTIC showcase of a very talented man!! Horror News, we want to see more Nick Rose MORE MORE MORE!! Can’t get enough of his art!

  6. Thank you everyone. Your kindness means the world to me. Much Love to you all and Happy Holidays!!!

  7. Thank You for this Incredible Interview! I am a BIG Fan of his work and I’m so happy to see that he is Finally getting the recognition he deserves as the Great artist -that he is! He is definitely a Master -trained by Masters …and It Shows! I hope you will feature his work again in the near future -and Thanks again for this Awesome interview -allowing us a peek into his world!

    SINcerely, Darkdonna

  8. Well done, Brother Nick!!!


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