Every midnight in October: a great work of horror and a conversation with an artist. All works are on display in The Last Bookstore. Don’t forget to pick up a map when you get to the store, so you don’t miss anything, or take a peek here.
My Dearest Reader,
Given that the style of the times is to tell stories by virtue of a second- or even third-hand – account, especially via letter to a disinterested third party, I think it very fitting that I should employ this method of recounting the story of Frankenstein to you.
Oh no – the worst thing has just happened! I wonder if I can even bring myself to write it down, because I was interrupted as I wrote to you and obviously had to inspect the horrific visions that presented themselves elsewhere.
Alright – that’s all over now, and I can come write some more. It’s a good thing I didn’t die while I was away or this letter would never have been finished.
I have been for some time now perusing the mysteries of Frankenstein’s creature – the hideous, odious, evil demon that murders children and defenseless women. I have given my horrified attention to the schemes and devices of this equally fearsome and pitiful creature – never given a name – and who, for lack of any companion for his man-made heart, must wreak destruction on the lives of others.
I confess I am a newcomer to the well-known tale, having just finished reading it for the first time. It immediately won my heart with the introduction of a ship’s captain bound for Antarctica. As you know, my fondest wish is to travel there, and the idea of a weary crew discovering not one, but two different men bundled in coats and driving dog sleds across the ice was enough to captivate my imagination. How the captain, the two men with sleds, and each man’s story weaves together is an adventure – the contemplative, meandering style marked with sudden turns and complications. But sadly the book is now finished and the story is ended. As is this letter.
KONSTANTIN STESHENKO with Cortney Matz
I met Konstantin for the first time over the phone and we had a great conversation on art, philosophy, and the consequences of creation. This is a shortened recounting of that discussion.
Cortney Matz: Do you feel a certain affinity for your subject, as a creator of things that may or may not turn out the way you planned?
Konstantin Steshenko: (He laughs. A lot.) Oh wow, I think every artist – well at least, I always have high hopes for a piece and inevitably the reality is different. There’s a certain level of unpredictability in how the elements will come together to make an image. I don’t have much control over that. And sometimes it’s better than I could have envisioned.
I somehow missed reading Frankenstein in high school like everyone else, so I just read it recently. And it’s become one of my favorite books, honestly. It’s so good. I guess that’s why it’s a classic! I instantly loved it, it’s philosophically a very mature novel. I was intrigued with the parallels of creation and religion, wondering how “God” might feel about creating people. Maybe it’s about ownership, being responsible for our mistakes – and having compassion on our creations, however they turn out.
CM: Yes, and let’s hope what we write and draw is less repulsive to you than Frankenstein’s creature turned out to be for him! Any challenges creating from classic literature? What’s your process for something like this?
KS: I was shocked by the arctic open and ending of the story of Frankenstein and I wanted to represent that isolation. Typically I sketch by hand and finish digitally. For this piece, I wanted to get back to the simplicity of pencil on paper. And for horror, there’s something about the pencil on rough paper that lends itself to that unpolished energy.
There were some technical challenges with drawing, but the biggest challenge is to lend a unique spin to this iconic story and a well-known monster. Frankenstein’s creature is well-represented in movies and art, and I especially admire Bernie Wrightson’s version. So I was trying to show Frankenstein’s creature without showing him. Horror is about what you don’t see.
CM: Any lessons learned? Things you will remember for next time?
KS: I definitely want to do it again – maybe something from HP Lovecraft, who is less represented in movies and comics. There are so many classic creatures and aliens I loved as a kid and I always wanted to create my own. Then I got an appreciation for how hard it is, creating something simple and elegant like the Creature from the Black Lagoon or one of those iconic monsters that stand the test of time. I’ll keep trying.
Konstantin Steshenko is an award-winning animator and artist. See more of his work at konstantinsteshenko.com
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