Like other narrative art forms, film has the ability to inspire fans with artistic talents of their own to pay tribute to their favorite works in a variety of creative ways. Daniel Nicholls is one such fan. Nicholls and I share a mutual love of director John Carpenter, the man behind Halloween, The Thing, and a slew of other underrated classics. As Carpenter has quite an unusual filmography, Nicholls has found an equally unusual way to pay tribute to one of cinema’s great auteurs. Nicholls is a cartoonist.
For the past few years, Daniel Nicholls have been sharing cartoons of Carpenter’s work, in particular the seminal 1982 classic, The Thing. Nicholls’ work is unusual, employing a distinct style that manages to capture the essence of each scene he draws, while still turning the moment into something uniquely his own. His work with caricature is especially impressive, managing to translate a character from the frame to the page and still maintain the personality of the original actor.
Shown here is a frame from John Carpenter’s The Thing, followed by Nicholls’ interpretation of it.
Today, we at ScreenHub were lucky enough to speak with Nicholls about his work, as well as share some of his best and latest pieces. Nicholls’ latest picture re-creates a key frame from the infamous blood test in The Thing. The artist was kind enough to offer a step by step look at how he creates his work.
Afterwards, Nicholls graciously sat down with us to discuss his work and his love of movies.
I – When did you first get interested in drawing?
D N – I started drawing at a young age, and being fascinated by nature and the animal kingdom, it wasn’t long then before I was drawing monsters, aliens, and all manner of weird creatures. With all the great movies, comics, cartoons, and TV shows of the 80s & 90s, I was always scribbling when ever I had the chance, which annoyed most school teachers.
I – What cartoonists do you feel influenced your work? What about their work did you enjoy?
D N – Of course the late great Stan Lee was a big influence with SpiderMan, Hulk, and the other Marvel greats. But the weekly 2000AD comics were my favorites with amazing artwork by the likes of Simon Bisley (Slaine and the ABC Warriors) and Mike McMahon and Carlos Ezquerra’s work with Judge Dredd amongst others. A much darker beast than other comic’s of the time. With lots of sex and violence, grotesque mutants, alien bounty hunters and evil gods, it was the one for me. Other influences I would say some of the great special effects and creature artists, like legends Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans, Sinbad), Stan Winston (Predator, Aliens), Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow), and of course Rob Bottin (The Thing, The Twilight Zone Movie, The Howling), Spielberg’s work like Jaws, and Jim Henson with the masterpiece The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and shows like The Storyteller.
I – When you first draw a character, do you have a process in figuring out how they’ll appear in your style?
D N – I think my process of drawing is your typical way. Visualize the scene in your mind. Then start sketching the position of heads and bodies. Remember simple shapes to start and as it comes together adding details starting with the eyes. But most of all just stick with your style and go with it.
I – A lot of your work centers around John Carpenter. What is it that draws you to his work?
D N – Since watching The Thing on VHS many years ago I’ve been into Carpenter’s films. But it wasn’t until later that I appreciated some of his other work, like They Live and Escape from New York, which I now love.
I – Do you have a favorite film by Carpenter?
D N – Yes. The Thing is my favorite Carpenter film but also my favorite film. From the moment it sets off chasing the dog. Nothing was going to prepare me for the horror that was about to burst on to the screen. Mind-blowing practical effects, a great cast and awesome chilling score makes this the best for me.
I – A lot of artists have a piece that they feel sums up their work very well. Is there any particular drawing that you’re the most proud of? Why is that?
D N – Being a huge monster fan I wanted to do a piece with all versions of the thing we see in the film. surrounding McReady.
I – Are there any pieces that you’re currently planning on doing?
D N – Apart from The Thing and other carpenter pieces I’m also starting some American Werewolf in London pics.
I – So you’re expanding into other directors.
D N – Being a massive horror fan I will be working on others in time. Of course more Carpenter like Big Trouble in Little China and They Live, but also things like An American Werewolf in London, The Gate, Jaws, Creepshow, Alien and more.
I – Have you looked into making a business out of your work, such as selling prints online or getting a booth at conventions?
D N – I would love my art to be my full time job, my dream job. I haven’t had the funds for doing a booth at conventions yet but it’s definitely something I would like to try someday. As for selling my work. I do commissions and use Facebook and Instagram. PM me for prices and info. I’m looking into getting prints done, and I’m starting The Thing soon. I’m illustrating the whole movie in my cartoon comic style and hopefully with some luck get it out there as a graphic novel.
At the moment, one can find Nicholls on Facebook and Instagram, as well as on the Facebook Outpost 31 Discussion group where he posts his work regularly. Hopefully this is just the beginning. The Thing is about an organism that threatens to spread beyond the borders of Antarctica. Surely work as distinct as Nicholls’ will eventually do the same.
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