Any great horror artist is foremost a transcriber of nightmares. The mark of a true master, though, is one who can breathe life into these nightmares, giving them menace as well as substance. Case in point is the kind of terrifying stuff that flows from the poison pen of SAM HEIMER.
“I grew up a stone’s throw outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, followed my brother here to the University of the Arts and have lived and practiced in Philly ever since,” he says. Like any proper horror kid, it was the usual suspects that started those infernal gears a-turning.
“My early influences were horror anthologies and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and books my mom would bring me home from yard sales. I was reading Blackwood, Lovecraft, and Bradbury (among others) – and was probably too young to understand some of the more adult themes, but the tone and subject matter sunk its talons in me and has been my dowser’s wand ever since.”
“When people ask what I do, I jokingly say ‘melting faces’ but it isn’t far from the truth. Organic shapes … the more rotting the better.”
“When people ask what I do, I jokingly say ‘melting faces’ but it isn’t far from the truth,” says Heimer. “Organic shapes; the more rotting the better. If I can avoid drawing a single straight line, I’m a happy man.”
As far as mediums go, Heimer is all over the map. “I work in brushed ink, layers, and ink washes. Every color, shadow, and highlight is a separate piece of vellum. I build my images as though they’d be screen printed,” he says. “At the very end, I scan and collate digitally. This was the only way I could work computers into what I do, and it gives me maximum control over my method.”
Much of Heimer’s work revolves around the mystique of Halloween, with unwary trick-or-treaters being imperiled by classic movie monsters and other beasties making the most of their once yearly opportunity to run amok in the world of the living. His art features nods to the perils of demon alcohol, homages to madness, classic horror comics, malevolent alien invaders, and shades of film noir. Consequently, Heimer’s work is in demand by publishers of all stripes.
“I’ve done spot illustrations for Weird Tales Magazine, and can now say I was published in the same magazine as H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve also gotten to illustrate some of my favorite authors for Cadabra Records, an incredible spoken arts record label. I’ve also done t-shirts and booze bottles for companies I love.”
The stark colors and images of much of his work also have a delightfully aged feel – with Victorian themes and images that invoke Edward Gorey. So if you’re a horror freak or steampunk devotee, there’s a little piece of Heimer just for you.
“I definitely spent some time in high school emulating Gorey. Everything about that period had a dark elegance to it. The architecture, clothing, typography, and design in print was far more eye-grabbing and fulfilling than anything haunting recent years,” says Heimer.
“I’d burn every stick of furniture in Ikea for an empire sofa or a nice Victorian Eastlake rocker. I want excessive gilt and finials, beading around every mirror, and all metal surfaces engraved with federalist motifs. The devil’s always been in the details for me, and the stuff of today, this minimalist bullshit … well, it has no detail.”
Heimer is also very active in the Philadelphia art scene – and is one of the founders of The Phantom Hand, a conclave of local creatives frustrated with how galleries treat artists, and the practice of trendy coffee bars turned pretentious art spaces. The print of the Phantom Hand can be seen in Philadelphia galleries that are brave enough to show work from the dark side such as The Convent (@theconventphilly) and a handful of others.
So, what does the immediate future hold for Heimer and his cast of characters?
“February is going to be a big month for releases. On the 6th, my toy company drops our one-year anniversary figure. On the 9th I’m in an art show with my favorite local illustrators. I’ll have a set of prints available for that, as well as a book (H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunter of the Dark). Also, Cadabra Records is launching an illustrated line, and the first book out of the gate is Lovecraft’s Picture in the House with original illustrations and a cover by me.”
Heimer’s Etsy store has a selection of giclées, prints of gallery works, resin figurines, toys, t-shirts, books, posters, and other morbid goodies. He’s also available for custom work and anything and everything related to Halloween is a specialty. You can check out his work at https://samheimer.wordpress.com/ — just be sure to bring your trick-or-treat bag.