Vincent Price in his role as the Abominable Dr. Phibes gestures to a swarm of locusts against a lurid orange sky. His beautiful assistant Vulnavia is nearby. By artist Heather Landry.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Heather Landry

Believe it or not, you’re already familiar with Heather Landry’s artwork. Heather, also known as Sandpaperdaisy, is HorrorFam.com’s resident illustrator — she designed our site banner, logo, and our “family” of monsters.

It’s been our plan since HorrorFam.com’s conception to do “spotlight” features/interviews with amazing creators who focus on the horror genre. Our hope is to feature/highlight talented folks who’re sharing their work in the “Share YOUR Horror Creations” section of our forum (artists, podcasters, writers, filmmakers, etc.) here on the blog at least once a month.

Who better to start this interview series with than Heather? She’s our resident illustrator, one of our forum moderators, and a close friend of mine for well over a decade.

“Wolf” by Heather Landry (self-portrait)

Heather’s been a part of HorrorFam.com since it was just an idea I had, long before it was an actual website.

She’s also an extremely talented, horror-focused artist! So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Heather Landry…

Interview with Heather Landry AKA Sandpaperdaisy

Lauren Spear: Hi, Heather! Would you mind introducing yourself to the HorrorFam.com readers, please?

Heather Landry (Sandpaperdaisy): Hey guys, I’m Heather Landry, a career artist who’s favorite subject is horror.

Lauren: Okay. I want to touch on both of those aspects before this interview is over. For now, would you mind telling us a bit about your art? What mediums do you create in?

Heather: I generally like to use digital art (programs like Adobe Photoshop and Paint Tool SAI) because I live in a house full of people and space is at a premium.

I also prefer digital for its “non-exclusive/non-collectible” connotation, as an unlimited medium, because I really detest when people only wish to purchase and collect art for its perceived monetary value.

Other mediums I like to work in include pen and ink and markers, which I make sure to indulge in every #inktober, and decoupage/collage.

“Plague Doctor” by Heather Landry

Lauren: That’s fascinating. Since art is your career, and your sole source of income, it’s surprising to hear you detest art collectors shoveling piles of money at you for an “exclusive” piece…

Or, well, it would probably surprise anyone reading this. I already know your thoughts on this because we’ve chatted about it in the past. [laughs]. But for the members of the audience who AREN’T me, could you explain what you mean by that statement…?

Heather: Sure. Simply put, I don’t want to ever artificially limit my art or keep someone from having a piece. I’ve frequently given my art away (mainly those “super special” “one of a kind” pieces I’ve sometimes been required to make for a gallery show). If everyone on Earth had a piece of my art who wanted one, I’d be happy, even if that doesn’t translate into a fortune for me.

I always try to make some of it into stickers and very small prints and buttons which can be sold cheaply enough that even children can take one home.

And, since “everyone on Earth” is significantly more than a hundred or a thousand people, I DON’T do limited prints either. The closest I came was a fun kickstarter Make 100 project, and even then I made sure it was still legal for me to offer those two art pieces in other ways.

“Hatchling” by Heather Landry

Lauren: You’re seriously one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known. It’s awesome that you’ve found ways to be that kind, generous person in your professional life as well.

And, since you’re successful in doing so, it helps to show other creators that they can still make a living off of their work while making their art as accessible as possible. Kudos!

Heather: Well thank you! But it’s probably important to note that my model might not work for career artists who are purely freelance. I also have a “service” art job where I work in a small studio that makes art portraits for grieving loved ones.

But, I have heard and seen many other artists hustling their game who have huge online shops full of unlimited prints, so maybe it can work out!

Lauren: Ah yes! I was wondering if you were going to bring up your unusual day job. You do gorgeous work, but it’s definitely a bit morbid. [laughs]. I wasn’t fully aware this particular job niche existed until you were hired! Could you briefly explain…?

Heather: Gladly. Many people in the USA choose to honor the passing of their loved one with a funeral that may involve their loved one on display and/or a portrait or photograph of their loved one on an easel nearby. We artists are tasked with making that portrait a nice memory.

The reason why this job requires trained artists and not technicians is a simple, if sad one: many of the only pictures a family has of their loved one are “bad.” A mug shot, a driver’s license, a faded newspaper article, a torn yearbook photo decades old… Or sometimes a snapshot after their beloved person has died — most often babies in that case, but not always.

It’s our job to bring out the beauty in that person, the person their loved ones see, even when you may have a photo of someone who has undergone some serious physical trauma.

Lauren: Man… yeah. Like I said, you do gorgeous work. But the reasons for that work are a total bummer. You’re able to take real-life horrors and turn them into something that give people comfort.

You mentioned that you’re a “trained” artist — what kind of training have you had?

“The Crowd” by Heather Landry

Heather: I studied it in high school and college and made sure to do a couple of travel trips (Europe, Mexico) to observe work and architecture by the masters, as well as mentoring with my grandfather who was himself a professional artist.

I must say though that this was all for “classical” techniques such as drawing with charcoal, chalks and ink. When I decided to branch out into digital art, I learned everything for free, online, by combing through countless tutorials, articles, forums, and videos.

I encourage anyone not to give up if they can’t go get a degree in a building somewhere; there’s untold knowledge basically just hanging down like ripe fruit all over the internet.

Lauren: So true. College is a “must” if you’re going to be a neurosurgeon or something, but most creative types can hone their craft on their own, if they have the drive.

I’m an award-winning writer and a fairly-respected editor, and all I have is my high school diploma! You and I have both known poverty, particularly in our “formative” years, but we never let it stop us.

Finances should never get in the way of creativity. Just look at HorrorFam.com! It’s a bit janky right now because we built it on zero budget, but it’s here! We created it. [laughs].

Heather: PREACH!

Lauren: We did it because we love horror, and the horror community, so gosh-darned much! Lack of funds wasn’t going to get in our way. [laughs].

Speaking of your love of horror… Tell us about how much you love horror!

“Cthulhu” by Heather Landry

Heather: Well I named one of my sons Vincent Christopher if that will begin to give you a hint.

Lauren: [laughs]. Definitely.

Heather: But, yeah… horror has been a glorious part of my life ever since childhood. I wrote my own scary books like “The Mummy’s Curse” which had [gasp!] sad endings where the monster won. I copied Fuseli’s nightmare to teach myself pencil shading. I binged on the original Dark Shadows with my mother every day and still keep my original childhood copies of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Complete Edgar Allen Poe, Sleep No More, and The Enchanted World: Night Creatures next to my bed.

Lauren: That’s awesome. Your love for the horror genre goes WAY back…

You’ve been incorporating horror themes into your art for as long as I’ve known you. Well over a decade now! But were you ever hesitant to do so?

For me, I kept my “horror” side hidden for years, especially as I started my professional career. I thought my weirdness could be damaging if I let loose with it too early on. I held off and established myself for a good nine years before I publicly announced, “Hey! Guess what! I grew up surrounded by monsters and I’m mildly creepy!” [laughs].

Did you go through something similar? Did you start out doing more normie-friendly pieces and then transition to full-blown horror art? Or did you just cannonball into the deep end like, “HERE’S SOME WEIRD STUFF I MADE!”

Heather: Yeah I was never not me. I would give my friends my paintings of Peg Powler (a child-eating troll) or do “Darkness” by Lord Byron as my capstone piece for a class. That’s a magnificent-but-chilling poem involving cannibalism among other things.

My friends always knew I was “morbid,” “dark,” what have you. I submitted an ink drawing of Barnabas Collins to my school newspaper and wrote poems about atomic desolation.

Dialing it down never really occurred to me to be honest.

“Ocean” by Heather Landry

Lauren: That’s awesome. Very brave, honestly.

My close friends knew, and know, how weird I am. But I can “pass” for normal to anyone who doesn’t actually speak to me at length. [laughs]. Which is the case in most employment-type situations. Your boss or your client doesn’t usually care about you, as a person; just what you can do for them, and if you can do it well. So it was easy for me to “hide,” while not feeling TOO “not me.”

But yeah… I dunno. I was sort of “taught” from a young age that my “horror” side wasn’t accepted. I turned in a book report in third grade on “Blind Alleys” — the EC comics’ story, from The Crypt of Terror No. 1 — and my teacher reacted very badly. Similar instances occurred throughout my life, growing up, when it came to “authority” figures. So, when I decided to make writing and editing my career, I kept those aspects of myself private.

Heather: Interesting! That especially interests me since you’re from the West Coast and I’m from the Bible Belt. No one ever batted an eyelash even when I submitted huge charcoal drawings to my school of a naked man sucking a naked woman’s blood, or a body wrapped up in a web with giant spiders feasting upon it. As I recall I got such pieces into local art shows for children a time or two.

Lauren: That’s fantastic! And, yeah. I don’t know how I managed to run into so many stuffy people growing up in Los Angeles! MOST of the people here are pretty chill!! [laughs].

Anyway, I’m really bad at this. This is supposed to be SPOTLIGHT ON HEATHER, not LET’S CHAT ABOUT LAUREN’S CHILDHOOD TRAUMAS! [facepalm].

So hey. Yeah. You do amazing art. [laughs]. We should probably showcase some of that at some point, huh? WHIP IT OUT! Show us some of your favorite pieces!

Heather: [cracks knuckles].

“Who Goes There” by Heather Landry
“The Crawling Chaos” by Heather Landry
“Siren” by Heather Landry
“Helen Vaughan” by Heather Landry
“Within” by Heather Landry

There’s a few. Do you want to know the stories behind them?

Lauren: Um… YEAH. Of course.

Heather: All right. So, the top one is “Who Goes There.” It’s based on the iconic final monster from one of my favorite movies of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

Next is “The Crawling Chaos,” my conception of Nyarlathotep from the dream/horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

After that is “Siren,” one of my first pieces to use 3D fractals, in this case to showcase a deadly beauty.

“Helen Vaughan” is the next, from the climax of one of my favorite horror stories, “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen.

And, lastly, “Within” is informed by one of my favorite artists, Hieronymous Bosch, specifically his “tree man” (or Lucifer) from one of his iconic scenes of hell.

Lauren: Those are friggin’ amazing, Dude! I don’t even know where to start. Are those all digital pieces?

Heather: Yep! I like to use a lot of different things in my digital pieces. In addition to the 3D fractals you see in “Siren” and “Within,” pieces like “The Crawling Chaos” feature my own photography of things like insects, food, and bones.

Here’s another example where I used snapshots of bones and roots to create a nightmare creature with unpredictable forms:

“Dream Three” by Heather Landry

And, in other cases, I might snap pictures of my own pen and ink drawings, decoupage, or actual trash (in the case of the rose, a broken glass ornament) to make works like these:

“Ouroboros” by Heather Landry
A “rose” created by Heather Landry using “trash.” :O
“100 Keys” by Heather Landry

So there you go.

Lauren: Holy crap. [laughs]. I’m legit stunned. I’m sitting here with my mouth agape just taking in all the little details.

Heather: That’s the great thing about digital art; for those of us who aren’t fond of limitations it’s virtually limitless.

Lauren: Yeah. Wow. Uh… [laughs].

I’m just going to sit here and admire these for another minute and try to collect myself. I want to ask you more things, but my brain’s just like, “Thinking up questions is on hold while I ingest this imagery.” [laughs].

Maybe you can steer the convo for a second while I regroup? That “100 Keys” piece is blowing my mind.

Heather: Well why don’t I tell you the story of that piece?

Lauren: Yes!

Heather: All right, so… A dear childhood friend of mine has a recurring nightmare. And this is that nightmare:

She dreams that she has 100 keys, and 99 friends. And, together, they have to explore a mansion with 100 rooms. So she unlocks these rooms, one door at a time. 99….98… They walk, chatting and exploring. 87…86.

She begins to notice something. Every time she unlocks a door, that key vanishes…and so does one of her friends.

50…45. Starting to panic now. 37….36. But they can’t stop.

Her friends dwindle, clinging together in an ever-shrinking, tightening ball of panic, until she’s down to the last couple of keys.

2…she unlocks the door. She is now alone. 1…she unlocks the last door. The room is black. No, not quite black.

In the corner, at the opposite end of the room, bathed in darkness, she can just barely make out a chair…and something, or someone, in it.

Frozen with terror, she tries to make out the details of the terrible thing…when it rushes at her. And my friend wakes up… Again and again.

So, I drew her this piece.

Lauren: Dude. That’s chilling. Yikes.

That reminds me though! You also create comics. One of your first published works, available on Amazon, was The Killing of Dreams. Would you like to talk about that…?

A page from The Killing of Dreams by Heather Landry

Heather: Sure! Humorously it’s part of a series I hope to one day do about dreams in general (scary ones of course) that will one day hopefully include the story I just told you as well as a story another one of my friends was told in her childhood called “The River People.”

As for the first comic, The killing of Dreams, that one is actually my own nightmare which I guess is why I drew it first. I had the nightmare back in 2007 or so. The main part of it was a scene near the beginning where a frail fairy-like creature is killed in the snow by an unseen enemy. And, as I always do, I immediately drew out my dream when I woke up from it and made notes.

From there I fleshed it out for NaNoManGo (which is like NaNoWriMo but for us comic artists) and eventually did it the way I really wanted to draw it starting in 2011.

It took me a total of 7 years to finish but it was worth it.

Another page from The Killing of Dreams by Heather Landry

Lauren: Definitely worth it.

Is there anything else related to your art or career as an artist you’d like to share? I know it’s getting late where you are. And it’s almost dinner time for me. We’re having fish. HP Lovecraft would be horrified. [laughs].

I also wanted to do a quick rundown of some of your fave horror movies and whatnot for funsies, but I wanna be super sure you feel satisfied with the art coverage first. Gonna link to where peeps can find more of your art to gawk at, of course; but feel free to share more here too, if you wanna!

Heather: Tonight I found out that I have the tiniest little one-line entry on some site called RPG Geek, which excited me more than it had a right to. It’s from my work with a couple of monster/Lovecraftian titles at Pelgrane Press.

I’ve also done a variety of work for the Lovecraft eZine (and now Lovecraft eZine Publishing) and a piece of mine just came out in the new Stranger Things-themed artbook by Printed in Blood, the same folks who did the fantastic artbook honoring The Thing. I hope to continue being published in their books as well.

Lastly, I’m planning on doing a new horror comic project somewhere on down the line with the amazing and multi-talented Carl Clark who I collaborated with on Tales from the Clarkside.

So that’s the “horror industry” stuff I’ve got going on at the moment…in addition to the work I was privileged to do for HorrorFam.com of course!

One of Heather Landry’s pieces featured in Tales from the Clarkside.

Lauren: That’s awesome! Congratulations, Heather! Be sure to gimme the links for all of those when we’re done here. And I’m also happy you consider the work you do here at HorrorFam.com a privilege. [laughs].

And, since you’re a “mod” in our forums and contribute posts to our blog and whatnot… it’s about time the HorrorFam.com readers got to know your “faves.”

We all go through this as horror fans. [laughs]. Whenever a horror fan meets another horror fan, we always wanna know each other’s “top” fave horror films. Sooooooooooo… what are YOUR top five favorite horror movies? In this moment, at least. I know these lists are subject to change depending on mood and whatnot.

Heather: The Thing, Terror in the Aisles, Theatre of Blood, The Ring, and The Blob (1958).

Although I would also have to jam The Fog and Creepshow in there…and I’m sure I could go all night really.

Lauren: Oooh. Original Blob, eh? Not the 1988 remake? That’s gonna raise some eyebrows among the younger generations. [laughs]. That theme song is undeniably fabulous though.

And yeah… I feel you. I could make a list of “faves” a mile long and still feel like I was forgetting some.

Heather: Yep, exactly…

“Slenderman” by Heather Landry

Lauren: Top horror games? I know you play! Don’t be shy.

Heather: Obviously Zombies Ate My Neighbors. I also love Neverending Nightmares and Bad Dream: Coma.

To watch “let’s plays” of or for the aesthetic: Silent Hill 2, SCP: Containment Breach, and Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Lauren: Nice. I still get teased over the Zombies Ate My Neighbors fan fiction I wrote when I was fourteen. I stand by my devotion! Not my writing… my writing was terrible back then. But the game deserved that level of undying love. [laughs].

Okay! Any television shows, soundtracks, or podcasts that deserve to be called out for being the “tops” in your mind…?

“Wisp” by Heather Landry

Heather: Dark Shadows (original).

The Magnus Archives podcast, Lore podcast, The Nosleep Podcast, Knifepoint Horror podcast.

Original soundtrack for Year Walk — which I also need to add to horror games I love now that I think of it! Dark Shadows soundtracks, Midsommar soundtrack, and the Ravenous soundtrack especially. That one is off the chain — unsurprising since Damon Albarn (Gorillaz) did it.

Lauren: Awesome! Any last thoughts you wanna share with HorrorFam.com readers?

Heather: If you wanna keep up with my shenanigans in real-time, I tend to post the most stuff on my Instagram @sandpaperdaisy.

I’m currently doing an #inktober-style challenge of all Magnus Archives art and also just finished two pieces for a local “Monsters on Main Street” show that are documented on there.

And, don’t ever let anyone make you feel lame for liking one of the most creative, thought-provoking and cathartic genres of all time! There’s a reason horror is where it’s at. You’re just cool enough to know it.

Lauren: And people can chat with you in the HorrorFam.com forums too! They’re free to join and you’re one of our amazing mods!

Heather: Amen, sistah! Bring it.

Lauren: Thank you for being our first “Spotlight” interview! See you around HorrorFam.com!

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