Fans of horror and extreme music should be familiar with London artist Dan Mumford, whose distinctive artwork has been used in everything from revival movie posters to t-shirts for bands like death metallers The Black Dahlia Murder. I recently chatted with Dan regarding his influences, his art, and his work on the recent rerelease of The Wicker Man.
Your work runs a very broad spectrum when it comes to subject matter, from horror/gore to post-apocalyptic to more portrait-based pieces like “Sisters.” Does any one subject resonate more with you as an artist?
I think it depends on the place I’m in at that time. Post-apocalyptic landscapes and ideas do always excite me with the possibilities of where I can take it, but at the same time its really nice to do something a little more serene and portrait like. I don’t have quite as much interest in the gory horror work as I once did, but I think that’s possibly due to it pigeonholing me somewhat for a few years. In recent times though I have been able to work on quite a few horror movie posters, and I really enjoy that and trying to make something distinctive for the movie without falling back on pure gore. Getting back to the root of the question though, I don’t think any of the subject matters resonate any more than the other, I try to find a quality that excites me and create something aesthetically pleasing regardless of the actual subject matter.
Your distinctive style has started morphing recently, with some more delicate detail creeping in to your normally thick-lined compositions, like your new Christine print. Is this a sign of your evolution as an artist or just an occasional experiment for certain pieces?
It’s evolution through experimentation. What started as a way to try and create more distinction through shading and finer line-work opened up a whole new world of possibilities to my work, it was like going back to day one of my career again, and drawing a simple skull became exciting. It all started a few years ago when I did some experiments, and released them as the Studies series in three sets. It was completely liberating to not have to just draw with thick black lines, and I realized that my style and what was distinctive in my work also still shone through when I changed things up a bit. To be honest at the time I was getting a bit fed up of seeing a lot of people creating work really similar to my own, and I felt like I had to embrace that as a challenge. It made me be more careful and thoughtful with my work, and I’ve definitely evolved quite a bit over the last couple of years.
Was there a pivotal moment in your career when you got to transition into being a full-time artist? Was there that epiphany when it suddenly became “the day job?”
Actually it has been my full time job ever since I left university in 2007, I was really lucky and had a couple of big jobs that set me up for a few solid months in London. I just made sure those first few months that I worked incredibly hard and did any work I could get my hands on, luckily since then I haven’t stopped. It’s a strange feeling that is hard to explain to someone who isn’t freelance though, you never quite know what’s ahead in the next few months, and there have been some really slow periods where I haven’t had much work at all, a few dark moments where you’re not sure if its all going to fall apart or not. The last couple of years have been pretty solid though and I feel pretty comfortable calling it my full time job now.
Your artwork was featured on the recent Final Cut of Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man for the theatrical rerelease and the DVD. How does it feel to have your work become the “new face” for a classic film?
Phenomenal. It’s an incredible honour to be on the cover worldwide for the final cut, and even in some cinemas. When making the original design for Dark City Gallery as a print we always knew there was an option for them to use it for the official artwork the next year for the final cut release, but to be honest I thought nothing would come of it. So when I found out studio canal wanted to use it for the release, and then also Lionsgate in the USA, I was pretty floored by it all. Just such a great project to be a part of for an incredible film.
Not through tee designs, no. Those were both quite exciting projects though. I was working with IndieMerch in the USA, and they essentially backed me to do whatever I wanted as far as a line of tees go, so we created Mumford Clothing, kept it simple, just some tees done by me. I wanted to tie everything together in each line and not just create some one off ideas, so both of those lines tell a small quite ambiguous story that links together. Story telling is something I really like to add in my work, I think it helps me create the worlds and ideas within the imagery if I have a little backstory to it all. There’s a lot of crazy ideas I have that I want to create as prints one day soon, maybe even a comic/graphic novel, but I’m not sure I’ll be going back to doing lines of tee’s anytime soon. It was a lot of fun, but really hard to make it work. Prints give me more freedom with sizing and detail, so I think as far as personal work that’s the medium I’m sticking with for the moment.
The subject matter you work with in regards to horror ranges from the iconic (Friday the 13th, Halloween) to the more obscure (Rawhead Rex, Pumpkinhead). Do your own personal tastes run in this range? What are some of your favorite films?
I love horror films and the horror genre in general, so whenever the chance to work within it comes up then I’m always interested. Halloween and Friday 13th were fantastic to work on. As I mentioned earlier though, I like the challenge of making a horror poster/image without making it too gory though. I really like anything scifi/horror/apocalyptic, films like Mad Max, Blade Runner, Aliens, Terminator and so forth. Its all about the worlds and how they can drag you in, if it’s a well built believable film world then I’m interested.
Hypothetical question: you have an unlimited amount of time and funds and no one to make happy but yourself. What is your dream project?
I would probably start painting huge pieces, 12 ft. tall canvases, something that could take 6 months to complete. I think the size and scope of my work at the moment is limited by time and money, so if it were unlimited I would do that. I’d also open my own studio/gallery too while I’m at it.
You can check out more of Dan’s work at dan-mumford.com.