Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Shunned House

I waited until February 28 to post this picture because I did the original sketches and photographs for it on February 28, 1987. This picture was a commission from a costumer friend of mine who was an H.P. Lovecraft fan. He wanted me to do an illustration from the Lovecraft story "The Shunned House." In this story, a pair of amateur scientists investigate hideous phenomena originating from a weird old house in Providence, Rhode Island. My friend wanted me to portray the Shunned House, but without any of the usual "horror house" cliche's.

I didn't know at the time that the Shunned House was based on a real house in Providence. Instead, I took as my model an early twentieth century house near my own residence in Cambridge, Mass. This house was in "Shady Hill Square," a set of houses set around a little park-like commons. It was an affluent area and Harvard professors lived there. But it was also somewhat shabby and for some reason whenever I visited it, it gave me the creeps. Perhaps it was the Harvard professors. So I used one of the houses at Shady Hill for the model Shunned Home, complete with the tangled ivy, gnarly trees, and black windows. I sat on my portable stool and sketched it outdoors, not an easy task in Massachusetts in February. The conditions were rather as they are right now: dreary skies over leafless trees and melting, congealed, dirty old snow.

I avoided any horror cliche's which were not from Lovecraft's original. But if you looked closely at the windows and door of my house, you could see disturbing flashes of livid light, a tentacle or two, and some green slime at the door. Unfortunately, my photo of the picture isn't very good and you can't see this here. The painting was almost monochrome, rather like a New England grey winter day.

My friend who commissioned it is long dead, gone off to whatever afterlife welcomes Lovecraft fans. I wonder what happened to the painting. Maybe it was auctioned off or given away. I hope someone still has it, with the slime, shivers, and gnarly trees.

"The Shunned House" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 14" x 20", May 1987.


Mary said...

Wow. That's beautiful. Haunting.

Mike said...

Such detail! I've always had a thing for haunted houses, and you really captured the feeling of dread and unknowing. Your colour palette really sets the mood.
It's a shame you don't have a higher quality shot of it. I would love to see the details you mention. :)

Tristan Alexander said...

Thi sis great! For a "simple house" it realy does have a great creepy feel, but subtle!

Anonymous said...

I love that house! Could go in there and build a fire in the fire place and drink hot cocoa in blissful peace sitting on a thick blanket laid before the fire. My cats could run up and down the stairs and play all night looking for mice. The next day, I'd get on my horse and ride around the country side meeting my new neighbors and invite them to a house warming.