A Trip to the Moon with Belle Dee

I wish I could draw.  I mean,really draw.  I’ve always done a bit of sketching, cartooning, and there are people from my distant past who may very well remember me solely as an artist.  As a teenager, I handmade holiday cards for my parents and I once did a rendering of Mackenzie Phillips from the hit TV series ONE DAY AT A TIME but my penciling never got much past that; by about age 20 or so, I shifted to writing almost exclusively.  Because I’m such a groveling wannabe when it comes to the pen and ink, I’m especially envious and excited by people who have given themselves over to the discipline of drawing and painting, have honed their craft to the point of being really good at it.  I’m even more envious when these artists deal in subjects of the grotesque and arabesque, of all things spookylike and monsterrific.  I’m proud to have such sketchy pals in my coterie as Frank Dietz, Rob Kelly and Charlie Largent and I’m equally tickled to fold in a new friend, the artist and renderer of all things sexygothicool Belle Dee.  Belle took some time out of her busy schedule to play a little game of Q&A with me, and I humbly present the fruit of that loom to readers of The Movie Morlocks:

Q: You love all the things that I love.  I’m way older than you, so we can rule out the possibility of parallel lives.

A:  When I was a kid, I didn’t really know much about monster or horror films. I lived in a small mountain town and we only received about two channels on our TV. And there wasn’t anyone in my family that was really into those movies so I just had to find them on my own.

Q: That’s pretty close to my childhood, too.

A:  I lived for animated films and cartoons. Saturday mornings and trips to the theater to see re-releases of Disney films was all I looked forward to. When I was about 11, I moved in with my grandparents and they bought one of the early satellite dishes that picked up everything. In addition to that, I made new friends, went to some slumber parties, and quickly became a horror movie fan. I would go to the local video store and rent all kinds of horror, mostly from the 70′s & 80′s. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I happened to catch DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) on TV and that changed everything for me. From there, I went back and started watching everything I could, from the classic Universal films, the Hammer films and everything in between.

Q:  DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE was an important movie for me and I think the first Hammer horror I saw at the movies, in its original run.  It was the first movie for which I covered my eyes with my hands to prevent myself from seeing what was happening on the screen… although years later I found out you didn’t actually see Dracula biting the neck of Zena the bar maid.

A:  I bet seeing Hammer films at the movies was an awesome experience.

Q:  Oh, it was.  And they were regular, like two a year it seemed.  And even better, my local movie house would sometimes show older movies as matinees, so I got to see DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), a few years after its original US release, on the big screen.  And EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964), too, I think.

A:  Where I live, they have a screening room upstairs at a movie theater and every Thursday they’ve been doing Free Horror movie night. Last week I went to see THE GORGON (1964), which I thought was cool to see on a (small) big screen. That screening room was packed though, I ended up having to sit back in a corner. They are showing THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1970) next month and I’m getting there an hour ahead of time to get the best seats!!

Q:  Who were your influences?  Who were your heroes?

A:  As far as my influences go, I would have to say that much of that had comes from being such a cartoon junkie. Other than Disney, Don Bluth was a big influence. I was also a big fan of the Nelvana Studios and the early projects that they were making. I was also a fan of Al Hirschfeld, before I really knew who he was. I would see his caricature work and thought it was just amazing. So simple and beautiful.

Q:  I see the influence there.

A:  Bruce Timm and Jamie Hernandez were influences on me through their comic book work.

Q:  I’m a huge fan of Jaime Hernandez, going back to Mister X.  His hardbound Love and Rockets collection, Locas, is close enough for me to reach out and touch.  I love the power he gives to women to be larger-than-life and yet hobbled by all-too-human foibles.  Which only makes them sexier.

A:  Oh yeah I love Jamie’s work! Lovely little Maggie! And Hopey! It’s been a long time since I’ve read those though, I should get them out.  Two other important, more recent, influences on me are Kirsten Ulve and Ragnar. These two artists were influential on me in the direction my art has taken. I’ve never been a great painter or inker. Traditional media sometimes is a miss with me. But looking at the work that they produce using vector graphics (Illustrator), I was able to take the knowledge I had of the program and apply it to my own work. Ulve, like Hirschfeld, is one of my favorite caricature artists.

Q:  At what point did you decide to try your hand at horror caricatures?

A: One of the reasons I started drawing characters from some of my favorite horror films is because I wanted to see them made up in that animated/caricature style. I would be browsing the Internet trying to find such a drawing of some obscure character from a film with no luck. And it’s probably not that fans of the film don’t like the character, it’s just that no one has drawn them or I just didn’t have any luck finding anything. So I just started drawing these characters that I loved so much, in the style that I like.

Q:  I love the style.  I’ve seen a lot of fan art from within the horror fanbase over the years and so much of it attempts to replicate the exact look of the subject and falls short for that reason – no imagination. Your style both celebrates those iconic images and lifts them out of their individual contexts to give them an alternate life, one that doesn’t diminish or minimize their original context but incorporates them into a sort of dreamscape that is both highly personal and yet (you should pardon the pun) universal.

A:  Thank you so much!!  Wow!  That made my day!

Q:  This is like the best first date ever!   I love something you wrote on your blog:

“Two things I love: One, Any cartoon from the 1920′s-1940′s that has dancing skeletons, ghosts, graveyards, haunted houses, etc. Two, Any spooky novelty song from 1900′s-1940′s that has crazy whistles and wot-not. Usually sounds like it came from a cartoon with dancing skeletons, ghosts, graveyards, haunted houses, etc.”

I love that stuff, too.  Isn’t it great to find somebody who shares your arcane tastes? I’ve met so many like-minded people on the Internet and I wish we all lived in the same town… so we could be geographically closer when we e-mail one another.

A:  The Internet is a great place, but yes, I wish that all the like-minded people that I’ve met lived closer. I’m obsessed with those old cartoons and music of a spooky nature. I’ve been keeping a list of cartoons and music that I’ve found. And I have a few titles of some animated films that I haven’t seen yet, but I will have to try to get when I can. My dream is to someday have all the titles that I have on my list burned onto one DVD so I will have my own personal collection to watch. That also makes it easier than jumping between discs. I miss VHS. I used to make my own compilation tapes all the time. I’m not so tech savvy that I know how to do that with a DVD burner.

Q:  Speaking of DVDs, what’s on your must-watch list these days?

A: Hmm, well…Right now it’s THE SENTINEL (1977), POLTERGEIST (1982) and BURNT OFFERINGS (1976). I’m also in a KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER/DARK SHADOWS kind of mood.

Q:  I’m always in that mood.

A:  I also recently spent an evening watching THE NANNY (1965), TASTE OF FEAR (1961) and PARANOIC (1963). I’m looking forward to watching the recently released Icons of Suspense DVD, since I haven’t seen any of those films.  Oh, and since it’s summer I’ll be having my yearly viewing of WATERSHIP DOWN (1978) and THE PARENT TRAP (1961). Always in the summer.
Q:  I want to see all those Icons of Suspense movies too – especially CASH ON DEMAND (1961) with Peter Cushing- but Sony’s cover art is so abysmal.  They should have hired you to do the cover instead!

A:  Yeah, I’m not a big fan of that cover either. They had a voting for the cover, with three options. I liked the other two a lot better, but this choice won out. I think it makes it worse knowing what cover you could have had.

Q:  Well, thanks for talking with me today.  I’m so envious that you can share your love of monsters and spooky stuff in such a delightful way when I’m stuck writing a bunch of words that hardly anybody ever reads.  But I’ve been to the grave of Georges Méliès. Jealous?!

A:  Yes, I’m jealous!!

For a step-by-step tutorial on how Belle turns a pencil sketch into a finished work of art, click here.  You can see Belle’s art within the pages of the Hammer-centric magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors and glimpse even more cool stuff at her blog,  Doo Wacka Doodles!  But you had best put on your hipwaders… the awesome comes up over your knees over there!

21 Responses A Trip to the Moon with Belle Dee
Posted By Bob Gutowski : June 18, 2010 11:09 am

Holy mother of pearl! I’m a new fan of this talented woman’s work! Thanks, Richard!

Posted By Bob Gutowski : June 18, 2010 11:09 am

Holy mother of pearl! I’m a new fan of this talented woman’s work! Thanks, Richard!

Posted By Frank Dietz : June 18, 2010 12:32 pm

Belle is not only a spectacular talent, but a delightfully charming person as well. I have been a fan of her work for quite a while now, and I’m thrilled that she’s developing a fan base of her own. I recently brought her on board for a very cool project that we’ll be able to talk about soon. Way to go, Belle!

Posted By Frank Dietz : June 18, 2010 12:32 pm

Belle is not only a spectacular talent, but a delightfully charming person as well. I have been a fan of her work for quite a while now, and I’m thrilled that she’s developing a fan base of her own. I recently brought her on board for a very cool project that we’ll be able to talk about soon. Way to go, Belle!

Posted By Anonymous : June 18, 2010 12:50 pm

I’m in love. And probably old enough to be her pappy.

Posted By Anonymous : June 18, 2010 12:50 pm

I’m in love. And probably old enough to be her pappy.

Posted By Medusa : June 18, 2010 2:47 pm

Count me as another new fan, too! Wonderful stuff!!

Posted By Medusa : June 18, 2010 2:47 pm

Count me as another new fan, too! Wonderful stuff!!

Posted By Suzi : June 18, 2010 2:55 pm

The Frankenstein illustration rocks.

Posted By Suzi : June 18, 2010 2:55 pm

The Frankenstein illustration rocks.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : June 18, 2010 3:52 pm

Great stuff!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : June 18, 2010 3:52 pm

Great stuff!

Posted By Watching Hammer : June 18, 2010 8:54 pm

Great interview. Belle’s Hammer illustrations for the ‘Little Shoppe of Horrors’ journal are wonderful. She’s a real talent.

Posted By Watching Hammer : June 18, 2010 8:54 pm

Great interview. Belle’s Hammer illustrations for the ‘Little Shoppe of Horrors’ journal are wonderful. She’s a real talent.

Posted By Clay : June 18, 2010 10:05 pm

All you licensors, look at this artist’s work. Style. Color. Layout. Beautiful stuff. I can’t see why her stuff isn’t everywhere on t-shirts, greeting cards, and art prints?

Posted By Clay : June 18, 2010 10:05 pm

All you licensors, look at this artist’s work. Style. Color. Layout. Beautiful stuff. I can’t see why her stuff isn’t everywhere on t-shirts, greeting cards, and art prints?

Posted By Pat : June 19, 2010 10:34 am

Love Belle’s work, I found her art on the classic horror film board and I’m always looking out for her beautiful art.

Posted By Pat : June 19, 2010 10:34 am

Love Belle’s work, I found her art on the classic horror film board and I’m always looking out for her beautiful art.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 19, 2010 10:39 am

All you licensors, look at this artist’s work. Style. Color. Layout. Beautiful stuff. I can’t see why her stuff isn’t everywhere on t-shirts, greeting cards, and art prints?

How about a Saturday morning cartoon?!!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 19, 2010 10:39 am

All you licensors, look at this artist’s work. Style. Color. Layout. Beautiful stuff. I can’t see why her stuff isn’t everywhere on t-shirts, greeting cards, and art prints?

How about a Saturday morning cartoon?!!

Posted By Dan Burrello : March 14, 2017 7:30 pm

I adore this woman SO much. What a talent.

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