Artwork

Behind the Graphite: Interview with Artist Tony Orcutt

It is a beautiful thing when a horror fan begins making artwork to celebrate their macabre passions. It’s even better when that fan discovers they are a pretty fantastic artist and decides to share their work with the world.

“The Shining” pencil drawing by Orcutt

 That’s the case with San Antonio, Texas based artist, Tony Orcutt. Tony is a self-taught artist who’s a master with graphite and charcoal and is bringing to life some of horror’s most iconic moment’s and characters.

Where are you based out of?

I am out of San Antonio, Texas but was born and raised in Houston, Texas.

When/how did you first get into drawing?

 

I started drawing and sketching when I was a kid, but after high school I quit drawing for a really long time. I never had enough reason in my opinion to think I was great at it. I do remember having an obsession with illustrator’s who could create a dreamlike realism to their work. I think Jumanji stood out in my mind as some of the best illustrations I ever saw as a kid which might even be subconsciously why I dig black and white so much lol. I know of a handful of times that I would sketch something I was looking at in a magazine where it really impressed people though, but it just never took hold. I used to doubt myself a lot and not just with drawing. It wasn’t until I got let go from my air conditioning warehouse job in November of 2013 that I started finding time to soul search and find out what I loved and wanted to to be doing. February of 2014 is when I stumbled back on drawing. I was just riding in the car with my ex girlfriend at the time, Becca while we went to her moms house and I started sketching to pass the time. The drawings weren’t even particularly that good but the more i got into the more it lit a fire inside of me. It clicked that it was coming really really easy to me and that I was really enjoying myself. After that night I tried my hand at a couple of portraits. First couple were of Seth Meyers and Kobe Bryant. Then when I did a drawing of Bane from Batman there was enough detail and realism to get my attention. Now all of those drawings were before I ever discovered charcoal pencils, but my Bane drawing had so much detail and looked so realistic compared to anything I had ever done that I decided I might be really onto something here. Drawing for me just took off after that day. I became obsessed and wanted to become the best artist I could possibly become. It was the biggest Eureka moment of my life!

I’ve read that you are a self-taught artist, can you tell me a little bit about how you got your skill to the level it is at now?

Art by JD Hillberry

That’s right I am self taught. I think I was turned off by the classroom environment for art back in middle school. I will say though that I get inspired by other artists. I began looking at other realism drawings and paintings online after I started to give myself an idea of where I stacked up to the competition. In the beginning it was very overwhelming but at the same time I saw soooo much room for me to improve because of it. I stumbled on one very talented artist that changed my ideas on drawing and I admired his work greatly. His name is JD Hillberry, and I would look up his videos and read his interviews and techniques on how he liked to use both the charcoal and graphite mediums in order to achieve a very real look and get rid of the graphite shine as he called it. The dark graphites give off a very distracting shine to them, so I decided by adopting charcoal pencils I could avoid that and still use graphite pencils to get some of the smoother tones and textures I wanted. It took me a few weeks of drawing for 5-10 hours a day before I really gained enough confidence to mix the two mediums. In fact the Joker drawing I did was more of an experiment at the time to get comfortable with it. Along the way I decided to make my own etsy shop, Facebook fan page, and to begin getting my stuff out there. Its been a unbelievably positive response I have received, but when you choose out of the blue to do something as bold as making drawing and art your main source of income alot of people look at you sideways. Even people very close to me were wondering if I had lost my mind and was about to make a mistake, but I had never believed in myself more than I did with this and I had so much conviction about it it just didnt matter to me what anybody else thought anymore. I have to put alot of work into it and even though I do very well in commissions now I struggled alot financially and still do from time to time, but I love what I do and I know there is a chance if I keep creating, that my work can be discovered and lead to bigger things in the future. Its something I refuse to give up on. I want to turn this into a business and build it from the ground up but you have to start somewhere. My biggest obstacle is getting out of my comfort zone and getting out to conventions, galleries, and fairs to get around people and exhibit my work. I still do almost all of my business online and have only done one comic convention so far. I have a lot of room to grow.

When did you decide to take your hobby and make it into a living?

It wasn’t very long following my time of trying to get comfortable with mixing charcoal and graphite that I did my Here’s Johnny Shining Drawing of Jack Nicholson that I use as my profile picture in Orcutt’s Art Room. That one flat out surprised me with how far I had come in such a short period of time. When I finished with that one, I made up my mind that this had to be my profession one way or another and I started thinking of every way possible and learning everything I could to make myself into the best artist and learn how to market myself at the same time. I am still learning a lot in that regard. Although this year I will be doing an art gallery for RAW artists in downtown San Antonio. I will also be a part of comic and horror conventions in the summer, have finally entered drawing contests this year, have sold my drawings in an art store, and was featured in a Canadian art magazine called Art Katalyst last year for my horror drawings. So I feel as though I am making strides everyday to make my dream come true.

What kind of tools do you use to create your work?

For the drawings I do I use graphite and charcoal pencils mainly. I additionally use blending stumps and tortillans to get very subtle transitioning in my values and shading. I find that kneaded erasers and gum erasers create the best highlight effects. I am still always playing with new ideas for the mediums I can use. Prismacolors and Oil paints are on my list to get into down the road, but I am having too much fun mastering charcoal for now.

What is your process for creating a new piece?

Whenever I decide to do a new piece or get a new order from a customer, I used to just sit down and try and draw it all in one sitting. Lol wasn’t really the best way for me to be doing it because I would become so lost in what I was doing that I would spend all day long drawing and would even forget to eat at times. Not very healthy. So what I started doing now is I try to work in 2 or 3 hours on and then take a couple hours off and then go back to drawing once I have relaxed some. Its been much better for me that way and still very productive. Much of the planning of the scale, proportion, and placement of my drawings goes into the beginning. Sometimes when I want to still get into my 4-10 hour drawing spells I put on film scores and that music helps settle my mind down enough to get into my zone.

Do you have a particular routine leading up to your drawing time?

My routine before I begin drawing just usually involves me cleaning up my work space and getting the proper lighting. Which now I have bought an LED desk lamp for that which has worked very nicely. Honestly I’ve never given much thought to my pre drawing routine, but now that you bring it up I should lol.

You have some stunning pieces in your collection, what is your favorite piece and why?

“Poltergeist” by Orcutt

Out of all the drawings I have done I have 3 that really stand apart from the rest in my mind. Poltergeist, Michael Myers over the stairs, and the Shining. Poltergeist probably most of all though because of how much work went into the detail and texture I was able to create. I love the expression on her face and the action of her hair flying. The bed frame on that one took well over 10 hours alone. The Michael Myers is a close 2nd because it gives off an old Roman style of paintings look to it and looks like he’s etched out of stone in some nightmare. The way I got the lighting to come out in it I was extremely happy with it because I felt that was probably the best I had ever done at creating a sense of depth. The Shining I think surprised me the most. Its one of my earliest drawings, but it really had that wow factor I want to create with my art.

I was being a total creep on your Orcutt’s Pencil Drawings page and found a picture of your horror artwork with a place of honor above your bed. would it be safe to say that you are a horror fan?

“Micheal over the Stairs” by Orcutt

Lol oh yes I am very much so a fan of the horror genre. I probably don’t know as much trivia as some, but I could sit and watch horror movies just about all the time. My favorites are the original Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Usually the psycho serial killer horror movies reel me in. My favorite holiday is Halloween by a landslide for my love of horror movies, the fall weather, and candy I binge on lol. There is something about the dark and sinister vibes of horror movies that I find aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

What about horror do you find so inspiring?

It lends itself to my style perfectly. I feel as though I understand lighting better than most and when you can convey that in horror drawings it can give it a much creepier and eerie feel to it. Even evoke fear out of some people. I love that. I remember as a kid I used to love RL Stine books and would sit around trying to write up horror stories of my own. I find the imagery of horror to be extremely powerful and seductive and it can give off some of the best shock factor when people first walk up on it.

What was the first piece of horror material that made a lasting impression on you?

I would have to say its between Are you Afraid of the Dark that used to be on SNICK as they called it and reading Goosebumps. I was a sucker for both of those. Tales from the Crypt and the Halloween movies also were some of my earliest memories of horror and just stuck with me. Its like that fear can be fun if you can master it and embrace it. I hope to do alot more of the horror art in the future, as well as other fan art, basketball drawings, maybe a little bit of erotic female drawings, and some of my own concepts as well. I feel as though all of those would be great subject matter and would look tremendous given my style.

Tony, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us over here on Horror Made, and I hope that the world of horror continues to embrace your art like vampires embrace the night.


If any of you lovely readers would be interested in purchasing some of Tony’s work you can do so by visiting his Etsy Store and after that you should pop on over to FaceBook and give his Orcutt’s Pencil Drawings page a like.

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