Swedish illustrator Kilian Eng is one of the finest world builders working — his vision of science-fiction is both hopeful and frightening. A fully realized fiction. His imagined world of organic alien worlds is a gorgeous exploration of darkness, of space — of the cosmos.
Eng has rarely left the genre of science-fiction but with this collaboration with Grey Matter Art for his take on ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ Eng takes his imagination into new ground — the midnight black of classic horror.
Eng has always been able to imbue his work with great mood, and here he focuses on the ominous, the impending terror and doom of Romero’s classic film. There are hints of Eng’s characteristic paint work, but he’s also used the opportunity to push himself and keep the inspired design connected to the reality of the film.
I reached out to Kilian to chat about working in a new genre and his approach to the design of this print and he was kind enough to agree.
ETDC: The Grey Matter Art release of your ‘Night of the Living Dead’ print was quite a surprise. A pleasant one of course, but I’d never seen you tackle a horror film before. How familiar were you with the film when you took on the task?
KE: Yes, I was really happy for the opportunity to work with this film, it’s the first movie print I have done in the genre.
I was definitely familiar with it even though it has been some years since I saw it before the commission. When I watched it again before starting to work I remembered a lot and also realized that I had mixed it up with some other horror movies. Since ‘Night of the Living Dead’ sort of started the zombie genre it’s obvious how much it has inspired others work.
For someone who has a created such a richly individualistic science-fiction world, what was your approach to this new genre of horror? Was this a new ground you were looking to take on?
In a way it felt like something new but you can always find an approach that includes things you enjoy working with. For me the atmosphere is important and also to include environment. This film presents both in a great way.
To step into the horror film genre doesn’t feel like a huge step, and I often like to work with quite dark themes so this image came along quite natural.
This print contains a few firsts for you – next to your first horror design it’s also your first print to be released with a black and white edition. I’ve seen you do sketches in color, but not a lot of black and white work of yours has been seen outside of your roughs for your ‘Silver Surfer’ print for Mondo.
Did you start with the black and white version first, or was that an afterthought? At what step in the process did you decide to create the variant as a black and white print?
I do some black and white work from time to time but this was the first screen print that is like that. It felt natural to have a black and white version since that’s a proper presentation of the film.
I think it’s a great strength in it. It was a bit of an after construction thought, the first version was with the blue tones. Then I decided together with Mike from Grey Matter Art to try the black and white and we both liked the look of it. We also tried some red and orange versions but that didn’t look good at all.
One of the common elements in your work is your imaginative treatment of the organic shapes of trees and other structures. Here, you’ve rendered a realistic environment – the house and the forest are from the film but you still managed to get a distinctly ‘Kilian Eng’ like bush in the left of the foreground. Was it difficult to keep the design grounded in the reality of the film?
Haha, great that you noticed the characteristic bush. I actually had an early version with more organic shapes, drawn more like that, but after a while I realized that the print would benefit from a slightly more realistic touch and I think it turned out quite nice.
It’s almost like the trees are searching for the people inside the farmhouse with their twisted branches. They become a quite important element in the design.
‘Night of the Living Dead’ is full of iconic images – it is one of the finest and most well-regarded zombie film ever made. How many sketches and ideas did you have to go through until you found a moment in the film you wanted to go with?
I worked out three different sketches and showed Grey Matter Art. I knew quite quickly that I wanted to work with the farmhouse in some way.
It came quite natural to include a lot of the surroundings, as that’s something I often like to do. Two of the sketches had an approach with this in mind and the third was from the graveyard in the beginning, a fantastic part of the film that would have been great to visualize as well.
Any plans for more horror themed work? Any other genres you’re wanting to take on?
Yes, I absolutely love the genre. I’m a big Dario Argento fan, so hopefully something shows up for that or some other project. We’ll see what happens.
I would never limit myself to just one or two genres if the right subjects shows up.
‘Night of the Living Dead’ Regular by Kilian Eng
36″ x 24″ 7 Color Screen Print
Limited Edition of 250
‘Night of the Living Dead’ Variant by Kilian Eng
36″ x 24″ 6 Color Screen Print
Limited Edition of 150
Kilian Eng’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ goes on sale July 15th 1PM / 2PM EST through Grey Matter Art HERE.