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Haunting Concepts

Ben Olson shows you how to find inspiration, generate twisted ideas, and create disturbing creatures…

I have a friend who has a habit of falling down stairs. Somehow she always manages to get by with a few scrapes but she’s been lucky up to this point. I’m taking this opportunity to create a nasty stair monster to remind my friend to tread more carefully. Before I start sketching I prepare by coming up with a backstory, which will help generate ideas about the visual look of the creature.

So here’s the story. This is the ghost Stan Windsor. When he was alive he was an alcoholic hack of a pulp novel writer who lived in a run-down apartment building. Like my friend he tended to fall down the stairs a lot, only he was less lucky. His falls would often lead to fractures and concussions. Finally a fall killed him. Now he haunts the staircase where he died.

After developing this brief backstory I search for inspiration online. I look up reference for booze, antique typewriters and stairs. I find wonderful typewriter reference so I decide to use visual elements of typewriters in the creature’s face. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to give him a typewriter for a head, of course. I don’t even really want the typewriter symbolism to be obvious. Really it’s just a way to help me develop cool looking shapes that look mechanical and maybe old.

While all these details don’t clearly illustrate this creature’s history, they do hint at some sort of meaning and give the character some depth. Now I am ready to start sketching...

From issue 23.

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