Thursday, August 27, 2009

The art that scared me just right, the second part.

Alrighty... everyone gather round the hearth, let me put up the lanterns a bit... there.
Everyone have a full glass? Oh alright, Fester, go refill! Always something with that guy.
Okay. Everyone ready now? Let's take a look at our first artist.

I thought I would go back to one of my earliest memories of being truly enthralled (and frightened!) by a great illustrator. It was in this book:

Just the image on the cover is intriguing, isn't it? The LIFE Treasury of American Folklore was one of those oft-read books in the incredible library at my Grandmother's house (yes, that one). When we were little kids, this book was indeed a treasure, and my first experiences with Pecos Bill, fur bearing trout, and gigantic blue oxen came from its pages.
And just about every one displayed the fine work of one James Lewicki (1917-1979).
Lewicki was a prolific artist for LIFE in the 50's and 60's. His work for LIFE's 'The World We Live In' (1952-'56) was roundly praised and influential in commercial illustration.
His work for this book (1960) is truly incredible.

The remains of Crow natives hang from the Skeleton Cliff of Montana.

Things are messy for Joe Hamelin & The Loup-Garou!

Another telling of the Ghostly Hitchhiker, The Girl In The Lavender Dress.

Early Native American lore tells of the role of the Water Spider in How Fire Came To Earth.

A vivid and nightmarish scene from Black Sam & The Haunted Treasure, a tale told by Washington Irving.

Detail from Black Sam & The Haunted Treasure.

I had to save the best for last, though... the story that most terrified us kids, the one most of us still talk about today, the picture that scared us so perfectly that we had to turn to it first, every time we dared take the book from the shelf, was
The story is that this poor fella unwittingly marries a witch who, while he is sleeping, spins her skin off to spend all night out doing witchy things. His suspicions are aroused, though, and one night he feigns sleep and while she is out, he fills her skin with salt and pepper. So when she tries to get back into her skin... yeah, it gets ugly.
Absolutely terrified us! And we begged for more!
I used to stare at it, stare at it, stare at it, trying to soak in every gory, creepy detail...
Just hideous!

James Lewicki's imaginative and vivid work in this classic book was one of my earliest inspirations to not only seek out frightening imagery but maybe try to make some myself.

Thank you, Mr. Lewicki. And you too, ye witchy boo-hag woman!



  1. Once again, I could write too much, and, frankly, this is your party. BUT, oh lordy, the witch picture just brought back so many memories- most of them terrifying.
    I'll be revisiting this page in the light of day.

  2. Write on. This is a pub. Speak freely.

  3. I have been looking for this photo for so long! I think my parents sold the book, but the images were so memorable. Especially the one about the witch at the spinning wheel. Blergh! :)

  4. Welcome Tara! I love when I finally discover (usually by accident after years of trying on purpose) a long-lost beloved thing of some kind -- book, toy, movie, song, whatever.
    I'm glad to be the source of one of those great moments of rediscovery for you! Hope you will come over to the S&P often!

  5. LOVED that book as a kid - I would just absorb those images. Thanks for this!

  6. You are very welcome, 'Anonymous'!

  7. I too have vivid memories of this picture - thank god for google and the internet or this would have remained a vague unfulfilled memory - I was just able to score a copy on Amazon - your site really helped me to know what to look for - Thanks!!

  8. Welcome Jeff! VERY glad to help you identify a childhood memory, especially such a worthy tome as this. Way to go on scoring your own copy. Treasure it!

  9. Mike C., I finally found this book on Amazon and just ordered it. I can NOT wait to get it in the mail. Thank you for this post!