Monday, December 21, 2009


I've finally finished laying out the first volume of Frankenstein into small thumbnail sketches. This helps me with page compositions so I don't approach a page completely blind. They are simple and rough, but a very important stage in the planning process. It looks like volume 1 will have 70 pages to it. If the other two volumes are similar in length, it looks as though the book will have roughly 200 pages of illustrations. I think I have my work cut out for me.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Monday, December 14, 2009


I just completed a pretty simplistic illustration that will be used as a page to mark VOLUME 1 in the Frankenstein book. But despite it's simplicity, I look at this image and see this sole icon representing the overall tone of the book. The dark dingy background, the harsh black strokes of the title, the vibrant punk colors reminiscent of films like Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead and the cartoonish skeletal hand; All of these elements are twisted and assembled together to create the creature that is...Gris Grimly's Frankenstein.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


One of the exciting elements to the Frankenstein book I'm working on is the multiple styles that will emit from page to page. The book will comprise of full aged letters, maps, vignettes and sequential illustrations. Some pages will be fully colored and detailed with ink lines while others will be rendered in black and white. Here is an example of a dream sequence Victor has after he brings his creation to life. I chose to depict this scene in saturated washes (almost black and white) with no inking. This gives the page an airy almost smokey feel like a memory that could be wisped away.

Here is the text from the original manuscript that will be conveyed solely pictorial in my illustrated version:

"I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her; but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel."

Hope you enjoyed. There is more to come.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I've been a bit scatter brained in my execution of the Frankenstein book. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just means that I haven't been focusing on one task and carrying it through. In a way, this keeps me sane. The biggest satisfaction that comes from working on a book is seeing the completion of an illustration. Working on planning, thumbnails and sketches for weeks can be really draining. So instead, I've been running back and forth from doing thumbnail sketches to working on maps and letterheads to completing full page illustrations.

As a kid, I always liked books with maps in them. Here is one such map to be used in my Frankenstein book for future children to admire.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Saturday, November 28, 2009


It's been a slower start than usual getting Frankenstein put together. One of these reasons is that I have been playing around with technique. I thought it might be interesting to do all the illustrations for the book on dark paper. The papers would range from shades of brown, gray and black. Rather than adding darkness to the paper, the technique would rely on adding the highlights (bringing light out of the darkness). My theory was that it would give the illustrations a darker and grittier feel.

In exercising this test, I came to the conclusion that I prefer my original technique of painting darker colors onto white paper. Although the illustration on the dark brown paper has a darker tone, the technique displays a lack of grit and actually looks more modeled and slick, yet uncontrolled. I was frustrated with the difficulty it was translating the image in my head onto the paper using this technique. Accurate shapes and style are much easier to accomplish when working from white paper.

So there you have it. Two different approaches to the same illustration are displayed side by side so you can see their differences. I have decided to continue with my signature style, like the one on the left.

More to come soon.
Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Maybe it's just a bony finger twitch or the flutter of the eyelid, but my creation is starting to show signs of life. I have finished the first painting for the book. This painting will accompany a quote from "Paradise Lost" in the front. It is a little more abstract than the other paintings for the book. But I felt that it is fitting for the purpose. Here is the quote:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?-

Paradise Lost

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I know this quote hits a personal chord with me. Maybe not so much now, but at least in my angsty years of youth I've felt animosity for being brought into this world.

Earlier today I spoke on the phone with my editor, Jordan. We went through all the omissions and notes from the first volume of Frankenstein (there are 3 volumes to the book). All the abridgments have been made and approved to the first volume. I have decided rather than go through and complete the last two volumes, to proceed with thumbnails and paintings on this volume. Getting my hands bloody will help keep me sane.

So you can all expect posts from here on out to be exhilarating.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Sunday, November 8, 2009


It's been a long and busy Halloween Season. Starting with the final days of September, I've found myself wrapped up in my new book release and other festive happenings that required my involvement. I've done a number of signings to promote my latest book, Tales of Death and Dementia, a heavily illustrated collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories. Along with my California signings, I traveled to Richmond Virginia for the east coast book launch at the Poe Museum. I also traveled to Baltimore for the bi-centennial celebration of Poe in conjunction with the Poe House there. I also hosted a multi-talent entertainment show at the Magic Castle during the three days of Halloween weekend called Cabaret Macabre. These events will be documented and posted on my Gris Grimly Blog.

Now all of that is behind me and I can again indulge in the Frankenstein project. Obviously, I wasn't posting anything on Frankenstein over the past month and a half because there has been no progress. But now that my elbows are deep into the rotting flesh again, I will be back to posting weekly or more.

In late September, I received an email from the editor Jordan Brown. Attached with the email was his notes on my abridgment of the text. In a way to help you feel more a part of the project, I will explain our work process with this stage. I took a word document and highlighted in red all the text I thought should be cut and sent it to Jordan. He then sent it back with his notes. The parts that we agree on remains in red. Then he highlighted in blue additional text he thought should be cut and highlighted in purple the text he thought I cut that should remain in the book.

Are you following me so far? Good.

Now the manuscript is back in my hands and I have to go over his suggestions and make the changes that I agree with. I will also highlight in green any additional text that I think the both of us missed. This should take me a few days and then I will send it back.

This is not the most thrilling part of the project by any means. But it is the foundation which will support the stylized-Gothic cathedral I plan to design and build on top. So it is one of the most important stages.

More to come...

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm not sure how much personal information I should expose on this blog. Sometimes I feel like holding back and censoring my stream of consciousness. Sometimes I feel there should be a net holding back my personal thoughts, feelings and experiences; Allowing only information and statistics to post. But then what is the point of me writing this blog. If it is only a tool to pass on surface information about my progress with Frankenstein, I could get an intern to fulfill that workload. I feel that the reason you all keep checking in is because you want to know what lurks behind the bed curtain, even if it is something wretched.

Well, last night I was feeling wretched. I think for the most part, I am an even-keeled cat. But often I get into a slump. Sometimes I get downright depressed. I'm not telling you this for sympathy, but to give you a little foresight. For the last week, I've been struggling along with what I think is the most complex stage of illustrating a book: layout and page breakdowns. Last night, I was feeling the blues, trying to work out some sketches and layouts that just weren't coming together. When I go through these periods of struggle, I begin to have self doubts and emotionally beat the crypt out of me. Sometimes this goes on for days, but sometimes something good comes out of it.

I stepped away from my problems and worked on a little sketch of Victor Frankenstein of which I am fond of. Focusing on portraying this character as a much darker character than I have seen before, hellbound and knee deep into alchemy, mysticism and the dark arts. Again, his look here may not jive with a few of you who are expecting the traditional Gothic interpretation of this tragic character. But I'm not telling that version of Frankenstein. This is something new...possibly even darker.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Saturday, August 22, 2009


As promised, here are some pages of preliminary sketches and page breakdowns. It looks a little chaotic here, but rest assured, there is structure in my madness.

This is my typical approach to illustrating a book. Although, I would have to say that this book has proven to be more problematic than any other I've worked on. You can see the page breakdowns and occasional paragraph breakdowns. In relation to the page breakdowns, you will find little thumbnail pages which show a rough idea of the layout of each page. The little sketches made among the text are imagery that came to me while reading.

I don't know if it is all too exciting. But it is yet another step in my process of illustrating Frankenstein. Therefore, I figured there are a few of you out there interested in seeing it.

More to the not so distant future.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Monday, August 17, 2009


Here is my most recent sketch of Frankenstein's monster. Although much more detailed and in color, it hasn't deviated much from the last pencil sketch.

I appreciate everyone's comments on this blog, twitter and facebook. I'm a very opinionated individual; If I feel strongly about the direction I choose, I wont budge. But I'm still curious to hear what people think. I understand that the story of Frankenstein is held sacred by many fans of the book. I'm not going to be able to please everyone. I may even upset some of you with how I choose to interpret this cherished classic. All I can do is trust my gut and follow through.

As I've mentioned before, this version of Frankenstein will be unlike any other. Although, I will be using the same text from Mary Shelley (yet abridged), the world in which I will create around it will be completely re-imagined. The description of the monster is so vague, and our idea of the traditional look comes mainly from the James Whale interpretation in the Universal films. There is nothing in the book that describes the monster being boxy, broad shouldered, flat headed, green...etc. It does mention the monster to be "gigantic stature" which is open to interpretation. That doesn't necessarily mean he's pumped up on protein shakes.

I want to recreate the image of the monster, yet be faithful to the text. "Gigantic stature" brought to mind the elephant man or the physical structure of the deceased actor Matthew McGrory. Anyone who has ever seen Matthew in person, would most likely describe him as "giant in stature" despite the lack of muscle tone. This is the direction that I took in depicting Frankenstein's monster.

I can't find the purpose of illustrating Frankenstein, just to do it the way it has been done before. I can't even compete with Bernie Wrightson's gorgeous-gothic-detailed interpretation. This is Gris Grimly's Frankenstein. Wipe your mind clean of your expectations and be prepared to open your eyes to a new, yet familiar, story.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Just a couple of days ago, I completed reading and abridging the story of Frankenstein. I've taken many notes (yet have many notes to take in the near future). Sunday night I met with the editor of this insane project and expressed my thoughts and ideas to him over a Mexican dinner and margaritas. He is as ecstatic as I am.

I can't begin to describe how thrilled I am to be illustrating a tale that has felt so dear to my heart as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I will be writing a forward to the book which will express these emotions. Of course, for all of you who are following along, you will read it first on this blog. I have asked Bernie Wrightson (the award-winning illustrator who has already illustrated a version of Frankenstein that is breathtaking) if he would write an introduction for the book. Not only has he agreed, but he wants to be involved in my creative process along the way.

Now that the "studying" stage of the book is behind me, I will be sketching much more. This means that I will be posting much more on this blog. The design of the monster is coming along. I've become really influenced by the anatomy of the Elephant Man for the appearance of the monster. As soon as I incorporated this twisted structure to my creation, I stepped back with a sinister grin and whispered, "This is it."

I hope you enjoy.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Around six to ten days of reading Frankenstein and I’m only on chapter II (meaning I’ve tackled a mere 20 pages). Why is this?

In keeping you informed on my progress in adapting this 1818 version of the classic gothic tale, I thought it appropriate to be thorough in all aspects.

As I said in my first post, there is more preparation to illustrating a masterpiece like Frankenstein than just reading the manuscript from preface to Fin. Not only am I illustrating, but I am also abridging the work of literature as well. I’m finding this more daunting than earlier abridgements I worked on like the Edgar Allen Poe series and Sleepy Hollow. This could be that I feel the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is more refined and intact than the ramblings of Poe and Irving (no disrespect to either of those authors mind you), and it is much more difficult to narrow down what words, dialogue and paragraphs can be omitted.

I have three variations of Frankenstein at my desk. One is the 1818 version of the story printed out from my computer. I believe it is somewhere in the vicinity of 160 pages or so. This is my primary copy. As I read it, I scratch out with a highlighter any of the text I feel could be absent and still tell the story. Each paragraph is read a minimum of three times. Some single lines are read over and over and over until I can figure a way to subtract words and use the existing words to speak for themselves. This version will also be a journal for notes, sketches and doodles penciled among the noir landscape of paragraphs. I will have to expose a few of these pages to you down the road.

A second copy is actually in book format. This is hardly used in hopes that the print out I have is, in fact, the actually unflawed text from the book. But it is good to have the book by my side if I need to reference page numbers or get a sense of book length.

A third copy is the version that all the underachievers read for class when they are told they HAVE TO read Frankenstein. It is a digest thin (57 pages) study guide. This critical analysis of the book is read side by side with the manuscript. This helps me evaluate the story in depth; from the messages and themes of each chapter to 19th century analogies that may not be obvious in today’s society.

With this knowledge I can feel more confident with my dissection of the manuscript to bring you the very best abridgement and give life to a new monster: GRIS GRIMLY’S ILLUSTRATED FRANKENSTEIN.

Now, onto Chapter II.

Until next time…
Be Grim!
Gris Grimly

Sunday, July 5, 2009


…Is there any better title for the first entry to a blog dedicated to the creation and process of my next book FRANKENSTEIN? Maybe there is, because I have only just begun to gather up “raw materials” to assemble and bring to life my own creation. It is many months from completion. But being a huge fan of the original Universal film, there is no line more memorable than Colin Clive rambling like a madman…”Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!”

My goal with this bog is to keep you updated weekly (if not more) on the progress of the book. I will be exposing ideas, conversations with the editor Jordan Brown, leaking sketches and premiering a few final pages from the book. I would even like to create a couple sped up video clips revealing my process in creating a page.

Currently, I am reading the story. I have decided to work from the original 1818 version opposed to the version made popular in 1831. Not only is it rarely published anymore; it is also the more raw version of the two. Much like when a band does a rough recording of a song. It may have some imperfections but it has soul. Usually then, a producer comes in and adds the bells and whistles and the song is recorded over and over and over. It may be tighter and polished, but it looses something. This early 1818 version feels like that raw punk version (untainted and untouched). It is like discovering a lost manuscript. There are a few other differences. The 1818 version is absent of Mary Shelley’s introduction, which exposes how she came to write the story. I want to make this version my own: take away the story of a story of a story, and just tell THE STORY. There are also a few additions that change the theme of the story. In the 1818 version, Victor loses control of the monster due to his own arrogance and neglect. In the 1831 version, he is made to be more of a victim of fate and therefore holds no responsibility to the outcome. Being a huge fan of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter and parodying this theme myself in the Wicked Nursery Rhymes series, I of course am more attracted to the concept of individual consequence.

Unfortunately, there will be very little artwork posted at first. I have much work to do in reading, abridging and note taking. It’s not like I can just read the story and begin working. There is an extensive study to be undertaken. The story will be read and reread. Omissions will have to be made to accommodate the copious amount of artwork this book demands. Until I can start posting more imagery, here is a preliminary sketch of the Monster to calm the craving of your frothing maws:

Until next time…
Be Grim!
Gris Grimly