Meet the artist
Horror meets pen and ink through illustrator Craig Horky

Craig Horky, 37, is a workaholic, but that’s because he loves what he does and he’s driven to get better at it.

“Art is a skill and not a talent. If you spend five or six hours a day doing anything, you’re going to eventually get better at that craft, and I just draw,” Horky said. “I go to work, I come home and I draw.

That’s how I think of it.”

For Horky, it was a passion that started in childhood.

“I guess I’ve always been drawing,” Horky said. “Most kids, they draw when they’re young, and some people stop, and I never stopped.”

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh grad’s work can be described as face-heavy and bold-lined, with an affinity for multiple eyes and double heads that resemble the Roman god Janus.

“When you’re an artist, you’re not constrained to reality, so why not mess with it a little bit? Why not have some fun with changing things up,” Horky said. “Also, when you get right down to it, art is just about aesthetics. I think it looks cool. No deep, real meaning.”

Fair enough. Horky attributes his unique style to his screen printing and tattooing background.

“I kind of lucked into it. A lot of people, when they want to get into that, they have to seek out an apprenticeship,” Horky said. “The guy who had done the majority of my tattoos had become a friend of mine, and he was familiar with my artwork.”

That friendship led to an impromptu apprenticeship that set Horky on the path to become a tattoo artist — even though Horky was already a full-time graphic designer, a freelancer and illustrator.

“I was working 100 hours a week, and that’s not a very sustainable lifestyle. After a few years of that, it got to the point where something had to give, and tattooing made the most sense to give up,” Horky said. “It’s probably been six years since I’ve picked up a tattoo machine.”

But for Horky, the diversion that tattoo artistry became was certainly a helpful one.

“I’ve learned new techniques, and it was an invaluable experience all around,” Horky said. “Even before I went into tattooing, the work I was doing made sense to be turned into a tattoo because of the way that I tackled things from a screen-printing standpoint.”

Today, Horky is using his time to channel another one of his passions: horror.

“I’ve always loved horror movies since I was a little kid. I think the first movie I saw was ‘Halloween’ or ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’” Horky said. “I’ve always loved those movies and the aesthetics involved with it. The spooky side of pop culture.”

Recently, Horky coupled this with his Catholic upbringing to create something that mashed the two together.

“I decided to combine horror movies with classic orthodox iconography to put a twist on it,” Horky said. “I looked at old illustrations of saints and thinking, ‘How can I make this slightly more blasphemous?’” The results are saints like Leatherface, Elvira, Dracula, Krueger, Pinhead and what graces the cover today: the “Virgin Bride of Frankenstein.” The image is a play on classic religious imagery of Mary and the infant Jesus.

You might have come across Horky’s other work if you’ve seen promotional content for local bands and movie screenings.

“I work pretty closely with the people in charge of the Meanwhile film series in Grand Rapids, and they screen a lot of movies. I’ve done a lot of promotional posters for that like “Never-ending Story” and “Gremlins” and things like that,” Horky said. “I think the most recent one I did was “Escape from New York.” I’ve worked with studios and done official licensed posters, too.”

For any burgeoning artists looking to break into the world of illustration or graphic design, he gives this piece of advice: keep at it.

“It’s mostly just trial and error,” Horky said. “That’s pretty much how I learn everything.”