PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Whenever I am asked who my favorite artists are, I frequently mention Ramsey Campbell. This is usually greeted with some surprise and often omitted entirely from my interviews. Why? Ramsey, England’s most respected horror writer, is not known at all as an artist. In the early 80’s Ramsey gave me two of his boyhood sketchbooks as a gift. A remarkably generous gift indeed! They are two of my most prized possessions and have been a source of inspiration to me for years. Often when my own imagination wanes I dip into these repositories of pure weirdness to recharge and refresh myself. I once showed these sketchbooks to a friend who astutely remarked, “You can always recognize the real thing the instant you see it, can’t you?”. Like the best primitive art, or art of the insane, Ramsey’s drawings resonate with authenticity. This is pure Outsider art and should not be judged by mainstream criteria. Drawn with fountain pen in blue and black inks the young artist draws confidently without the need of preliminary pencil sketches. The imagery is fanciful and morbid, transparency and movement are intuitively rendered, and a broad range of surreal effects are achieved with instinctive ease. Vividly violent and consistently dark, these images provide a window into the developing mind of a very unusual young man. They also reveal his early literary influences through an impressive series of illustrations. There are two books reproduced in their entirety here, one bound in sturdy red cloth, the other “Drawing Book,” a commercially produced sketchbook whose cover is an amusing contrast to it’s contents. The drawings in the red cloth book depict a clear progression in style that increases in strength page by page. One can’t help but wonder how Ramsey’s art would have evolved had he kept at it.
I hope you will enjoy these precocious images spawned from the uniquely deranged mind of one of the world’s great horror writers. –JK Potter