Not just for the Halloween season, Chad Wehrle has been creating dark and mischievous artwork drawing on elements of sci-fi, horror and even children’s stories. Born and raised in a small town in Ohio, his constant sketching soon made it clear that Chad wasn’t planning on following in his father’s footsteps as a farmer; With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts and experience as a Digital Art major, Chad has continued to progress, experimenting with a variety of mediums and genres along the way. His heart, however, continues to come back to a darker world…From playfully impish caricatures to raw, faceless emotions, Chad’s work has been gathering quite a following over the past few years – we reckon his artwork for sale will cause quite a buzz in the run up to All Hallows Eve! beautiful.bizarre’s Distribution Manager Natalia Fedoruk got in touch with Chad to find out more about the man behind the art:
Natalia: Hi Chad! Thanks for taking the time to speak. So, to start from the beginning – how did you get into art?
Chad: I’m not 100% sure, but I want to say it was with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I can remember back to a time in middle school when all I would do in class was draw Ninja Turtles. I would draw them all over my notebooks, the inside of my desk, and even on my limbs. After a while my fellow classmates started to request drawings of the four mutated brothers. I spent a lot of the time reserved for doing homework fulfilling custom TMNT orders. Thinking back, I guess I had this underground Ninja Turtle racket going on. From there, I took every art class I could get my hands on throughout high school, college, and after. Side note: Donatello is my favorite.
Natalia: Did you find your experiences growing up on a farm altered your developing creativity in any way?
Chad: I definitely think so. While I don’t exactly draw cows or cornstalks on a regular basis, I do sneak a decent amount of outdoors (overcast clouds, leafless trees, and blowing fields of grass) into my pieces. Growing up on the farm I was constantly outside, whether it be playing some game we made up or helping my dad with chores. I think that contributed to some of my focus on drawing more “organic-looking” creatures. That being said, my dad “the farmer” probably had the single biggest impact on my work. During the down times of farming, he and I watched almost all of the horror movies from the 80s and 90s. He would take me to the movie rental store in the closest town to us and I would pick out one scary movie based solely on the cover art. I think my love for the dark, creepy, and sometimes cheesy all stems from those late nights of watching the entire Puppet Master series for the third time.
Natalia: Well I can certainly see the links there! Looking at your work, even your darker images sometimes have an impish, playful edge…
Chad: I think that comes from my love for 80s and 90s horror movies. While all of those movies were intended to be scary, a lot of them turned out to be cheesy at the same time. Yet, I loved that about the genre! For me, “the campier the better” when it comes to horror. I want to bring that same level of enjoyment to my pieces. I love the idea of people being creeped out by my work but at the same time seeing something innocent in them that makes it difficult to look away.
Natalia: You have mentioned on your website that your work is a chance to empty your head, acting as a ‘kind of therapy session’. Has art always been this outlet for you? Do you find a part of yourself leaking into every piece you create?
Chad: Absolutely. I’m not sure there is a better feeling than getting lost in a piece. For me, it is the final stages of a work that really sets me free. I love adding the fine details, the grit or that last little smudge. Oddly enough, my pencil actually starts to pick up speed as I approach the end and my movements become almost chaotic. Sure, I’ve messed up several pieces in those last moments but I also think that is when you truly “empty” yourself onto the paper…when you are not even aware that you are.
Natalia: It’s interesting the way a lot of your artworks feel as if your characters have appeared to have their portrait taken…is there a reason this style is so predominant?
Chad: I have been interested in antique photography for quite some time now and have been slowly building my own collection of tintypes (or ferrotypes) from the early 20th century. I find that each photograph is a piece of artwork that tells the story of people whose names have been lost to the passing of time. From the harsh characteristics found in their faces to the simple stages constructed around them, I find each person to be unique in their own way. I try to bring that same level of individuality to the creatures I draw. I want each of them to have their own personality and backstory told through the same subtle nuances found in those old photographs.
Natalia: Well while we’re on the topic of people lost to the passing of time – skulls, so many skulls! What do you think is behind the human fascination with them?
Chad: Because they look awesome! Nothing accents a piece better than a good-looking skull. At least, that’s how I feel. But to answer a bit more, I think society’s recent love for all things skulls (toys, candy, tattoos, actual skulls, etc.) is our attempt to give Death a little bit of a middle finger. A way to joke about such a terrifying and definite life event. Our demise is something that we all will experience some day; yet, no one knows what exactly will happen when that day comes. That can be a terrifying thought. So I think walking down the street with a bedazzled skull sweater on might be our way of lightening the mood on the subject…even if it is just by a little bit.
Natalia: So you think we can take positive things from the worlds of horror and darkness?
Chad: I think horror and darkness provide everyone with an opportunity to experience certain emotions that are absent in our daily routine-driven lives. For example: watching a scary movie in pitch-black movie theater or taking part in a paranormal investigation in an old abandoned school house. These scenarios give us a chance to feel that “rush”…that flush of endorphins that kick starts our survival instincts and shoves us out of our comfort zone. It such a raw emotion that it almost leaves you drained/cleansed after it is over. So basically, from time to time I think it is a great idea to have the shit scared out of you! Reboot your system if you will.
Natalia: Art can be so much easier to create when we are filled with raw emotions, but how do you personally overcome ‘artist’s block’?
Chad: A lot of times I will go antiquing in search of tintypes. They are becoming harder and harder to find these days, but I think that is part of the thrill. I like to carry a small magnifying glass with me while I’m on the hunt, that way I can take a closer look at the piece before I decide to purchase it. If the tintype makes the cut I bring it home, scan it at a really high resolution, and make adjustments in Photoshop to bring out all the little secrets that could be hiding. It is amazing what tiny little details I have discovered over the years. The whole process is a lot of fun and creatively rewarding at the same time.
Natalia: Out of all the mediums you use, what would you say is your favourite?
Chad: Graphite. I have tried lots of different mediums but I always end up going back to graphite. I guess it feels like an old friend that you can pick up right where you left off. I know it is more of a “sketching/preparation” medium, but I really enjoy learning new ways to control it and push the bounds of what it can do. Recently, I have been creating a majority of my pieces with just a mechanical pencil, blender, and kneaded eraser. It has been fun and a rewarding challenge.
Natalia: So where do you find inspiration?
Chad: Stephen Gammell and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I carry those books with me at all times. I even have extra copies stored away for when this set falls apart. I remembered reading through them as a child and being absolutely mesmerized (and terrified) by the illustrations. Hell…I still am. Gammell’s ability to create such unsettling yet playful imagery is truly inspiring. Each little illustration was such a scary story unto itself that I’m not entirely sure you needed the text. No offense to Mr. Schwartz and his fantastic writing.
Natalia: It’s nice to see that your childhood influences are still so predominant. Talking of which, the Halloween season is upon us! Are you up to anything special?
Chad: Every year my old college roommate and I decorate his suburban home for Halloween. There is a different theme each year along with a fully detailed map to help us coordinate our attack on the innocent trick or treaters. We’ve chosen a Dark Carnival as this year’s theme. The set pieces are small and the budget is limited, but we really try to be as unique and unsettling as possible. I just finished placing an order for 150 custom black balloons with creepy skulls printed on them. They should be a lot of fun to pass out to the kids while blood trickles out of the corner of our mouths. The whole neighborhood looks forward to us setting up each year and you could say that his house has become “that house” on the street to visit for a good fright.
Natalia: That sounds fantastic! To be honest I’d expect nothing less…So lastly, do you have any exhibitions or events coming up?
Chad: Nothing scheduled at the moment. Other than my planned Halloween festivities and participating in the annual drawing challenge Drawlloween. This is only my second year taking part in this Instagram driven event but I find it to be a lot of fun. I love to see what the rest of the community creates with the daily Halloween themed word.