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SYFY WIRE Universal Pictures

Universal and Tongal paying homage to classic monsters with 'Out of the Shadows' art initiative

By Josh Weiss
Frankenstein by Matt Taylor

Universal Pictures, home of the original cinematic monster-verse, is teaming up with creative-focused platform Tongal to harken back to its hair-raising roots with the newly-announced Out of the Shadows art initiative. The campaign kicks off with a first look at three pieces inspired by Dracula (Afua Richardson), Frankenstein (Matt Taylor), and The Wolfman (Yuko Shimizu) — a trio of golden age Universal Monster flicks that celebrate 80-90-year-old milestone anniversaries this year.

Officially running between Feb. 11 to March 4, the initiative seeks to find up-and-coming artists within the United States. Competing illustrators are tasked with crafting new characters based on a meaty roster of iconic creature features: Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Invisible Man.

“The artwork from Afua, Matt and Yuko — in addition to the Out of the Shadows initiative — spotlight artists who have a passion for creating memorable characters and artwork that inspire filmmakers and storytellers. We are seeking creatives who are drawn to the narrative that the Universal Monsters are the original outsiders, misfits, and misunderstood,” said Holly Goline, film executive in charge of Universal Monsters at Universal Pictures.

The winning artist will receive a grand prize of $10,000 and have their piece recognized by an all-star panel of judges that includes: Richardson, Taylor, Shimizu, Robert Kirkman, Andy and Bárbara Muschietti, Tristan Eaton, and Crash McCreery. Submission guidelines can be found here.

“I'm excited to be a part of the Out of the Shadows initiative and see the unique takes on The Wolfman, Frankenstein, and so many other iconic monsters,” said Kirkman. “Universal has put together a creative way for artists to showcase their own takes on these characters with such well known lore, and I can't wait to see what creators come up with.”

“Opening up the archetypal worlds inhabited by the Universal Monsters to our creator network sets the stage for magic to happen. This is the further democratization of storytelling and it empowers the next generation of talent and fans to help shape the next generation of Monsters,” added James DeJulio, Tongal Co-Founder and CEO.

Dracula Afua Richardson

"I've always seen a comparison between the Count and the gaslighting psychopath. They forfeit empathy, love, and self-sacrifice, surrendering to animalistic impulses using those around them as a resource to prolong their survival at the cost of everyone else's. Count Dracula also brings to mind those in my life who were hidden enemies. The way he can cunningly convince someone, even as their life force slips away, that where they want to be is in the confines of his beautiful prison — what a beautiful, terrifying, lonely beast. And yet, you'll always watch to see if there is a moment of reflection. Is there any humanity left in their veins? [Besides what they've pilfered out of someone's aorta] I wanted to try to expose the beast that lives in the immortal predator. Whenever I create a composition, I chart out the dimensions and midpoints thru grids and diagonals. Along the way, this blood-red V made its way into the work as I outlined where I wanted to put all my focus. I thought I'd keep it to add a modern effect to a classic monster."

Frankenstein Matt Taylor

"Frankenstein is a really special movie, and really not even a horror movie at all, but a warning on the consequences of playing God. The Creature has the mind of a newborn but is cursed with a body assembled in the form of a brute made from spare parts. I wanted the artwork to focus primarily on The Creature and his birth — the violence of his creation, with nods to all that happens after. I've looked at a lot of Frankenstein posters by some of the best artists in the game, and the image of The Creature being birthed by the lightning felt new to me. The skull, the grasping stitched hand and the medical illustrations were all meant to speak to the macabre patchwork nature of creation; the windmill is such an iconic image in all of film that was no way I could leave it out; the image of The Bride a nod to what awaits The Creature just down the line. And then in the background, the face The Creature itself, emerging from the chaos of the painting. I wanted him to have a somber expression — not aggressive or angry — The Creature isn't the villain or a monster in any real way, but hopelessly misunderstood and unaware of his own strength. This might be my favorite poster I've painted — a mix of classic elements and contemporary framing and type — it all came together better than I could have imagined."

The Wolfman Yuko Shimizu

"This idea came to me first. It was my first time watching the film, and there is this mystical Eastern European dark feel to it. So, I was envisioning old Northern European Renaissance print type of look, involving dark woods which much of the story takes place. Usually, coming up with ideas is the hardest, but this came pretty easy to me. The actual work took longer, to get that engraving feel, each line needed to be carefully drawn. It took quite a lot of time, but I am really happy with the result, and hope the viewers feel the same."

(SYFY WIRE and Universal Pictures are both owned by NBCUniversal)