Pheonix-joker

Inside digital artist Schiani Ledo's pop culture hallucinations

Contributed by
Dec 2, 2018

You could be forgiven, looking at the neon illustrations of Schiani Ledo, for wondering if you ate a tab of acid earlier in the day. Ledo, who is entirely self-taught and works in both pen and ink and digital illustration, specializes in contemporary renderings of classic horror movie monsters and beloved children's characters, all of whom seem to live in the same hallucinatory, alternate dimension in his head.

Ledo's version of Mickey Mouse, aka Sticky Mouse, drips like he's made of black oil, and the teeth that make up the Disney's mascot iconic grin have been filed into points. Other figures from geeky pop culture grapple with modern technology in Ledo's art: Nosferatu scrolls on a smartphone in his casket, and Sasquatch meditates, listening to headphones plugged into a circuit board in his chest. Everything is instantly recognizable, yet Ledo makes his characteristic little changes to every design.

Crypt-Life

Comic book, horror movie, and animation characters might look delightfully creepy when Ledo draws them, but they're never menacing or foul. They appear to be the brightest, most colorful version of themselves. Even Ledo's Stan Lee is the platonic version of the late comic book creator. In November, Ledo rendered his hero digitally, posting to his Instagram, "Still a little deflated. Stan Lee is an inspiration on so many levels. Creative and business."

"I'm inspired by mid-century spot illustrations and design as well as vintage sci-fi, comics, surrealism, DIY art culture, and the textural wonders of degraded print. So whatever you call that," the 42-year-old artist explained to SYFY WIRE.

His portfolio is a kaleidoscope of geeky characters and invented figures, most often placed on a high-contrast backdrop, and he says he's inspired by "freaks of nature, space, and music." Some musical favorites include The Ramones and The Pixies, and when we asked who he'd take a long trip into deep space with, Ledo said, unsurprisingly, David Bowie.

Though he's not afraid to gently mock them, Ledo says he's a committed follower of blockbuster geeky movies and properties. "I think Disney is doing a great job with Marvel," he offers. "Star Wars not so much, although I'm always first in line at the premieres."

He also watches a lot of YouTube explainers on fan theories, enjoying the endless analysis of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, the Marvel cinematic universe, and even classics like The Shining. He says he's on board with anything "big, colorful, chaotic, and original," and, perhaps because he's a fan theorist himself, he enjoys when people explain to him what they see in his illustrations. "I love to hear their interpretation of some of my pieces," he says.

As for artistic influences, Ledo gushes over Stanley Kubrick's ouevre, as well as Jack Kirby's use of "dynamic, power, and energy." He also likes Moebius "for the detail, and sometimes economy of lines, Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns' use of inks and storytelling, Jamie Hewlett, whose "characters look effortless and fun, and Dave Cooper, "for his dreamlike/nightmarish textures." Looking over Ledo's body of work, it's easy to see where Kirby and Burns left their fingerprints.

Though Ledo wants to appear at more fan conventions to sell his art, he says he's kept to making sales at general art events and markets. During the day, he's an illustrator at an agency called High Force, where he's worked for over a decade. For those interested in a Ledo original, he sells prints and updates his Instagram frequently—or you could always approach him at a con and recount the backstory you came up with for Sticky Mouse. He will, at the very least, hear you out.

Make Your Inbox Important

Get our newsletter and you’ll be delivered the most interesting stories, videos and interviews weekly.

Sign-up breaker
Sign out: