Toren G. Atkinson is something of a Mythos "Renaissance Man": artist, musician, promoter and editor, he is also one funny guy to talk to. He is the singer in the Mythos rock band, THE DARKEST OF THE HILLSIDE THICKETS. His artwork has a realism and edge to it which has made him one of the most sought after illustrators by game manufacturers.
Toren G. Atkinson was born in 1970 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he kids, "I spent the first two and a half years of my life absorbing the cold. Then I moved to Calgary, where I was further subjected to the wrath of Ithaqua for another eight years." Like many people from the Canadian Prairies, his family migrated west to British Columbia, specifically Chilliwack, BC "where I failed to fit in at high school and college and all that." Eventually Toren ended up in the "Big City" of Vancouver, where he lives to this day.
Toren has been drawing monsters since he could hold a crayon. "I was big into dinosaurs when I was younger (big surprise) and eventually got into comics, so I was drawing monsters and super heroes," he admits, "and still am."
After moving to Chilliwack, he reports, "I went to a high school that had a very good art program: sculpture, photography, graphic arts, the whole shebang. The teachers there were very encouraging, and their easy-going, hippy ways kept me from killing myself and everyone around me through that torrid period of my life! I did take two years of art in a local college, but I don't think it offered me much more than my kickass high school courses, and I became so disillusioned with the education system at that point that I decided to blow it all off." More recently he has looked again at formal training. "I have been considering taking a couple of courses at Emily Carr Institute here in Vancouver, just as much as for the facilities as for the training."
Toren doesn't champion any particular art period. "There's something to go crazy for in every era and style of art, you just have to look for it." When asked who had influenced him greatly, he said, "Like the rest of the world, H.R. Giger had a big impact on me, but I never fully explored his style with airbrush et al. Klimt is without a doubt my favorite classical master, and his style was instrumental in the large painting I did for Pagan Publishing, which they sold as a poster. I've copied my all-time favorite comic book artist, Mike Mignola, so many times that people can
see his influence in my sketches, and recently I've become enamored with Edward Gorey, not only for his amazingly fine art methods, but his humorous, macabre story telling as well."
"I like powerful art. To me, the human form is very powerful, as well as THE UNKNOWN, and I have a penchant for the creepy, less respected creatures of the earth like crustaceans and mollusks. These all blend together nicely in the Mythos. Lovecraft was spot-on when he said 'the strongest emotion is fear, and the greatest fear is that of the unknown,' and I try to capture that sentiment in my art, where possible."
Toren's favorite Mythos subject matter is the Monsters. "That and the terror-stricken visages of those who confront them." He complains of other horror themes, "Vampires and werewolves are all fine and dandy, but there's really no mystique about them anymore, to me they've lost their magic. Cthulhu and his ilk are so ill-defined, even in the stories, that almost any representation captures his creepiness. Lovecraft's monsters are atypical, so they're easy to effectively exploit in horror art."
On the topic of favorite medium to work in, he admits shamefacedly, "Even though it seems like a square one, I really like pencil. It's just so damn easy to use, and if you make a mistake, you can erase it in one quick stroke. Sometimes I'm loathe to ink over my pencil drawings, just because I feel it's not as effective in many ways. But at the same time, I'm becoming aware that I need to make my work darker, which means I could use a lesson or two in the effective use of shading."
Toren is known as a spectacular and effective painter. He has done covers for gaming modules as well as the covers to his band's CDs. "For my color works, I use acrylic. Once again, it's simply a matter of convenience. I like instant gratification and acrylic is the fastest drying. I would like to dabble in gouche, and I desperately need an airbrush, and one day I'd like to start exploring around with those craaaazy photoshop-like programs, but I'd need a better computer for that."
The question I most wanted to have answered by Toren was: How does your music affect your art? He replies, "Well, apart from the fact that I'm basically in charge of most (but not all) of the graphics for the band, my music doesn't really affect my artwork. The band gives me the opportunity to create cool merchandise, like shirts, stickers, calendars, etc., which are guaranteed to sell, a tenet that wouldn't necessarily hold true if it were being held up only on the merits of my own artwork. Thank Yog-Sothoth for gimmicks!"
For upcoming projects, Toren says, "Keep your third eye open for CULTS ACROSS AMERICA, a sort of Cthulhu-meets-Risk board game produced by Atlas Games. It's due out in June, I believe, and sports a full color box cover by yours truly with cultists, Cthulhu and more. Currently I'm working on illustrating a couple of scenarios for Pagan Publishing's upcoming Call of Cthulhu accessory MORTAL COILS, and after that, DELTA GREEN II."
"In non-Mythos (but still cool) project news, I just finished lots of cool monk and sorcerer art for the Feng Shui book BLOOD OF THE VALIANT, produced by Ronin Publishing, due out soon."
We are proud to present three pieces of Toren's art in this issue of Nightscapes (Please press your browser's back button to return to the review section.)
"Cults Across America"
Created: July 1, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004