Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview with Ex VHS Cover Artist, Corey Wolfe!

Thanks for taking the time to speak to the few of us that really cherish the horror artwork of the forgotten VHS format. After many years of seeing the artwork on the shelves of video stores across the country and now in our own personal VHS collections, it’s a great honor to speak to one of the artists who actually contributed to the horrific horror VHS artwork of the 1980's.

I first noticed your name on the artwork of Wizard Video's Space Vampires (a.k.a. Astro Zombies), how did you get hooked up with Wizard Video and what was it like working for them?

Some of the jobs came through outside design firms. I can’t really remember the names of them, except The Don Mennell group.
I did work for Virgin video, VCL, Video Gems, Empire, Universal, API, Imperial Entertainment, Overseas film group, CineTelFilms, Vidmark, Lightning Video, and Magnum Ent, Fox, and others.

How were the jobs assigned? Did they prefer you to conjure up your own artwork based on the title, or did they require you to watch the movie first?

I don’t ever remember watching any of the videos. They’d give me screengrabs (from a Sony Video Printer), and a vague idea of what they wanted. I’d then work up 1-3 sketches and we’d go to final color. I remember it being difficult to get back the original art sometimes, but I was a bulldog and got back most.

I remember meeting Ralph Bakshi and Frazetta once at a meeting. I met my wife at Virgin Video during a meeting. I put her in a few covers, only one in the Horror genre. It’s the cover for Scream and Die! (This artwork wasn’t used in the VHS release, but in promotional material)

Some of my best pieces I never got the art back from. My all time favorite was Chopping Mall. Great title. I put the face of a good friend in the bag of Body Parts. Another fav was Re-Animator. Had some good reference on that one, never have seen the movie.
I remember taking a job that no one else would touch because it showed a baby being sacrificed (well, held up in the air about to be) by Oliver Reed and his bunch of Satanic buddies. Can’t remember the name of that one. I remember working on Highlander. Three artists met late one Wednesday afternoon. We had to each do 2 highly detailed black and white comps overnight and have them back by 8AM. I had my Dad pose for the first time and he was great. I’d never worked an all-nighter before that. We all cracked up at how each other looked the following morning. But hell, I made $2,000 in one night. Better than a hooker.

Another that was fun because it sounded so nasty at the time was ‘Succubus Sex Slaves to the Devil.’ A truly horrible piece of art, but a cool title was 976 EVIL. It was a good time to be an artist who could paint people. Now it’s mostly photo montages done by non artists. I landed Disney as a client way back when video was first starting out, and that turned out to be the direction my art went. I remember one fine day when I did a meeting at Disney, then hopped in my car and went to Hustler. I met Larry Flynt that day. He was in his gold wheelchair, coming towards me, as I stepped from the elevator. He was surrounded by hot babes who were all over him.

Seeing you did the artwork for many horror titles, did you ever have an interest in horror cinema? Were there ever instances where the screenshots or descriptions of the films you were doing artwork for caught your interest enough to make you want to see the film?

I've never had an interest in such films, I've studied metaphysics all my life, so slasher films are the polar opposite. I figure I'm here for a certain amount of years, why not study things that you'll take with you.

What was it like to see your artwork on the shelves of video stores across the country?

It's exciting even today when I see my art somewhere, be it on a bus, billboard, magazine, DVD cover, book cover. My daughter likes to brag about them, especially when she's in the art.

How much were you usually paid per VHS title?

Back in the day we were paid between $1,200 and $3,500 per cover, mostly around $2,000.

Thanks Corey for taking the time to answer a few questions. Do you have any advice for people looking to working in art for big companies such as Disney?

As far as breaking into big companies, it’s all karma, be at the right place, or know the right people.