“First of all, it was October. A rare month for boys.”
Every October I ritually watch Something Wicked This Way Comes as a way of ringing in the Halloween spirit that pervades the month. It’s not the best film, but over the years, despite it’s stilted and cliched dialog delivered by two twelve-year-olds trying to act, I’ve come to adore it.
The flavor of the story is beautifully captured in the movie poster by my once teacher, once mentor, and long-time friend, David Grove. Its near magical method of loose paint flows into rich, saturated runs of color, giving the illusion that it was painted in a quick, haphazard session. Besides those passages that underly the delicately rendered focal points that bleed light and life into the entire composition, the painting and I have a bit of a special connection: it haunts me.
My first appointment with a real designer of movie posters was with Roy Anderson on the Disney lot in California, somewhere between Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Lanes, one morning in 1982. I had heard that Disney was working on the movie based on Ray Bradbury’s book. After passing a glass case full of Oscars, I made my way to Roy’s office with my portfolio of original paintings.
We hit if off immediately, easily chatting about illustration and painting. I showed him my work, rolled out on the floor in large canvases. He liked the work so much, he got out a pad of paper and started giving me even more names of people to contact in L.A. for movie work.
The meeting went so well, I thought maybe I had a chance at getting the Something Wicked assignment, when the conversation turned to where I went to school and who I admired in the business. David Grove’s name came up right away as I explained how I had attended a five week class with him at the California College of Art in Oakland several years before. I told Roy how very influenced I was by David’s work and how I considered him a friend. But Grove dominated the field so much those days it was hard to escape running into his book cover work, Pendleton Shirt ads, and movie posters.
Indeed, David had kidded me once while I was still in school to “remember: when you graduate, I’ll instantly be your competition.” Roy mentioned that he thought my work resembled David’s, and oh, by the way, he just got some art in from David that morning. He pulled the office door away from the wall where the original finished poster art for Something Wicked leaned against the wall.
Oh well. I never got a chance to work with Roy, but from his contacts I got involved with painting quite a few posters for movies.
I stayed in touch with David over the years, and recently I visited him. We had long conversations about working in the business, working with Hollywood, and how he had recently been honored with induction into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. (I was honored to give his introduction speech.) We talked about him donating artwork to the Society’s Permanent Collection.
Not long ago while on a visit to the Society, I’d heard that David had donated a painting. As I turned a corner in one of the hallways there it was again, the Something Wicked painting, 30 years later.
Greg Manchess is an artist with his own ode to October and Something Wicked This Way Comes.