Art Feature: The Conjuring

Art Feature: The Conjuring

Art by Devin Forst
Feature by Rob Carroll

"I begin with a small blood sacrifice,” says artist Devin Forst when asked about his artistic process. The response is via email, but I’m certain he’s smiling. “Just kidding. I’ve used an iPad Pro and the Procreate app for all my illustrating for the last six years, but with each digital artwork, I try to imbue it with the aura of a traditional piece, usually through the use of different textures or line work. There’s just something about a good pencil texture or bit of graininess that I’m in love with.”

Art Feature: Cult Classics Reading Art Feature: The Conjuring 3 minutes Next Art Feature: Cult Classics

Devin’s use of texture is one of the many elements I love so much about his work. Figures look like they’ve been sketched with color pencil. Backgrounds look like they’ve been airbrushed or created with a sponge. His line work is flowing and natural, but it moves with purpose and a confident sense of direction. His visual motif is strong, and his use of symbolism is thoughtful and intriguing. His limited color palette leans heavy on the most ancient color in art—red, as seen on prehistoric cave walls, usually drawn with clay—as well as the three original colors in bookmaking and later machine printing: black, white, and red. His creations feel timeless, steeped in ancient tradition, magic, culture, and mythology.

Another element of Devin’s work that I admire is his technique, and the incredibly apropos way he describes it. “I usually start with a flat silhouette, layering lines, textures, and different shadows over top until something appears. It’s like slowly conjuring a spirit.”

Devin says his art is inspired by the “four big M’s—Myth, Magic, Monsters, and the Moon. All the things that creep through the night and hang out on the fringes—the witches, goblins, and ghouls of the world.” As for the style in which he creates, he tends to study European and American folk art. “There’s a certain magic in the simplistic figures and compositions of folk art that really appeals to me,” he says. This makes perfect sense, since many of his works feel like a riff on Grant Wood’s famous American Gothic, the taut, unsmiling face of the subject staring stoically into the spellbound viewer’s soul.

American Gothic is often interpreted as a criticism of its subjects, but Wood forever maintained that his painting was a positive portrayal of rural American values—the strength and determination he saw in the faces of blue-collar workers at the start of the Great Depression.

Devin’s work achieves something similar. It takes a subject that is often dismissed, disenfranchised, even despised, and reminds us of the subject’s dignity, sometimes via tragic divorce. In many ways, his works are a Rorschach test for the viewer. What does the viewer make of the bloody tear in Forest Goddess? The key hanging on the neck of Hecate? The all-seeing eye on the bodice of Witch Mother? Does the creature in The Red Mask seek absolution, or the power to cause harm? Does the woman in Possession worship the winged demon that grabs at her, or is she a symbol of strength in the midst of struggle?

“To put it simply, I’m always trying to show the beauty within the dark and supernatural,” Devin explains. “I think that there is a certain elegance and allure that can be found in the ghastly corners of the world.”

So, what’s next?

“I’m hoping to continue illustrating horror and dark fantasy stories and publications.” [Devin illustrated the cover for Mosaic, a gothic horror novella by author Catherine McCarthy, publishing with Dark Matter imprint, Dark Hart Books, August 8, 2023.] “It’s where my heart lies.”


Copyright © 2023 Devin Forst

The Artist

Devin Forst