Oct 12, 2019

Halloween Web - Artist Joe Keinberger

Another great artist joins us in the Halloween Web today! Before this, I didn't really know him but for his awesome art but after reading this, I feel like we're Halloween bros.

For the folks that may not know you, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Joe and I’ve been at this art thing for years now, I guess. I’ve participated in shows in San Francisco, LA, NYC, Philadelphia, Boston and the like. Lately I’ve done illustration for Cadabra Records for their vinyl editions as well as a chapbook of HP Lovecraft’s “The Color out of Space,’ and small indie publishers of weird fiction like The Darker Corner and Deathwound. I’ve also had the pleasure of doing album artwork for bands like “Appalling” from Virginia. And this October 26th I will be in a group Halloween themed art show at the amazing Convent Gallery in Philadelphia with some killer artists.

 What was your Halloween like as a kid?

I grew up in the town of Hingham on the south shore of Massachusetts, and what I remember most was the change in the weather in October. I don’t think you can beat Halloween in New England. I remember riding my bike home on weekends from friends’ houses as the sun began to set and the leaves swirled about, and you could see the leering faces of jack o lanterns on people’s doorsteps. It all felt very spooky and like anything could jump out at you or you might happen to see a ghost flit across the early evening sky. It really felt magical, and as it was the 80’s when as kids we roamed around unchaperoned, we were free to wander around in the dark woods and lonely streams and let our imagination really take charge. There would always be some tall tale that was told among us kids, about poisoned candy, a haunted house in the neighborhood or some ghastly slasher who was lurking around looking for kids to take away. The whole month felt like the world was getting darker and the veil was really lifting and there was magic in the air.

Do you have any special Halloween memories?

I used to like decorating the windows for Halloween, and I remember using all of my mom’s red food coloring and Karo syrup to make fake blood, and how there would always be a sticky mess to clean up. I used to like going to the store and buying all the fake skin putty and makeup that was available and experimenting with it, or using it to build up skull props to look like they were decomposed. The gorier the better. I guess I was pretty morbid! But my folks never got on my case. It helped that they both liked old horror movies and books. And I remember the week of Halloween on Channel 56 they would show a horror movie each night, usually “The Exorcist,” “Amityville Horror,” “Halloween” and “Salem’s Lot” among others. That was a big treat in those days before we had a VCR or cable or anything. The music in “Halloween” knocked my socks off, and I have been a Carpenter fan ever since.

What about some favorite costumes?

My costumes as a kid were pretty bad, Ha ha! I was Dracula once, which was actually probably my best, but I had blond hair as a kid so I didn’t quite look as goth as I should have, definitely not as terrifying as I was hoping to be. Then there were those Ben Cooper costumes, which were pretty weak, although you felt like the bee’s knees when you were wearing them! In recent years I’ve pulled out some costumes that I was pretty satisfied with. The Red Death from Corman’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” one of the undead Templars from “Tomb of the Blind Dead,” and an autumnal red reaper/spirit of halloween. (Unfortunately I couldn’t carry the real scythe that I had outside with me for obvious reasons) I like making the costumes, but it’s hard to go out into the world with them, as I often feel like I want to stay in character. I think the real fun of it is actually becoming something else and losing yourself for a night and becoming something mysterious and scary.

How do you celebrate today?

Me and some close friends always make it a point to dress up and go out on Halloween night, regardless of whether it’s a weeknight or not. The celebration and decor (officially) starts in September for me, although I have decorations up all year round.

Do you have any seasonal rituals?

It’s imperative that I carve a jack o lantern, I consider it to be a ritual that needs to be performed for the coming year’s success. I have to see “The Great Pumpkin” when it’s on TV, and I usually watch old horror movies the entire month (which isn’t that different than any other month.) I’m a big fan of the Hammer films, all things Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the old Vincent Price Edgar Allen Poe films, and “The Haunted Palace,” which is a bit more Lovecraft. I try to get to Salem usually
before it gets too touristy, and soak in some of that vibe. Lately I’ve gotten more into the more pagan aspects of it, and I try to make an altar and meditate and try and get in tune with the ending of the year and prepare for the cold ahead. And since fall is so lovely here, I like to get out in the woods and let the leaves fall around me and breathe in the chill air and try and leave the world behind. I love old 50’s-60’s monster/horror novelty songs, I usually build onto my playlist and try to add new finds to it every year, and bum out my friends with the cornball jams. I listen to a lot of John Carpenter, The Haxan Cloak, Goblin, Frizzi, the amazing stuff put out by Cadabra Records, Popol Vuh, and any
spooky soundtracks I can find.

Why do you think Halloween sticks with us as we get older?

For those of us that find beauty in the darker aspects of the world, it really is a time of celebration and community. As we get older and a lot of things we love get co-opted and commodified, (and that certainly happens with Halloween, too) we can still feel like a kid again around Halloween. There are no familial pressures, exhausting entertaining, spending money that you don’t have on gifts, or treacly sentiment. It is exactly how you want to make it, and you are allowed to celebrate however you please and let your freak flag fly. I’ve seen a proposition going around concocted by parents that is petitioning that Halloween be changed to the last Saturday of the month so as to make it more kid friendly and convenient for the parents. Halloween has an important spiritual and folkloric importance and to try and change the date only reflects how out of touch we are with our own past, and how obsessed we’ve become with the illusion of safety. I still run into people that incorrectly label it as a “satanic” celebration, and literally heard one guy say it was based “on this guy named Samhain who worshiped the devil.” I feel bad for kids nowadays that don’t know the thrill of being out after dark on a school night, in a costume going door to door and relishing the night. How tragic to wear something scary and have to suffer the indignity of wearing it in light of day! Halloween is a celebration of the misfit, the black sheep, the outcast, and a reminder to be as weird and macabre as you wanna be in the face of an increasingly mediocre society.

Inside the Spookster's Studio

The worst thing to get while trick or treating was toothbrushes. (that dude’s house got egged hard, haha)

My favorite thing to get was full size candy bars, the holy grail of candy hauls.

My favorite monster cereal is Count Chocula, hands down!

Where can people find you online?

They can look me up on my website, joekeinberger.com, and Instagram.

Thanks for joining in the Halloween Web. I hope it was fun for you!

Thanks for having me! Happy Halloween!

A super size thanks to Joe for joining us today.

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  1. Insightful words on the more ethereal aspects of Halloween and autumn. You are correct. There is a special magic in the air during this time.