His Books of Blood in the 1980s established him as a premier master of the horror narrative, on an equal level or even surpassing Stephen King, who said of him;
Like King, Barker’s works of horror have been adopted and adapted for movies, his stories becoming the basis for the Hellraiser and Candyman series and many more. Beyond his stories being used as source material, Barker has worked as screenwriter, producer, actor and director in the film world.
As with Stephen King, many of Clive’s fans have found him through enjoying his horror tales used as source material for films. (Sadly, such is the decline of the “reader” in the internet world.) His “Pinhead” character, a collector of souls, emerged from the pages of The Hellbound Heart to become the iconic focal nemesis of the Hellraiser movie series. His face full of nails has almost become thought of as Clive Barker’s alter ego. Clive has had a love-hate relationship with the movies. He directed the original Hellraiser and his “butchered in studio re-editing” Nightbreed has been recently re-released on Blu-Ray. He had his best luck with Lord of Illusions and Candyman.
Clive’s writing has taken several directions since being born in the most hardcore horror narratives. In 2002,the first of his self-illustrated Books of Abarat series received the Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers.
It was also chosen by the American Library Association as one of its “Best Books for Young Adults.” Inspired by ideas coming to him in dreams, Clive’s 825-page magnum opus Imajica explores the themes of God, sex, love, gender and death through the prism of Barker’s “dark fantasy.” His more recent writings have turned more toward contemplative fantasy than his earlier exercises in relentless horror.
It’s instructive that only his success in powerhouse horror stories eventually gave Clive the creative space to explore the many spiritual and existential themes that his more recent works have continued to develop. His expert blurring of the mental retaining walls separating the concept of Heaven and Hell, or his recombinant conception of pleasure and pain principles, suffuse his “dark fantasy” works with a societal subversiveness far more profound than the shocks of his “straight horror” earlier works. His early tales can be read for fun. His later work requires some contemplation of the evanescent nature of personal reality.
Never content to rest on his laurels, Clive is also an accomplished visual artist, and has long been a gallery-quality painter in the fine arts world, illustrating more and more of his own books.
As an ‘artist first’ creative, all of Clive’s works, no matter the medium, begin with a painting. His artwork has been exhibited at Bert Green Fine Art in Chicago, at the Bess Cutler Gallery in New York and can regularly be seen at the Century Guild gallery in Los Angeles.
DeviantART is currently running multiple challenges for deviants to turn the table and write a horror or fantasy short story or poem to tell the tale behind any of the several Clive Barker original paintings he has provided from his private collection.
He has, as well, submitted both an unpublished short story and a poem to his gallery that we are spotlighting. Clive’s writings are like nothing that ever came before them. As you study his paintings, you will find that his visual imagination expressed in his brazen brushstrokes is just as unique and forceful as the audacious voice of his literary inventions.
The really exciting news is that Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood, not having been published in 25 years, have been released today as Madefire Motion Books here on DeviantArt. Don’t take our word for it, take a look at the gorgeous preview below of the first installment, Books of Blood adapted into motion by writer Mark Alan Miller (Next Testament, Hellraiser) and artist mister-sam, The Books of Blood pushes the limits of the motion comic platform and the boundaries of terror. The motion book was produced by Clive’s nephew, Gareth Barker.
Paintings and Drawings, Volume One
Clive's art can not only be seen on his DeviantArt page, but also in two gorgeous new books of his art. The first can be purchased from the Century Guild website.
While the most recent, which has already surpassed its Kickstarter goal, has only a few days left in its campaign.
25 Years Later: The Director’s Cut
You had to be there. Watching Clive Barker talk about the restoration of his fantastical vision, the audience sighed as he brushed tears aside to thank everyone who helped complete his picture. The film took on a whole new life as the monsters assumed their true role as the heroes of the tale. Executive Producer Mark Miller led a tireless campaign to find and restore the forgotten footage and quite rightly shared Clive’s standing ovation as the curtains closed.
The newly completed restoration is now available on Blu-Ray.
How did publishers first react to the submission of a “Young Adult” book by Clive Barker? How difficult was it to get The Thief of Always and Abarat published?
I had the greatest difficulty, actually, with all of those books. There is a great reluctance amongst publishers to give successful genre writers the freedom to travel somewhere a little distance from the genre where they’ve been most successful.
I had to beg, steal and borrow; and say please, please, please.”
But eventually I actually sold The Thief of Always, which I had written already, for a dollar to Harper Collins in England. This is a somewhat reduced sum of money by comparison with my usual advances for a book. But, it was the only way I could get them to publish the thing.
I said to them, “Alright, you publish this for a dollar and I understand that you’re going to do your best by this book but I also understand that you don’t have much expectation, but I also understand that you purchased it for a dollar and you’re risking very little. But I have faith that if you give it the chance to perform in the marketplace it will do very well for you.”
They put it out there and they packaged it very well. There were some reviews that said “Alright, why is Barker doing this?” But then there were a lot of reviews that were very friendly toward it. And the book ended up very successful. Not immediately, mind you, but it gathered momentum. I think there is a certain sense that I’m not a horror author, and I’m not.
I’m an Imaginer, as I’ve said many times before.”
There are certain books in my oeuvre that preceded The Thief of Always, books like Weaveworld for instance, which are fantasy books. They’re not horror books. I thought, in some ways, Thief of Always fell into the same style as Weaveworld.
Abarat was a thornier problem, because I had told Harper Collins a long time ago that I wanted to write something that was in the same style as the Narnia books. To add to that idea, I had started to paint oil paintings to illustrate the books, and in fact that’s where the books were coming from narrative-wise. They were originating in my paintings, which is an odd thing for anyone to do, but it sort of worked for me, because it was a way for me to surprise myself.
There are are now many hundreds of oil paintings for Abarat, and not all of them by any matter of means will be published within the five books of Abarat. But, because I have Century Guild looking after my work and representing my work and publishing my work in various forms, I think the world will be able to see everything that I’m painting.
You executive produced Gods and Monsters, the marvelous film about James Whale's last years. How much of an affinity do you feel with Whale?
Interesting question, this. The initial conversation with Ian McKellen, to have him play James Whale, happened in the room I’m sitting in right now. He didn’t want to play the role. He felt that it was a somewhat melancholy depiction of what homosexuals were like, and he felt that as an out homosexual who had been very political in his recent life, he didn’t feel like he wanted to engage in a somewhat melancholy vision. But, I sat with him here and we compared notes on some things. One of the things was how much our lives were similar to each others’ lives, and how similar our lives were to James Whale’s life. We, all three of us, are northern English lads. We were all born within probably 70 miles of one another. We’re all homosexuals, obviously. We all had difficulties with the world around us in many ways, and yet at the same time found power and strength in our homosexuality.
And we found strength in using the ways that the universe says no to us as a way to say yes to art.”
So, the conversations that Ian and I had here, comparing notes, was what got Ian to say yes to the movie and, finally, got me to feel closer to James Whale.
How do people react when they find out you are also a “fine art” level painter whose artworks are as notoriously audacious as your literary works?
This is a hard one to answer. I do this stuff without really thinking about it too much. People often don’t know that I paint. Recently, though, with Thomas Negovan of Century Guild having taken hold of my work in a major way, and put out the first volume of the Imaginer book, people have begun to understand what I’m doing a lot more. Thomas has become my great apologist and has really made people understand what I’m doing in a way that I never could. I’m really not that great at talking about my own art.
I’m not particularly good at talking about anything I do, generally. Because I do it with my gut, not with my head.”
I’ve had situations, with both Mark Miller and Ben Meares, in my writing room where I’ve started a conversation and I’ve started with an idea and within 5 or 10 minutes we have an entire script planned out. That’s happened to us a lot. A lot. That’s how I work, really. Ben and Mark have the closest vision, the closest understanding, of what it’s like to be in my head, because they watch me go through that creative process of linking one thought to another, and that to another, and watching it grow exponentially in front of us.
And I do it essentially without having that solid a grasp of what I’m doing, I’m just doing it. So, really, I can’t talk too much about that because while I know when people react to the art, they react pleasurably, but I don’t think I’m very good at being able to explain what I’m doing to them. I can leave Thomas to do that.
How are your satisfactions as a writer and as a painter different? And how are they the same? How do you know in the morning whether you must express yourself on the keyboard or the canvas?
Of course they’re different. Utterly different. For one thing, a painting can be finished in a night; a book takes a year, or at very least 6 months to complete. Writing is fucking hard, and very seldom is it pleasurable. Now...
I destroy a lot of paintings. A lot of paintings. But then, I also destroy a lot of text.”
I’m a very self-critical son of a bitch. I work fast, I think, and that allows me to throw out a lot of things. If I don't let things go, they sort of constipate the whole process and then I can’t move forward, so it really is important to me to not get overly besotted with one particular idea, but to instead simply move on to another one and let that happen.
Right now, I’m working on the last two Abarat books and a couple of other things for young audiences. I’ve been working on a lot of paintings.
I’ve done over 400 paintings in the last 6 months. It’s a race now, really.”
I’m a 62 year old man, and I have a lot to do. I’ve been very sick the last few years. I had a period of being in a coma, and that left me sick for a long time afterwards, and I’m only now just coming out of that sickness.
So now, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and a lot of people to love and a lot of dogs to raise and parrots to adore and all that good stuff. I have life to live, in other words, and that’s important. But, the satisfactions of writing and painting are very, very different. They are not really, in any way, the same. I suppose you could say, “Well, they’re the same because there’s a blank piece of paper or a blank canvas at the beginning and at the end there’s a finished thing.” But, that’s honestly the only similarity. A finished painting is not anything like a finished novel in any way shape or form. How do I know in the morning whether I must express myself on the word processor or the canvas? Well, first of all, it’s a handwritten process so there’s no word processor at all. But, I usually do both in a day. It isn’t ‘either or.’
How much of a help has it been in having a fan base in online worldwide communities like DeviantArt? Has the support been genuinely palpable and benefiting to your good spirits?
It’s been wonderful! To have the deviantART folks help me touch base with people all over the world, it’s been very affirming. The support has been genuinely palpable and absolutely benefiting to my good spirits. There have been dark times of late and I’ve been so grateful to have people from all over the world who are able to tell me what they like and don’t like.
Is there anyone special project you’re currently working on, or planning, or dreaming about doing, that might eventually become a future reality for your fans to look forward to?
Yes, there is. And I ain’t going to tell anyone what it is. It’s one of the things I’ve learned over time: don’t tell anybody what your sweetest and dearest dreams are creatively, because that’s the way to kill them stone dead. So, yes, I have a couple of things that are very close to my heart, and that’s where they will stay, until such time that they are published or painted.
Poe, Lovecraft, Barker, King. How do you feel being added to the to that exalted honor guard of horror masters?
I can’t answer that. I want to be reasonably humble here.”
I do my thing, they do their thing. It doesn’t sit well with me to elevate myself in that way. It’s hubris, and it’s totally inviting someone to kick the legs out from under you. So, rather than say, yes, I am in the same ranks as Mr. King and Mr. Poe.
I’ll say this: I do my thing. I imagine, and sometimes I do good stuff and sometimes I do shit stuff and I’ll continue to do it. Whether I belong with them or not is up to someone in the future to judge, not me.
Finally we’d like to ask you to select your top five Deviant Artists from the community.
It's an impossible thing you ask. How can a man choose his favorite artists from such a wellspring of creativity. I can only offer 5 names that have recently inspired me:
Does it please or disappoint you when an artist with Clive Barker’s imagination and superlative talents of expression chooses to explore the darker side of human existence?
Once a writer (or artist in any media) establishes him- or herself in a specific genre (e.g., “Clive Barker: Master of Horror”) do you feel betrayed or intrigued when that artist tacks to a new course (“Clive Barker: Fantasist Imagineer;” “Clive Barker: Young Adults Author”)? Do you welcome or resent joining the artist in this evolution?
Do you think any of the cinematic treatments of Clive’s fiction (e.g., Candyman, Hellraiser” have succeeded in capturing the essence of his original (written) medium? Or are movies and books apples and oranges that defy comparison; each having unique attributes deficient in the other; and each having deficiencies easily resolved in the other.
Would you like Clive to occasionally revisit his full-tilt horror writing in the future, or are you well-satisfied with his current works of his ever-expanding consciousness, like Imajica? (Are you hoping The Scarlet Gospels will be a return to hardcore Barker horror?)
Who are your favorite writers and artists on DeviantArt who explore a darker tone in their works?
What is your favorite Clive Barker book or film and why?