Stephen Gervais attended the Art Institute of Boston, majoring in Fine Arts. While attending school I worked as a stage hand for the Boston Opera Company, which was staging Don Giovanni. During shows it was also my job to work the hand-held fog makers, which was pretty cool.
I returned to Providence and found employment as a carpenter at Trinity Square Repertory Theater, helping to construct staging for the Lederer Theater. Next, I found employment at India Imports warehouse working as a shipping clerk and made many interesting friends there.
All the while I worked building up a body of art work, often choosing sights on Providence’s East Side as subject matter. A friend had learned of a local small press publisher by the name of Donald Grant, and suggested that I bring my portfolio and come with him as he was delivering art for a book project. I did so and shortly thereafter was given a young adult adventure book project – “The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh” by Theodore Roscoe. (Yes, I suggested using another title, but . . .)
Next I was asked by that same publisher to illustrate the Special Limited Edition of “Christine”, which included a wrap-around cover and 13 black & white interiors, to be numbered and signed by both author and artist. Grant had shown King some paintings I had produced inspired by “The Shining” at a NECON convention, and I was told later that he especially liked the” Woman in the Tub in Rm. 217”.
That following fall, I received the Best Artist of the Year Award (1983) at the World Fantasy Convention held in Ottawa, Canada. Other titles quickly followed. Writers the likes of Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz were being offered to me by various publishers. I realized quickly that I needed to develop an authentic artistic voice – and fast.
I felt an urgent need to rise to these occasions by providing effectively realistic portrayals of scenes selected by me (which was a luxury) from manuscripts sent to me down through the following years.
Though I’ve been asked to produce some paintings for more recent film projects including a duplication of Gilbert Stuart’s Athenaeum Portrait of George Washington for Jim Wolpaw & Steve Gentile’s “First Face: The Buck Starts Here”, I’m known more for my pencil & colored pencil work, including the film poster for “Complex World” and other editorial work.
Style wise, I feel given the nature of a genre often involves the supernatural, a highly representational style seemed most appropriate, allowing for a more effective visual suspension of disbelief by the reader. This way the integrity of the story (the idea) remains intact while the artwork hopefully helps enhance the impact of that captured moment within the narrative. A more stylized, conceptualized, or more impressionistic approach seems a bit indulgent to me and would ultimately distract from the narrative. (But it’s all subjective, isn’t it!)
As to the medium, many respond with some surprise, not being able to pin down how it is done. I’ve found that the “soft” look inherent to graphite often makes for an eerily striking and oddly beautiful aesthetic when combined with such disturbing narrative.
H.P. Lovecraft’s work has always been an inspiration and has influenced much of my art and music. Being from the Providence area, the locale of many of his stories always added an important dimension to my appreciation, firing up my imagination. Needless to say, I find it deeply gratifying, on a personal level, to be a part of this film project.