The thought of being an actual zombie, a hulking piece of lumbering dead flesh, does not appeal to me, but the idea of being a fictional zombie does. I learned about the 1000 Zombies art project on Google+ (yes, people are using G+) from a person in one of my circles. Byron Rempel is the mind behind the project, which is completely funded by the public. Intrigued, I contacted the artist, and I asked him about 1000 Zombies. Due to his schedule, we conducted the interview by exchanging emails.
SF: Why zombies? Are you are fan of all types of horror or just zombies?
BR: I’ll answer the latter first. I have always been a fan on the edge of horror. I liked it but not enough to go out and actively seek it, until I met my wife. She’s a horror nut and she quickly converted me in to a full-fledged fan of horror. Now we are always on the hunt for the next great horror film. Zombies, supernatural, paranormal, or slasher… they’re all game at our house. As for why zombies… it began back on my (nearly defunct) blog as a way to force myself to at least draw something. My style is somewhat chaotic and disorganized so I figured zombies would be a great fit because if it’s a messy drawing, so what! It’s a zombie. They’re supposed to be messy. And if I got the proportions wrong, or the ear looked funny or the color was off… so what! It’s a zombie.
So you could sort of say drawing zombies was an excuse to not be a good artist but to at least get a drawing done. Then I started to really enjoy drawing them, and then people started to encourage me to draw them… so now that’s what I do. And really… why not zombies? The cool thing about zombies is that they can be anyone and look any way I want them to look. From people, to conjoined twins, mushrooms or zombie kittehz… the zombie is inside everyone and everything. I bring it out for the world to see.
SF: How did the project come together? Why 1000?
BR: I would like to have some sort of witty or clever comment as to how the whole project started, but it was really just on a whim. Most of the things I do in my life are done just on a whim. When I try to plan things I get bored and lose interest, or I get bogged down in the details and sometimes I get confused and frustrated by the plan so I scrap the whole idea. So I don’t plan very much any more, at least not initially. Instead I start and work out the details as I go along. So during one cold and dark January evening I had an idea to do an art project that hasn’t been done before. I checked if there were any other 1000 zombie projects, and there weren’t. There were a few other 1000 picture projects, and the like, but no zombies. So the next morning I whipped up a few graphics, made a page on Google PLUS and it began. It’s been a slow and steady response, and a totally positive one. And now that the project is under way, I’m beginning to fine tune it and build my own site around it as well.
I also wanted to do a project that basically pays for itself, and is also self-guided. People fund the zombies they want created, and decide who or what gets zombified. I have very few limitations on who or what can join the horde. It’s simple – no explicit sex, hate or extreme stupidity.
The main reason for 1000 is mostly because … how freaking cool would it be to see 1000 zombies all in one place? Damn cool I tell you. When I am finished there is a local gallery that will be the first to display the horde, and to just show 10 would be neat … 100 would be quite a sight, but to see 1000 zombies covering the walls of the place will be a visual feast.
SF: What is your goal for the project?
BR: There are so many different reasons for doing the 1000 zombies project. The main goal for the project is to draw 1000 zombies, hopefully before the world ends on Dec. 21 :) A second goal is to be able to have a visual record of how my own art style and creativity develop over the course of the whole project. How different will zombie 1000 be from zombie 1? The time line of progress will be very interesting. A third interesting goal, if you can call it that, is to see who wants to be zombified, who wants to zombify someone else, and where these zombies are located on earth. I plan on mapping the different countries and regions that have members of the horde. I think that will be another interesting aspect of the final product. Sort of like seeing how the infection spreads.
A side goal is to get it shown in galleries around the world, but that’s more a pipe dream than an easy thing. Time will tell. There’s already one gallery pledging to display it, and after the first 100 are complete, I’m going to start pestering other galleries. Hopefully my fans and other members of the horde will help me get in to some galleries in their areas. I also have plans to display the 1000 zombie horde at some comic conventions that I will be attending later this year.
SF: Are you accepting commissions from anywhere?
BR: I am taking funding from anyone, from anywhere, for anyone.
BR: I have people funding their friends and their pets already. I’m really waiting for the first publicly funded celebrity or government official. That’ll be fun. Who wants to fund the Elmer Fudd zombie? :)
SF: If someone wants to be part of the horde, what are the steps?
BR: There are not very many steps to getting zombified. Step 1 – the funding… a minimum donation of $10 lets you get someone or something zombified, either yourself, your pet, your family, coworker or boss, or anyone else you want to see join the walking dead. The donation can be made via PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or you can contact me to get my mailing address and mail out a money order.
2nd step – send me a picture of the future victim, and let me know if I should go all out or keep the gore to a minimum. You can even suggest colours or backgrounds. I might not follow all the suggestions, but it never hurts to have your input. This is a publicly funded and directed art project after all.
Step 3 – the waiting game… you’ll get your turn, but in order. So if you are number 543 in the list, you get your zombie when number 542 is finished.
SF: What medium do you use?
BR: When I create my zombies I use whatever I have on hand. Scraps of paper, bits of cardboard, canvas and fabric. I use quality inks or dollar store pens… I have new watercolour paint and some that I’ve had for decades. Sometimes I use fingerpaints, other times I use acrylics. Pretty much whatever gets the job done and whatever I’m in the mood to play with.
For the 1000 zombies project though, I am using a thick watercolour paper, black and red ink pens and the mostly watercolour paint, with a bit of acrylic when needed.
SF: How many have you completed so far?
BR: I have just finished number 19 and number 20 is half finished. I got off to a slow start with these, and like many artists, had a few moments of self-doubt and panic, but everything is back on track and going great. When I did zombies 17 and 18, the one with Igor the dog, I had a breakthrough mentally and it is making things go much smoother now. I’m really learning about my process when creating these zombies and its starting to show in the finished products.
SF: Can a person request a number? If so, what numbers are taken?
BR: You can request a number, but you need to pay for it in advance to lock it in. Numbers 27, 42 and 666 are already taken
SF: I understand you keep the original for the display, but what can I do with the digital image you send me?
BR: You can do anything you want with that image EXCEPT resell it or put it on items you want to sell. Feel free to put it on a coffee cup or T-shirt, no problem. Use the image to make Christmas cards or prints for your family and friends if you wish. Or, if you like, I can even put it on a T-shirt for you at my Spreadshirt store.
SF: Will you let everyone know when you have reached 1000?
BR: When I reach 1000 I will let everyone know one way or another. The best way to keep up to date is to follow my Google+ page.
As a side note, I plan on having little giveaways when I reach milestones. So once I reach #50 one of my first 50 zombies will win a prize… same with 100, 500 and whenever I feel like giving away something.
I decided to become a member of the horde; my only instructions were the following: “You can make me as disgusting as you want.” When Byron posts the newest member of the horde, he writes a short story. Here is my story:
When I zombified Michelle Ealey she didn’t look like this originally. But once I let her out of the house she lurched her way across the street to my neighbour’s yard. I don’t know his real name; we call him the lawnmower man because he’s always mowing his lawn. Almost every day. So it really wasn’t much of a surprise to see him come running out of his garage with a weed whacker held high and on full power. It was quite a sight, seeing the flesh and blood splattering everywhere. But it didn’t stop Michelle. She still grabbed him, even after all the damage he did to her face, and she rewarded him by sinking her teeth deep into his neck.
Here I am, Zombie #19!