Artist James Hunt Shares His Secrets to the Craft of Horror Design

James Hunt‘s style of graphic design draws inspiration from classic horror. Around his work designing logos and event branding, he hones his craft creating posters for his favourite movies.

From Scream to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, James takes some of the most popular fandoms and gives them his own unique twist.

We caught up with James to find out more about where his ideas come from.

Kirstie: How did you get into art?

James: I guess my first memory of enjoying art is being drawn to the designs on the record sleeves of my dad’s vinyl collection. Illustrations like the drawings taken from Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds LP was something that definitely affected me – I was absolutely terrified by the images painted by the music but couldn’t look away from the physical illustrations. 

Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?

James: When I was 17, I loved the surreal illustrations of Ralph Steadman (best known for collaboration and friendship with Hunter S. Thompson), as well as the creepy and cool collage aesthetic of Heather Gabel. Heather was a huge one for me because I was introduced to them by their artwork they designed for bands (Alkaline Trio, AFI, Heavens, Against Me!) and I always wanted to design band artwork and merchandise for a job so, as well as being inspired stylistically by Heather’s amazing work, they also impacted me in what I wanted to do with my real-life job stuff. 

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Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?

James: Artist-wise, I follow a lot of amazing people on Instagram who do loads of great stuff that inspires me on a daily basis. Recently I’ve been attempting to evolve from using traditional colours used in horror and taken to a lot more bright and playful tones to create something emotionally contrasting . 

Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?

James: I live in Brighton which is full of great flea markets that are full of interesting bits and pieces. There’s one store in particular called Snoopers Paradise which has boxes of neglected photographs, ranging from group family photos, Victorian portraits and snapshots of pets. I really like finding a gem to work into my art. I asked a Snoopers employee where they get the photos from and they said ‘mostly dead people’, which I guess adds an extra element of macabre.

Kirstie: What inspired your creepy and surreal art style?

James: Books and movies, I guess. My favourite director is David Lynch and I tend to lean towards fiction that takes a little bit of work to figure out and does something more than just entertaining and killing time for you. In no way do I think my art does this but maybe one day, a boy can dream ya’ know. 

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Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?

James: To be honest anything I produced in college really. When I finished high school, I left feeling pretty unconfident and directionless. I applied to a graphic design course, mainly because I knew some friends taking it and I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t take art in school so I already found it challenging to get into a graphic design college course. My teacher explained to me I will find the course tough but they would give me a chance, that obviously added a lot of pressure. The first couple of months were hard going but eventually I started to get good grades – which I had never received in my entire life. As someone who struggled to get a C grade at high school, that was a really proud moment for me and the first time I had ever felt slightly talented at anything. 

Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?

James: I think I just love being an artist more. Before I always had a love-hate relationship with it. Designs would never come out the way I imagined and desired. I pulled my hair out a lot throughout university which led to me taking a couple of years off designing anything. So I guess I just learnt to love and to also be more patient with my work and myself. 

Kirstie: How did you get into redesigning movie posters?

James: I just love movies and I have always been fond of the artwork on the DVD, VHS and all promotional stuff that goes with it. I guess it’s something I’ve always found a fun way to practice any skills I want to develop. 

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Kirstie: What drew you to horror movies in particular?

James: Every October I design a horror movie poster a day and upload it on social media. It’s something of a challenge to myself really which I started in 2017 to distract me from my depression. I really see it as a benchmark to my design career because I received some attention for my design work, which had never really happened before. The first year I did it I locked myself away all October and watched over 50 horror movies (some great, some bad) whilst designing an insane amount of Halloween-themed art and also wrote and recorded a spooky 6 track EP. It was a productive month. I love Halloween, it really inspires me to create stuff. 

Kirstie: How do you decide which elements of a film to narrow in on for your posters?

James: Mostly from my favourite parts of the movie or maybe what I thought was visually pleasing. 

Kirstie: Which of your horror movie posters is your favourite?

James: Erm that’s a hard one. I guess my favourite at the moment is the Silence of the Lambs one I designed this year. I challenged myself to not involve the beautiful death’s-head hawkmoth, which mostly takes a spot in every Silence of the Lambs poster ever. I love the outcome from this and I think it’s probably one of my most standout original piece I put out over October.

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Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

James: I am in no place to give advice but just remember to look after yourself, practice self care and if you haven’t, try CBD if your head is ever feeling cloudy. My work’s quality and commitment has improved since I started to take more time to look after myself and I couldn’t recommend it enough.   


Thanks to James for taking the time to talk to us. If you want to keep up with his work, you can follow him on Instagram or check out his Etsy page.

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