ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE intends to put a name (and sometimes face) to the talented men and women who created the most iconic images to adorn horror VHS boxes and posters from ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Their art is vital; it’s the reason I (and many of you, certainly) fell in love with horror movies in the first place. This is not only intended as a tribute, but also a minor compendium, meant to collect their works in one single spot. Corrections, additions, or other info? Email me.
Doing research for Artists Behind the Image, I’m often surprised and excited when I discover a singular person is quietly behind several recognizable pieces of poster art. Really, the only poster artist whose work I can immediately spot is Drew Struzan, an artist so distinguishable and ubiquitous amongst movie poster art that I’ve decided to avoid covering his work altogether for fear of being unnecessarily redundant.
My surprise and excitement was at an all time high when I discovered the poster art for Return of the Living Dead, Beetlejuice, and Poltergeist all came from the same man: Carl Ramsey. It isn’t immediately clear at first glance, but take a closer look at his work and you’ll be able to identify Ramsey’s signature celebrity renderings aided by his unique airbrushing technique. In fact, by comparison, it’s a very similar look that the aforementioned Drew Struzan uses, and there’s a reason for that: Carl Ramsey gave Struzan a crash course in airbrushing when he was just starting out and still trying to figure out a style.
Prior to creating one-sheet illustrations for movies, Ramsey was creating album artwork for artists such as Foghat, The Turtles, and Alice Cooper. In fact, his cover for Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies is considered a benchmark for the Pop Art style that was, at that time in the ’70s, the album cover trend.
Ramsey spent the ’80s and ’90s doing posters for memorable comedies like One Crazy Summer and Risky Business, and forgettable ones like Caddyshack II and Madhouse. In the 2000s, Ramsey returned to his fine art roots and made oil paintings of portraits and landscapes his primary focus.
Sadly, Carl Ramsey passed away in 2014, but his iconic work lives on and continues to inspire movie-watchers, gorehounds, and artists alike.