Terry Wolfinger: Fine Artist Redefines Classic Monsters and Horror
Step into the captivating and macabre world of Terry Wolfinger, a fine artist whose talents span early scribbles nurtured by supportive parents to a flourishing career colored by his love for horror. Terry takes us on a compelling journey across his artistic life. With experiences ranging from animation gigs for rock bands to mesmerizing oil portraits that redefine classic monsters, this in-depth interview reveals the passion, struggles, and artistic agility that make Terry a captivating figure in the world of fine art. Sit back and learn more about Terry Wolfinger’s journey from flipbook doodler to fine artist extraordinaire.
GeekPost: Your portfolio is impressive and expansive, to say the very least. What inspired you to become an artist?
Terry: Thanks so much! Well, I have been drawing since the age of 2 I am told and have loved drawing ever since I can remember. As a kid going to events or family get togethers I would always have a pad of paper and pen in hand. My dad, though not an artist, loved to draw too, and his favorite subject was cars. I drew a lot of inspiration from him. My mother was also very creative and into arts and crafts. We worked on all kinds of projects together. Both parents were very supportive and nurturing towards my art growing up. I loved reading Mad Magazine and comics as a kid, too, and was super inspired by what those artists were doing. I was also very fortunate to have an amazing art teacher in Jr. High through High School. Dennis Moran was his name, and he was also a very prominent caricature artist and cartoonist in the Bay Area. He saw something in me and helped me to focus my creativity and gave me lots of encouragement and guidance.
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GeekPost: What was that moment for you, where everything clicked for you?
Terry: I suppose the moment when I was taking tours of different art schools for college. After being shown the Character Animation department at Cal Arts, I kind of had the “aha..” moment where I thought, “Hey, I could do this.” I also had drawn stacks and stacks of little animated flipbooks as a kid, too, and loved making stop-motion animated films in my backyard so it all just kind of clicked. Later during my 2nd or 3rd year I discovered the school’s job board where people posted jobs looking for artists. I went after just about any art related job I could. And when I started landing the gigs it did click, like, “OK, maybe I can make a living at this.”
GeekPost: You have done countless illustrations of classic monsters. Which one is your favorite? Why?
Terry: That’s a tough one. It’s probably the first three portraits I painted- Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster, The Bride of Frankenstein, and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. I like these because I think I captured a little something in each of their characters. I wasn’t really interested in just making a photocopy of the originals. I was playing around with the color and creating my own lighting to help capture the character as well. Bela may be my favorite because I think I captured the intensity in his eyes. My werewolf portrait from, An American Werewolf in London is one of my favorites as well, (also one of my favorite movies). There was a nice, raw, visceral quality to that one.
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GeekPost: With a career that spans decades, you must have had your share of obstacles in your journey. How do you push through your struggles and maintain your creativity?
Terry: I have had some ups and downs in my career for sure. When you come across one you have to just be tenacious and know how to pivot. It can be hard. I’ve had to push through some very long dry spells where I wasn’t working that much, and it gets scary, and you get depressed which makes it even harder to push through. But you can’t give up. You just gotta knock on more doors and try different avenues. You can learn new tools. I had a professor in college who would say, ” If you can draw, you can make a buck.” He talked about one student that now makes a living designing swimming pools. Being versatile helps a lot. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to reinvent myself a few times.
GeekPost: What do your family and friends think of your career? How do you maintain your work-life balance?
Terry: My family and friends are very supportive and generally think it’s great what I’m doing. I have one very close family friend that is just the best. He was there for me during a very low point and always had something encouraging to say and help me keep going. We talk quite frequently, and he’s just tickled by where I’m at now. And now with social media being so prevalent I have a lot of people I went to high school etc., look me up and reconnect and get excited about my work. The work-life balance is soooo important. It should be Life-work balance because life is the important part. I worked in advertising for a number of years and the balance was way off. Too many late nights and weekends spent grinding away on some project with an insane deadline just to have them change it all over again. Rinse repeat. I’m very fortunate to be working now for the last 5 years or so. It’s great. I can eat all my meals with my family. I get to watch my kid grow up now.
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GeekPost: What was it like to create animation for rock video companies? Do you have a favorite band that you worked with?
Terry: Well, it was really one rock video company, “Hard’N’Heavy,” that I worked for, but they worked with all kinds bands and musicians. I did a special piece of animation for Ozzy one time, biting the heads off several small animals, ha-ha. So that was fun. There was another piece I did for a Gene Simmons of Kiss interview that comes to mind. Another for David Lee Roth. It was definitely a fun time in my career. I was just starting out really. I had done a couple of biggish projects but basically, I was animating for Hard’N’Heavy out of my dorm room my senior year at Cal Arts, ha-ha! Crazy times!
GeekPost: Do you consider yourself a geek? What does that mean to you?
Terry: I’m a huge geek! Being a geek means you have such a love for something it’s almost an obsession. It’s just being passionate about the things that interest you. I geek out over art and artists. I’m a big Mad Max geek and movies in general. I’m a geek over music, cars, and comics.
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GeekPost: What are your favorite mediums to work with?
Terry: For sketching, my favorite tool is just an ordinary ballpoint pen. A lot of my earlier work is digitally painted, and a fair amount still is, and I really enjoy that. The last several years I’ve been doing a lot of oil painting which I really have been digging. And more recently I have been getting back into pen and ink and ink washes which has been so much fun. I hadn’t done very much of that since high school or college but had been wanting to for a while. So, I’m having a lot of fun with that. I’ve done some watercolor too; Just playing and experimenting.
GeekPost: What would 10-year-old you say about the artist you are now, and the life you live?
Terry: I think 10-year-old me would be very impressed and pleased with where I’m at now with my art and my life. He’d probably be a bit awe struck too, knowing that this drawing thing that he loves doing so much has provided quite a nice life. And I would tell him, “I knew you could do it.”
GeekPost: Your work has been exhibited in cities all over the country. Can you take us back to your first exhibit and tell us about the highs and lows of it?
Terry: I think my first show was a group show at a gallery in Chicago. I was not able to attend, and I don’t think there was much fanfare over the pieces I submitted. But I don’t think there was much coherence in my work then either. I tried again several years later at another group show in a gallery in San Francisco and did much better. All 3 of my pieces sold as soon as it opened. I’ve since shown my work again in Chicago a couple of times, as well as Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Burbank. It’s always exciting when a piece sells. I have been doing the Monsterpalooza horror conventions for several years now and have been to a couple signing appearance at San Diego Comic Con too.
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GeekPost: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Terry: I would say, “practice, practice, practice.” And if you have a dream, don’t let anyone sway you from that path. Push through all the negative noise out there. Set goals. Study. And don’t be afraid to try new things. If something doesn’t turn out quite the way you’d hoped, learn from that mistake, and take another shot at it. Challenge yourself with things that may seem too difficult. That’s how you grow.
GeekPost: What do you wish potential clients knew before approaching you for a commission?
Terry: I wish the clients knew how time consuming this “art thing” is and how hard we artists work to make a living at doing what we love. Most of my clients I work with do know this, I’m happy to say.
GeekPost: Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know about you and your work?
Terry: I have been working on illustrating a book with my writing partner for the last 2.5 years that I am pretty excited about. I am just about done with the art. I have also recently designed all the art for a pinball machine that should be announced by the end of the year. I am super stoked about that one. I have nothing but gratitude for all the support I’ve received along the way from all the friends, colleagues, and fans I’ve made on this crazy journey!
A very big thank you to Terry Wolfinger for indulging in this behind-the-scenes glimpse into his amazing journey.
It is evident that he is not just an artist but a storyteller, a dreamer, and a fighter. The roller coaster of his career, peppered with triumphs and challenges, illustrates the unyielding spirit required to turn a childhood passion into life’s work. With a portfolio as diverse as his influences and an unquenchable love for the craft, Terry makes it clear that the best is yet to come.
Make sure to click any picture or the logo below to be taken to Terry’s website to learn more about him and/or to support this amazing artist with the purchase of one of his prints. Links to his social media are also below.
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