Pus-soaked monsters stand out as grotesque and stomach-churning in SelfishLittle’s paintings. Using a sparse palette of neon markers, alcohol ink, and paint pens, Zac Palmisano, the artist behind SelfishLittle, is able to create scene after scene of hazy, candid images that depict his imagined monstrosities.
For the uninitiated, Wikipedia defines the “body horror” genre of terror films as “principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.” “Body horror” deals in anatomically incorrect humanoid monsters and includes such titular examples as The Human Centipede, Eraserhead, and David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
Palmisano works as an art toy designer by day and paints in his spare time. In these paintings, he is able to disfigure and scramble the body in so many ways with very little of the blood and guts that might typically come to mind when considering dismemberment and unwilling corporal modification and mutilation.
Instead, the images he creates are visually dense episodes where color, line, and the human body blur into Rorschach-like smears, symbols that the viewer uses to construct hypothetical narratives to suit each image. One fills the gaps left in his subjects with equal parts psychosis and awe. Palmisano’s technical repertoire is vast: some scenes look like snapshots from a zombie shoot-em-up, others like candid family pictures from a post-contagion apocalypse. Some are cubist, others pointillist. All are creepy and masterful. The Creators Project caught up with Palmisano over email to discuss his ad-hoc process as well as his favorite horror movies:
The Creators Project: How does your art relate to or influence your full-time job? Are you a working artist?
Zac Palmisano: I am not a full-time working artist. Not entirely sure if I'm even a part-time working artist. Ideally, I'd love to be able to make a solid income by creating things but part of being a full-time artist also means deadlines and strict obligations. While I’m fine with those things in a certain capacity; e.g. freelance design work for clients, I feel as though it would take away the playfulness and fun of what I enjoy most. I never want to be stressed out about my own personal work.
What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
I have my favorite tools, but I’m kind of a junk artist, so I use whatever I have around me at any given time. Right now, I’m using a lot of Acryla Gouache, Rapidograph pens and Copic markers. As far as painting on cardboard, I’ll use it as a surface if I have to or if it’s around. I started painting on the cardboard backings of old sketchpads and enjoyed the look.
Going back and looking at the work that I’ve posted on Instagram, it all reminds me of a cheap, plastic, 25-cent mood ring. I can remember exactly the mood I was in while working on each one just by the extent of the mess I made. I suppose even though I’m not starting out a piece with some weird agenda in mind, I know that I still put a lot of my immediate feelings into my dumb doodles.
Some of your drawings have an obvious horror movie vibe to them; what are some of your favorite scary movies?
Having been born in 1983, I was raised on late 80s, early 90s horror movies. Films like Street Trash, Brian Yuzna’s Society, and The Toxic Avenger series definitely have influenced the work I create and I find myself using similar bright neon color palettes used in a lot horror films during that time. Something about those bright colors mixed with a grotesque theme has always interested me.