Interview w/ Christopher Zenga from "The Day After"

Chris Zenga is a name that those of you who travel in the same side of the horror blogosphere might be familiar with. As an illustrator and die hard horror fanatic, Chris is one of the hardest working people you're likely to have come upon in the past year of so. His enthusiasm stems from his undying love of the horror genre and a philosophy of emotional transference that he believes his work instills in the viewer.

He's done portraitures of bloggers, personal heroes and zombie teddy bears from beyond the grave and yet each piece offers something unique from its subject matter. It's in this offering that Chris prides himself in taking a live model or photograph and peeling back the mortal coil to reveal something far more sinister. Much like the written work of H.P. Lovecraft, Chris' world is one of the living dead and monsters lurking in the dark corners of our minds... sometimes it's what you don't see that you should fear the most.
Thanks for joining us at Strange Kid HQ, Chris. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what the concept behind 'The Day After' is?

Thanks for having me, and thanks to Mrs. Strange for the Pop-Tarts and Tang. I'm a 30 year old artist from Mississauga, Ontario Canada. I'm a husband, a father of two and a staunch Atheist. I love all the things that your parents told you where not under your bed, and I hope to entertain EVERY TIME I put pencil to paper. The Day After set out to be my perception of the world The Day After the BIG ZomBie Apocalypse. I wanted to put my undead take on every idea in my head and leave a record of how everything COULD have been.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Christopher Zenga

How did you become interested in illustration - did you draw a lot as a kid?

As far back as I can remember I was a creative kid. I was always drawing ghosts and ghoulies and the only time I put art on the back burner was when I started playing drums and joined a metal band called Masters Dog. Five years of MD and then we moved on to other things, and I found my way back to my drawing table.

Have you received formal training or are you completely self-taught? If so, how did you go about developing your skills?

I spent two years at Sheridan Art College in a Fine Arts program, and then two years at Humber College for Graphic Design but the undead where never part of the curriculum. I learned a lot in school, lots of tricks and techniques and met a ton of great people who taught me even more, but I really didn't find my style until many years later. In regards to developing my skills, it's like anything in life: practice, practice, practice. I drew to a point where I was only ever drawing just so I could be the best. As I got older I found a nice balance of drawing and other interests like comics and video games, but if you really want to succeed at something it has to be your main priority.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Christopher Zenga

What are a few artists whose work you find to be sources of inspiration? What else inspires you?

There have been many artists who have moved me over the years. A few that stand out are H.R Giger, Wayne Barlow, Gary Pullin (my fellow Canuck artist) Jim Lee, Michael Turner and Todd McFarlane.

I love movies; Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy... I just eat it up! All that imagery and all those stories inspire me. I'm also a big music buff, how a song effects my emotions has a huge impact on what I draw. I really believe that you can get a sense of my mood in all of my drawings and I try to put all of me into every one. Music really helps to bleed that out of me.

I've also been collecting comics since I was 7. I still go to my comic shop every Wednesday (The Comic Den) to pick up my stash. I even have my pull list on my blog for all to see. Comics keep me young and now I even bring my 4 year old to the shop. Seeing her fall in love with art and super heroes drives me even harder.

Another big source of inspiration for me is Catholicism. I was raised in a Catholic house and at 13 had more than enough information to truly believe that there is no God. The years of imagery have really stuck with me, though. Iconic imagery like Mary and Jesus and the Last Supper; all these paintings from the masters helped me to create my God is Dead series. I love the fact that I live in a country where I have the freedom to take the Resurrection story and and create a literal interpretation of Jesus coming back to life, as a ZomBie. The man rotted in a cave for 3 days, his reappearance would not be as romantic as the story lets on. I admit there is a bit of angst behind these drawings. I feel that organized religion is a poison and that faith is not fact, even though so many believers try to convince themselves otherwise. If I can upset just enough people by playing on there insecurities to have them question a life time of indoctrination, then I'm doing ok.

What is it about horror, specifically the undead, that most appeals to you as an artist?

I am an emotionally driven artist and horror has such a power to stir up a lot of emotion: Fear, Anger, Disgust, Hate. I love that I can translate my emotion and have it affect the emotions of others, the macabre is a great catalyst for that. Regarding zombies, I just love 'em! After seeing Return of the Living Dead, the cast trapped in the morgue with no escape being surrounded by more and more ghouls and knowing that if the dead don't get you dehydration (hunger or your own mind will!), I had to have more... more zombies!! More nightmares.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Christopher Zenga

You've become quite popular in the horror blogging community, having done portraits for Zombo's Closet of Horror, The Vault of Horror and Day of the Woman. Did these bloggers seek you out or did you pitch them on the idea first?

It was a very natural progression. I started spending more time on their blogs, commenting and hanging out just as a fan. Then friendships started forming; Zombo, B-Sol and BJ-C started talking about my ZomBear series and really going above and beyond to give me shout outs and show me support. So the portraits where really thank yous! The work they where (are) doing in the horror community really inspired me to better my own contributions so I did an "inspiration series" and just tried to show my appreciation to those who I affectionately called the "Unholy Trinity" of the horror blogosphere.

I am very lucky to have them in my corner and I will call them my friends forever.

How many portraits do you consider you've done thus far (est.)? Do you have a favorite piece of work?

Iv'e done at least 40 portraits in the last year and I'm still selling prints and working on other projects, but I have really pushed the custom ZomBie portraits and Cthu-You portraits. My favourite? Hmmmm... I really am fond of this Amanda Norman tribute or Stu from

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Christopher Zenga

How long does it typically take to complete a portrait? What's you process like?

A black and white portrait can take around 3 hours to complete. The process is fairly straight forward; I take a photo of the model, do a rough sketch, and figure out what kind of look I need (ie. bloody, sad, angry). Then I tighten up the lines and add shadow and detail. I know it sounds kind of like watching paint dry but people just love to watch me make them UnDead.

Have you ever considered the idea of doing a comic based on some of your own characters?

Never! I've been asked a half a dozen times to be involved in comic book projects, but that is just not a world I enjoy playing in. Panels, text bubbles, "hyper" dynamic poses... this is not the world for me. I like my work to feel like snapshots of a moment and I want the whole story to be told in one frame. I'll leave the comics to the pros!

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Christopher Zenga

How do you currently market your work?

Funny you should ask, marketing is this year's main focus. I have been lucky enough to have met some amazing people who I have collaborated with and who have given me shout outs on a daily basis. Allow me to pay a little respect: friends like Zoc from Zombo's Closet of Horror, B-Sol from The Vault of Horror, BJ-C from Day of the Woman, Stu and Lyle from, Miss Rachel from LipsTattoo, Amanda Norman, Thea Munster of Toronto Zombie Walk, Gary Pullin and Tomb Dragomir from Rue Morgue Magazine, Glendon Mellow from The Flying Trilobite and Carl from the Horror Blogger Alliance. I was also very honored to have been interviewed for issue #30 of Gothic Beauty Magazine by Lorelei Burk. I can not say thank you enough to everyone who is helping to get my name out in the public eye.

I also have a table every year at the Toronto FanExpo / Festival of Fear. This a wonderful 3 day event for horror, sci-fi, comics and videogames. I encourage every one to addend next August.

What's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?

Making a Freddy Kruger glove with an old garden glove, duct tape and my moms steak knives. Just to make things perfectly clear, it was strange to others NOT to me!

Hey thanks for having me today! BTW- could I get some Tang to go?


  1. Scare Sarah said...:

    Chris' art is so beautiful. And cool! I love it. Great interview.

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    @Sarah: Chris is definitely a talented guy and so full of enthusiasm! It was a real pleasure getting to share his work and his story like this.

  1. B-Sol said...:

    Thanks for the shout out, Chris! Love your stuff, but you know this.

  1. Thanks Sarah, I am always happy when I can bring out the beauty in things that normally should not be. And comments like yours really motivate me to make the next illustration even BETTER!

    The pleasure was all mine Strange kid! I am in amazing Company.

    Anytime B! I can never thank you and the rest of the Blogosphere enough for your love and support.

  1. Shaun Mazerall said...:

    New to the Blogosphere. Glad I've found this site. Love the work!

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    @Shaun: It's always good to see a new face around the clubhouse, glad you stopped by. Hopefully you'll keep checking us out and I'll certainly have to visit your blog as well.

  1. Love the art. I have no artistic talent myself but I can appreciate good stuff when I see it.

  1. Glendon Mellow said...:

    Chris, the harder you work, the harder I want to work. Your blog is inspiring. And thanks for the mention!

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