See The Bone-Chilling Inspiration For “Candyman” And “Hellraiser”

Clive Barker’s classic horror stories have a cult following, but few have seen the nightmarish paintings that inspire the stories. Until now.

If you were a child in the ’90s, chances are you were terrified of facing a mirror and saying “Candyman” five times because you knew it would summon a murderer with a hook-hand. That legend came from the wonderfully twisted imagination of writer and filmmaker Clive Barker, whose short story “The Forbidden” inspired Candyman, and who created other classic horror films, like the Hellraiser series, Gods and Monsters, and The Midnight Meat Train.


Barker has been hailed as a genius by fellow horror-obsessives Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro. His dark fantasy short stories and films have attracted cult followings, but few fans have seen the original source of his inspiration. The breeding ground of Barker’s ideas are paintings that he makes from fragments of dreams, using a brush and ink kept next to his bed.

Now, for the first time, Barker’s paintings are being published in a limited edition book–Imaginer: The Art of Clive Barker, currently being funded in a Kickstarter campaign. “Clive Barker is tapping into the raw intensity of the Expressionists,” the book’s publisher, Thomas Negovan, tells Co.Design.

Seventy-five artworks as haunted as his movies feature the first representation of Hellraiser’s Pinhead character, the Arabat character Projecto, men with skyscrapers growing from their heads, and countless other tortured souls. “Characters like Pinhead began as artworks before they ever were characters in Clive’s books or films,” Negovan says. “The painting of Pinhead pictured here is so textural it makes the canvas nearly 20 pounds–it’s almost as though Clive was piling on the layers with a mind towards the menacing levels of the character.” The book’s creation coincides with an exhibition at the Century Guild Gallery in Los Angeles.

Barker has learned to channel surreal dream imagery in his work to bone-chilling effect. “I think of myself as somebody who is reporting from a world of dreams,” Barker said in a 2002 interview for Barnes and Noble. “I’m painting these pictures in the expectation that … interesting, strange characters and landscapes will come into my mind and into my mind’s eye and appear on the canvas through the brush … What I’m doing is finding stories that match the shape of my dreams.”

Imaginer: The Art Of Clive Barker is available from Kickstarter here.


About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.