One of the things I love the most about the UFO phenomenon, is that you can ALWAYS learn something new about an old case.
Take for instance this image commissioned by Chris, another fellow UFO buff who is planning to launch a fanzine –remember those?– and wanted something to illustrate one of their articles. If you’re a seasoned student of UFOlogy, you might instantly recognize the strange entities which abducted Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson in Pascagoula (Mississippi) on October 11th, 1973. The Pascagoula abduction is one of my favorite UFO stories for a number of reasons: it received worldwide attention and was even investigated by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was convinced the witnesses were not prankers or liars; it happened in the same month and year I was born (8 days later to be exact); abduction accounts were still pretty rare back in those days, and this one bears almost no resemblance with the stereotypical lore of what supposedly takes place when alien beings take you onboard their ‘craft’; not to mention that, to my knowledge, the weird eyeless entities with elephant-like skin and crab-like claws had never been reported by witnesses, nor have they been reported anywhere else –with the exception of Parker, who claimed to have had subsequent close encounter experiences after their initial abduction, but that’s not something UFO buffs like to dwell too much (‘repeaters’ have a very low credibility in the eyes of ‘serious’ researchers for some reason).
Yes, I learned a great deal about this case over my years of study. But what I did NOT know until I took on this commission, was that famous musician Mick Fleetwood –drummer and leader of the legendary band Fleetwood Mac– was very interested in the Pascagoula abduction, and that it even influenced one of their greatest hits, Hypnotized.
Even the first verse of the song seems pretty reminiscent of a UFO sighting:
It’s the same kind of story
That seems to come down from long ago
Two friends having coffee together
When something flies by their window
It might be out on that lawn
Which is wide, at least half of a playing field
Because there’s no explaining what your imagination
Can make you see and feel
For his fanzine article, Chris included this paragraph obtained at fleetwoodmac.net, of guitarist Bob Welch explaining how this UFO encounter and other weird elements were the source of inspiration behind Hypnotized:
“Those two guys in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker had just reported on a major UFO encounter, and it was all over the TV for a while. Part of that went into ‘Hypnotized.’ Mick copied my Maestro Rhythm Machine part for ‘Hypno’ almost exactly … Mick’s sense of tempo, in this day before drum machines, was almost perfect … ‘Hypnotized’ was primarily inspired by [Carlos] Castaneda’s books, the Hickson Pascagoula UFO sighting, some stories told to me by friends, and some personal experiences.”
The fact that Chris’s article focused on this rather obscure side of music history –which became entangled with UFO history– gave me the opportunity to portray the Pascagoula case in a very unique way. Below is my original hand-drawn sketch:
I wanted the composition to feel as if the imagery of the Pascagoula event came from Mick Fleetwood’s brain, and found a great b&w photo of him online which I used as reference. Finding the right layout was something of a challenge, because my goal was to have the eyes of the observer move from the upper portion of the composition, to the middle left where Hickson and Parker are dramatically reacting to the alien beings, and finally to the face of Fleetwood at the bottom.
As a flash of inspiration, I came up with the idea of putting drums and cymbals instead of regular flying saucers, which adds to the oneiric/surreal style of the composition.
The client specified that he was going after a more traditional, black-and-white illustration instead of my regular, full-color works. I thought about ways in which I could simulate the ‘pulpy’ vintage style of old science fiction magazines like Amazing Stories, and in the end I settled for a mix between ink wash illustrations and Japanese manga. I think I used the free Inktober brushes set available at Autodesk, which resulted in a very interesting creative experience –one of those brushes, for example, gives you a certain ‘rough’ finish that greatly simulates the way ink is absorbed on thick paper (I used the same brush to create the Anomaly Archives poster); the other one proved to be great for painting the straight locks of hair in Fleetwood’s head. Another brush was used to paint the soft shadings (maybe too soft?? I sometimes overdo things, and have yet to capture the bolder quality of old illustrations) and I even used a bit of splatter to play around with the elephantine texture of the otherworldly abductors. There are commissions which at some point become a real chore due to the arduous rendering process, but this one was very enjoyable from start to finish.
I still haven’t heard if Chris managed to launch that fanzine of his after all, or if the project is paused due to COVID. I’ll keep you posted as soon as I learn anything, because I fully endorse publications that take interest in the high strangeness aspects of the UFO phenomenon; not to mention how so-called paranormal events have been influenced artists and creative individuals since the dawn of Time. I would also be very pleased if one day Mr. Parker and Mr. Fleetwood got to see my little homage to them (Hickson passed away in 2011).