Thursday, October 8, 2009
"You Have The Gift of Sight...."
The Drawings of Judeanne Winter Wiley
"It happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. That's when Sarah started drawing these pictures...."
If you are a fan of Children of the Corn, then you definitely remember this line as it gave light to the horror that was unfolding in the rural, midwest town of Gatlin, Nebraska. As the town's future was foretold by a child's artisitic hand, what many may not know is that the drawings were, in fact, not drawn by a "child" at all. In actuality, the creative task of creating Sarah's visions was given to illustrator Judeanne Winter Wiley. We recently caught up with Judeanne who took the time to talk with us about Stephen King, daytime drawing and surprising friends.
COTCM - Before we begin, we would like to thank you Judeanne for taking the time talking with us and the fans about your involvement and insights into the production and creation of the original, 1984 classic film, Children of the Corn. It is a pleasure and very much appreciated!
JWW - You are welcome.
COTCM - By 1984, Stephen King was becoming a household name as his novels and movie adaptations like The Shining, Christine, and Carrie were already very well received and known. When did you develop an interest in art illustrations and how did you first become familiar with a girl named Sarah, cornfields and a little town in Nebraska?
JWW - I have been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I became familiar with Sarah and the cornfields when I was asked to make Sarah's drawings.
COTCM - To make the audience believe these were the drawings of a little girl, they had to be simple yet they were crucial to the storytelling and had to be recognizable. How did you prepare yourself to draw with the child-like qualities that were required and was a certain look needed for them that the producer and director felt could not be accomplished by an actual child?
JWW - I did some drawing with my left hand to make it appear as if someone younger created them. Even at this age it is easy to remember how I felt about many things as a young girl. Sarah's drawings were my first job as an illustrator. I thought it was ironic that after years of art school, my first job was to draw like I did as a child.
COTCM - As three years pass for Job and Sarah, through her pictures we are able to witness what transpired after the cafe incident as Isaac took full control of the children of Gatlin. Were these scenes depicted in the actual script for you to work from or was it through verbal discussion with the director that these "unfilmed ideas" took shape?
JWW - I remember speaking with the film's Art Director more than anyone else about the look of Sarah's drawings.
COTCM - Early on, we see that Sarah has "The Gift of Sight" as her drawings predict the events that have unfolded in the town of Gatlin thus giving the audience their own sight into what came to be. Did you and AnneMarie McEvoy (Sarah) meet prior to filming and also, was the role of Sarah explained in detail to you since you were actually a part of the character too?
JWW - I have never met AnneMarie McEvoy but I did read the movie script and the part of Sarah was explained to me.
COTCM - Storyboard artists usually produce multiple art panels that give the movie makers a visual tool to work from and to see how each scene will work. Did you start with sketches first to give the director an idea of how your interpretations would look or was the first drafts basically what we see on film?
JWW - I met with the Art Director, he described his vision of what Sarah's art should be and then I got to work on the drawings.
COTCM - Throughout the production of a film, many people are needed in specific areas to bring together the overall final product that the audience will see on the screen. Being your first job as an illustrator, was it exciting to be working on something as big as a major motion picture?
JWW - It was very exciting. It's always fun to be on a movie set. I would go in and meet with the art director and the producer, but I did do the illustrations at home in my studio.
COTCM - The Hansen's Cafe Massacre drawing is absolutely stunning and depicts the grisly scene as nothing less than "An Adult Nightmare." During your initial meeting, was it made clear by the director whether they would be crayon-based or was it a decision that was left up to you entirely as an artist? Also, was the presence of full color discussed as being an absolute definite?
JWW - I believe they wanted crayon from the start. I knew it would be in color from the onset.
COTCM - From looking at the characters, we notice that two of them have the absence of color as they are drawn completely black. Was this a subtle way to show there was a connection between Isaac and He Who Walks Behind The Rows?
JWW - Yes, I was instructed to draw these characters in black because of Isaac's connection to He Who Walks Behind The Rows.
COTCM - The drawings, because of the necessary relationship and interaction with the character of Sarah, were essential to the story. Were you given an approximate allotted time frame to have them completed and what was the total number of drawings you were commissioned to do for the film?
JWW - There was a time frame for the completion of the art work because it had to be done before filming started.
I have absolutely no idea how many drawings I did.
COTCM - As actors have a stunt double to perform for them when calling for dangerous scenes, many key prop items that are essential to the movie storyline are sometimes duplicated in case of accidents. Was it required that you make an approximate second drawing to resemble the originals in case something happened to them?
JWW - I don't remember making duplicates but that doesn't mean I didn't.
COTCM - Since it's release in 1984, Stephen King's Children of the Corn has been released many times on vhs, laserdisc and dvd formats. What are your memories of the first time you saw it in a theater and what was it like seeing your drawings "super-sized", especially in the opening credit montage?
JWW - I enjoyed seeing my artwork "super-sized". It's always exciting to see your work produced and out in public for the rest of the world to see.
COTCM - In the movie, as Burt (Peter Horton) ventures through the deserted town, he stops inside the "Town Hall" building where he picks up a drawing of a fire-breathing dragon. Was this one of your original pieces and if it was, what was the idea and inspiration for it? Also, how did your drawing technique differ as compared to that for the Sarah drawings?
JWW - Yes. It was intended to depict the horror in the cornfield.
COTCM - Although the drawings have an innocent quality about them, the smiles on the children's faces send chills down your spine. That's what makes them so horrifying! Does the movie ever come up in conversation and what are people's reactions when they find out you gave Sarah her "Sight"?
JWW - It had been a long time since I mentioned Sarah's drawings to anyone. So, the other night at a party I did. My friends were surprised. I had not seen the film in the last fifteen years so I watched it again with a couple of friends, Yvonne and Alex. We had a great time watching it. We all enjoyed it.
COTCM - As the drawings were completed, an approximate number of 18 different pieces of artwork appeared on screen. As the biggest number of them were shown in the opening credits of the movie, did any of the drawings you created for the film end up "on-the-cutting-room-floor" so to speak?
JWW - Lots of drawings ended up being redone and I'm not certain all were used in the film.
COTCM - If Burt would have known the history of Gatlin, he could have recounted the events when he saw a collection of drawings hanging on the wall as he and Vicky searched the house of Job and Sarah. The house itself was actually filmed in two different locations in Iowa as the exterior was in the town of Hornick and the interior used was a house in Sioux City. Were you available to visit any of the "On Set" locations as production was filmed there?
JWW - I did not go on location. I have never been to Sioux City or Hornick. I am considering a road trip next year with my ten-year-old son. Hopefully, when we drive through the midwest we won't end up in Gatlin!
COTCM - Throughout the movie, Sarah's drawings begin with the cafe massacre and carry on to predict the coming of the interlopers. Were any of the drawings more interesting to draw than others or, in other words, more creatively challenging?
JWW - I enjoyed working on all of the drawings. The creative challenge was to keep the naive feeling in all of the drawings and to never let them look "polished." I did make a point to work on the drawings during the day. It was just too creepy to work on them at night.
COTCM - Since Children of the Corn, you have worked as title graphics designer on the documentary film A League of Their Own, as well as illustrator on the book The Tree Of Life: The Wonders Of Evolution with author Ellen Jackson. Judeanne, what are the differences between working on visuals for the screen as compared to pictures for the reader and also, what projects have kept you busy since?
JWW - Most of the work I've done for the screen has been for print ads. Artwork for books is done larger and then reduced to give it a crisper, tighter look.
From 1984 until 2000, I worked as a freelance graphic artist and illustrator for commercial and editorial projects. I have almost completed my middle grade novel, but it's my ten-year-old son who keeps me busiest.
COTCM - It's been twenty-five years since Job, Sarah and a cornfield of children graced the screen and the names "Isaac" and "Malachai" were forever thrust into cinematic horror history. Since then, the film itself has seemed to have grown to "Cult Classic" status and has recently sparked a Sci-Fi Channel remake by original COTC producer, Donald Borchers. In retrospect, what are your thoughts on the 25th anniversary of the movie and did you ever think when you started on the drawings that your work would become so well known and remembered as fans still go out to buy this film after all these years?
JWW - I was totally unaware of the "Cult Classic" status. I think the people are Stephen King fans, not Judeanne fans. I also believe Stephen King is a great writer and deserves greater critical acclaim.
COTCM - As the anniversary brings new fans and a highly anticipated blu-ray release of the original film, we have a question that has been on our minds. After filming, what became of the drawings, were you able to keep any of them and were you given anything from the production?
JWW - I do not have any of the drawings. The producer would know more about the whereabouts of the original artwork than I do.
COTCM - Judeanne, thank you for this amazing interview and giving us a look into the making of "The Drawings of Sarah". I'm sure fans will agree that, along with the great performances, your outstanding drawings helped catapult the film as one of the most memorable and terrifying movies to ever come out of the cornfields of the horror genre!
JWW - You are welcome.
We would like to personally thank Judeanne again for her time answering our questions to give us her views on what it was like being involved in creating this classic film with her unforgettable drawings of Isaac, He Who Walks Behind The Rows, and the little town of Gatlin. Twenty-five years later, these illustrations still have the same effect as when we first met Sarah and her "Gift of Sight".