Could you tell me a little bit about your work, Landis?
I am a pen and ink illustrator and author of a number of little picture books of nihilistic whimsy. When I’m not working on my own projects, I do illustrations for various magazines, books, and websites. More recently, I’ve also started a project of drawing small Victorian styled memorial pet portraits. Regardless of what I am working on, though, my drawing style and stories have a natural tendency to fixate on some aspect of death and loss, stemming out of my own insecurities and fears.
My biggest influence and inspiration for my work comes from Edward Gorey. When I initially discovered his work in high school I felt guilty that I was so attracted to his drawings and stories because they dealt with the darkness of the world which most people I grew up around pretended didn’t exist. The fact that Gorey was able to take this darkness and insert layers of farce on top of it made me realize that it was okay to dwell upon these things. And let’s face it: death is funny and absurd in the face of everything our culture does to try and stop it.
In addition to illustration, I also edit the Ask a Mortician Youtube videos and help the Order of the Good Death with a variety of other creative tasks.
What are you working on his year?
The biggest things happening for me this year are that two books I illustrated are coming out this Fall. The first one is a 450 page graphic novel called The Hunting Accident: a True Story of Crime and Poetry, and the second is Caitlin Doughty’s latest book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. As these two projects are winding down I’ve just started working on another book which will be a compilation of morbid nursery rhymes that I am writing and illustrating.
What does death positivity mean to you?
Death positivity for me is about no longer pretending that death does not exist and about giving everyone permission to engage honestly with death according to their own desire.
What other death-related job that you don’t have, would you want?
The death-related job fantasy I sometimes think about is being a caretaker of a small old cemetery. I would live out my days wandering around being grumpy while gardening, tidying things up, chasing out mischievous teenagers, and digging graves. In the evenings I would sit in a tiny house on the property thinking about all the dead people around me as I sipped some whisky before bed. If you know of a job opening like this, please let me know.
When you die, what do you want done with your corpse?
Until I hear about or can think of something more creative, a natural burial sounds pretty perfect to me. However, I think it would be really interesting to dig my own grave even if it were many years before I died. I don’t know how this would be possible, but I really like the idea of being able to visit my open grave regularly while alive in order to contemplate it, fear it, befriend it, and become intimately connected with the space itself long before I decompose there.
You can find out more about Landis’ work and upcoming events/appearances by visiting his website. He also recently started offering bespoke memorial pet portraits. – we’re pretty sure you’ll want one of those.