News: Psychopath

editorial newspaper editorial illustation of a psychopath socialised sociopath errol flynn

A weird Illustration for an article by Robert Matthews for The Sunday Independent Newspaper, ‘Are you married to a psychopath?’

‘They are the cold-hearted predators of society, doing as they like, impervious to other people’s feelings, undiagnosed, incurable—and in your life.’—writer, Robert Matthews

editorial newspaper editorial illustation of a psychopath socialised sociopath errol flynn

Newspaper Illustration: Case Study

The actor Errol Flynn exhibited of the classic characteristics of the socialised psychopath.’—writer, Robert Matthews


This has always been one of my favourite pieces. It was one of the first times—or maybe even the first—that I took a mixed-media/semi-collage approach. The imagery suggests the inner-working of a psychopathic mind, their self-obsession, their need for everything to be about them all of the time, and how they walk over and control others to get what they want. The others in the piece appear as non-important faceless entities, whereas the controlling narcissistic psychopath himself is prominently to the front looking dashing and handsome—and even charming—and unaware of or uncaring about the suffering he’s causing to others. His personality defect is controlling and strangling them.


I wanted it to have a disturbing, chaotic and nightmarish quality to it. It occurs to me that I might have seen the film SE7EN, 2 years earlier, in which there’s a lot of copy-paste imagery in the opening titles. But I was also interested in pushing my methods and style a bit further. I’d begun illustrating for the press with purely drawn pieces in strong black line and fine black hatching on white—which always printed well despite the limitations of newsprint. But I’d begun to introduce tonal work in watercolour and black polychromo pencil—to varying degrees of success.

I didn’t use any found materials in this, but made every element from scratch. The base material was white gessoed board, which gave it some texture. I drew and painted Errol Flynn and the brain on paper and cut them out. The characters behind were drawn onto the board with the waxy black pencil. And the ‘me me me’ ticker tape was typed up on the PC, printed out, trimmed and stuck on.

The New Colour Version (2018)

I recently revisited this favourite piece of mine and digitally coloured it in Photoshop, with some additional tonal work. With colour illustration being more common in newspapers now, I think it was a worthwhile experiment.

Looking at it again, especially in colour, I’m reminded a little of that astonishing and shocking scene in one of my favourite films—John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing.’ In it, a characters’ chest cavity breaks open and a horrific creature explodes out of it, with tentacles and crabby spidery legs, suspending itself, writhing, above the ‘patient.’ You never know, it might unconsciously have been in the back of my mind!

editorial newspaper editorial illustation of a psychopath socialised sociopath errol flynn
Above: The original Black & White version

See more colourised illustrations »

Illustrator: John White
Media: Ink, Gauche, Pencil Crayon, Watercolour, on Paper and Gesso Primed Board
Colourised in: Adobe Photoshop
Client: Sunday Independent Newspaper
Writer: Robert Matthews

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