Interview with Joshua Dunlap


“Nostalgia With A Horrifying Twist” – The Art Of Joshua Dunlap

by Mia Makila

Whenever I see a new piece by Joshua Dunlap in my Instagram feed, it means it’s a good day. His gentle dark surrealism, or what I would call “retro-horror”, is full of fun surprises. Joshua Dunlap is an American artist and graphic designer from Philadelphia, PA. He is probably most known as Chemical Messiah on Instagram. So, who is the artist behind all the fun surprises?


How did you get into making digital collages?

[JOSHUA DUNLAP]: I began graphic design when i was 13, I am 34 now. I kinda fell into that role at the time I was playing drums in a local pop punk band. Because when it came time to design a logo and merchandise, we all realized that none of use knew how to design anything outside of Microsoft Paint. I decided to take on the task of downloading and learning Photoshop. So, I spent hours and hours, as well as countless all-nighters, learning everything and anything I could, by reading and watching tutorials as well as just messing around.



Your work is such a lovely mix of fun and dark. You use a lot of cut-outs from shallow vintage commercial ads but they ends up looking like horror stories – where does this mix come from? 

Up until I was about 8 years old, my grandma would watch me and my brother during the summer. She would always have vintage horror movies on in the background even though I was probably too young to be watching. That started my love for the art of the past. Since then, I tend to design art that gives off a nostalgic feel – even if the content is foreign to the viewer.


VIRUS by Joshua Dunlap


What is your creative process like? Take us through it, step by step (and what is your favorite source of raw material?)

I usually start with a vague topic in my head and with a blank canvas in front of me in photoshop. For some reason, this has always helped me visualize what I want to do and how to lay it out. Then i go through my hard drive of collected images to find what piece I can turn into what I’m envisioning. Sometimes I’ll come across an image that resonates with me at that exact moment – then I just have to use it. Some of my favorite pieces are created this way. After finding the images I want to use (sometimes this includes a background), I import all of them into the digital canvas to get a feel for them in relation to each other. I usually end up removing a majority of them and going with a more simplified version. I try to design by the motto “less is more” and it has helped me immensely. After that, I work on making the edits to shape it into what I want. Sometimes I can get it the way I want on the first try, other times I’ll make edits to a piece over and over for a week or so.


The creative process behind THE LAST SUPPER by Joshua Dunlap


What is your favorite music to listen to while working?

I have been inspired and motivated by music since I started designing. Some of my favorite bands that I listen to while I’m designing are; Russian Circles, This Will Destroy You, Every Time I Die, Architects, Chon and Toe. If I am designing album art I listen exclusively to that band or album.

This Will Destroy You  “They Move On Tracks Of Never – Ending Light”


What inspires you?

Growing up, one of my biggest artistic influences was Rene Magritte. As I got older, I noticed that my love for literature and philosophy was bleeding over into my art. Some of my biggest influences are Albert Camus (The Stranger, A Happy Death, The Plague, Exile and The Kingdom, The Myth Of Sisyphus), Franz Kafka (The Castle, The Trial, The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka), and Samuel Beckett (Waiting For Godot, Endgame, The Complete Short Prose ).

Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know.

I am a huge hockey fan. I’ve played and watched hockey since I was about 5. I played up until a couple years ago –  but had to stop due to an injury sustained in a car accident.




After our interview, I went back to look at Joshua Dunlap’s collages. And now I could see more clearly what is hiding inside all the little surprises in his work: a reminder that Death is constantly lurking around, in the most unexpected places and times. 

–  Interview by Mia Makila

Visit Joshua Dunlap’s website
Joshua Dunlap on Instagram

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