OMG, today the Sub Rosa Desktop Lunch Bunch actually brought big steaming casserole dishes to share. At their desks, not in the break room or cafeteria. It would smell good if there were some for me, but there isn't so it smells bad.
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Last night I idly switched on NPR and heard a bit of one of those new age ambient music shows they play on Sunday night. They were interviewing Roger freakin' Dean, the cover artist for a bunch of the Yes and Asia albums I loved as a student. I dug his paintings as much as the music (His Asia covers hold up much better than the cheesy pop music inside) and bought two books compiling his art: Views, with crude early efforts along all the groovy Seventies stuff, and Magnetic Storm, which focused on his publishing companies: Paper Tiger and Dragon's Dream. I would loll in bed, listening to old Yes albums and flipping to my favorite images in these books, floating through an idealized land of green grass, improbable icebergs and bombastic Limey prog rock.
Magnetic Storm had a few thumbnail images of art by Ian Miller, a much edgier artist who fascinated and repelled me in equal measure. Now I wish I'd bought some of that dude's books; he worked in a photo realistic fantasy vein similar to that of Dean, but Miller had a scary edge and a formal playfulness not present in Dean's bucolic visions of floating islands bearing idealized British countryside. Dean's stuff is mostly the same stuff over and over, but if you must have kitch art he's preferable to Thomas Kinkaide in my book.
Dean's Paper Tiger books published a book titled Realms of Fantasy which included Miller's illustrations of my beloved Gormenghast. It's long out of print, but it sounds like one to sniff out.
Anyway, here's a link to a link, with some astute comments, regarding J. R. R. Tolkien's own art. Like Dean he had a gentler approach to fantasy illustration. I think Alan Lee (you know, the guy with the awful teeth in those LotR Making Of featurettes) is the Tolkien illustrator who comes closest to matching Tolkien's gentle view of his imaginary world.
I'm more of a Gormenghast fan myself, so I'm enjoying In Viriconium by M. John Harrison. It's a slender volume set in a fantastic but gloomy city not unlike the decaying city-fortress of Gormenghast. Like Mervyn Peake, Harrison's prose is demanding but rich, and goes for hard-won beauty over easy prettiness.
P. S. Roger Dean's website
And Ian Miller's.