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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Guide to Fantasy Art Techniques, edited by Martyn Dean

I still own this thing?

I bought this book in high school, mail order from Paper Tiger Books if memory serves, and I’m a bit perplexed that I still have a copy; I thought it had been lost in my hasty move from B'ham. Each chapter profiles a different artist (all white guys coincidentally) with interview snippets and slick reproductions of the profilee’s art. If I had a scanner I’d post some samples, but instead I’ll try to link to the appropriate websites so you can engage these artists as they present themselves 26 years later. Any quotes and such come from the book, though, not the websites.

Incidentally, back when I bought this book I actually got two copies. I was enamored of a fellow student who dabbled in art, and gave her the second copy as a Christmas gift. What she made of the nerd-fantasies and buxom pinups I’ll never know, but I did come across a copy at the local used bookstore a few months later, and always wondered if she’d traded it in.


Science fiction book jackets, near-photorealistic representational art, spaceships, aliens. Lushly textured and polished surfaces; spaceships and costumes that look like they’ve been produced as art objects. I’ve occasionally attended showings of furniture-as-art, and Burns’ props remind me of the lacquered grainy beauty of wooden furnishings designed to beautify the way sculpture is expected to beautify.
To my untutored eyes his sense of color is rich; he knows how to make color pop for the marketplace, but he isn’t afraid of densely textured monochrome. The humans are pretty, but there’s a bit of the “I’m a conventionally attractive, highly airbrushed model who’s been glaringly photoshopped onto this illustration” syndrome that plagues book jacket illustration.

Quotes-“I put on layer after layer of thin color through the airbrush. I end up creating colors that are unavailable in tube form-there’s a transparent sequence of colors coming through. As with Maxfield Parrish’s blue-which he built up with glazes. I find that with the thinned down acrylics through the airbrush you start to get the same kind of vibrancy.

“I want my pictures to have a general appeal to ordinary people-I can’t stand artistic posturing.

“I particularly want to… convey artifacts which are the products of truly alien minds and different sets of perceptions. And to suggest materials other than wood or metal or plastic-somehow!”

I’d suggest that the opposite of “general appeal to ordinary people” isn’t necessarily “artistic posturing,” but be that as it may.


A thicket of spidery penlines, colors that glow with the drabness of age and overcast days, ornate constructions and unsettling figures. In the 80s I was genuinely afraid of Ian Miller’s work. An artist friend described Miller, only half-jokingly, as Satanic. Today Miller is the artist in the book for whom I have the most non-nostalgic enthusiasm. Of these eight, he is the artist closest to the heart of my kinda fantasy.

Quotes- “I think that most of what I do has a very primeval root. I’ve been told that I’m medieval, but I think I’m more primordial. I have a fetish-cum-totem attitude toward images…I’m inclined to draw in a ‘frontalistic’ style, I suppose, after the Ancient Egyptians.

“I identified very closely… with the Japanese concept of ‘The Fleeting, Floating World’ and with he directness and unsullied perception of Japanese artists. Their stoicism and single mindedness is a great pointer for us all. It’s magic from sweat.”


I got two books by this guy; the first, Mythopoeikon was a delight to me. Sadly it fell apart after much perusal. Woodroffe was all over the place, cartoony yet capable of rich detail work. When I think no one’s listening I sometimes say “I AM BIG AND STRONG” in honor of a Felixesque cat Woodroffe drew who said those straightforward words. The later book, Hallelujah Anyway, was a bit of a letdown. Lots of photos with painted paper dolls, reminiscent of the Cottingham Fairies, but the same dolls in different little backyard contexts wear a bit thin when one’s shelled out for a coffee table edition. The full-on paintings had developed a settled style, unlike the jittery let’s-try-this attitude of his earlier work, and it wasn’t a style I loved: Twee Grandeur, like a veddy English and veddy psilocybin Thomas Kinkaide. Unlike his early stuff, which wasn’t afraid to be alarming while being charming, Woodroffe had lost his stomach for rot, decay, damage, all of which had been present in the early work. Once he would have shown us a field that looked lovely yet had all the browning and withering one finds in nature; later he expelled the serpent (or real toad) from the garden, to the detriment of his work.

Quotes:-“ Doing what reality can’t do makes the art stronger. I like to skirt the edges of kitsch because I think that’s where some of the best art comes from.” (editor’s note: if you think fairies in lingerie flying on dragonfly wings over England’s pleasant pastures constitutes anything less than a headfirst plunge into kitsch, you might be Woodroffe’s kind of person.)
“…a lot of artists make the mistake of believing that correctness is important. I build on the fact that it’s wrong. A lot of painters have done that in the past-particularly in mediaeval times, I suspect.

“I’m not acceptable in the art-establishment fields, but I have the compensation that a lot of people out there like what I do.”


His famous Clockwork Orange poster isn’t in the book; for some reason a bunch of his reference materials are pictured, but only a few of his images. All the paintings we do see show an artist thinking “Pinup girls are sexy, and fighter jets are sexy. What do I feel like painting today?” Answer: fetishy pinup-girl/jet amalgams. The stuff is slick, but like a lot of fetish art that isn’t to one’s own tastes, this might be nauseating.

I konked out trying to find interesting quotes. Moving on…


An industrial designer whose specialty is technologically plausible conceptual art. He designed those flying cars for Blade Runner. I admire his work, but his illustrations are more about means-to-an-end communicating possibilities to clients than about end-product entertainment for nerd eyeballs, so it’s a bit like looking at blueprints: interesting, but it rolls right off my brain.

I just looked at his website and I take it all back. I implore you, look at these cartoons. God bless you, Syd Mead.

“…get beyond the burning of fossilized petrochemicals-that’s a primitive way of doing it. We’re not so much advanced from the people who burnt oil in a lamp in Babylonian times.”


Hey, it says here he did the happy hippie funtime illustrations for The Joy of Sex, but you won’t see any of that in this book. It’s all spaceships, all the time. As a youth I found his lumpy ships off-putting, but now I think they’re pretty exciting. Foss is a sort of abstractionist-he certainly isn’t into the material-as-material approach to abstraction that the Ab-Ex crowd made famous, but an artist friend of mine once described Foss’s work as “painting a cloud and calling it a spaceship,” which I would repeat, only as a complement this time. Wonderful clouds with clownfish colors. Constructivist parade floats.

No quotes this time, although he cites Picasso, Turner and Schiele as inspirations, and he rhapsodizes about dirty old trains. In high school I had no use for those artists or dirty trains-today I love them all. No wonder Foss’s work has grown on me. Please buy some art so he can afford a less drab website.

MARTIN BOWER. A spaceship model maker for stuff like Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blake's Seven, and Space: 1999. An impressive resume of SF movies and TV; he's clearly a go-to guy for spaceship models. He says he also makes miniature hobbits for fun, and the book includes a picture of a disturbing cyborg woman figure he’s made. She looks like a buxom latex, er, toy. Ewwww. None of these cyborg women on the website, but I got the proof that he made them right here. YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM YOUR SORDID PAST MARTIN BOWER. (Who am I kidding? If I'd had the skills I would have whittled a few girlfriends myself back in the lonely days.)

BORIS VALLEJO. Somewhere along the way Vallejo decided to play The Monkees to Frazetta’s Beatles, and he’s sold a lot of calendars that way. Buxom women in chainmail seem to strike a chord with a lot of working-class nerds, female as well as male, as proven by his hot musclebound wife Julie Bell, who came into his life some time after the interview in the book. I'm tempted to make fun of their art, but I won't because either one of them could clobber me with one hand while painting a buxom barbarian with the other hand.

Vallejo talks up the old masters, particularly Murillo and Velasquez.

An indirect quote from Boris struck me as a youth: “…yellow (is) brighter than white on canvas because it creates a greater illusion of brilliance, and black can be made to appear darker by adding red to it to produce a sense of depth.” This led me to consider the hard-to-notice subtleties of life around me. It’s sad when the person giving you a subtler, more nuanced understanding of life is Boris Vallejo, but you never know from whence wisdom will come.

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