Dick Jude,
Fantasy Art Masters:
The Best Fantasy &
Science Fiction Artists
Show How They Work

(Watson-Guptill, 1999)

Originally published in the UK, and now fortunately available in the U.S., this large-format trade paperback provides ample space on its pages to showcase 10 leading exponents of the truly fantastic art that now represents the science fiction and fantasy genres. Writer Dick Jude interviewed his chosen artists and quotes them extensively in the text which accompanies the beautifully laid-out and displayed images of their work -- most reproduced in full color. The inspirations, joys and frustrations of the featured talents are revealed as are explanations of how they bring their work to completion. Also incuded are discussions of each master's favorite or most demanding assignments and their working techniques, explaining why they work in a particular medium.

The book is divided into three sections. The first, "Hairy Sticks and Pigments," is about artists who create their work entirely with paint, ink and paper or canvas in the time-honored tradition. Their compositions -- often landscapes of magical beings such as fairies, trolls, elves, demons and ghosts, or of heroic figures like amazons and pirates -- are discussed by such exemplars as Alan Lee, Don Maitz, John Howe and Brom.

"Paintbrush to Pixel," the middle section, focuses on those artists beginning to add computer programs to their range of tools without abandoning traditional painting methods; they just utilize whichever approach is best for the job at hand. The best of the old combined with the shock of the new is here demonstrated by the luminaries Jim Burns, Rick Barry and Chris Moore.

The artists featured in the final section, entitled "The Digital Realm," have worked almost entirely with digitally manipulated imagery, having more or less left the painting aspect of their professional lives behind them. Although their art is all assembled and processed in a computer, this doesn't mean that they never paint -- for within their digital images many examples of high painterly skill and technique can be found. The freedom and speed of computer art are explained by the masters Steve Stone, Fred Gambino and Dave McKean, as are the mysteries of wire frames, rendering and sketching.

Finally, Jude makes sure attention is drawn to a comment made by each of the artists in this book: it is only through the traditional approach of observation, devotion to hard work and practice that anyone can cultivate the skill to convincingly render visions of wonder and magic regardless of what tools are used. The most expensive computer, camera, airbrush and pigments remain just flashy tools and will achieve nothing without this foundation.

Fantasy Art Masters offers an impressive range of the various styles, techniques and choices of subject matter available to be seen within the ever-growing realm of fantasy art, dramatically presenting evidence of the endless potential for new techniques made possible by technologies that advance almost hourly, and also proving that fantastic illustration has progressed far since its origins within the ghetto culture of pulp fiction for it is now emerging into the mainstream of posters, television and CD covers. This book deserves high praise for so attractively demonstrating the creative wealth and diversity in this popular genre of illustrative art, the 10 practitioners featured within fully deserving their inclusion.

However, if there is any justice in this world, this would be just the beginning of a series of books, for there are dozens more great fantastic artistic talents out there equally justified in having their work presented in the beautiful format that Fantasy Art Masters embodies. Meanwhile, this volume will have to do for those who wish to have a book of gorgeous fantastic art by diverse hands to treasure and if hungry for more, a helpful bibliography of more books by the artists showcased here and of books containing broader surveys of fantasy art is included as an added bonus.

[ by Amy Harlib ]

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