This is the first book I bought in my fantasy art collection. It's also where I first encountered the work of Jim Burns and Boris Vallejo. "The Guide to Fantasy Art Techniques" is a somewhat misleading title. This is not a "how to" book, but a series of interviews with some of the most talented practitioners of fantasy art. The artists do mention the materials they use, but that's about all. The caption "Where did you get the idea?" is pretty simple to answer: from the writer of the manuscript, or the brief given by the art director.There are interviews with eight artists: Jim Burns, Ian Miller, Patrick Woodroffe, Phillip Castle (the one who did the "Clockwork Orange" poster), Syd Mead, Chris Foss, Martin Bower and Boris Vallejo. The artists talk about their early days, their influences (favourite artists, comics) and so on. Some went to art school. Others didn't. Some found art school a tremendous learning experience. Others didn't. My only criticism is that the book doesn't give the dimensions of the artwork. The only real idea you get of size is in the photo of Boris Vallejo sitting next to his easel, or Martin Bower standing with his model spacecraft. It's hard to pick out a favourite artist from this lot, but I think the one I connect to most is Chris Foss. He was very influential in SF art, even inspiring Jim Burns. I like that phrase Patrick Woodroffe uses, "to skirt the edges of kitsch". I'm not sure how his work would go down at art college. Woodroffe makes another telling comment, regarding the perception of "artists" as opposed to "illustrators": "For me most of the best artists are illustrators anyway. Some people describe painting as 'literary' as if it were an insult. I don't see why you have to be very abstract or self-effacing to produce something worthwhile". This is very true. Think of all those Renaissance paintings with religious subject matter, inspired by the biggest bestseller of all time. People still admire them centuries later as "art". There's a theory I've been mulling over regarding the definitions of art and illustration. Illustration is something that everyone can understand. Art is something only the initiated can understand. Maybe that's an unfair generalisation, but there does seem to be an element of snobbery over what constitutes "real art". I guess it's all a matter of personal taste. While the best part of the book is the artwork, along with the interviews, Martyn Dean writes a good afterword on the subject of imagination and inspiration. You finish reading it with an even stronger conviction about the merits of fantasy art.
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