The Art of Ian Miller + Interview
The book put together by both Ian Miller and Tom Whyte is loaded with over 300 pieces of Ian’s totally unique work and is backed up with detailed descriptions on the creative process, inspiration and general artistic philosophy. Suffice to say It’s a must-read for any serious fantasy or sci-fi illustration aficionado. Here’s the feature.
Imagine if you will that all of science fiction and fantasy can be mapped to points and places on Earth. Take for example Ridley Scott’s vision of Cyberpunk which blends the shimmering streets of Tokyo and rain lashed gloom of Gotham against a hell like the backdrop of refineries & furnaces, a homage to England’s once mighty industrial North East, the place of Ridley’s childhood.
How then about the Post-Apocalypse? It’s difficult to think far beyond the scrub and desert wilderness of the Australian outback or the charred and tangled rubble of a Los Angeles thereafter nuclear firestorm. Destruction as defined by Messrs Miller and Cameron, it’s a vision that’s been recycled countless times.
Even Tolkien’s middle earth has it’s probable roots in the rolling hills of Lancashire (or Cheshire?), and the foreboding grey of the Welsh Mountains. All this of course re-imagined by Jackson and grand-scaled as New Zealand’s greatest ever tourist advert.
Now then fire your mind skywards and glide far out to sea to a place that only appears on only the most ancient or wildest of maps…
Below some icy archipelago, crowned by impossibly twisted peaks that pierce deep swirling clouds, constantly stirred by fast-moving winds. The cauldron howls.
Descend now through the vortices, time and scale begin to quiver then bend. Suddenly the cloud breaks into a shock wave, colours and form ripple and blur. Welcome to the ultimate gothic netherworld; a place both infinitely ancient and ultramodern in a way that far outstrips steampunk. Here vast towers aeons old form the backdrops as colossal arenas as the Teutonic Knights of chaos battle giant wooden Proto-Mechs, above baroque dragons soar and pulse fire across a nightmare-scape beyond the edge of the imagination…
This is but a taste of the realm of Ian Miller.
Q. You’ve obviously had books published in the past was this something you’d been planning for a while?
No, although people kept asking me if a new book would ever appear. Some said it was long overdue. I think being around for so long helped. People also keep asking me if I’m going to have an exhibition any time soon. I always reply “They are expensive things to do, and nobody has invited me to show”. Maybe somebody will do a retrospective when I’m dead?
Q: Tolkien, Herbert, Lovecraft, Bradbury to name but a few – do you have a favourite world to work within or is it simply a case of fashioning your own visions to fit?
Mervyn Peake is a great favourite.The Gormenghast Trilogy is a triumph. I’m always amazed when people say they have not read it. If anybody reading this has not, go out and buy it now.
Q: You Maelstrom project was exhibited as part of a show in The Shetlands, are you well travelled and are there any particular places that inspire you?
Not really, but I’ve been to the edge of the Dark Forest and London. The roads are not good where I live, and strange things happen to travellers when the light fails.
Q: Your depiction dragons have always fascinated me, is there a hierarchy in how you depict them? And how do you define a Drake, Dragon or Worm?
I loved the Dragons in Rupert Bear when I was a child, and nobody could ever say, as one might with a horse, That doesn’t look right, it’s wrong. As a point of interest my horses always looked like Alsatian dogs (German shepherds). As to whether one calls them, Drakes, Worms or Dragons is of no great concern to me. A Pedant might argue it matters a great deal and good on him.
Q: With regards to the inspiration you mention past master’s such as Durer or Rackham, are there any contemporary illustrators, artists or directors that you particularly admire?
Martin Kippenberger, Mira Schedule, Ensor, Alfred Kubin, Joseph Beuys, Matisse, for a few. In truth, I do a disservice to all those I fail to mention. Every day I discover new artists, known and unknown, and reconnect with artists I encountered as a student. They all matter. If I listed them all I need a very long roll of paper. By days end I will most probably discover more.
Q: I’m often fascinated by the haunted emotion your able to capture in many of your more humanoid characters, do you ever use reference or is it all drawn straight from the imagination?
I have never used a great deal of reference if indeed any. I now wonder if I made things difficult for myself. When I discovered some artist set up photo shoots with models I was really surprised. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ I suppose. Somebody once called me medieval. I’m not really sure, even now, whether that was a compliment or an insult? Strange to say, whatever face I’m trying to draw, I always open a small Thames and Hudson book of Durer images I bought back in 1967, at a page depicting Durer as a young man (self-portrait) I think this acts as a sort of comfort blanket? As to haunted emotions, I can’t say that is something I consciously strive for. It just comes through that way.
Q: You speak of childhood dreams nightmares and visions, and noting that you’re still drawing your childhood toy box I wonder, do you have recurring dreams today?
Yes, and I do a lot of dreaming whilst I’m awake. I could say rabbits are recurring, but that might start us off on a silly track with no way back.
“Once the world of ideas has been transformed, reality cannot hold out for long”
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Q: With such a rich and varied visual language every reader’s opinion on your art must surely be different, could you pick out three personal favourites from the book?
In truth, I have a far wider remit, image-wise, than represented in this anthology, but as you suggest, peoples reactions to my work are varied and different. That my work invites comment, for good or bad, is to be celebrated. If I were to pick two pieces I like at this moment, they would be the sections on the very last two page entitled Actium and the image sections on pages 116-117 Rift X.
Q: You have a real flair for mind-bending, intricate and wildly flamboyant costume and character design on once again are there favourites (Ents, Orcs. Elves)?
I like them all equally. Surface detail has always been important. Being short-sighted might have something to do with this. I have always liked studying things up close, patterns, cell structures. Somebody once said I had a ‘forgers eye’ Be that as it may, I love pattern. you can also paper over the cracks with it.– the holes in the wainscot, were things that scratch live.
Q: Finally, With a career spanning four decades Ian is there any stone left unturned for you?
There is a mountain still to climb. A raft of better more engaging drawings to do, –making a film – doing a lot more writing. I have just released a dysfunctional tome called the Broken Diary, all words, which wavers between the real and unreal in a very frustrating fashion.
“I must try harder”
Write this down a thousand times.
For more information on Ian check and his portfolio and blog over at ian-miller.org
All images courtesy of Ian Miller / Titan Publishing. Special thanks to Tom Green for getting in touch and suggesting this post.