Kieran

Classic Science-Fiction Illustrators (Part 1) – Jim Burns

To celebrate ten years of Sci-Fi-O-Rama I thought it would be poignant to reacquaint you with some of the most popular artists we’ve featured through the decade.

Here then is the first part of a new series featuring a selection of genre pioneers synonymous with the pre-digital ‘Golden Age’ of Sci-Fi Illustration. These are artists that were most prolific – though not exclusively – during the 1970s and 1980s, together they’ve captured and inspired the imagination of millions.

In no specific lets then begin with Welsh maestro Jim Burns…

Jim Burns

Jim Burns (born in Cardiff, April 1948) has enjoyed an extremely prolific career dating back to the early 1970s. During these forty years and more he’s produced cover and interior art for literally hundreds of Science Fiction and Fantasy titles including work for authors such as George R. R. Martin, Frank, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett to name but a few.

Jim Steranko – Outland

Jim Steranko – Outland

Sci-Fi-O-Rama contributor Ben Feldman recently pointed me toward an online selection of Heavy Metal, the infamous American Sci-Fi/Fantasy magazine most prominent in the late 70s and 1980s.

Heavy Metal was originally a remix of translated material from the French comic anthology Métal hurlant and prominently features art from Gallic masters such as Moebius, Enki Bilal, Philippe Caza and Phillippe Druillet.

Anyway, whilst scanning through the back issues I came across samples of this Jaw-dropping Jim Steranko adaptation of the Sean Connery Sci-Fi flick Outland (Peter Hyams, 1981). The level of draughtsmanship detail is simply incredible, a level of confident intricacy that rivals even the technicality Katsuhiro Otomo.

Jim Steranko - Outland

A quick recap, Outland is a ‘high-noon-in-space’ type thriller that features some superb claustrophobic set design akin to Ridley Scott’s Alien, though distinctive enough to merit its own plaudits. The plot revolves around a drug smuggling conspiracy set on a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon Io and whilst the film’s narrative is at times plodding it does have a brooding edge and features decent performances most notably from Connery.

Tinne Zenner – Nutsigassat

Tinne Zenner – Nutsigassat

First up, Sci-Fi-O-Rama was 10 years old last month (28th of March) and though posts may have dwindled somewhat through recent years we are very much back, so a big thanks to long-term and new readers alike. On with the post…

I’m currently contracting with an Icelandic games studio and am fortunate enough to spend a fair bit of time over there. Recently I visited Reykjavík Art Museum (highly recommended) and came across the spellbinding video work of contemporary Danish artist Tinne Zenner.

Zinner features in a 4 part collective show entitled ‘Tak i lige måde: Contemporary Art from Denmark’  commisioned to mark a hundred years of Icelandic sovereignty and the road to independence from Denmark (Iceland became fully independent in 1944). Zinner’s contribution ‘Nutsigassat’ (Greenlandic: ‘Transitions’) was by far the standout and really blew me away, hence the taster here.

Nutsigassat is an extremely powerful 20-minute combination of text, spoken word and haunting 16mm film imagery, scored with a superb low-range soundscape by Wieland Rambke. The film’s theme concentrates on the power of language as a tool of the coloniser, in this case, the Danish influence over Greenland.

Of particular note is a cleverly designed computer animation (seen below) that appears in such a rudimentary fashion it’s difficult to know how exactly it was crafted, the 16mm post-treatment gives a very 1980s VHS feel. Combine this with Rambke’s brooding soundtrack and a native Greenlandic voiceover with word-for-word translation (broken syntax) and you have some extreme otherworldliness. I was mesmerised upon viewing, and poignantly it’s a piece that quietly blossoms in the mind, majestic if slightly unnerving.

Here’s an excerpt from the film.

Nutsigassat Excerpt#1 from Tinne Zenner on Vimeo.

Finnish Coats of Arms

Finnish Coats of Arms

This origin of this post comes via an old scan of a Finnish textbook I’d come across on ffffound.com (now defunct).

The scan features an intriguing selection of coats of arms representing various municipalities of Finland. These crests all share a powerful combination of both graphic and abstract elements, underpinned with a definite feel of modernism. Essentially then, far more punch than the boring traditional British heraldic crests I’m accustomed to.

Anyway, I decided It was high time to do the research so here’s selection of my favourites.

Finnish Coats of Arms - Pielisjärvi - Raahe

Pielisjärvi – Pielisjärvi is an area of North Karelia, situated on the Russian border. As with many Scandinavian Coats of Arms the endless boreal forests and creatures that inhabit them are a common theme.

The original design is credited to Tapio Vallioja (1920-2005) who designed numerous coats of arms for municipalities, communities and individuals. According to translated Finnish Wikipedia (quite well I might add) Vallioja was one of the 12 founding members of the Heraldic Society of Finland, the article describes his style as ‘clear and understated’.

Finnish Coats of Arms - Enontekiö - Olof Eriksson

Enontekiö – A community in Finland’s North West that lays above the Arctic Circle, part of the area that is considered Lapland. This design a Rock Ptarmigan on a bright blue shield, a pretty bird colloquially known in English as a ‘Snow Chicken’.

Ivan Bilibin – Master Illustrator of Russian Folklore and Mythology

Kickstarting Sci-Fi-O-Rama has me busy researching once more, sites are bookmarked and images saved. Occasionally though, something pops up that’s just too special not feature straightway, such as the art of Ivan Bilibin.

Ivan Bilibin (1876 – 1942) was a Russian graphic artist and stage/costume designer most famous today for his stylised take on Russian Folklore and Medieval art. His work bears strong Art Nouveau characteristics, similar in vein to that of Aubrey Beardsley. Though in truth the influence stems more from their shared passion for 19th-Century Japanese block prints.

Ivan Bilibin - Tsaritsa Militritsa

Above: ‘Tsaritsa Militritsa’

Born in Tarkhovka (near St Petersburg) Bilibin showed much artistic promise as a youngster and went on to study in both Munich and St Petersburg under the tutorage of Anton Ažbe and Ilya Repin respectively. While studying under Repin, he was commissioned by the (then tsarist) Department for the Production of State Documents to illustrate a series of Russian Folk Stories. These would be published in six large format paperback volumes, bringing him praise and recognition from the newly formed ‘World of Art’ group (Mir Istkusstva). Commissions for that circle were to follow, allowing Bilbin to cement his path to a career as an Illustrator.

Dan McPharlin – Selected Works

Dan McPharlin – Selected Works

Veteran readers of Sci-Fi-O-Rama will obviously be familiar with the work of Austrailian artist and model-maker Dan McPharlin. He contributed to several posts and of course, designed the Sci-Fi-O-Rama logo. I’ve featured his gorgeous paintings many times and also interviewed him back in 2010.

Sadly as you probably are aware, in 2015 Dan’s internet presence stopped, and thus, nothing new has since appeared. This is not necessarily ominous, I believe Dan may simply be living ‘off-the-grid’. Over the past few years, I’ve received several emails regarding contacting him for potential commisions, I’m afraid I know nothing more than mentioned, I’ve lost touch with him myself. Anyway, let us not be gloomy, I’m sure he’s fine and busy beavering away on some spellbinding-vista as you read this…

A recap then and study of his overflowing talent.

Dan McPharlin - Storie Incredibili / Contatto col nemico

Dan McPharlin - Storie Incredibili / Contatto col nemico

Above and Title Image: ‘Storie Incredibili / Contatto col Nemico’  Wired Magazine (Italy), July-August 2014 issue.

These serene post-apocalyptic Illustrations form the perfect introduction to the art of Dan McPharlin and demonstrate how he excels at his craft. A delicate blend of Science Fiction and Surrealism, perfectly composed with a precisely balanced colour palette washed over with soft mists of texture.

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