Sci-Fi-O-Rama proudly present a very special feature on Chris Foss, as profiled by Jeff Love, owner and admin of the sublime Sci-Fi art blog Ski-ffy.
Born in 1946 in Guernsey, Channel Islands, Chris Foss is a British illustrator and a powerhouse of science fiction design and invention. His work is a celebration of future machinery, impossibly sized constructions exist on a planetary scale; a showcase of hardware so large that the human figure is dwarfed by comparison.
Arriving in the SF illustration field in the early 1970s, he is a cult figure, influential and universally admired. For British SF and SF art, his work can be seen as a catalyst; his prolific output was used abundantly in the UK paperback market, particularly by publishing houses like Panther, Coronet (Hodder & Stoughton) and Granada. Foss’ iconic paintings adorned the covers of American classics; E. E. Smith’s Lensman and Family d’Alembert series, reprints of the works of Asimov, James Blish and Philip K. Dick. These colourful scenes of gargantuan spacecraft, space-scenes and enormous robots not only influenced an entire school of imitators, but instilled a love of future-tech amongst several generations of science fiction fans.
So without ado lets hand over the controls to Dan…
Guest post by Dan McPharlin
And now for something a little bit different. Sci-Fi-O-Rama doesn’t normally feature 3D work, but Kieran has kindly handed me the keys and let me loose on his blog to write this guest post on a subject that is very dear to my heart; Sci-Fi model making.
Ever since I first saw that monolithic Star Destroyer swoop majestically into frame in the opening minutes of Star Wars it’s a subject I’ve been fascinated by. While CGI has unfortunately all but rendered the model-maker’s craft obsolete in the movies, there are still a handful of talented artists out there burning the torch for this fantastic art form…
Ok so this is something of a re-post lifted from the excellent designboom.com. Re-posting content in such verbatim fashion is something In which I tend to shy away from, but since it concerns quite possibly the worlds premier Sci-Fi Illustrator I’ve made an exception! We are of course talking of French comic artist/legend Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius and this article relates to his current exhibition “Transe-Forme” which is running now at Fondation Cartier in Paris until Saturday the 13th March, 2011. So as of time posting you have roughly a month too experience it.
A selection of imagery scanned from “The World of the Dark Crystal” a 2003 compendium of conceptual art, design and illustration produced for Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy movie masterpiece “The Dark Crystal”.
For those of you not familiar with the story of the Dark Crystal – it’s a powerful and dramatic tale of a lost world and Jen, a young ‘Gefling’ who set out on perilous quest against sinisterm dark forces. 28 years after it’s original release the award winning Dark Crystal is firmly embedded as a true cult classic and even to this day a is a tour de force in special effects featuring breathtaking animatronics and puppetry… The whole film just oozes quality – there’s never been anything quite like it since – a remarkable odyssey suitable for adults and children alike, although I have to be honest, parts of it still freak me out!
I’d really like to write more here but I’m once again I’m a little time restricted, I think I’ll post here and then revisit again soon – anyway I’m guessing that most of you a familiar with the film. If not – wow! – your in for a treat! I recommend the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD with excellent special features http://is.gd/cTgLX or the BluRay version http://is.gd/cTgXX
The award winning design as shown here is the work of Devon based English Fantasy Artist Brian Froud, who in addition to producing of 20 illustrative book has also lent his considerable fantasy artist talent to several other famous film projects including as Labyrinth (1985) and Peter Pan (2003).
Ok so some notes on the Images I’ve featured from top to bottom (some spoliers here!):
Top: A conceptual sketch of an ‘Ur-Ru’. The Ur-Ru are the ying to the Skeksis yang, Ur-Ru represent light and good, the Skeksis dark and evil. Each Ur-Ru is inextricably linked to it’s Skeksis counterpart, both share a divided soul and are part of the higher being known as the ‘urSkeks’. This omnipotent super-race was violently spilt apart in an attempt to harvested the full power of the planets three suns known as “The Grand Conjuction”
2nd Top: A conceptual sketch of a ‘Skeksis’. For me creature and costume design doesn’t get much better than Skeksis – it’s not that the regal/Afghan hound looking Ur-Ru aren’t beautifully designed too (they are!) – there’s something memorably horrific about the Skekis, their shrill voices and bloated, twisted bodies wrapped inside fantastically elaborate but rotting clothing!
3rd Top: A perfect example of the fallen decadence – “skekEkt the Ornamentalist who made clothes above all for himself, rich fabrics that dripped jewels, the death of a 100 birds for 1 cloak. He first discovered the art of anointing the skin with a paste of clotted blood and diamond powder, to restore the sparkle of youth.”
4th Top: Another superior sketch, check the ruff, ruched sleeves and carefully balanced Tri-Spectacle action! “skekOk the Scroll-Keeper kept the record of the Skeksis; he was the smallest finest-featured, least honest of them all. He wrote and and rewrote his accounts, and kept changing them one or another of his shifting allies, The truth was soon lost.”
5th Top: A close up detail sketch of Skeksis head. A fair visual description would be to say the Skeksis are a kind of avian reptile, perhaps like an Archaeopteryx but also taking the most heavy visual cue from the Vulture .
6th Top: The contorted chaos of “The Castle of the Skeksis”.
7th Top: A design for the floor plan of the Crystal Chamber, the symbols of the original 18 urSkeks can be seen around the edge whilst the crystal hangs above the inner ring…
8th top & Bottom: Concept drawings for Jen the Gelfling, his costume and accessories – love the man bag!
Two fine examples of Illustrated Concept Art from the Star Trek Universe, the top Image is the Borg Queen designed for the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact (best after Wrath of Khan IMO) this concept is quite a bit different to the film version, the carved skull idea here is particularly freaky! .The lower image profiles a Neutrino Welder apparently from the Original Movie Adaptation Star Trek: The Motion Picture – no I can’t remember them either… still, it’s a pretty cool looking suit.
Both these Images come via this superb Star Trek resource: Forgotten Trek http://www.ottens.co.uk/forgottentrek/ a vertible mine of behind the scenes stories, designs, concepts etc. Highly recommend even if your not a Trek fan, if you are however – this site’s worth it’s weight in Gold Pressed Latinum!
Scans taken “The Colonial Marines Technical Manual” written and illustrated by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood and published by Boxtree in 1995… I’ll have to admit this rare book is one of my prize possessions!
“The Colonial Marines Technical Manual” if you hadn’t of guessed is basically an analytical expansion on all the military hardware envisaged and designed for the movie Aliens. This book covers in an insane level of detail everything this future American fighting force has at it’s disposal, from the things you’ll recognise: Pulse Rifles, Drop Ships & Smart Guns etc through to things you won’t: Ghille Suits, Rocket Launchers, Tanks and much more…
If you’ve ever watched Aliens and wondered just how many floating point operations a Synth – sorry – Artificial Person is capable of processing per second then this is simply an absolute must read!
A rare glimpse of some of James Cameron’s original concept artwork for his 1986 masterpiece “Aliens”. This topographical painting his re-imagining of the films nightmare planet, the inhospitable, unearthly bleakness that is LV-426 Acheron, a dimly lit world ravaged by screaming wind and lashed with perpetual storms….. not unlike a few places in the UK I can think of, only their populated by a species much worse than Giger’s creation’s….. that’s right, the Chav.
Two more samples from Wayne Barlowe’s fantastic Expidition Book (Published 1990). The “Daggerwirst” is an alien predator indigenous to Darwin IV, a fictional (or yet to be discovered!) planet in orbit around a binary star system very close to our own, all evolutionary design of course is hypothectical! These creature’s, of roughly man sized proportions communicate via sonar pings and swoop on their prey from the trunks and branches of huge extraterrestrial trees…
I posted a previous featuere on the the expidition book back in July last year, as I mentioned then it’s basically a grown up version of Ricky Gervais’s Flanimals books, though of course predates them – in fact I wonder if Ricky referenced Wayne’s work? Anyway read a little bit more about the Daggerwrist and Darwin IV’s other exotic species via Wayne’s official gallery feature: http://www.waynebarlowe.com/expedition_pages/index_expedition.htm the book is also available to buy starting at $20 via Amazon.
First up some links regarding the late Harry Lange a former NASA Illustrator whom Kubrick employed due to his extensive astronautical design experience. Harry helped to produce authentic prop and set designs, a sample of his concept art is above.
Also of major interest and extremely cool: Joe Mackenzie’s nicely designed tribute site http://www.halproject.com/ which includes the chance to download your very own Hal-9000 screen saver! basically whilst running it will show random samplings of the HAL 9000 monitor animations, very authentic and strangely calming… it’s available for Mac or PC and it’s completely Free!
Before I start I’d like to point out all material is sourced via this amazing Aliens tribute site: http://aliensarchive.tripod.com/home.html. Though it doesn’t appear to have been updated for a some time it’s still extremely extensive, with script revisions, FX info and costume design and detailing – a must read!
So with regards to this post… here we have a small selection of storyboard frames from everybody’s favourite “Vietnam in Space” movie: Aliens – (Directed James Cameron, 1986). Theses samples are taken from across several drafts I believe and were illustrated by artists Roger Dear, Maciek Piotrowski and Denis Rich, apparently these scan’s are taken from the films Laser Disc Release, although full versions (copies?) of the storyboard do crop occasionally on ebay. The first thing you notice is just how close to the final film print they actually are, you can almost hear them! I’ve tried to arrange them in chronological order from top left and across – I’m not sure the final “fueling” thumbnail (bottom row) made it into the film.
As for the film itself, well I think there’s a fair chance that if your reading this you’ve probably seen it more than once. Better than Ridley Scott’s original? well it’s hardly worth arguing over as both will forever be tagged as visionary film making. As for the sequels? Alien 3 nullifies the events of it’s predecessor and ultimately pails into insignificance, though Fincher’s effort does have it’s merits including some great sets and very nifty camera work. Ressurection as with 3 is best enjoyed when you remove all thought’s of the first two movies, it’s watchable nonsense which is more than can be said for you know what….
Following on from the prior post here’s more from Jodorowsky’s gloriously doomed Dune, this time featuring the efforts of Devon’s finest – Chris Foss… nice to feature some of Foss’s work pre-airbrush-gloss!
Top left: “Duke Leto Atreides”
Top right a “Sardaukar” – I still prefer this depiction
Bottom left “Feyd” – played by Sting in Lynch’s 84 Version
Bottom right “Kynes”
All concept Art from Mobieus for the aborted Alejandro Jodorowsky 1976 version of “Dune”. With Mobieus in charge of Costume Design and Storyboarding, Chris Foss taking care of Spaceship’s and Vehicles and H.R.Giger creating the evil Harkonnen Homeworld + a Pink Floyd soundtrack & starring Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali amongst others! it goes without saying this is definitely the greatest film never made. The project stalled when funds dried up and other assorted spanners randomly flew into the creative machine. Truly a project of immense scope and scale – alas never to be, at least not in this Universe!