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.

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.

Roberto Benavidez – Hieronymus Bosch Piñatas & Interview

A glimpse of the ethereal here as we focus on Los Angeles based artist Roberto Benavidez and his glorious Hieronymus Bosch inspired Piñatas.

A wondrous weave of both Mexican and Medieval European influences, It’s not often one stumbles across work as fabulously genre-bending.

Intrigued, I contacted Roberto to find out more…

Roberto Benavidez - Bosch Bird no3

You have a wonderfully enchanting style, can you give an insight into your background and route to becoming an artist/sculptor?

I grew up a closeted gay boy in rural South Texas. There wasn’t much available in terms of art education apart from the performing arts so that is the route I pursued initially. I had always been drawn to crafts like sewing, embroidery and collage but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I began to entertain the idea of pursuing a career as a sculptor. It really coincided with my coming out fully as a gay man and embracing what my true passions were. Over time I’ve moved from clay to metal casting, to paper, mainly sticking to figurative forms.

Roberto Benavidez – Hieronymus Bosch Piñatas

I’d rank your Hieronymus Bosch Piñatas as some of freshest work I’ve seen for a long time, where did the initial idea spring from?

Thanks, that’s very kind of you to say. I’ve had this idea for some time now. I’ve always been a fan of Bosch. The idea of blending this traditional Mexican craft with Bosch’s imagery was quite exciting to me, something a bit outside the typical piñata imagery. There is also the context behind each being rooted in sin so I thought it to be the perfect pairing. I also felt like this bleeding of cultural artistic forms was in a way representative of me as mixed-race.

The Art of Ian Miller + Interview

The Art of Ian Miller

Titan Publishing got in touch asking if I’d Interview British Illustrator Ian Miller to coincide with the launch of ‘The Art of Ian Miller’ a 160 page compendium spanning four decades.

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.

It’s rare to come across a piece of art that really moves me. This odyssey of distortion does just that.

Unnerving, strangely touching and certainly one of the most spellbinding and hallucinatory 5 minutes of music video your ever likely to see. This is but a taster of Luke Wyatt’s ‘Sad Stonewash’ (a Video Mulch) a 40-minute sojourn into the abyss of VHS.

“Video Mulch” is Wyatt’s trademark form of extreme analogue Video Processing, created using a combo of outdated analogue and digital tools.

Wyatt describes the process as thus:

“I select a video to appropriate based on its mood resonance or compositional zing. My VCR gets beat up with a size 13 docksider until it makes errors and the VHS tape spits upon itself. While digitizing the video I induce the computer to make mistakes by not telling it the truth about the data it is ingesting. I isolate the mistakes I like best, outline them, and send them back to my VCR, resuming the docksider attack, repeating this process until things attain an anti-sheen, losing any crisp edge as if they had always belonged together. I then arrange the images in an order that must appear equally

'Nightmare Blue' Art by Justin Todd 1975

A varied selection of retro SF and Fantasy book art. Sci-Fi-O-Rama was pretty much built upon the back of posting forgotten book and games art, so with a renaissance in blog activity what better than to revisit the archives and excerpt another sampler.

What’s fascinating with each of these examples is that though they might not always fully hit the mark there’s always something of interest or worthy of reference. This then might be a style of colouring, a technique in rendering, the choice and application of a typeface, or even something as obscure as the design of a motif. In short, even the most subtle fragment of detailing can flick a creative switch, it’s all about your own imagination. That isn’t, however, to say that every Sci-Fi book cover has merit – au contraire – they most certainly do not. But that’s what we’re here for, to filter and serve only the very finest…

In putting this (abridged) selection together we’re go revisit several of the artists featured at Sci-Fi-O-Rama before, people who defined and shaped the genre such as

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