Sci-Fi-O-Rama

The Art of Ian Miller

Apr 16th, 2014 | Categories: Art | Fantasy | Fashion | Horror | Ian Miller | Illustration

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 of Ian’s work that spans 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.

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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 backdrop of refineries & furnaces, an 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.

The Art of Ian Miller

Q. You’ve obviously had books published in the past was this something you’d been planing 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?

The Art of Ian Miller

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 the 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 travelers when the light fails.

The Art of Ian Miller

The Art of Ian Miller

Q: Your depiction dragons has 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 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. Everyday 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.

The Art of Ian Miller

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 shots 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.

The Art of Ian Miller

Q: You speak of childhood dreams nightmares and visions, and noting that your 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 readers opinions 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.

The Art of Ian Miller

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. Elfs)?

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.

The Art of Ian Miller

The  Art of Ian Miller

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.

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Thanks Ian!

The Art of Ian Miller is out this week (week 3, April 2014) and Titan are offering a Standard Edition and a Special Limited Editions. The later shipping with a signed print and more.

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.

Selected Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Covers Part 1

May 6th, 2013 | Categories: Adrian Chesterman | Art | Barbara Remmington | David Pelham | Dean Ellis | Fantasy | Graphics | Horror | Ian Miller | Illustration | Peter Max | Peter Tybus | Retro

'Nightmare Blue' Art by Justin Todd 1975

Zipping up my moonboots and going back to the roots here with 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 most fascinating with each of these examples is though the whole might not always fully hit the mark there’s always something of interest or worthy for 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 David Pelham, Dean Ellis, Ian Miller and others perhaps slightly less well known such Adrian Chesterman or Peter Tybus. The majority of covers here have come via my Flickr favourites feed and prior to that a Flickr group I’ve mentioned before, the simply titled ‘Sci-Fi Books‘ pool. Of course these days with tumblr and pinterest and the ever evolving Google image search theres a multitude of ways to sophistically search for this kind of art, but I would say the crowd sourced ‘Sci-Fi Books’ collection still represents the best entry point. As such I recommend that as the first stop on the road for further research.

Lets begin with the art and notes, starting with the header image….

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‘Nightmare Blue’ Art by Justin Todd 1975 (top of post)

As is customary I always load the post head with the most arresting image of the pack, so what to say about this one? Hmmm… Well how about for starters it’s bloody mental. Supremely sinister and rendered in an unusual very idiosyncratic style, this is the work of British Artist Justin Todd. Something about it is strangely very contemporary, but in fact it dates from 1975 and so is actually slightly older than your site author.

Todd, an artist I’ve only just come across, is a classically trained illustrator he lectured Illustration at Brighton University in the 1960′s along side Raymond Briggs (The Snow Man, When The Wind Blows). Someone I’ve earmarked to revisit, for now you can read a little more on him here at arts.brighton.ac.uk.

The story by the way revolves around a highly addictive drug ‘Nightmare Blue’ whose users die without another hit… I’ll just point out I haven’t actually read any of the books featured here, so I’ll add a little snippet like this with each cover.

'Cinnabar' Peter Goodfellow 1978

‘Cinnabar’ Peter Goodfellow 1978

This is one of those slightly abstract airbrush type covers so popular in the 70′s,  the indeterminable sense of scale and swathes of cobalt blues lend an appropriate otherworldly theme. This is English artist Peter Goodfellow’s depiction of Cinnabar, a city at the centre of’ time.

The book is actually collection of short stories based around this would be futuristic utopia, I believe some which may of been printed in the legendary OMNI magazine which I’ve posted about way back when. Interestingly after forging a career Illustrating book covers, Goodfellow would move to become a highly regarded landscape painter in Scotland, that future path perhaps hinted at here by the covers distant snowcapped mountains.

Read a little more about Peter Goodfellow here.

'Frankenstein Unbound'  Art by Paul Bacon 1975

‘Frankenstein Unbound’  Art by Paul Bacon 1975

The cover of Brian Aldiss’s ‘Frankenstein Unbound’ comes complete with an appended $1 mark scrawled on the monsters temple. Ignoring the graffiti then, and this slick inked illustration is the work of American graphic designer and Illustrator Paul Bacon. Love the subtle shift in hues and the way the grained texture of the heavy watercolour paper comes though. This style is in fact very reminiscent of Micheal Foreman, who illustrated the original Erik the Viking book, that was featured here a little while back.

Again somewhat embarrassingly this was the first I’d actually heard of Paul Bacon, although I’m not entirely sure how as I am familiar with some of his work. Perhaps you are too? Bacon created the iconic first edition covers for some of the 20th century’s most important novels including Ken Kesey’s ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five‘ and the legendary ‘Catch 22‘ by Joseph Heller (love that book). Read a little more about Paul Bacon at Wikipedia.

A quick story synopsis: Time traveling 21st American Joe Bodenland finds himself with Byron and Shelley in the famous villa on the shore of Lake Geneva. More fantastically, he finds himself face to face with a real Frankenstein. Sounds pretty good, and indeed in 1990 was adapted to the big screen with no other than Roger Corman at the helm, the undisputed heavyweight champ of cult cinema. Frankenstein Unbound stars staring John Hurt, Bridget Fonda and Raul Julia check it at IMDB.

' The Incandescent Ones' - Adrian Chesterman

‘ The Incandescent Ones’ – Adrian Chesterman

This sinister looking chromed robotic figure is the work of Adrian Chesterman another artist who’s popped up here before. Chesterman, an American artist produced a series of these somewhat warped airbrushed covers for Penguin Science Fiction during the late 70′s and Early 80′s. It’s a look that’s quite distinguishable being characterised by exceptional costume styling and rendered with just the right amount of highlighting sheen. Above is a fine demonstration of these traits, and as with all Chesterman’s covers is underpinned by a deep love for the subject matter.

Also of note is that despite being a (one assumes) being from the future, it’s also impossible to escape the influence of the present or what is now the past. As such Chesterman’s work contains subtle visual clues that reflect the times; a touch of Disco here, a splash of ‘Simon Says’ and of course the inevitable Starwars references.

Definitely a favourite of mine, check out the complete set of Adrian Chesterman cover’s over at the excellent Penguin Science Fiction website.

A quick note the on the book itself and this one sounds perhaps targeted towards a younger adult demographic. A young art student receives a cryptic message that is to lead him on to a series of startling adventures…

'Times Last Gift'  Art by Peter Tybus  1975

‘Times Last Gift’  Art by Peter Tybus  1975

A rainbow coloured somewhat fauvist cover from Peter Tybus this one dating from 1975. The story, if you hadn’t of guessed revolves around time travel.

Tybus is something of a Sci-Fi-O-Rama enigma, and there is little or no digital footprint of him beyond a series of magazine and book illustrations dating from the 1970s. Indeed the top search result listed by google is in fact a Sci-Fi-O-Rama’s past feature on him. Anyway there’s always alot of love here for his iridescent style that’s also reminiscent of the work of  David Pelham, of course, also a Penguin Sci-Fi Cover illustrator.

If you do have more info on Peter Tybus do let us know, it’d be great to one day run an expanded feature…

'R is for Rocket' cover art by Ian Miller

‘R is for Rocket’ cover art by Ian Miller

A collection of Short Stories penned by Ray Bradbury. This cover is the unmistakable work of British illustrator and blog favourite Ian Miller, featured a good few times before. Millers work is a demonstration in ornate crafting finished with laser guided precision and is juxtaposed into chaotic compositions swathed with wild gothic stylings. This is the definition of frenetic, never a moment will your eye rest upon Ian’s work, such is demonstrated above. Also take note of a hawk-eyed passion for architectural and geometric detailing.

Miller doesn’t really do Sci-fi or Fantasy, the work is simultaneously both and neither, and of course is all the better for it. If you are unfamiliar with his work and intrigued (you should be) why not have a browse back through past entries or check his official website ian-miller.org.

'The Menzentian Gate' cover art Barbara Remmington

‘The Menzentian Gate’ (Year Unknown)

The Menzentian Gate is a fantasy novel, penned in 1958 and is part of whats known as the Zimiamvian Trilogy. The saga fact loosely linked to Eddison’s more famous work ‘ The Worm Ouroborosfeatured here way back in 2008.

The cover is by Barbara Remmington an American artist and Illustrator most famous for her Ballatine Books first edition covers for Lord of the Rings. It’s a colourful style of work reminiscent perhaps of that Bayeux tapestry  mode of visual story telling, and busy composition loaded with clues and character. Certainly captures the ethos of what a fantasy book should like, and the Dragon/Serpent looks fantastic.

Der Himmel uber Pern Cover

Der Himmel über Pern

From the dragon that devours its own tail to one thats shrouds an astronaut. Lets not beat about the bush here, this cover is tarnished by some feeble typesetting. But lets clone stamp that out of the way and concentrate on the artwork. Judging by the creatures sinister almost demonic appearance I’m guessing this could be the work of Wayne Barlowe or possibly Chris Achilleos, both masters in the art of fashioning evil looking winged reptilian beasts. It may well be however that it’s the work of someone else entirely, please post if you know. Aslo are dragons actually reptilian?  If I ever see one I’ll be sure to ask.

The German title translates as ‘The Skies of Pern’ a science fiction novel by the American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey. The story is just one of a series set on the mythical world of Pern and the concept of Dragon Rider’s, hence the cover art.

Farmer Giles of Ham (Swedish Cover)

‘Gillis Bonde från Ham’ (Farmer Giles of Ham) – 1970 by Rolf Lagerson

Another Dragon here, and a swerve towards decidedly lighter material. This is cover for a 1970 Swedish edition of the  J. R. R. Tolkien children’s book ‘Farmer Giles of Ham’. Tolkien originally wrote the story of Farmer Giles and his encounters with the wily Dragon Chrysophylax (great name) back in 1939 but it wasn’t to be published until 1949.

Lovely illustration from Rolf Lagerson which I came across by chance whilst pin-balling around various Pinterest boards. Drilling through to source to uncover ‘s wonderful Illustration blog ‘Animalarium‘. Animalarium put simply is a a vast resource of illustrated animal imagery, best summarised by it’s own simple strapline: “Animals as an endless source of creative inspiration”.

Check it out: www.theanimalarium.blogspot.co.uk. Also worth a look a collection of Rolf Largerson’s Illustration at Flickr.

Dean Ellis - The Tar-Aiym Krang

‘The Tar-Aiym Krang’ art by Dean Ellis 1972

Back up to Sci-Fi and here’s another taster from a prolific genre Illustrator, the late Dean Ellis. I believe this is the seventh appearance on Sci-Fi-O-Rama of an Ellis Illustration, all are characterised with a highly distinctive almost classical style, similar in many ways to the work of space art pioneer Chesley Bonestell. Beautiful renderings of distant worlds and the inky black star-fields the lay within, Ellis’s work is a wash with soft hues and subtle shading.

If it’s your first time viewing a Dean Ellis cover I certainly recommend taking the time to study more
www.sci-fi-o-rama.com/category/artist/dean-ellis

The book itself; ‘The Tar-Aiym Krang’ sounds like your classic space opera fare, and centres on young orphan and thief  known as ‘Flinx ‘ who comes cross a fabled star map…

Empire Of The Atom

‘Empire of The Atom’ 1974 (Designer Unknown)

An interesting typographic solution with a smart colour schemes forms the cover for a 70′s edition of Van Vogt’s 1957 novel. Empire of the Atom caused something of a stir at the time due to similarities with Robert Graves’s Claudius stories. Having read neither, I couldn’t possibly pass judgement! Slick graphics though proving minimal jacket sleeves such as these can have just as much impact…

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Well once again, what started out as mini post idea and a brief scan through Flickr has completely snowballed out of control into another creaking behemoth type article. This one is playing out like a Sci-Fi-O-Rama Who’s Who, and there’s of course many more artists I can and will feature. However, I’m slightly conscious of post length and attention spans, not least of which my own! so I’m going to sever the post here and conclude with a Part 2…

In the Meantime, be sure to check out the following resources….

The Art of Penguin Science Fiction

Sci-Fi-O-Rama Flickr Favourites

Flickr Sci-Fi Books Pool

Back soon….

 

Ian Miller – Green Dog Trumpet

Jun 28th, 2010 | Categories: Art | Fantasy | Ian Miller | Illustration | Sci-Fi

Ian Miller - Green Dog Trumpet

Ian Miller - Green Dog Trumpet

Ian Miller - Green Dog Trumpet

Ian Miller - Green Dog Trumpet

A selection of four Images taken from British Artist Ian Miller’s Illustrated compendium “Green Dog Trumpet and Other Stories” (published by Dragons Dream 1978) a book I’m lucky enough to own.

Green Dog Trumpet and Other Stories contains 5 abstract visual tales, each with a loose narrative but no written dialogue – this works splendidly, forcing you to attempt intense studies of  meticulously detailed, chaotic compositions. I tend to find that with each new browsing I notice something new, and it’s hardly surprising – even though some of the illustrations are small there amazingly intricate, worlds you can totally lose yourself in.

As I’ve mentioned in the past Ian is one of my favourite artist’s I feature on the blog, mainly because as a style of illustration it’s just so out there. In fact,  fairly recently on a trip to the cinema I caught Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland re-imaging which (superflous 3d aside) looked, as you might expect visually stunning – once again reminding me of certain close similarities between Miller and Burton’s work. I wonder if there paths have crossed at all ? or if Burton and his team have referenced Miller in the same way Roger Dean was obviously referenced by James Cameron and his Designers for last years SF blockbuster Avatar… Just a thought!

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