By guest author Peter Richardson.
Working on a publication like illustrators is a dream job. Yes, there is a hell of a lot of work that goes into each issue, the bulk of which is never seen by our readers, but the subject matter and the enthusiasm it generates is the primary dynamic which keeps us going.
(Above: the mad geniuses who bring you every issue of illustrators magazine, sketched with uncanny accuracy by editor Peter Richardson)
The recently published seventh issue of illustrators is no exception.
We were very lucky to secure the agreement and co-operation of Oscar winning illustrator, Alan Lee to run as our lead feature, and we have what I believe is the biggest retrospective of his fabulous artwork yet assembled.
To a lot of the public, he is best known for his work on Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations of J.R. Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ books, but it was the publication of ‘Faeries’ in 1977 which he collaborated on with fellow fantasy artist Brian Froud in 1977 which first brought his work to a wider audience.
We had long considered the possibility of running a feature on Alan’s work, I had been a fan of his illustration since first seeing some of the fabulous paperback covers he created for ghost story anthologies in the late 1970s.
His work, in an era when photo referenced artwork dominated the paperback market, was refreshingly direct, with echoes of Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham and William Russell Flint. When he collaborated with Brian Froud, another of my favourite fantasy illustrators, to create the ‘Faeries’ bestiary, I was totally in his thrall and followed his career with avid interest, through his exquisite illustrations for books such as ‘Castles’ and ‘Black Ships Before Troy’, to his most recent work for Peter Jackson.
It was this work that was dominating Alan’s schedule when we first made contact, and even his return trip to Devon from New Zealand was delayed by several weeks; such was the pressure he was working under.
It was therefore really generous of Alan that when he did return to Devon, shortly before Christmas, he took time away from his holiday to scan a pile of artwork for our feature. As a result of Alan’s assistance, we have been able to delve much deeper into the past career of this amazing artist and the feature includes scans of original paintings for ‘The Fontana Ghost Stories’ collections and other paperback covers...
... as well as many scans of incredible original artwork for ‘The Mabinogion’, one of the finest collections of fantasy art ever published and the precursor to much of the work that he was to create for Peter Jackson.
We also look at the maritime paintings by the late, great Bernie Fuchs. Penned by Bryn Havord, the artwork featured has remained largely unseen, save by those lucky enough to see them on the cruise liners, which many of them adorn.
Bryn had unparalleled access to some incredible images of Bernie’s work and we are very privileged to be able to share them with you.
Adding to the mix, is the fascinating and mesmerically obsessive illustration of John Vernon Lord.
John has balanced the career of one of this country’s most gifted teachers (I should know—I was privileged enough to be one of his tutees) with a long and still thriving career as a unique and wonderfully idiosyncratic illustrator.
His work includes a string of successful and award winning picture books, along with illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There’ as well as recent projects such as ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ and his self-penned and hugely informative book, ‘Drawn to Drawing’.
We also (and sparing his blushes) take a look at the work of Leif Peng, another artist who has managed to successfully combine a career as a highly talented and versatile illustrator, with that of an educator in the subject.
He currently holds a professorship at Mohawk College where he shares his passion and knowledge of illustration with those students lucky enough to attend his classes and to a wider audience via this blog and it’s Facebook iteration.
Rounding off the galaxy of assembled artists we look at the fabulous books devoted to the incredible artistry of Mark English, whose work continues to develop and evolve as an on-going testimony to the rugged individuality of it’s creator.
illustrators Quarterly magazine can be ordered from The Book Palace and from Bud Plant's Art Books in the United States.