Litany of Dreams

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One of the covers I was working on during the summer months was revealed this week so here it is. Litany of Dreams by Ari Marmell is another title from games-related imprint Aconyte, and a further addition to their Lovecraft-related Arkham Horror series of games and novels:

The mysterious disappearance of a gifted student at Miskatonic University spurs his troubled roommate, Elliott Raslo, into an investigation of his own. But Elliott already struggles against the maddening allure of a ceaseless chant that only he can hear… When Elliott’s search converges with that of a Greenland Inuk’s hunt for a stolen relic, they are left with yet more questions. Could there be a connection between Elliott’s litany and the broken stone stele covered in antediluvian writings that had obsessed his friend? Learning the answers will draw them into the heart of a devilish plot to rebirth an ancient horror.

The new cover follows the form of The Last Ritual with an Art Deco style and a similar arrangement of triangular panels with an architectural focus. The building is Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University, and this is the first time I’ve attempted a proper depiction of the place. A couple of the panels in my unfinished adaptation of The Dunwich Horror showed Wilbur Whateley entering the university but the buildings there owed more to Manchester University’s Gothic facades with a pair of gateposts borrowed from Brown University in Providence. The building here is a better match, a typical Ivy League structure with added spikes. The latter are an unusual feature given the generally conservative appearance of these places but still a long way from the eccentricities of Gavin Stamp’s depictions in the George Hay Necronomicon. The faces in the corners of the cover design are based on tupilak figures carved from antlers or whale teeth by the Inuit of Greenland, figures which feature in the story.

Litany of Dreams will be published on April 6, 2021.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Last Ritual
Psychetecture

Notes from the Underground

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This time last year I was about to start working on the cover of Joe Banks’ Hawkwind book, and here it is at last, after a considerable delay. The special edition has been worth the wait since it comes with an additional 200-page volume, Sideways Through Time, containing the interviews that Joe used for his research. There’s also a set of cards with photos by Laurie Lewis from the session used for the cover of Space Ritual (we used some of the same photos on the book cover), and a print of the Moorcock/Cawthorn Hawklords comic strip from Frendz which further developed the group’s self-mythologising begun by the In Search Of Space “Hawklog”. And for people who pre-ordered the book last year then had to wait for months, there’s a bonus enamel pin based on the hawk design I supplied for the front board. I like badges, and I designed a few for Hawkwind in the past, but this is a better design and a nicer object than any of those I did in the 1980s.

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It’s a big book.

Now that the book is out I can show off the full cover wrap. As mentioned earlier, I followed Barney Bubbles’ preference for retro futurism by creating a cityscape based on the Deco-styled architecture that Frank R. Paul liked to use in his pulp illustrations. Some of the details refer obliquely to Hawkwind’s cover art or songs of the 1970s, so the speeding car can be taken as a reference to both Kerb Crawler and Death Trap, as well as the speeding Art Deco vehicle on the cover of Roadhawks. The flying saucers are a nod to those by Barney Bubbles on the inner sleeve of the Doremi album (and on one of his black-and-white posters from the same period), while the Philippe Druillet rocket refers to Barney’s own appropriation of a Druillet figure in his Hawk graphics. The combination of vehicles fleeing a burning city gives us the recurring theme in the group’s lyrics about the need to escape from a self-destructing society/planet. Welcome to the future.

Hawkwind: Days of the Underground is available now from Strange Attractor.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hawkwind: Days of the Underground
The Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve
Rock shirts
The Cosmic Grill
Void City
Hawk things
The Sonic Assassins
New things for July
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

The ceramic art of Eduard Stellmacher

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The Art Nouveau style is seldom more grotesque than in these vases and amphorae designed around the turn of the century by Eduard Stellmacher (1868–1945) for his father’s company, Amphora, in the Tur-Teplitz region of Bohemia. Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil as it was in Germany and Austria) emerged in Europe in the 1890s, and though its development ran parallel to the Decadence of the fin de siècle it wasn’t really a Decadent form in the literary sense of a dwelling on the perverse, the morbid or the blasphemous. The sinuous curves of Art Nouveau are too suggestive of vigorous life and energy to appear corrupt; Alphonse Mucha’s femmes are too healthy to be fatale, they’re nothing like the dissolute, hollow-eyed sirens seen in the drawings of Félicien Rops, an artist who wasn’t Nouveau (he died in 1898) but who was thoroughly Decadent.

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Stellmacher and co. created their share of delightful ceramic figures with Mucha-like tresses and flowing garments but Eduard’s designs around this time were preoccupied with ferocious creatures: bats, fish, lizards, octopuses, and a profusion of fire-breathing dragons. Even the plant forms have a diseased, unhealthy aspect. The designs may not have been intended as Decadent but they embody the quality more than anything used as vase decoration before or after this period. Art Deco also favoured predatory animals (snakes and leopards especially) but only in forms that were suitably sleek and abstracted.

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The Last Ritual

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Starting the new year with a new cover, and another from the plethora I was working on last year. Art Deco occultism is the theme this time, a satisfying combination since the rectilinear Deco style is a good match for the sigils and thaumaturgic diagrams you find in grimoires. The publisher is Aconyte Books, a new imprint launched a year ago to produce novels that complement the games created by parent company, Asmodee UK. Arkham Horror is an Asmodee game with a Lovecraftian theme, and S.A. Sidor’s novel is set in the game’s world:

Aspiring painter Alden Oakes is invited to join a mysterious art commune in Arkham: the New Colony. When celebrated Spanish surrealist Juan Hugo Balthazarr visits the colony, Alden and the other artists quickly fall under his charismatic spell. Balthazarr throws a string of decadent parties for Arkham’s social elite, conjuring arcane illusions which blur the boundaries between nightmare and reality. Only slowly does Alden come to suspect that Balthazarr’s mock rituals are intended to break through those walls and free what lies beyond. Alden must act, but it might already be too late to save himself, let alone Arkham (more).

The design of the cover combines the look of much Art Deco metalwork, especially bronze door and grille designs, with the kind of inlay you see on Deco furniture and the more lavish leatherbound books of the period. Part of the brief was to show a magic ritual taking place but I thought it wouldn’t do to make the figures look too realistic, hence the stylised poses; Georges Barbier rather than Weird Tales. Another request in the brief was to incorporate the Yog-Sothoth sigil from the Simon Necronomicon (the bronze circle under the title). I think I’ve said before that the symbols in the Simon Necronomicon tend to be used a lot today as though they’re the only ones available, even though the book is only one of several unofficial attempts to imagine the contents of Lovecraft’s notorious grimoire. I’ve always favoured the George Hay-edited Necronomicon so the symbol at the top of the cover is the Yog-Sothoth sigil from the Hay volume.

The Last Ritual will be published in August 2020.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Psychetecture

Hawkwind: Days of the Underground

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As mentioned at the weekend, Joe Banks’ account of the first ten years of Hawkwind will be published by Strange Attractor Press later this year with a wraparound cover of my design. I never expected to be doing anything else for Hawkwind after moving on to other things in 1985, but it was the group’s first decade of music that fuelled the drawings which brought me to their attention, so this cover design brings everything full circle. The earliest of my Hawkwind drawings dates to 1979 which means this cover is also an anniversary piece.

The design combines Barney Bubbles’ Space Ritual template with elements of the art he created before and afterwards, notably the inner and outer sleeve of Doremi Fasol Latido, and the futuristic Art Deco of his tour poster for The “1999” Party. All the Bubbles Hawk-art up to and including Space Ritual is a blend of the ancient (Egypt, tribal motifs, characters that resemble pirates or barbarians), the previous century (Art Nouveau in particular), and the far future as depicted in comics and pulp magazines. I wanted to reflect this blend without being too imitative of the details, so the cover works a variation on Space Ritual, with a similar hieratic woman as the focus, and a margin of stylised flames separating the foreground from Laurie Lewis’s photos of the band (the latter are unused shots from the same session used for Space Ritual).

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Art by Bob Haberfield, 1970.

All the background elements run across the wrap but this hasn’t been revealed yet so you’ll have to wait a while to see the full design. The flames are based on Tibetan designs in a nod to the ancient side of the equation, as well as Bob Haberfield’s covers for the Moorcock novels published by Mayflower in the early 70s, many of which featured art derived from Tibetan Buddhism. (And one of the Mayflower Moorcocks, The Black Corridor, is the origin of the monologue of the same name on Space Ritual.) The full wrap shows a futuristic city whose Frank R. Paul-derived architecture is either on fire or menaced by a wall of encroaching flames. Many of Hawkwind’s songs of the period concern flight from cities or from the Earth itself—Born To Go, Time We Left (This World Today)—so the back cover also has a number of vehicles fleeing the scene: the radical escapism of the book’s subtitle in literal form. “Sign my release from this planet’s erosion,” as Nik Turner sings in Brainstorm.

Continue reading “Hawkwind: Days of the Underground”