Weekend links 30

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Did someone say “woody”? Plenty more toy antics at TheOneCam.

• And yet more Haeckelisms: Praying in Haeckel’s Garden, recent works by artist Mary O’Malley.

Seasons of the Peacock, the perennial showoff as depicted by a handful of Art Nouveau artists. A couple of examples there I hadn’t seen before.

• Dorian Cope presents On This Deity, “Commemorating culture heroes and excavating world events.”

• At long last, Fantagraphics will be publishing Ah Pook is Here, the comic strip collaboration between William Burroughs and artist Malcolm McNeill. Something to look forward to for next year. Related: Malcolm McNeill’s website.

David Lynch Dark Splendor: “Der große Filmemacher David Lynch als Fotograf, Maler, Zeichner und Grafiker.”

More on the forthcoming album from Brian Eno, Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins. With this degree of hype the end result is going to be a disappointment.

Book design by Richard Hollis, including John Berger’s essential Ways of Seeing.

A fistful of Vignellis: the work of Lella and Massimo Vignelli celebrated.

• Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

Jimi Hendrix, Philip José Farmer reader.

Imagerie du Chemin de Fer.

El UFO Cayó (2005) by Ry Cooder.

Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death

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Arriving in the post this week was this 350-page guide to horror cinema, a Carlton Books reprint of the 2006 Andre Deutsch volume to which I contributed some 30-plus reviews and essays on Dracula, Lovecraft and occult cinema. This new printing is slightly expanded although the production is a lot less lavish than the earlier book which was a hardback with colour photos throughout. I suppose this one goes by the TV chair whereas the previous edition deserved a place on the bookshelf. I didn’t have a lot of time earlier this year to help with the updating but I did manage to write reviews of The Mist and Cloverfield, two recent horror outings I enjoyed a great deal. Despite the proliferation of online reviews there’s still a place for handy guides such as this, and I’d say that even if I wasn’t a contributor. Kim Newman is a contributing editor at Sight & Sound magazine, and both he and James Marriott have produced their own excellent guides to horror cinema. When sites like IMDB are weighed down with an opinionated rabble, an intelligent and informed counterweight is essential.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Berni Wrightson in The Mist
Stamps of horror
Horror comics
Hail, horrors! hail, infernal world!

Two Brides

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Ah, sweet serendipity… What are the odds, dear reader, of two blogospheric friends posting equally splendid pictures of everyone’s favourite hand-stitched and reanimated woman within days of each other? (It helps that Evan P and Monsieur Thombeau share a number of interests but let’s not spoil the moment.) The Gray’s-like dissection above is the work of illustrator Martin Ansin, while the painting below is by Michelle Mia Araujo, or Mia, as she prefers. Both artists have produced a quantity of other work which demands your attention. As for James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, it is, of course, one of the great cultural artefacts of the previous century; if you’ve never seen it there’s a Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester-shaped hole in your life which needs to be filled without delay.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Mask of Fu Manchu
Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein

Roger Dean: artist and designer

Kieran at Sci-Fi-O-Rama was in touch recently asking me to contribute a paragraph about a favourite Roger Dean picture for this feature about the artist. The following splurge of polemic was the result, something I’d been intending to write for a while. Since so many words would have overwhelmed the other contributions it’s being presented here while Kieran’s post has a variety of shorter appreciations and further examples of Dean’s art and design.

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Pathways (1973). A slightly reworked version of the original painting.

“Science fiction is unfortunate in having a most unsatisfactory framework of existence—it’s considered literary kitsch. I believe it should be the mainstream of literature because all the books that have become important down the generations of civilisation have been books about ideas. Superficially, science fiction would seem to offer the most scope for idea content, but the promise is unfulfilled. Good ideas and good writing rarely coincide. All too often the medium is used for entertainment alone and its potential beyond this should be obvious to everyone. I don’t just mean in the sense of fantasy technology. The potential for anticipating human evolution is there and perhaps the means to bring it about and definitely the means to bring about a social evolution.”

Roger Dean, interviewed in Visions of the Future (1976).

If popularity is often a curse as well as a blessing, it’s been Roger Dean‘s curse to see his work dismissed along with many other products of a decade—the 1970s—with more than its share of cultural heroes and villains. Music journalists in Britain have for years given the impression that the arrival of the Sex Pistols in 1976 swept away all that preceded them, in particular bands such as Yes whose album covers had helped raise the visibility of Dean’s art to an international level. This is not only a lazy assumption, it’s also wrong. When Yes released Going For the One in 1977 it was their first studio album in three years, yet despite the punk explosion it went to no. 1 in the UK album charts, while a rare single release from the band made the UK top ten. Yes were playing sell-out tours in Europe and the US in 1977 and 78, as were Pink Floyd whose The Wall was massively popular worldwide in 1979. Punk didn’t sweep prog away, what happened with its advent was that progressive rock and everything associated with it—Roger Dean’s art included—became critically disreputable almost overnight, such that no music journalist would dare say anything good about it. That disrepute has persisted for thirty years despite a lasting and indelible influence. This is an old argument but some facts often need restating anew. *

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Views (1975).

I was 13 in September 1975 when Roger Dean’s first collection of his illustration and design work, Views, was published. At that time, I hadn’t heard any of the music to which his paintings and drawings were attached, and I didn’t even see a copy of the book until February 1976 when I happened to be in London on a school trip and found a big pile of what I guess was the second edition in Foyle’s book shop. This appeared at exactly the right moment. I wasn’t listening to the music but I was reading a lot of science fiction, and was starting to notice and imitate the work of various paperback artists. I recognised many of the pictures in Views from the covers displayed in the window of our local record shop, Cobweb, whose shopping-bag logo was a cowled magician figure à la Dean or Rodney Matthews. It’s difficult to say what struck me about Dean’s work at the time since you rarely articulate your preferences at that age. I think I liked the consistency of vision and the invention which blended the organic and mechanical, the architecture which looked at once ancient and futuristic, and the flat landscapes which put lone pine trees into rocky terrain familiar from Japanese and Chinese prints. For a teenager his style was also relatively easy to imitate if you forgot about basic things such as imagination and finesse, and I spent a year producing a lot of badly-drawn reptiles posed against lurid watercolour skies.

Continue reading “Roger Dean: artist and designer”

Frazetta: Painting with Fire

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Continuing from yesterday’s post, Berni Wrightson appears in this 2003 documentary about the great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. (And Frazetta is another artist who acknowledges a debt to Roy G Krenkel.) I saw this when it first appeared on video and it’s essential viewing for anyone interested in Frazetta’s work. Stephanie Bruder wrote this week to inform me that the film is now available through iTunes (US store only, for now; UK release is being arranged).

For the last half century, Frank Frazetta has dominated the fantasy art world with his visceral images of savage warriors, curvaceous princesses, and fantastical creatures set in the most lavish landscapes. In this critically acclaimed documentary, we journey to a place where up until now, only the privileged have been. For the first time on film, the reclusive Frazetta reveals to us details of his astonishing life, including how he learned to draw left handed at the age of 70 after suffering a debilitating stroke. Dozens of other professionals candidly weigh in on Frank’s career, including comic legends Berni Wrightson, Dave Stevens, William Stout, Neal Adams, Al Williamson, Forrest Ackerman and film directors Ralph Bakshi and John Milius.  Also appearing are rocker Glenn Danzig, actress Bo Derek and fantasy artists Brom, Simon Bisley, and Joe Jusko. Mirroring the dramatic nature of his work, this film utilizes visual effects and a breathtaking orchestral score to create astonishing results. Painting With Fire tells of a life, the spark of an artist, and what Frazetta means to future inspirations. Frank Frazetta is not just a pop phenomenon, but a creative artist destined for a serious place in art history.

Frazetta’s official site is here, this unofficial site has a great selection of his paintings and his influence in some of my own work was recounted here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Men with snakes
My pastiches
Fantastic art from Pan Books