BOOK REVIEW: Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of 80 retro-style Star Trek episode posters from Juan Ortiz, plus illustration notes and an interview with the artist.
PROS: Fantastic illustrations; 1960s retro style captures the era of the original series; variety keeps viewing experience interesting; illustrations more often than not reflect episode elements; illustration notes offer keen insight into the design process; just plain fun to look at.
CONS: Some illustrations seem to have no connection with the episodes, leaning more heavily on capturing the design style of the 60s.
BOTTOM LINE: A wonderful art book for Trek fans and art lovers.
If art is subjective (it is), then Art books are a tricky thing (they are); they run the risk of including pieces that don’t resonate with the viewer. A safer bet than random art pieces is an art book containing work by a single artist, but even then styles can vary as the artist stretches his wings of creativity and explores new ground. Better still is themed art collection, a project undertaken by an artist who wants to explore a series of related ideas.
This is the premise of Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz, a new art book that uses the original Star Trek series as a launch point for some fantastic illustrations. Ortiz includes one illustration for every single episode of the original series — that’s eighty wonderful illustrations, including the unaired original pilot episode of “The Cage” — done up in the perfectly-captured retro style that harkens back to the 1960s.
Simply put: every illustration is good, and many of them are fantastic. The ones that work best are the ones that incorporate elements of the episode it represents. Fortunately, those are the large majority, but even the few that seem more generic (like “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) are still eye-pleasing. Some of the best ones are fittingly attached to the more memorable episodes, like “The Menagerie, Part 1″ and “The Menagerie, Part 1″ (with two different interpretations of Commander Pike), “Arena” (the story inspired by Frederic Brown that includes the Gorn, whose illustration pays homage to Frank Frazetta), “Space Seed” (used as the cover of this book), “Mirror, Mirror” (complete with a goateed evil Spock), “Plato’s Stepchildren” (which features television’s first interracial kiss), and any more.
Despite that singular retro and subject theme (and a few too many appearances of skulls), the posters themselves are varied enough in style to keep them from going stale. Helping to keep the viewing experience fun and original is that various poster ideas keep popping up. While most of them are done as film posters, a couple of them mixed it up. For example, the illustration for “By Any Other Name” looks like the cover on an antique toy box, playfully warning that “Cubotahedral block is a former crewmember of the Starship Enterprise and should not be crushed.” Brilliant. A few of the illustrations hearken back to that eras science fiction novels.
Other nice touches to the finished product:
- A revealing interview with the artist, who talks about his background and influences.
- Illustrations are presented in the order of their original air dates of the episodes they represent.
- Each illustration includes writer and director credits for the episode, which was a reminder to this fan how many writers were attached to the series who were well-known to readers of science fiction and (in the case of Robert Bloch) horror.
- An appendix contains a thumbnail index of each illustration, with the episode’s original air date, show credits, brief episode synopsis, and informative artist notes on that piece. I’m torn as to whether this information should have been include on the main illustration page, but if it was, I probably would have wanted the space back for the illustration itself.
- The book itself has a high quality production, with thick paper and sturdy hardback cover and would make a nice addition to any shelf or coffee table.
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