REVIEW SUMMARY: Carbon is the first in a new series of books gathering together the very best graphic work of artist Mark Schultz.
PROS: Carbon boasts high production values; many full-pages illustrations; four large gatefold pieces; book features examples of the artist’s experimentation with watercolors; the majority of illustrations are in print for the first time; preliminary studies next to completed works demonstrates the creative process.
CONS: The beautiful hard cover editions are sold out (only available in paperback); buyers wishing for quantity over quality may find the size of the book disappointing.
BOTTOM LINE: I have been collecting the Flesk Publications editions of Mark Schultz’s Various Drawings books for several years and was excited to see this new project come to fruition. Mark Schultz is a contemporary illustrator who channels the spirits of past pulp masters like no one else. Each work exudes a sense of adventure, a sense of story, and this gorgeous volume of recently completed art is a perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with his work and a must-have collectible for anyone who considers themselves a fan.
“I like my otherworldly stories grounded in a strong connection to reality and my science pushing the outer limits of that reality.”
In his introduction, artist Mark Schultz reminds those who are familiar with his history that he has long had a scientific bent, particularly in the area of paleontology, that rivals that of his desire to create beautiful art. But for one talent far outweighing the other, these years of bringing another time to life, albeit one steeped in a pulp adventure imagination, might not have been. He then goes on to tell the story of how he was able to work with Dr. Michael J. Ryan, a long-time friend who is a Canadian paleontologist, to render an image of a newly discovered centrosaur, which to Schultz’s delight was named Xenoceratops (in part a nod to the most well-known creation of Mark Schultz).
If you are familiar with the work of Mark Schultz, chances are it is because of his award-winning graphic novel series, Xenozoic Tales or the animated series it inspired, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs. Though he has long been working on other projects, art books featuring the work of Mark Schultz generally have a few new Xenozoic images included, which is always a special treat.
The name Carbon is a reference to both the element and the tools of Mark Schultz’s trade. This first book in a new series has several half and full page illustrations, examples of Schultz’s work rendered in graphite and pencil, brush and ink, and a new element–watercolor. It is hard to describe the skill of Mark Schultz in a way that does justice to this book, which proves that pictures truly are worth a thousand words. Schultz’s rough sketches are amazing, then he adds ink and they are lovely, he then refines the image to the point where it has a soft focus that tricks your eye, making you feel as if the finished work has a texture that you could reach out and feel.
When I view the work in Carbon, it makes me feel like a kid again…a kid that grew up in a far earlier era. His majestic and frightening paleolithic creatures and pulp heroes and heroines truly have that “otherworldly” feeling that he describes. This book rewards a steady, measured viewing, because each piece is packed full of the kind of story elements that set the imagination soaring off on a grand adventure. Though the focus of his creations speak of an earlier time, you can see contemporary sensibilities in the strength of his female characters and the partnership of the male and female characters in various images. It is rare that one sees a damsel in distress. More often there is no discernible difference between the male or female characters in regards to their strength and readiness for action. It kind of reminds one of life in the real world.
In the end I fully understand that this style of art, and/or its subject matter, may not be to everyone’s taste. There may even be some of you reading this review that feel that there is not a place for art with a pulp feel to it in today’s world. If that is the case, I would love to know why you feel that is so. But I do believe that anyone picking up this book would readily recognize the skill with which Mark Schultz renders his illustrations, bringing them from a loose, penciled preliminary sketch to a fully realized and completed work. Carbon is a book that is well worth your time, not the least of which because John Fleskes knows how to put together a quality product. He has a passion for the work of the artists he publishes and that passion shows in the care and attention Flesk Publications brings to each book, which are works of art in their own right.
Mark Schultz will be at the Flesk Publications booth at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 in Kansas City in just a few short weeks, May 9-11. He is a humble, gracious man who is happy to sign an item or draw a quick sketch (which is a treat to watch). If you have the opportunity to attend, it will be a weekend to remember.