If you’re like us, there’s nothing quite like a really cool piece of science fiction or fantasy art. For this week’s Mind Meld we decided to ask the SF&F artist community about what they find appealing about science fiction, fantasy and art. (Special thanks to Lou Anders for his help in bringing this Mind Meld together. Thanks Lou!)
And now, our question:
Q: As an illustrator, what was it that drew you to science fiction and fantasy to begin with, and what place do you feel illustration has in the science fiction and fantasy field?
‘s work defined the 3rd Edition of D&D, graced the covers of R.A. Salvatore’s books and for Tor, DAW, Pyr, Asimov’s
, and others. He is the winner of 12 Chesleys, umpteen art-show awards, and will be the Artist Guest of Honor at World Fantasy 2008 in Calgary
Among my earliest memories are the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, as seen through the front windshield of the family car at a drive in, and of a giant eyeball chasing astronauts through a weird alien set on a black & white TV.
I was hooked early.
It was the era of the space race and television; Zorro and Batman and moonshot coverage competed with Gunsmoke and Wells Fargo for my love. One of my most treasured possessions was my G.I. Joe space capsule and astronaut. Lost in Space almost captured me in the third grade, though it became stupid pretty quickly. But Star Trek changed everything. Science, plus fiction, coupled with amazing visuals … and my first taste of social consciousness. Later, 2001: A Space Odyssey would push science fiction into philosophical terrain as yet undiscovered by me, and the first two Planet of the Apes movies would awaken my political awareness in a big way by killing my heroes, trashing our civilization, then destroying the planet. The movies drove me to the books, where Arthur C. Clark asked questions about life, the universe, and everything, and Isaac Asimov laid down the law for robots.
Everything I learned that I remembered best came from a science fiction movie or book. I learned about PH from The Andromeda Strain before I was old enough to have a chemistry class. Fantastic Voyage taught me more about the human body than any 5th grader had business knowing; most adults couldn’t tell you what a fistula was — but I knew. Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man introduced me to Psychology. Valley of Gwangi pushed me right over the edge with dinosaurs; I devoured every text about them I could find. The fiction made me hungry for the science.
When I discovered Tolkien (after rejecting it several times; who wants to read about elves and dwarves?) I realized that Fantasy could have something to say, too. Fantasy and its mythic roots led me to Joseph Campbell and a whole new understanding of religion and mythology and the fuzzy boundaries between the two.
Fantastic fiction speaks to our thirst for knowledge, our hunger for personal discovery, our desire to shape and understand our environment, by asking “what if?” and playing with the answers.
As a visually-oriented kid, the art of it all was key. Good writing in books evoked mental images that I had to explore; I learned to draw largely by creating my own science fiction and super-hero comic books. The ground-breaking and mind-bending special effects in Forbidden Planet, 2001, and Marooned taught me to look at the world with a more critical eye, and to make use of the sciences to inform my art. Geometry and Perspective go hand in hand, the physics of bodies in motion are essential to good art, as are understandings of color theory, geology (a mountain is not a pyramid), astronomy and astrology, history, even the psychology of perception … on and on.
Good art makes it all the more real. Art informs. Art, like writing and movie-making, is an exploration into the unknowns without and within. It ponders realms that cannot be photographed or described with words, because they are ineffable and timeless. It helps connect the emotional and visceral with the cognitive and philosophical, the unreal with the real. At its best, it teaches or amuses, shocks or disturbs; it makes you look again, and then again – only deeper.
It takes the question “what if?” and answers “perhaps this…”