Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Steampunk Magazine Collected

Fans of SciFi Art Now, which includes a chapter of steampunk art, might be interested in this colected edition of SteamPunk Magazine, comprising Issues #1-7.

Bound in this 432-page, lovingly designed anthology released by the collectively-run publisher Combustion Books, the collection includes an introduction by Jake von Slatt and a handsome cover illustrated by John Coulthart.

The anthology can be purchased for $20.99 from the independent distributor AK Press or from amazon.comSteampunk Magazine: The First Years: Issues #1-7

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Little Lemming Books launched by Dave Windett

Sci Fi Art Now contributing artist Dave Windett and writer John Gatehouse have just launched Little Lemming Books, a new publishing imprint for print and digital media, kicking their line off with Trick or Treat, the first story to feature aspring reporter Neela Nightshade.

Town gossip has it that creepy Monster Mansion on top of Gallows Hill is haunted. Investigating for herself, Neela discovers that the stories are all true…! And when the terrifying Monsters in the Basement escape, nothing can stop them from destroying the town…

Dave and John have worked together for numerous companies on more projects than they can remember, featuring both licensed characters and their own creations. Little Lemming Books is their first leap into the brave new world of electronic self publishing made possible by the emergence of devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Produced with the help of expert E–Book developer Paul Drummond, also a contributor to SciFi Art Now.

Trick or Treat is the first of a series of illustrated children’s comedy horror books.

• Little Lemming Books can be found at: www.littlelemmingbooks.com

• A version of Trick or Treat for Iphone, Ipod, Ipad, Nook and other epub readers is available at Lulu.com

• More of Dave’s artwork can be seen at www.davewindett.com and news and sneek peeks at upcoming projects can be found on Dave’s Blog.

• Paul Drummond's site has information about his E–Book development services.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Vicky Stonebridge exhibition launches

An exhibition of paintings by SciFi Art Now contributor Vicky Stonebridge and John Mikietyn, and a ceramic sculpture by Allison Weightman, will open at the Scotland Russia Forum’s Edinburgh premises tonight at 6pm (Friday 12th August), attended by Sergei Krutikov, the Russian Consul General.

The weeklong exhibition accompanies music by Scottish singer, songwriter and translator, Tommy Beavitt, whose long-term project to interpret and perform the work of the Russian Bard, Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980), in English and Russian, has been an inspiration for the work displayed. Alongside the artworks, the exhibition will present Tommy’s performances in Russian and English of some of Vysotsky’s songs, which feature universal themes of faith, conflict and individual freedom.

After closing in Edinburgh on the 18th, the exhibition will then re-open at the Inchmore Gallery, near Inverness, on 19th August.

Vladimir Vysotsky is almost universally known and loved in the Russian-speaking world and in many parts of the former Soviet Union. Yet, other than to a few Russophiles, who appreciate that he may be the genuine “heir to Pushkin”, his work remains relatively obscure in Anglophonia.

His more than 1000 songs have been translated into over 60 languages, yet in his lifetime he was never officially released in the USSR, his songs instead being distributed by a process called ‘magnetizdat’ (tape-to-tape copying). Incredibly, over the course of his short and intensely lived life, he also managed to become a major theatre, TV and film actor.

While he was branded “anti-Soviet”, he was never referred to as a dissident writer and is often thought of as a great Russian patriot. Beginning with the ‘blatnaya pesnya’ (outlaw songs) genre, deriving from prison ballads sung by those returning from the Gulag, his songs branched out to deal with an extremely broad array of themes, in which human freedom and faith are often central.

Tommy, who has already traveled to Russia four times to perform mainly Burns songs (in Russian and Scots-English) said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the power of song, both as a means of expressing a nation’s culture and of transcending the differences between nations. Performing and translating songs from different cultures is also a great way to learn languages.

"Singing Burns to Russians showed me just how valuable a role the Bard fulfills – it’s more important than ever that nations are able to understand one another. As soon as I heard Vysotsky – whose birthday, 25th of January, is the same as Burns’ – I became obsessed with him. His basic message, at the same time deeply Russian and internationalist, has a lot in common with Burns’ message of ‘A man’s a man for a that’. I hope that Vysotsky will one day become as well-known (and loved) in Scotland as Burns is in Russia.”

Vicky Stonebridge at work
Vicky Stonebridge is a painter, illustrator and fire fighter. The inspiration for her work comes from a fascination with archaeology, history, anthropology, ancient art, myth and epics and how people have interpreted their world, as well as the universality of stories and symbols.

Vicky, who has also had an enduring fascination with Russia, said: “This collaboration has been a fantastic opportunity to develop the work I started when I visited Russia last year. There I was painting Scottish and Celtic myths and stories, and now I have had the opportunity to paint songs by a Russian Bard.

"It's normal for me to work with other people when creating comics and Graphic Novels, but it is unusual to work this way with paintings. I am very excited to see how Russians, Scots and other people will react to them. I hope they will convey the spirit of Vysotsky’s songs in a way that can be understood by everyone.”

Living in the Highlands since childhood, she has developed a passion for traditional Scottish folklore and Pictish/Celtic stories and art. Following a Golden Deer motif has led Vicky on an on-going artistic journey towards the East, where the Russian passion for art, culture and literature has reinvigorated her own work.

In 2010 she was invited to attend the Yelabuga International Art symposium organised by the Elabuga State Museum Preservation Area in Tatarstan. While there, she produced works for exhibition in the Shishkin Gallery on the theme of ‘Breath of the Epos’, and contributed to discussions exploring the cross-cultural connections in epic traditions and cultural practices.

Vicky interprets universal human experiences through her figurative and narrative art. She weaves connections between the post-modern western experience and the global, historical perspective, seeking an accessible visual vocabulary.

Read our interview with Vicky Stonebridge here

Web Links

• Vicky Stonebridge - Official Site: www.balnacra.com

• Allison Weightman - www.allisonweightman.co.uk

• John Mikietyn - www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=33280558139

• Tommy Beavitt - www.globalvillagebard.co.uk

Thursday, 28 July 2011

What Should Spaceships Look Like?

An article published by the BBC this week pays tribute to SF artist Chris Foss, who not only introduced SciFi Art Now but also influenced many of its contributors.

The feature comes as Foss is promoting a new book about his work - Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, written by fellow illustrator and top designer Rian Hughes.

Titled "What Should Spaceships Look Like" writer Virginia Brown notes that the next generation of spaceships is being conceived - and should shuttle designers take their inspiration from sci-fi illustrators?

"From Star Wars back to 2001: A Space Odyssey and even further back to comic hero Dan Dare and Victorian illustrations for the stories of Jules Verne and HG Wells, the way spaceships should look has been an important issue - before the first rocket booster ever fired," she writes. "But the fanciful reputation of sci-fi novels and films aside, the illustration of spacecraft might actually have a realistic place in the design of future vessels."

The article features many images by veteran SF illusrator Chris Foss who reveals that seeing Kubrick's 2001 made a lasting impression on his work, as did the Cold War years and the bleakness of some of the derelict areas of post-war Britain.

"People were really looking for a new kind of explosion," he says. "Humans want hope. They want something to believe in."

"An enterprising company seeking to attract government and private passengers might achieve success by offering them spaceships that resembled the unique visions of Chris Foss," says science fiction academic Dr Gary Westfahl.

"Foss made his spaceships beautiful not by streamlining them but by adding bright, decorative colours," says Westfahl.

Foss's groundbreaking and distinctive science fiction art revolutionized paperback covers in the 1970s and 80s. Dramatically raising the bar for realism and invention, his trademark battle-weary spacecraft, dramatic alien landscapes and crumbling brutalist architecture irrevocably changed the aesthetic of science fiction art and cinema.

Featuring work for books by Isaac Asimov, E. E. Doc Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt and Philip K. Dick, and film design for Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss brings together many rare and classic images that have never been seen or reprinted before and is the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist's sci-fi career.

The book is written by award-winning graphic designer, illustrator, font designer and comics artist Rian Hughes, noted for his work on 2000AD and Dan Dare and is also one of the many contributors to SciFi Art Now. His illustration work is highly distinctive, wearing its design influences on its sleeve.

Read the full article here on the BBC News magazine web site 

• Chris Foss Official web site: www.chrisfossart.com

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Things that make editors happy...

You see, this is what makes being an editor fun (sometimes)... bribes from artists! Of course, I did have to enter MacFormat and Men's Health illustrator Bill McConkey's 1980s Classic Last Supper Movie Quiz first.

I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that I was able to name all the films in his wonderful image (which has garnered him at least one commission, so the effort was worth it). But since one of the prizes was chocolate, who cares?

... although I do note that 'Baby Ruth' is an American chocolate bar and wonder how long Bill had it in his fridge/cupboard/competition prize box.

Wikpedia reveals that although the name of the candy bar sounds like the name of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth, the Curtiss Candy Company traditionally claimed that it was named after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, Ruth Cleveland.

The candy maker, located on the same street as Wrigley Field, named the bar "Baby Ruth" in 1921, as Babe Ruth's fame was on the rise, over 30 years after Cleveland had left the White House, and 17 years after his daughter, Ruth, had died. The company did not negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many saw the company's story about the origin of the name to be a devious way to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties.

Curtiss successfully shut down a rival bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar.

Bill's additions to the wrapper are of course, homage to Sloth in The Goonies, befriended by Chunk with a chocolate bar.

I know, I really should get out more.

Apart from mailing out bribes, Bill's  been busy with a number of projects including a cover for Insurance Age and an infographic-based image on the subject of a new targeting system on an Apache Helicopter, which saw print in Nuts magazine.

• View Bill's art here on his web site: www.billmcconkey.co.uk

• Check out his latest work at: http://billmcconkey.blogspot.com

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Skyboat artist Ian McQue to lead Pro Concept Art Course in Dundee

Ian McQue, Lead Concept Artist and Assistant Art Director at Rockstar North, will be teaching a Professional Concept Art Course over the weekend of 6-7 August 2011 in Scotland, UK.

The course offers a rare opportunity for game and concept artists from around the world to learn first-hand from one of the industry's premier talents. Ian McQue's 'Skyboat' series of paintings are celebrated globally, and he's worked for over 15 years as a Lead Artist, Concept Artist and Assistant Art Director on some of the most successful games in the industry - including the entire Grand Theft Auto series.

The course consists of live instruction in painting, sketching, perspective, vehicle and character design, composition, and colour theory for computer games and freelance work.

It focuses on using real life reference and the world around you to achieve credibility and solve visual problems through concept art.

"I'll be doing a live painting demonstration along with portfolio reviews and one-to-one tuition," says Ian. "Above all it'll be a fun and informal couple of days making art in Scotland's sunniest city! It should be a great experience. See you there!"

• The course takes place over two days at The CTA, Unit 27, City Quay, Dundee, DD1 3JW from 10am -5pm on Sat 6 and Sun 7 August 2011 (Tel: 01382 458365). Places n the course can be reserved at infoATcomputertrainingacademy.co.uk.

• More information via http://computertrainingacademy.co.uk/#/splash/ and Ian's blog at mcqueconcept.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pulpfest 2011 celebrates classic magazine art

Doc Savage cover (January 1939)
by Emery Clarke
PulpFest 2011 will be celebrating the 100th anniversaries of the births of illustrators Emery Clarke, Robert Harris, and Milton Luros on Friday, 29th July in Columbus, Ohio.

Clarke and Harris are remembered best for their front cover art on Doc Savage Magazine, while Luros is known for his detective and men’s adventure magazine covers, although he also did plenty of SF work.

PulpFest 2011 is a new and improved version of the venerable convention catering to fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction.

Born in 1911, John Emery Clarke studied on scholarship at the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1930w. One of his more influential art teachers was the magazine illustrator, Monty Crews.

He moved to New York City in 1936 to find work as a magazine illustrator during the Great Depression. He was a next-door neighbour of Rudolph Belarski, for whom he occasionally posed.

He painted freelance covers for pulp magazines such as Action Stories, Fight Stories, Love Romances, Short Stories, Rangeland Romances, Star Western, Ten Detective Aces, 10-Story Detective, and Top-Notch, and several covers for Doc Savage.

Doc Savage cover (May 1937)  by R. G. Harris
Robert George Harris, born in 1911, studied at the Kansas City Art Institute since the age of fourteen, and in 1929 he studied under the tutelage of Monte Crews. Emery Clarke and Richard Lyon were also art students there at the same time.

He shared art studio space in New York with John Falter, Emery Clarke, and Richard Lyon in the 1930s, with Charles LaSalle, John Scott, and Graves Gladney as neighbours. He studied with Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art and with George Bridgman at the Art Students League.

His first published assignments were story illustrations for Street & Smith's Western Story. He went on to paint covers for Complete Stories, Double Action Western, Doc Savage, Pete Rice Western, Thrilling Adventures, Western Round-Up, Western Story, and Wild West Weekly.

In 1937 he was signed by American Artists Agency, which helped him to move up from the pulps to illustrating slick magazines. He worked for Cosmopolitan,Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Liberty, McCall's, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post.

During World War 2 he volunteered to join the USO Artists For Freedom Project, which was organized by the NY Society of Illustrators to bring together over 200 artists to draw thousands of portrait sketches of wounded servicemen recuperating in military hospitals.

Future Science Fiction cover (January 1952)
cover by Milton Luros
Also born in 1911 as Milton Louis Rosenblatt, Milton Luros devised his distinctive professional name, Luros, in 1935 by reconfiguring his middle name, Louis, with the "R" from his actual last name. His early credits include pen and ink interior story illustrations for Western Trails but by 1937 he had begun to sell freelance pulp covers to titles such as Adventure Novels, Cowboy Romances, Crack Detective, Science Fiction and Western Yarns.

After the second world war he continued to do freelance illustration for Crack Detective, Famous Detective, Smashing Detective, Astonishing, Dynamic Science Fiction, Future, and Science Fiction Quarterly and became the art director of a new pulp magazine produced by Columbia Publications, Famous Detective in 1950.

Pulp expert David Saunders notes that this same magazine also featured his cover paintings as well as his line art to illustrate interior stories. "No one else in the history of pulp art had ever simultaneously played all three roles of art director, cover artist, and interior line artist," he records.

Luros also wrote and drew a nationally syndicated newspaper comic strip called, Roger Lincoln, S-Man. The strip ran for four years, and folded in 1952 before starting the American Art Agency in 1955, helping many of his neighbourhood artists find work in other outlets in exchange for ten percent.

In 1957 he began to work for Universal Studios, where he designed movie posters and billboard advertising, and was publishing his own men's magazine, Cocktail by 1959 hich was distributed exclusively through liquor stores. He was soon the head of a publishing empire, Parliament News Distributors, Inc., which specialized in nudist and erotic publications, work that overshadowed his more general contributions to American culture and eventually and unjustly earned him the label of "the world's richest pornographer."

• Pulpfest 2011 takes place on Friday 29th July – Sunday 31st July at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio. For further details on this fine presentation by pulp art expert David Saunders, visit www.pulpfest.com and, perhaps, sign up for their regular subscription service

• For more about American pulp magazines, check out David Saunders brilliant www.pulpartists.com - source of the artist information in this post. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Oz does Alien

This stunning Alien painting is on sale now from Art You Grew Up With, the work of Paul Oz, who's also known, perhaps bizarrely, for his Mr Men paintings!

He's also much in demand for his Formula 1 inspired art.

This stunning rendition of Science Fiction's most terrifying creature in oils  is a beauty in black.

A 36" x 48" piece of signed art it's not cheap - £3200 unframed, £4000 framed  - but it's certainly eye catching.

Officially licensed artist to the Bruce Lee family, Denis the Menace, Ali, Mr Men and Star Trek, well known recipients of his work include Sir Alex Ferguson, Radio1’s Chris Moyles and Theo Paphitis – who he's also working with on Comic Relief fundraising projects.

"I was alright at school if I remember correctly, being able to replicate Monet's style reasonably, and won a prize for something as a wee sprog," he says of how he came to be a commercial artist. "But - thankfully to be honest - I was persuaded to follow a more academic route. As it panned out, that meant that 15 years later when I started throwing paint around our initially spotless kitchen, that I could practice, learn and develop my style unpressured - to gradually build up to the point it's become now, of being my passion, and livelihood all in one.

"I'm not a textbook artist, you don't have to understand my artwork; my entire focus is to create visual impact - with the impression of explosive energy, movement and expression, and to illicit a response a pointed finger and something along the lines of and 'woooohhhhaaa!'."

Regarding his actual artwork he reveals every piece is "around 2cm thick oil paint in places (yes, I get through a fair amount of the stuff) and pretty large scale, usually on board for a completely flat background so that the texture of the subject really comes out at you - several other techniques combine for the maximum 3D effect possible.

"I'm fascinated with how perceptions change with distance - the biggest unintentional compliment I’ve had was that my work looks like porridge close up!

"I was once told by a gallery to paint tall narrow pieces that anyone could find space for in a corner. That’s why I now paint even bigger...! "

Check out more of Paul Oz art for sale on ArtYouGrewUpWith

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

How to Engage Prospective Art Directors: Bill McConkey's Film Quiz

Art © 2011 Bill McConkey. Used with his full permission

Ever mindful of the need to stimulate the interest of prospective employers, SciFi Art Now contributor Bill McConkey mailed me a postcard using the nostalgic 1980s inspired image above - and a fab film challenge.

"Usually in February/March/April I've already sent out my mail outs to existing and prospective clients," he explains via his blog. "Last year, that was my 20 page booklet Kaleidoscope and I had every intention of producing a second volume for this year. However since before Christmas up until now I've been too busy with actual jobs, in fact almost with a guarantee every time I've tried to start this booklet I've had an email or a phone call from a client."

Some familiar characters used for an article for
Men's Health: Broccoli verus Spinach.
Art by Bill McConkey
Despite his workload - Bill's recent credits include work for Accountancy Age, Men's Health and Nuts - he found time to mail out his postcard challenge, aimed at reming Art Directors up and down the land he was available for work.

"This, as you can hopefully see, is an 80's movie themed tribute to Da Vinci's Last Supper," he explains. "I'm inviting anyone who got hold of the card to tell me the films that each of the characters appear in and they'll get a prize... also bonus points for anyone who can name the film posters in the background. Some of those are a bit tricky!"

There are 16 characters at the tables - see if you can name all the films - and the posters on the walls, too.

Of course, I'm pleased to report (or maybe that should be confess!) that I've already sent Bill my entry and he's told me I got every one right. I'm also quite chuffed that I did it without resorting to the Internet for all but one of the posters, although I will admit that I had some help from the ROK Comics art director on a couple of those, who's an even bigger SF film fan than I am.

You'll notice that the artwork above includes a little copyright stamp at the bottom. Usually Bill don't feel a need to do this, but this is one of those images that goes walk-about online, and then it ends up on all manner of websites etc that he haven't given the thumbs up to: so please respect his copyright and contact Bill if you want to use it.

• Bill's Official web site: www.billmcconkey.co.uk 

• Bill's official blog: www.billmcconkey.blogspot.com

• Bill McConkey's Last Film Supper © 2011 Bill McConkey

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it

The Martians from H G Wells’s The War of the
; as depicted by Alvim-Correa in
the Belgian edition, La Guerre des mondes
(Brussels, 1906).
Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it is the British Library’s first exhibition to explore science fiction through literature, film, illustration and sound and opens next month, running until September. The Library tells us "it will challenge visitors’ perceptions of the genre by uncovering gems of the Library’s collections from the earliest science fiction manuscripts to the latest best-selling novels."

Guest-curated by Andy Sawyer, Science Fiction Collections Librarian at the University of Liverpool, the exhibition will trace the development of the genre from True History by Lucian of Samosata written in the 2nd century AD to the recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Miéville, showing how science fiction has turned from a niche into a global phenomenon.

Events include appearances by several British comic creators including Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

Here's a full list of all events.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Artist Neil Roberts part of Lincoln Book Festival line up

Lincoln University is running an event titled The World of Comics later this month as part of the Lincoln Books Festival (11th - 15th May), featuring Sci-Fi Art Now contributor Neil (Sarah Jane Adventures, 2000AD) Roberts alongside Murky Depths editor Terry Martin.

"Comics and graphic novels have enjoyed an explosion of popularity lately, but what is the key to their success?" organisers Alt.Fiction (aka Writing East Midlands) ask.

"Join us for this panel discussion with Terry Martin, award-winning publisher of Murky Depths and acclaimed artist Neil Roberts to explore this ever-expanding area of reading and writing. A great opportunity to find out more how comics and graphic novels come to life, and what the future holds for this growing art form."

The festival also features an appearance by cartoonist Tony Husband alongside poet Ian McMillan (presenting their marvellous 'A Cartoon History of Here' show) and acclaimed SF editor John Jarrold.

• The World of Comics, 7.00pm 11th May, The Library, Lincoln University. Tickets £4, book at lincolnbookfestival.org (Direct tickets sale link here)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it is the British Library’s first exhibition to explore science fiction through literature, film, illustration and sound and opens next month, running until September. The Library tells us "it will challenge visitors’ perceptions of the genre by uncovering gems of the Library’s collections from the earliest science fiction manuscripts to the latest best-selling novels."

Guest-curated by Andy Sawyer, Science Fiction Collections Librarian at the University of Liverpool, the exhibition will trace the development of the genre from True History by Lucian of Samosata written in the 2nd century AD to the recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Miéville, showing how science fiction has turned from a niche into a global phenomenon.

Events include appearances by several British comic creators including Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

Here's a full list of all events.

Out of this world: Why Science Fiction speaks to us all
Friday 20 May 18.30 - 20.00

Throughout history, people have asked ‘what if?’ We have always allowed our imaginations to create other worlds as expressions of our wildest dreams, hopes and fears, and so better to understand our own. ‘Science Fiction’ expresses this human need in potent ways, but so does the work of Swift, Lewis Carroll and George Orwell. The story and present state of our speculations are explored by China Miéville (right), Adam Roberts, Tricia Sullivan and special guests. £7.50 / £5

Out of this World: Science and The Future
A short series of discussions exploring the cutting edge thinking and scientific research and ideas that may determine the kind of future we will have on earth. This is the thinking that may seem like science fiction but will be revolutionary in our lifetimes; although it is not without controversy. Leading scientists, theorists and writers share their thoughts.

Who owns the story of the Future?
Tuesday 24 May 18.30 – 20.00

Will the future be better or worse? – and does the story we are telling ourselves help or hinder us? Can we make the right choices, and deal with the grand challenges ahead or will our ambitions and lack of political will get in the way. Jon Turney (The Rough Guide to The Future) chairs a panel including economist Diane Coyle (The Economics of Enough), technology and SF writer Cory Doctorow and Mark Stevenson (An Optimists Tour of the Future). £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Compared to this, the Industrial Revolution was nothing!
Wednesday 25 May 18.30 - 20.00

Is the ‘ultimate reboot’ is coming as the Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics/AI revolutions intertwine and pick up speed? Are we heading toward a radically different society where our notions of old age, scarcity and our institutions have to be radically rethought? Or have we heard it all before? Speakers include Richard Jones (University of Sheffield, author of Soft Machines; Nanotechnology and Life) Robin Lovell-Badge (Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research) and Anders Sandberg (Future of Humanity Institute). Chair, Jon Turney. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Fixing the Planet: have we finally got some concrete options?
Friday 27 May 18.30 - 20.00

From carbon scrubbing, to fourth generation bio-fuels, to biochar, to improved grassland management – we have the tools to deal with the climate change crisis in short order. So why don’t more of us know about them – and what can we do to start putting them into action? Speakers include Chris Goodall (Ten Technologies to Save the Planet), Tim Kruger (Oxford Geoengineering Research) and Mark Stevenson. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that transform the World
Tuesday 31 May 18.30 – 20.00

David Deutsch, the acclaimed physicist and author of The Fabric of Reality, explores the big issues that inform our understanding of how the physical world works. His much awaited new book, The Beginning of Infinity reaches some startling conclusions about the nature of human choice, scientific explanation and the evolution of culture. Chaired by Graham Lawton, Deputy Editor, New Scientist. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

The Age Of Entanglement: are we too intertwined with technology?
Friday 3 June 18.30 – 20.00

“As technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives it’s become a life support system without which we can’t survive” (James Burke). Are we too dependent on our technologies, or are they the key to a bright future? Are we subjugated or emancipated by them? Speakers include technology writer and broadcaster Aleks Krotoski and Sherry Turkle (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Alone Together). £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Airborne Dreaming; a prehistory of flight
Friday 3 June 13.00 – 14.30

Flight is one of the defining dreams of magic, myths and fairy tales. In The Arabian Nights above all, early scientific fantasies of flight, imaginary voyages and utopias give us the flying carpet, a vehicle of rapture and ecstasy as well as power over time and space. Prize-winning writer of fiction, criticism and history, Marina Warner, explores these magical and prophetic annunciations of the coming era of powered flight. £6 / £4 concessions

Utopias and Other Worlds
Monday 6 June 18.30 – 20.00

The Culture, a vast anarchic and utopian interstellar society, is one of the most extraordinary settings in modern literature, and it follows a long tradition of imagined worlds, perfect or otherwise. Its creator, acclaimed novelist Iain M Banks, is joined by Gregory Claeys, author of Searching for Utopia, to trace the long history of the idea, and Francis Spufford, whose Red Plenty explores the world of Soviet idealism. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

H G Wells: The Man Who Invented Tomorrow
Wednesday 8 June 18.30 - 20.00

‘Scientific romances’ such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, within a prolific career as writer and social thinker made H G Wells the most famous author in the world. Yet his life and ideas were full of contradiction. Wells is the subject of A Man Of Parts, the new novel by David Lodge, who discusses this complex and intriguing figure with Stephen Baxter, whose The Time Ships was an authorised sequel to Wells, and Adam Roberts, SF writer and Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. £7.50 / £5 concessions

The Art and Science of Time Travel
Friday 10 June 18.30 – 20.00

From Madeline D'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time to Doctor Who and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 the concept, appeal and paradoxes of time travel have inspired many mind-boggling flights of the imagination. Join the creators of two superb recent experiments with the idea: Stephen Baxter, whose The Time Ships is a sequel to HG Wells, and Audrey Niffenegger, the author of the best selling The Time Traveler’s Wife. Acclaimed science writer John Gribbin will be the evening’s authority on the theory and logic of time travel. £7.50 / £5 concessions

SPECIAL EVENT: LATE AT THE LIBRARY- OUT OF THIS WORLD Global Communication and The Radio Science Orchestra live with DJs Rob da Bank and Jon Hopkins
Friday 17 June 19.30 – 23.00

Join the Library as they go into interstellar overdrive at a unique music event to celebrate ‘Out Of This World’. A rare chance to catch the theremin led retro-space sound of Bruce Woolley’s Radio Science Orchestra featuring Ken Hollings, in Return To Mars. They are followed by the return of Global Communication, one of the pre-eminent electronic acts of the modern era, performing live for the first time in 15 years. Plus the exceptional DJs Rob da Bank and Jon Hopkins and a special appearance by the Immaculate Extremists. Please dress futuristically! And come to our Illamasqua sci-fi salon on the night for a fabulous makeover. £12.50

Space Children: From Dr.Funkenstein to the ArchAndroid
Saturday 18 June 15.30 – 17.00 (plus film screening at 14.00)

The afrofuturistic imagination reached fantastical heights in the lavish science fiction inspired stage shows, costumes and concept albums of US funk acts Parliament and Labelle. George Clinton, whose P-funk mythology turned his whole band into characters from a wild space opera comes to the British Library to talk about all things galactic in his career. He shares the event with Nona Hendryx from Labelle, whose concerts and extraordinary styling in the mid 1970s had to be seen to be believed. A multimedia journey into this thrilling world, that also features special film of their heiress Janelle Monae, 'the ArchAndroid'.The event will be preceded by a rare screening of John Akomfrah’s documentary The Last Angel of History at 14.00. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Brian Aldiss, John Clute, Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad
Tuesday 21 June 18.30 - 20.00

A rare chance to spend an evening with four of the most extraordinary writers of modern times: Brian Aldiss, John Clute, Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad. Each has had a long, diverse writing career encompassing novels, short stories, essays and non fiction; championing originality and freely blending the literary mainstream with fantasy, science fiction and absurdism. Moderated by Roz Kaveney. £7.50 / £5

Mary Shelley and Romantic Science (and that Creature)
Wednesday 22 June 18.30 - 20.00

Mary Shelley was still Mary Godwin, and only 18 years old, when she began the short horror story that eventually became one of the most influential novels of the 19th century: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Acclaimed biographer and historian of science Richard Holmes depicts an era of scientific speculation that enabled Mary to conceive her extraordinary Creature, and his visionary creator, Victor Frankenstein. £6 / £4 concessions

Aliens and The Imagination
Tuesday 28 June 18.30 - 20.00

Are we alone in the universe? While we wait for an answer that may never come, we seem compelled in the meantime to imagine alien encounters, devise extraordinary alien worlds and races and find ‘the other’ much closer to home. Fascinating presentations and discussion from film director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) author Gwyneth Jones, Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor); scientists and writers Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, (What Does a Martian Look Like?: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life) and David Clarke, Sheffield Hallam University and consultant to the National Archives UFO project. Chaired by Bryan Appleyard. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Niall Ferguson: Civilisation and Virtual History
Wednesday 29 June 18.30 – 20.00

What if the Spanish Armada had been victorious? What if Germany had won the Second World War as imagined in Philip K Dick’s The Man In The High Castle? Imaginative writers have often used ‘counterfactualism’ as a device but rarely historians. Niall Ferguson, writer of many acclaimed books and presenter of Civilisation The West and the Rest, outlines some of the intriguing scenarios that could have resulted in a completely different world to the one we know, and explores how this speculation helps us understand history. £7.50 / £5 concessions

The Universes of Alan Moore
Monday 4 July 18.30 - 20.00

Alan Moore’s vast forthcoming novel Jerusalem is set in a four dimensional world of overlapping history, personal life and local geography, working class angels and demons. It builds on a remarkable body of work, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta which have made him one of the most influential writers in the history of comic novels. He joins comedian and writer Stewart Lee to discuss many aspects of the real and unreal, time and space, people and places. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R) by Karel Čapek
Wednesday 6 July 18.30-21.15 and repeated on Friday 8 July 18.30-20.00

Ninety years ago the great Czech playwright and novelist Karel Čapek first presented his remarkable play R.U.R, from which the word 'robot' is derived and which describes the elimination of humanity by robots. A powerful comment on politics and technological progress, it also presages the questions of cloning and nanotechnology of our own time. A staged reading, abridged and directed by Ivor Benjamin. The performance on Wednesday 6 July is followed by a discussion with leading scientists and technologists on the impact of robotics on our lives, past, present and future. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Out of this World classics: selected and dissected
Tuesday 12 July 18.30 - 20.00

The organisers of the Arthur C Clarke Award, the leading British SF honour, invite you to join their crack team of panellists as they chose and discuss personal favourites from the British Library's Out of this World exhibition - which takes in everyone from Voltaire to Vonnegut, Thomas More to Alan Moore, and Borges to Burgess. Participants include Pat Cadigan and Paul McAuley. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Afro Futures: Pumzi plus Q+A with Wanuri Kahiu
Tuesday 19 July 18.30 - 20.00

This stunning short film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu attracted admirers from all over the world when it premièred at the Sundance festival. Set in a dystopian future after water wars have torn the world apart it is a beautifully crafted film, with special effects provided in part by the team behind futuristic shocker District 9. £6 / £4 concessions

Robin Ince's School for Gifted Children Summer Science Fiction Module
Wednesday 20 July 18.30 – 20.30

Robin Ince, presenter on Radio 4's Infinite Monkey Cage and creator of live shows Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People and Uncaged Monkeys with Brian Cox, presents an evening of comedy, inspired ideas and mini SF lectures from Toby Hadoke, Richard Sandling, Helen Arney and other special guests. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Class, Control and Clones
Monday 1 August 18.30 – 20.00

Science Fiction and Social Science both explore dangerous and difficult ideas about the social world around us, about relationships, and about our reactions to change. One creates imaginative worlds, the other uses observation and evidence. What do ‘social science fiction’ works such as Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale say about our preoccupations with gender relations, fertility and class? Is it simply a question of science, sex and stereotypes, or do more fundamental ethical, sociological and political issues underpin the fictional worlds created? £6 / £4 concessions

Lemistry – 100 years of Stanislaw Lem
Friday 9 September 18.30 – 20.00

A truly great European writer, Stanislaw Lem (1911-2006) transcends both Polish literature and his chosen genre, science fiction. Best known for his twice-filmed novel Solaris, he was a virtuoso storyteller who packed his writing with philosophy, comedy, and allegory. This evenings rich centenary celebration features contributions by writers John Gray, Toby Litt and Wojciech Orliński, and film makers Ari Folman (currently filming Lem’s The Futurological Congress as follow up to Waltz with Bashir) and The Brothers Quay. Chaired by journalist and critic Rosie Goldsmith.
Presented in association with the Polish Cultural Institute. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Plus more ‘Out of this World’ events in September to be announced.

The Library's exciting season of events continues in the final weeks of the Out Of This World exhibition. In September, the British Library welcomes best selling author Neil Gaiman, alongside other greats of science fiction and beyond. Further events will be devoted to the exceptional writers J G Ballard, Robert Holdstock and others.

• Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it runs from 20 May – 25 September 2011. Tickets for all events are available at http://boxoffice.bl.uk, by calling 01937 546546 (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) or in person at The British Library.

• Please visit the website for latest news: www.bl.uk/sciencefiction

Friday, 25 March 2011

Steampunk explored in major US exhibition

Jules Verne was one of the earliest science fiction writers, but what if he were alive today? US SciFi Art Now readers who enjoyed our steampunk chapter, which featured work by artists such as Patrick J. Jones, Bill McConkey and Vicky Stonebridge, might want to check out an exhibition running until May in Foxboro, Massachusetts, which puts a steampunk spin on Verne's Captain Nemo, the submariner in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Steampunk enthusiasts Steampuffin (www.steampuffin.com) and exhibition creators 5 Wits (www.5-wits.com) have come to together to show people what kind of technology and art could have been on the Nautilus if Nemo was piloting his submarine today.

Think of Steampunk as an alternate reality where the Victorian period happened at the same time as the computer or information age – what would have been produced in modern innovations, inventions and gadgetry. In fact, many believe that Jules Verne was really one of first Steampunk thinkers to popularize the genre.

The 1000-square-foot Nemo's Steampunk Art & Invention Gallery, which will be open until 30th May, will feature primarily museum quality 3D artwork/inventions from Steampunk artists across the country. The artwork will be for sale and can also be customized for clients.

Check out the Nemo's Steampunk Art & Invention Gallery exhibition, which included details of the artists featured

• Official Exhibition web site: www.5-wits.com/20000leagues.aspx

Friday, 11 March 2011

Do Covers Count when it comes to Awards?

The UK cover for Zoo City -
strong on design, light on its
SF content?
With the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist just announced, I thought it might be interesting to see what kind of covers the nominated books have.

While the stories are obviously the most important aspect of the nominated titles, I was curious to see if there was anything particularly striking about the way the books had been 'packaged'/'marketed' that might have helped them earn well deserved attention.

This year’s six shortlisted titles were selected from a long list of 54 eligible submissions put forward by twenty-two different publishing houses and imprints.

“The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Arthur C. Clarke Award was always going to be a landmark year, and we couldn’t have asked for a more fascinating and exciting shortlist to get the celebrations started," says Award Director Tom Hunter.

“54 eligible books is one of the highest submission years we’ve ever had, and when you look at all of the reviews, debate and online commentary that’s surrounded many of these titles you can see just how hard the judges’ deliberations were this year.

“For me this list is a great indication of just how deep, rich and complex the literature of science fiction can be. I think this list is a definite keeper, as they say, and my hope is that 25 years from now people will still be coming back to it as a representation of everything that’s best about the diversity and strength of our genre.”

The 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)

Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things. To save herself, she’s got to find the hardest thing of all: the truth.

An astonishing second novel from the author of the highly-acclaimed Moxyland.

Intriguingly, publishers Angry Robot went for a very different cover for the UK publication (above) to that for the US (left) which, to me, is far more 'traditional" SF and at the very least, features the main character on the cover.

There's some hot debate about how SF and Fantasy is regarded in the UK at the moment - the BBC excised virtually all mention of both genres from their World Book Day programme The Books We Really Read: A Culture Show Special, ironically promoted on iPlayer by a picture of presenter Sue Perkins reading Day of the Triffids. (Author Stephen Hunt, who also runs SF Crowsnest, is up in arms about it, here and here on Facebook).

Such antipathy to SF rather makes me wonder if Angry Robot's marketing department thought long and hard about making the cover look as non-SF as possible to convince British bookshop suppliers to buy copies...

• Lauren Beukes official web site is at: http://laurenbeukes.book.co.za

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)

In the CHAGA novels Ian McDonald brought an Africa in the grip of a bizarre alien invasion to life, in River of Gods he painted a rich portrait of India in 2047, in Brasyl he looked at different Brazils, past present and future. Ian McDonald has found renown at the cutting edge of a movement to take SF away from its British and American white roots and out into the rich cultures of the world.

The Dervish House continues that journey and centres on Istanbul in 2025. Turkey is part of Europe but sited on the edge, it is an Islamic country that looks to the West. The Dervish House is the story of the families that live in and around its titular house, it is at once a rich mosaic of Islamic life in the new century and a telling novel of future possibilities.

The new SF epic from Ian McDonald does for Turkey what Brasyl did for Brazil.

I really do have to wonder just how much thought went into this cover. Did the designer simply read the Sales Sheet (the overview of the book sent out by publishers to promote the book, notice the word Turkey and Dervish and simply scurry off to find Middle Eastern looking fonts and architecture? Admittedly, the cover does some up the title - but it's pretty dull...

Ian McDonald's official web site is at: http://ianmcdonald.livejournal.com

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)

“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge… 

The electrifying finale to the award-winning Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

As you can see from the amazon link, left, the paperback version of the hardcover's cover follows similar lines. Although it's again an illustration light cover, like Dervish House, the design at least captures the title - a tad disturbing and definitely eye catching.

Generosity by Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)

Generosity is Richard Powers' most exuberantly brilliant book yet, in which he dares to imagine what might happen when science discovers the genes for happiness...

When Russell Stone becomes the teacher of a young Algerian woman with a disturbingly luminous presence, he is both entranced and troubled. How can this refugee from terror radiate such bliss? Is it possible to be so open and alive without coming to serious harm? 

Soon, Thassa’s joyful personality comes to the attention of the notorious geneticist and advocate for genomic enhancement, Thomas Kurton, whose research has enabled him to announce his discovery of the genetic underpinnings of happiness. Thassa’s congenital optimism is severely tested by the growing media circus. Devoured by the public as a living prophecy, her genetic secret will transform both Russell and Kurton, as well as the world at large.

Generosity is Richard Powers' most exuberant and exhilarating book yet.

This cover gets my prize for having absolutely nothing to do with the book description - at least on first glance. Although challenging an artist to come up with a cover that reflects the title was probably a tall order!

The multi-award-winning Richard Powers is probably the most 'maintsream' author on this year's shortlist, a writer whose works often explore the effects of modern science and technology.

Declare by Tim Powers (Corvus - an imprint of Grove Atlantic)

An ultra-secret MI6 codename, a deadly game of deception and intrigue - Dark forces from the depths of history. It is the terrible secret at the heart of the cold war. Operation: Declare London, 1963. A cryptic phone call forces ex-MI6 agent Andrew Hale to confront the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: an ultra-secret wartime operation, codenamed Declare. 

Operation Declare took Hale from Nazi-occupied Paris to the ruins of post-war Berlin and the trackless wastes of the Arabian desert, culminating in a night of betrayal and mind-shattering terror on the glacial slopes of Mount Ararat. Now, with the Cold War at its height, his superiors want him to return to the mountain and face the dark secret entombed within its icy summit. 

Hale has no choice but to comply, for Declare is the key to a conflict far deeper, far colder, than the Cold War itself. 

The cover to Declare suits this book by Tim Powers perfectly - he's well known for his secret histories and UK publishers Corvus have captured the spirit of the novel and its themes perfectly - the first UK printing of his 2000 World Fantasy Award-winning spy novel.  Powers has a huge following in the US, but his representatives, the Zeno Agency (who, coincidentally, also represent Ian McDonald), cut the UK publishing deal on the back of the success of 'conspiracy' authors like Dan Brown at the end of 2009.

Great to see his work getting wider attention here at last. I still love his early novel, The Anubis Gates released back in the early 1980s.

Tim Powers official website is at: www.theworksoftimpowers.com

Lightborn: Seeing is Believing... by Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)

Lightborn, better known as 'shine', is a mind-altering technology that has revolutionised the modern world. It is the ultimate in education, self-improvement and entertainment - beamed directly into the brain of anyone who can meet the asking price. But in the city of Los Sombres, renegade shine has attacked the adult population, resulting in social chaos and widespread insanity in everyone past the age of puberty. The only solution has been to turn off the Field and isolate the city.

Trapped within the quarantine perimeter, fourteen-year-old Xavier just wants to find the drug that can keep his own physical maturity at bay until the army shuts down the shine. That's how he meets Roksana, mysteriously impervious to shine and devoted to helping the stricken. As the military invades street by street, Xavier and Roksana discover that there could be hope for Los Sombres - but only if Xavier will allow a lightborn cure to enter his mind. What he doesn’t know is that the shine in question has a mind of its own . . .

 Another very stark cover, which pretty much seems to be the norm - strong on typography rather than imagery.

Of the shortlisted, aside from Declare and Generosity, typography and non-SF skewed imagery would appear to be the common factor on all these covers. It's rather sad that despite the high quality of the fiction within, every covers seems intent on disguising the SF contents - although of course, if that helps sales, then sadly that's just how things will continue.

Not great news for the wonderful SF artists I worked with on Sci-Fi Art Now, perhaps?

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is described as the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain. The annual award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a shortlist of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year.

The Award was originally established by a generous grant from Sir Arthur C. Clarke with the aim of promoting science fiction in Britain, and is currently administered by the Serendip Foundation with Sir Arthur continuing to donate a cash prize via Rocket Publishing, his UK representatives.

Last year's winner was China Miéville for The City and the City, taking the prize for a record third time.

The judging panel for the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award are Chris Hill and Jon Courtenay Grimwood for the British Science Fiction Association, Francis Spufford and Rhiannon Lassiter for the Science Fiction Foundation and Paul Skevington for the science fiction news website SFCrowsnest.com. Paul Billinger represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges.

• The winner will be announced on Wednesday 27th April at an award ceremony held on the opening night of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival where a prize of £2011 will be awarded to the winner along with a commemorative engraved bookend.

• Official web site: www.clarkeaward.com

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sci-Fi shapes modern design, inspired by TRON

Image oourtesy of DuPont

How cool is this as an example of Sci-Fi design shaping the world of around us? The new TRON movie is to be the inspiration for an exhibition illustrating how creativity and innovation meet design at this year's Milan Design Week (11-17th April 2011), considered the most important venue for interior design professionals around the world.

DuPont Corian and Disney will showcase TRON designs CORIAN, an exhibition inspired by TRON: Legacy released last year.

The exhibition organisers say the overall effect and expression of TRON: Legacy has inspired many artists and designers across fashion, music, design and technology. From the original Daft Punk soundtrack, to exclusive apparel and designer jewellery, to the videogame Tron: Evolution, just like the ground-breaking original movie released in 1982, the world of TRON has become a lifestyle phenomenon.

The exhibition is an original project which will be art directed by DuPont and Disney and created using DuPont Corian advanced surface. (DuPont says that if you can imagine it, you can probably create it with Corian; available in over 100 colours, it can be carved, routed or worked like wood, moulded, thermoformed or inlayed… the design options are almost limitless).

A series of leading and trendy companies, architects and designers will also create fascinating interior design solutions and architectural forms as part of the exhibition, taking inspiration from the film and exploiting the versatility of DuPont Corian.

"Disney fosters imagination and DuPont shapes materials," says says Tim McCann, president of DuPont Building Innovations. "We are extremely pleased to be working with a partner as creative and innovative as The Walt Disney Company and develop together with them an exhibition for an important venue like the Milan week of design.

TRON: Legacy has been a wonderful source of inspiration: combined with the expertise of Disney and DuPont Corian and the collaboration of imaginative architects, designers and companies, it will materialise into a unique, original and fresh exhibition that will surprise the demanding global audience of visitors to the Milan week of design."

Founded in 1800, DuPont, again considered one of the United States 100 Best Corporate Citizens this year, has long been involved in film and film making (as far back as 1924!) as well as developments in science and technology, as this archive advertisement featuring the lunar Apollo mission of the 1970s illustrates (20 of the 21 layers of the Apollo moon suits either contained or were made entirely of science-based innovations developed by DuPont).

Image oourtesy of DuPont

Full Milan Design Week Press Release here on ASC Info

Milan Design Week 2011 web site (I think!) 

View a fact sheet about DuPont products  that have played a critical role in the US space program (PDF)

Suited for Space (Facebook Page)
Smithsonian-sponsored Facebook page works in tandem with the content from their 2010 traveling exhibit "Suited for Space," giving visitors some extra goodies as they walk through the gallery.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Nelson Evergreen

Flight of the Cosmic
by Nelson Evergreen
Nelson Evergreen’s work is mainly geared towards childrens’ publishing, but he tells us he likes to do a fair bit of slightly more adult/peculiar small press comics stuff on the side. His more recent include a Tom Thumb comic book for Capstone, a Wild West Pop-Up book for Templar Publishing, and an Edgar Allen Poe comic strip adaptation for Graphic Classics' second collection of Poe adaptations, due out on 1st August 2011.

"I'm just finishing off a couple of book covers at the moment," he tells us. 'Robbie Forester & The Outlaws of Sherwood St for Penguin, and A Tale Dark & Grimm for Andersen Press.

"I’ve also got a heap of kids’ picture and comic book ideas piled up in the corner, screaming 'Hoi! You! Develop us!' morning noon and night!"

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Nelson Evergreen: Pencil and paper (cheap printer stuff, nothing too fancy), Photoshop & Wacom tablet.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Nelson: It’s nearly always paper and pencil for composition. I don’t care too much for being chained to the computer while working out where to place all the elements. It’s much better being able to wander about, plonking the paper down as and when and just scribbling. Moving around seems to help keep the ideas flowing.

But once everything’s where it needs to be, there’s nothing quite like Photoshop for the rendering. Photoshop is pretty much my favourite thing ever. I always loved analogue inking, but years of doing it in real life, with actual mapping nibs and actual inks and all that sort of variable, fickle nonsense, had reduced me to a hollow wreck of a man. Digital inking is more like sketching with a pencil; looser, freer, less tense. Plus you can jump from medium to medium at the click of an icon.

Red Riding Hood illustration by Nelson Evergreen

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Nelson: I never had a chance to imagine being anything else! Once I was old enough to realise that all these comics I loved so much were being drawn by grown ups, and that those grown ups were making a (kind of) living from doing so, well, that was it.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Nelson: 2000AD was year zero for me, and I was especially smitten with Brian Bolland’s work. He wasn’t a spiky, off the wall stylist like Mike McMahon or Kevin O’Neill, but his ability to convey character, and his exquisite way with composition and pacing, inspired me no end. 2000AD really was a bomb going off – a comic so rammed with wonderful writers and artists that I feel guilty for only mentioning three of them.

A quick list of current names who continue to blow me away include Jamie Hewlett, Dave McKean, Paul Pope, Simon Bartram, Shaun Tan, Todd Schorr, Jon Foster, Charles Burns, Chris Riddell… Plus, a whole horde of old timers like Samuel Palmer, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kathe Kollwitz, Honore Daumier, Gustav Klimt, Goya, Vermeer, Ingres…

Plus all the amazing artists you discover being shamelessly brilliant on the web every single day. I get severely kicked up the backside at least a dozen times a week.

'Built with a Smile' by Nelson Evergreen

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

Nelson: It’s a blank canvas for un-tethered invention. You’ve got scope for mad organisms, freewheeling alien technology, all sorts of shiny, strange unlikeliness, making it a great conduit for automatic brain/hand/paper tomfoolery. I really enjoy not being quite sure what’s going to emerge. Plus, because I get bored of researching real life stuff pretty quickly, the more I can grab straight from my head the better.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?)

© Nelson Evergreen
Nelson: Work for hire is brilliant (and essential!), but most of my favourite projects tend to be personal. When it’s your own baby the whole Unconditional Love thing quickly kicks in, and it all gets a lot more precious and subjective.

Leaving aside all the stuff I’ve got in development at the moment, on of the things I had in recent years was working on a pitch for The DFC (David Fickling’s defunct – or rather, hopefully just resting – weekly British childrens’ comic). The strip was about a 10-year-old boy going about his day to day business, blissfully unaware of this hectic universe of anthropomorphic cartoon cells going about their business inside him.

From the outset I got carried away and decided I was going to depict his innards as a cross between a random psychedelic alien environment, Judge Dredd’s Mega City One, and The Simpsons’ Springfield, all rendered in a pseudo animated CGI blockbuster style.

Of course, if I’d paid proper attention to Pixar’s Golden Rule, I’d have remembered to get the script absolutely right before launching into production – given how absurdly long these pages took, that’s not as outlandish a comparison as it might sound! But three years on, I’m still really pleased with how the visuals worked out. There was real love put into them, and I hope that comes across.

Sci-Fi Art Now: In your career, have you had any bizarre experiences while creating your art ?

Nelson: Friends and colleagues sometimes crop up in my pictures by accident. It’s weird to think of all that incredibly precise visual info floating vaguely around up there in your head, never accessible when you want it but always ready to pop out and say hello when you least expect it.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

My inner critic, without a doubt. Lax when he should be strict, strict when he should be lax. I’d sack him if he wasn’t attached.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Those moments when you realise you’ve broken out of a stylistic straitjacket you didn’t even know you were wearing.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Nelson: From a creative point of view, work out what you’re best at, push it in public, and work on your weaknesses behind closed doors. From a professional point of view, just try and be a pleasure to work with.

• Check out more of Nelson's work at www.nelson-evergreen.com or his blog at http://nelson-evergreen.blogspot.com. You can contact Nelson via  nelson_evergreenAThotmail.com

Thursday, 10 February 2011

SciFi Art Now Creator Interview: Graeme Neil Reid

About two years ago, Graeme Neil Reid went full time as an illustrator after having produced work part time and in conjunction with his job in the marketing and advertising industries for over 15 years. "These days I spend every moment drawing and when not working for a client I produce sketches for sale on my blog site (gnreid.blogspot.com) and contribute to the Scottish art blog 'Scotch Corner' (scotchcorner.blogspot.com)," he tells us.

"I've produced work from book illustrations, magazine editorial, television adverts, comic strips, concept design, wall murals, beer labels and just about anything you could think of. When I'm not working I like to watch films and practice my hobby of photography."

Some of Graeme's illustration work

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Graeme Neil Reid: Day to day I'll use my various propelling pencils, various pens for inking and my Apple Mac for all the Photoshop, Illustrator etc. When I can I'll paint traditionally with acrylics or inks.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Graeme: Well, I sketch out my work in blue lead (non-reproductive you see – or don't in this case) and then I'll pencil quite tightly with my Kuru Toga pencil (it slowly revolves the lead to supposedly keep it sharp but it doesn't quite manage all the time).

I'll use a mixture of pens and brushes for inking. For sketches I'll use the Pentel Brush Pen because it's so fluid and quick. For more finished inking, I use Staedtler Pigment Liners as they hold a good line and you can to a certain degree alter the line you get from them. I used to ink with brushes but I found I got a lot quicker using pens and there's a lot less mess too.

I've used an Apple Mac of one kind or another since I was 16. I love the ease of a computer when creating art. I like having a real physical finished product in your hand but a computer opens up lots of possibilities that are risk free and it can be a lot quicker. I use Photoshop on a daily basis and I dabble with Painter when I need to. I want to try Manga Studio soon as everyone seems to rate it highly.

I love painting traditionally but it can be time consuming and a bit tricky to get the desired look you were after so its often left to projects that I have time enough to do or as personal work.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Graeme: Most likely a combination of things but undoubtedly a mixture of UK comics that I read. Foremost was 2000AD but there was Eagle, Scream, Warlord, Starblazer and a few others. I didn't show any inclination to drawing when I was younger and it wasn't until I was around 14 that I started to draw pictures from those comics. Once I started that, I spotted lots of things to influence me including the art from role playing games, rock albums and films.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when you began learning your craft?

Graeme: The one piece of information I retained from High School was actually from my woodwork teacher who said "If there is an easier way to do things, do it that way". Now that might sound like he's saying don't try hard at anything but what I took from that is that there are so many ways to over complicate what you have to do that you'll end up taking twice as long to finish the job. So for instance, those out there that turn their noses up at light boxes and referencing, well that's fine for you but for me it makes my life easier and the job quicker.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Graeme: There would be a never ending list of artists that inspire me and would be impossible to write. I enjoy finding new artists on the internet on a daily basis.

The thing that inspires me most are the artists who have been around for a while and never dropped the quality of their work, didn't shirk out on a job. You can see their work develop and mature over the years. Some take enormous risks and change their whole style but they still maintain the quality and effort they put into their work. Try harder with each new job.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

I think the age I grew up in was a really strong one for sci-fi in general, Star Wars being an obvious source to inspire. I think also the whole man in space thing wasn't just an obvious daily routine thing and NASA launching the first space shuttle was extremely exciting for me. I have a distant relation who was an astronaut on those early shuttle missions so that quickly absorbed my mind and I used to think that my middle name was given to me because of Mr Armstrong! I didn't read a lot of science fiction work until I was a lot older but I always enjoyed the sci-fi films. Alien, Westworld, Bladerunner etc.

Worlds Strongest Man,Graeme Neil Reid,illustration,advert
One of Graeme's illustrations for The World's Strongest Man. © 2009 Virgin Media
Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?

Pencils for Judge Dredd:
The Natural
Graeme: Just last year (2010) I finally drew Judge Dredd (Megazine #301) for the first time and that fulfilled a long held ambition for me. One of my favourite jobs and quickest was my work on the TV advert for The World's Strongest Man, it was great project and the production company Mainframe where awesome to work with.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Graeme: Not being good enough. I set my level very high and constantly fall below what I hoped I'd reach but nobody else knows what I was aiming for so it's a very personal frustration.

Final art for Judge Dredd:
The Natural
Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Graeme: Coffee, Biscuits. Family. Music. Films. (In no particular order)

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Graeme: Be professional. Hit your deadlines, be polite. Don't hassle or bombard editors, keep in contact but don't become the artist they instantly junk your mail because you just won't leave them alone. If you are going to show an editor your work, take about 10 or 20 of your best pieces for them to see in an A4 folder. Don't take a massive awkward portfolio and don't take loads of sketch books - you are not going for an interview to get into art college so keep it simple and clean. Spend some time finding out about your rights as an artist, copyright and licensing are important. Keep up to date with your accounts.

Promote yourself constantly, get over the shy and awkward feeling about shouting about your work and promote yourself. One thing though is that you have to produce the work, you can't shout and point at your work from six months ago.

Don't do free spec work, just don't. Don't believe the exposure line that you'll be given. Choose your 'freebie' jobs carefully, do the ones you like and interest you and that will not have you crying over the drawing board for two years wondering when the pain will stop.

'Victory of the Daleks'
Dalek by Graeme Neil Reid
• Check out more of Graeme's work at: www.gnreid.co.uk and www.gnreid.blogspot.com

• Contact Graeme via gnreidATgnreid.co.uk

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