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:

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:

• Check out his latest work at:

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

• More information via and Ian's blog at

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 and, perhaps, sign up for their regular subscription service

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