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Saturday, May 02, 2020

Illustrators #28 (Winter 2019)

Issue 28 of Illustrators is an international delight, with artist from America, England, Belgium and Germany.

Frank Kelly Freas has been a favourite cover artist of mine for years as he was very active in the 1970s when I began exclusively reading science fiction. The W. H. Smiths shop at Chelmsford railway station stocked American SF magazines and I was picking up Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction regularly. This was long before Amazon, so you had to visit Fantasy Centre and Dark They Were and Golden Eyed if you wanted to see American paperbacks and other monthly US magazines, of which there were plenty, even in the 1980s and 1990s.

Frank Kelly Freas was one of the few artists whose work was reprinted in book form. The cover of Illustrators shows the same Martian as Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction (1977), originally painted for Astounding Science Fiction to illustrate Fredric Brown's 'Martians Go Home' and subsequently used by Ballantine on the collection that featured that story.

It exemplifies Freas's whimsical approach to his work, the Martian squinting (perhaps winking) at the reader, resting his chin in his hand. It is a commonplace, nonthreatening pose and typical of Freas, whose strength was somehow to make the alien everyday. Another famous Astounding cover featured an elderly man, sharpening a knife while wearing a pink bonnet.

This is not to say that his work was always intended as droll. His work had power, too, as seen in his Astounding cover for 'The Gulf Between' by Tom Godwin of a robot holding up the body of a bloody human. Freas recreated the image for Queen on their album News of the World, the single human replaced by the band members falling from the robot's hand.

Raised in the US and Canada, Kelly Freas studied art on the GI Bill and had his first illustration accepted in 1950 by Dorothy McIlwraith of Weird Tales, an image of Pan painted as an experiment in two colours which a friend suggested he try to sell. Thereon, Freas became a prolific contributor to magazines, MAD Magazine, and book publishers until his death in 2005.

Yvonne Gilbert's colour pencil art is astonishing in its detail. Her most famous picture, originally drawn for a men's magazine, was used on the cover of 'Relax', the single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood which was banned by the BBC, thus guaranteeing its success. Gilbert has also produced illustrations for the Daily Telegraph Magazine, children's books and stamps over the years and here, in a Q&A, offers some useful advice for people wanting to go into illustration as a career.

Laurent Durieux was a Belgian graphic designer and teacher before achieving success as a silkscreen poster artist specialising in creating posters for classic 20th century movies from Metropolis to The Godfather. Durieux acknowledges the influence of comics, especially the work of Moebius and François Schuiten, with whom Durieux has subsequently collaborated.

Wrapping up the issue is Heinrich Kley, a highly influential artist who was active before the First World War. His pen and ink drawings for the satirical magazine Simplicissimus brought him to a wide audience in Germany and beyond. Collections of his sketchbook work made their way to America where they were discovered by animators working for Walt Disney. His influence can be seen particularly in Fantasia.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues.

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