Whenever I feel stifled, stuck, or stymied by a particular problem, I reopen this brilliant book for a bit of inspiration and commiseration. John Howe takes us through the steps he uses to create his fantastic pieces, some of which were very new to me, some have sat on my bookshelves for years, as covers of some my favorite novels. He also talks honestly about the difficulties involved in creating art, while sharing with the reader his ways of gathering ideas through sketch books, found items and photographs. He shows us his work area, with pictures that offer great insight and ideas to be incorporated into our art areas (his wall calendar is just one of many brilliant ideas!!).
I love that he pulls no punches about the creation of his art work, admitting there is no secret formula, no hidden tricks that make it easy or brilliant, just lots of work, rework, and an ability to pull together real items to create a fantasy world. He shows several examples of his work, showing in clear photographs the steps he used to bring the pieces together as well as the sources of his inspiration. The text of the book is equally brilliant, offering tips to improve any sort of art, from sketches to oil painting, encouraging artists of all levels.
The forward, written by Terry Gilliam, says it best, "So, look out John How, I'm on your tail. I'm giving up directing movies and am going to show the world that I too can paint wonderous worlds of imagination and dreams." And while I may not be bold enough to say my art will one day be greater than his, this book makes my artwork better than it was before. This book, out of my hundreds of art books, is always closest at hand (and the cover is starting to show it); it offers new ideas, new ways to look at old ideas, and an admission from John that he too has rough days.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in fantasy or science fiction art. It encourages the reader to gather ordinary objects to combine into extraordinarily imaginative worlds.