Art Books

Being the art scholar that I am, I figure I’ll try my hand at another artbook review. Prometheus: The Art of the Film is my latest piece of acquired merchandise from the Prometheus/Alien universe. Thanks to Titan Books, we received a surge of Alien-related books in 2012. The re-releases of The Book of Alien and Alien: An Illustrated Story, as well as Prometheus: The Art of the Film all hit store shelves throughout the summer and fall months of last year.

Prometheus The Art of the Film Cover

The Cover. Nice and spooky.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Author: Mark Salisbury
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Titan Books, June 2012

Prometheus The Art of the Film 1

The alien ship, which was actually slightly re-designed for Prometheus.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film was written and compiled by Mark Salisbury, who was an editor of Empire, and seems to have a rich history of writing visual companions to movies. Clocking in at 186 pages, this book is actually deceptively beefy. The pages are much wider than they are long, which seems to lend itself nicely to the art inside (but was a pain in the ass to scan). The result is that the art within appears in a “widescreen format”, so to speak. The book is hardcover, and one of the nicest features is that when you open it, it stays open without any need to weigh the edges down! This sounds like a minor perk, but trust me, it’s nice to be able to read a book while eating cereal without having to hold the pages open with one hand.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 2

The evolution of the cryobeds.

So what’s inside? The book is filled with a combination of film stills, photographs, storyboards (ridleygrams, for those in the know) and concept art. The content is divided into sections that mimic each feature of the film, and follow roughly the same chronological order of appearance. Each element from the film is present. The Prometheus, the engineers, the pyramid, the trilobite, etc… Along with an assortment of imagery, each section has at least a paragraph of text that explains the creative process that crafted a particular element. The sections flow nicely, and it was really nice to have a textual companion to the images.¬† Although the information is sparse in parts, the advantage is that it never distracts from the imagery. The book is never at risk of becoming a full-on making-of, but it has enough tidbits to satiate a bit of that desire.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 4

The bridge of the Prometheus.

The almighty Ridley Scott wrote a 100-something word forward for the book, but it’s pretty worthless. It has something to do with “fantasy intersecting with reality”, or something to that effect. Basically, don’t get your hopes up about the forward, it doesn’t tell you anything about the movie, or even the book. Oh well. Much more interesting is a 5-page segment focusing on the thoughts of production designer Arthur Max. As you may remember, I wrote about Arthur Max in the Pressure Suit figure review. Along with Ridley Scott, Arthur Max was the mastermind behind Prometheus’ look and feel. He was responsible for organizing the incredible team of concept artists that were locked away in a room for several months and tasked with designing a new world from the ground up. As I’ll explain shortly, this book doesn’t do a good job of introducing you to those concept artists, which is pretty disappointing. Anyways, the segment with Arthur Max is really interesting, and explains the various influences and design choices that were considered along the creative process. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on how they struggled with how strongly they were willing to mimic Giger. In the end, they spliced more Giger into the design than they originally intended.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 14

We all know how this ended…

The various photographs, storyboards and concept art are all arranged really seamlessly and attractively. Seen together, they create a visual dialogue that extends from concept to finished product. Personally, I would have preferred to see more concept art as opposed to photos, but I guess without the photos you wouldn’t get the aforementioned comparison between concept and finished product. There’s also a noticeable lack of concept sketches, which are usually my favorite part of the design process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 8

A massive landing strut.

The concept art almost all takes the form of digital art, but some 3D models and real-life sculptures can also be found. The detail in each painting is incredible! Each piece could easily serve as the cover of a sci-fi book or an album cover. The texture and lighting are so convincing sometimes that it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at a painting or a photograph. After having watched the making-of the film on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I know that many of these pieces were produced almost overnight, which is mind-boggling. It takes me like a month to come up with a small drawing, and these guys were producing photo-real digital art overnight.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 12

One of my favorite pieces.

Perhaps the biggest let-down is that the concept art isn’t credited… I ranted majorly about this last week. How can you release an artbook that doesn’t credit the artists!? Alien’s concept artists, H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and Moebius are all household names, but artists like Gutalin are only mentioned once in this book! I couldn’t begin to tell you who Arthur Max’s team consisted of, let alone who was responsible for each design element. It’s really disappointing, and I’d be pissed if I were them. Having recently watched the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I can tell you that it gives you a much better feel for the concept artists and the creative process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 13

The space jockey, re-designed.

So should you buy this book? That’s a good question. At the end of the day, anyone who’s interested in learning about the making of Prometheus’ design elements will be much better served with the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray. In fact, the text in this book sometimes feels like it was ripped straight from the making-of. That being said, I wouldn’t bet my life on that statement, because this book was released months earlier. If you’re like me, and you enjoy having a physical copy of artwork at your fingertips, than this book will still serve you well. It’s a high quality product, but will probably only interest a small niche of people who’ve already bought it.

I have another Prometheus product review coming at you sometime in the near-future; expect it! As always, please join the xenomorphosis facebook page, and leave me some replies!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from Prometheus: The Art of the Film

Whether or not you’re into tabletop gaming, it’s hard to deny that Warhammer 40k features some of the most beautifully grim art to grace the world of military sci-fi. To Games Workshop‘s credit, they know exactly how critical it is to nurture an instantly recognizable image for their product. For the most part, nearly every licensed w40k product features excellent artwork. I’ve always been drawn to the world of w40k, first as a fan of the game, and more recently as a fan of the novels. W40k might be my favorite extended universe ever. The scale is immense, the back-story is interesting, and the human inhabitants are a refreshing departure from the typical USA in space (which I griped about last post). W40k is a perfect blend of military sci-fi and horror, so expect to see a lot more coverage of it on this site.

Being a casual fan of the w40k universe, I’ve always loved the artwork, but never delved into the artists who brought the 40k world to life. Hence, The Emperor’s Might, a recently released w40k artbook, seemed like a perfect way to journey further into the fiction.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book -- Cover

The cover art is somewhat unimpressive

The Emperor’s Might
Author: John Blanche
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Black Library, October 2012

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 17

The Grey Knights looking cool, as always.

The Emperor’s Might¬†was compiled by John Blanche, Games Workshop‘s resident art director. John Blanche is an amazing fantasy artist, and landed his current gig with GW way back in 1986. As well as contributing his own art to the 40k universe, Blanche also oversees all the contributions by other artists and sculptors, and ensures that they match the required tone and quality. It’s largely thanks to Blanche that w40k looks the way it does. I’d be willing to bet that the 40k brand wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is if it didn’t have such cohesive imagery.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 10

I love this sheer size of the Ultramarine in this image. Dat gauntlet.

The Emperor’s Might focuses on the exploits of the space marines. This isn’t the definitive 40k art book, but it is readily available, which can’t be said of books like The Art of Warhammer 40, 000, which are more all-encompassing, but are sadly out-of-print. Every space marine chapter gets its due in over 140 pages of high quality color prints. The quality of the images in this book can’t be understated. The colors are vivid and crisp. The hardcover binding feels solid, and fortunately survived the abuse I subjected it to in an effort to produce the scans for this post.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 18

My favorite image. Reminds me of Simon Bisley.

I can’t fault the quality of the package, but the price of the book seems somewhat steep considering the amount of content within. Then again, this is Games Workshop, so I can’t pretend to be surprised by a company that routinely gouges its customers’ wallets. For the same price of this artbook, you could probably buy a couple of plastic terminator units.

My biggest annoyance with this book is that it’s an artbook that barely credits the artists within! There is literally no way of knowing who produced each work without consulting the internet, or searching futilely for a scribbled autograph. When I open an artbook, I expect at the very least to be told the names of the featured artists. It would also be nice to see the title of each piece, and a date. The Emperor’s Might provides none of these details. The only mention of the artists is in a small piece of text at the back of the book, in small font along with the copyright information… I understand that the limited space was devoted to art instead of text, but it would have been relatively easy to include a proper index of the artists responsible for each piece.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 3

Possibly the most detailed w40k piece ever.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 9

This was the cover of one of the Space Marine codexes.

I purchased The Emperor’s Might because I wanted to acquaint myself with the artists of the 40k universe, but I found it difficult to do so considering the lack of proper credits. I’m sure that die-hard 40k fans are already familiar with the artists of their favorite expanded universe, and thus don’t need a set of credits, but this is still unfair to casual fans like myself. Irregardless, the artwork is still superb, so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing the book based on this sore point, but it is disappointing.

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 19

Dark Angels.

The artwork ranges from the early beginnings of the w40k brand to the present-day. Had the dates of the pieces been provided, it would have been interesting to see the evolution of the 40k world in concrete terms. About half the paintings feature portraits of individual Astartes, many of which are primarchs or individuals of high rank. Anyone who plays as space marines will instantly recognize many of the paintings from various codexes or rule books.

My favorite pieces of art are the large 2-page spreads that feature massive battle scenes. They epitomize what I love about w40k: massive bloody space conflicts performed on an epic scale. I recognize one of these pieces as the cover art for the UK Death Metal band Bolt Thrower‘s 1989 album Realm of Chaos, so I would assume that several of the other 2-page spreads date back to this era. I still remember being transfixed by issues of White Dwarf as a kid in the mid 90’s; apparently my tastes haven’t changed with age…

Warhammer 40k The Emperor's Might Art Book 2

This was the cover of Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos

As well as the color portraits and battle scenes, there are also a number of black and white images. Although the quality of these meet the standard of the rest of the book, I’ve always preferred w40k’s color paintings. There are even a few pages of landscapes, which seem almost out-of-place without at least one space marine in sight. The book apparently features never-before-seen artwork, but without any index I can’t begin to guess which images these are.

Overall, I would still recommend this book, but don’t make the same mistake I did and expect to learn more about the artists of the 40k world. My ideal book would not only list the artist credits (as a bare minimum), but would even include some back story about each piece, or each artist. Oh well, knowing GW, they may one day release this fantasy book of mine, and subsequently charge $200 for it… As always, please join the xenomorphosis facebook page, it could always use some more love. I plan to do more artbook reviews, so stay tuned.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from The Emperor’s Might