Ok, this book is really big deal for me.
The Studio is a book published in 1979 by Dragon´s Dream, the publishing company of Roger Dean and Martyn Dean and it contains the work of 4 of my all-time favourite artists: Jeffrey Jones, Michael W. Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith and Berni Wrightson. I don´t know about you but that really looks like a stellar line-up to me.
This is a 160 pages book, LP cover size in the same style of all those wonderful Dragon´s Dream and Paper Tiger books published back in the 70´s and well into the 80´s: 21st Century Foss by Chris Foss, Sentinel by Syd Mead, Views, The Album Cover Album 1 & 2 and many more. This was to me like a Golden Age of illustration books back in the day and Roger and Martyn Dean had a lot to do with it. In the book Magnetic Storm there is a pretty nice history of their publishing endeavour so I recommend you to check it out. Their quality standards were and still are outstanding.
So, The Studio.
In the end of the 70´s the 4 artists featured in this book rented a big studio in New York where they could work together and share a creative atmosphere. Even though the four had different schedules and interests in, both, subjects and media all of them had some of their best output around this time.
So let´s go step by step. The book is a soft-cover with a gorgeous image on the front: a collage of works by the 4 guys. No idea if this was ever sold as a poster or print but for sure I would buy one right now.
After an introduction where we are told about how the guys decided to get together, how they found the place and how it was decorated we get into the first section dedicated to Jeffrey Jones.
Jones, unfortunately recently deceased, had an interesting life to say the least. He, as admitted in his old website, always had a fascination for women, a fascination so deep that in the end he decided to become one, so he went under treatment and became a real woman. All this is interesting to have in mind when examining his art: always full of really beautiful woman of all kinds. But of course Jones was also known by his amazing fantasy art. Expert both at drawing and painting, his work has always been amazing.
We have together with his images an informative text about Jones and hs life, influences and ideas. Also we have a few pics of him and some with the rest of the guys. As with every chapter in this book, there are some pics of his corner of the Studio.
Let´s stop here about Jones, but only for now. There are 2 more books and a sketchbook about his art which will be reviewed here soon, and all of them are a must-have. Jones is really missed.
Michael William Kaluta. This guy here is also a personal hero of mine. In his career he has done all kind of things, from comic books to book cover, prints, calendars, etc. Pretty much like the other 3 artists of The Studio. But Kaluta has done 2 particular things I really love: an illustrated version of Thea Von Harbou´s Metropolis and a Lord of the Rings calendar. The Metropolis books is one of my all-time favorites and the Tolkien calendar is to me the ultimate portrayal of the Middle Earth world. And that is really saying much!
In this book we have also the pretty informative text about Michael, his pictures and stuff. For what I have read around, word is that Michael is one of the nicest guys you can ever meet and for some reason you can see some of it in his art, I think. Definitely if he ever comes to Spain he has a dinner invitation, this is a guy I would love to meet. Michael is well represented in print: an “Art of” book, some sketch books, trading cards, calendars, comic books. We will return to him soon.
And here we have:
Barry Windsor-Smith. This man here is probably the biggest influence in my style of drawing and mainly because 2 comic books: Red Nails and X-Men 205. Those 2 pieces of art are no doubt the most awesome stuff I found when I was a kid learning to draw. While I won´t go too deep into Barry´s story right now (that will come later) he really has had an interesting career to say the least. After shocking the comic books industry with his work in Conan he left the field to self-publish his own work and created Gorblimey Press. Then he kinda disappeared from the comic book and illustration world for a long time, with some occasional hints of what he was up to in magazines like Epic Illustrated. Then he appeared again with the masterpiece Weapon X comic book and slowly made some kind of a return: Valiant comic books, Rune for Malibu, some Image comic books, Opus… In his website you can check lots of cool projects he is working on, but as usual it takes him forever to finish the stuff. But when something comes out you can bet is top quality.
Anyway here we have lost of illustrations of the 70´s (his best period in my opinion) and all of them are nothing short of awesome. Text is again informative and fun.
For sure Barry will appear again in this blog pretty soon so let´s leave it like that for now and let´s go meet
Berni Wrightson. As usual is described: the Master of the Macabre. Considering the quality of his art and the themes he choose, well, I won´t argue about it. From dinosaurs to Poe adaptations, superhero stuff and movie work, Berni has done all and has done it well. Of course to me his masterpiece will always be his illustrations for Frankenstein, a work that is just simply amazing. It is on print so run, don´t walk, for it. Here in this book you have a sample of it.
And this is it about The Studio, and essential book for me. It could be considered not only an excellent book about this collective of artists at that extraordinary time, but also as the perfect introduction to the 4 of them (and the same can be said about this post). The book is pretty much out of print, but usually a copy appears on Amazon Marketplace (from where I got mine) or eBay.
No need to think twice: buy it.
And that is an order.