Thursday, 14 July 2011

the illustrated wilderness

Another quick post - this time looking at the wilderness (which for various cultural reasons always means "forest" to me) illustrations my Pauline Baynes, Arthur Rackham and Ian Miller.

Pauline Baynes | Bilbo's Last Song (poster)

Pauline Baynes | Bilbos Last Poem (book)

Pauline Baynes, is one of my favourite illustrators. Best known for several of Tolkiens books, notably Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major and of course C.S. Lewis Narnia sequence. However, my favourite work of hers is The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes. where she goes full spectrum from graphic pseudo medieval to delicate folksy. But here we see her trees... The Last Song (poster) is an amazing piece of work, evoking the 'long straight road' between earth and faery - the journey to Neverland, a landscape and something far more allegorical. Each leaf it's own unique colour, and each tree alive with small woodland creatures. Baynes evokes an orderly, idealised nature, dancing on the edge of formalisation, but full of life and mystery.

Rip Van Winkle | Arthur Rackham | via The Untended Garden
It's impossible to think of trees without thinking of Arthur Rackham, superb sense of antiquity in his drawings, the sepia mottled and textures coalescing into finely drawn stones, branches sinue-y dry cracked stretching and growing trunks, imp-haunted with their weird grinning faces.

Ian Miller | THD via Scott MCD
Ian Miller is somewhat like Arthur Rackham, with knives in his blood. The raging madness and cruelty of nature seem to twist and break into many tentacled faces, clawed branches. I've always loved Ian Millers work, probably being first exposed to it by Games Workshop (White Dwarf covers and the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series Phantoms of Fear). Millers landscapes seems to evoke the medieval fear of the wood-land, the threat of wild animals, bandits and the terror of the wilderness, a sense of horror and disgust at the disorderly chaos (compared to the rational, orderly civilisation and enlightenment ideal) the landscape as Chaotic Evil.


  1. If you want great Ian Miller, grab a copy of his collaboration book with John Blanche: "Ratspike", and also an 80's coffee-table book, "Realms of Fantasy" by Robert Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards (?), which has amazing pictures of Gormenghast by Miller, among other good art (such as wonderful pix of Earthsea). Dunno how much they are on eBay but definite must-buys!

    Liked your dungeons post too, McCaig's scrappy catacomb pix inspired my Catacombs of the Undercity adventure for the iPad!



  2. Thanks for the tip Andy - just ordered a Realms of Fantasy at Amazon in hardback for under a quid (+P&P).

    I remember Ratspike from when it was first released, and regret not picking it up, I don't think it goes for less than £40 (amazon / abe / ebay).

    Catacombs of the Undercity looks cool!