Sci-fi with feel­ing

Us­ing emo­tion and per­spec­tive.

ImagineFX - - Issue 108 May 2014 - Mark is a fan­tasy and sci­ence fic­tion artist and il­lus­tra­tor who draws in­spi­ra­tion from Amer­ica’s Golden Age of book il­lus­tra­tion. As well as Har­lan El­li­son’s I, Ro­bot, he’s pro­duced art for Magic: The Gath­er­ing and the Sep­ti­mus Heap se­ries. www.markzug.c

Be­ing both an avid sci­ence fic­tion fan and a devo­tee of the Brandy­wine School of il­lus­tra­tion, I wel­come any chance to make the two col­lide. In this paint­ing, Spacelift, I want to ex­plore the sci-fi con­ceit of Palae­olithic man in con­tact with alien star­far­ers. Our would-be an­ces­tors are de­part­ing Earth, un­sure whether they will ever re­turn, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mix of am­biva­lence, anx­i­ety and pangs for the old coun­try.

To do this, I need to get close enough to my hu­man sub­jects to con­vey emo­tion, yet also dis­play the alien pres­ence some­how. It must also be clear that my hu­mans are em­bark­ing.

As­sign­ing my­self this sub­ject mat­ter has put some of my favourite things in my path: space aliens. How­ever, I’m un­sure of their anatomy or whether I will even show them, al­though I’ll need to de­sign el­e­ments of their tech­nol­ogy. I’ll also have to imag­ine pre­his­toric man, their clime, race and cul­ture. And there’ll be a cul­ture clash – one of my favourite topics, rife with pos­si­bil­i­ties. And there’s the era it­self, ei­ther in land­scape, biota (such as sabre-tooth tigers) or both.

I’m a re­al­ist pain­ter, so I need to do some study on all these el­e­ments to put across a scene that’s su­per­fi­cially plau­si­ble, but also has an un­der­gird­ing of truth that con­vinces the sub­con­scious.

To get my­self rolling I bracket my pos­si­bil­i­ties: the time is 100,000 years ago and the place is Africa. I soon dis­cover there were no sabre-tooth cats in Africa at this time. Fur­ther­more, the people there didn’t re­sem­ble Ne­an­derthals, but prob­a­bly na­tive Africans of to­day, dressed for a colder cli­mate. The dis­ci­pline of re­al­ism de­mands mak­ing trea­sure out of un­ex­pected knowl­edge.

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