First Im­pres­sions

Brian Froud on Al­fred the Great.

ImagineFX - - Illustrator - Brian Froud Brian has made his name with his unique faerie art. His de­signs were show­cased in the clas­sic films Labyrinth and The Dark Crys­tal.­of­

Where did you grow up and how has this in­flu­enced your art?

I grew up in Hamp­shire, south­ern Eng­land, in a place called Yately. It was a small coun­try vil­lage, and my school was sur­rounded by trees and scrub­land. This is where I found ad­ven­ture, by ex­plor­ing the hid­den, se­cret places. I felt so at home in such a lim­i­nal place. I won five shillings in a lo­cal art com­pe­ti­tion – this seem­ingly vast sum of money sparked my in­ter­est in art (and money still does!)

You’re a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing… what are you look­ing at?

It’s a sculp­ture – a large bronze of Al­fred the Great – in Winch­ester. It is dra­matic. He stands nobly with his sword in hand. He seemed to con­nect me to a pow­er­ful past, to the as­pect of the hid­den land of Eng­land it­self. I have con­tin­ued to explore this ever since.

Some­one who helped you on your way?

John Penny was a teacher at my gram­mar school. He spot­ted my tal­ent which I didn’t know I had, en­cour­aged me in my work, and showed me around my lo­cal art school in Maid­stone. This was a reve­la­tion of oil paint fumes, pur­ple­haired mod­els (Quentin Crisp) and huge paint­ings of Mick Jag­ger and Eric Clapton. I had found my home.

And did any­one try to get in your way?

I won’t name him, but there was some­one – he was an art direc­tor – but he didn’t suc­ceed. He said that I’d never

Fan­tasy im­ages writhe and ex­plode across the eyes of many more view­ers than be­fore

work for him again, but later, be­cause of my grow­ing suc­cess, he worked with me on four ca­reer-defin­ing projects.

What are your paint­ing rit­u­als?

I start at nine in the morn­ing – worry, make cof­fee, fret, make cof­fee, de­spair, have a glass of wine – un­til five pm. Other days I take off and go shop­ping.

Is your art evolv­ing? What’s the most re­cent ex­per­i­ment you’ve made?

Ab­so­lutely. I’m go­ing deeper into the in­ner struc­tures, the rhythms of my art, try­ing to al­low them to be re­vealed on the sur­face of the image, mak­ing fluid paint strokes that evoke spirit.

What’s the most im­por­tant thing that you’ve taught some­one?

To dis­cover fluid imagery rather than su­per­im­pose a rigid, pre-con­ceived idea.

What ad­vice would you give to your younger self to aid you on the way?

That it’s okay, ev­ery­thing will be al­right, and no de­ci­sion goes dis­as­trously wrong. Be true to your own vi­sion, not some­one else’s. It’ll be a dif­fi­cult and some­times lonely path, but there’s no other way. Be kind to your­self about whether you are good or bad: your duty is to do it and keep go­ing. Be­lieve that some­times your art does re­veal truth.

How has the in­dus­try of fan­tasy art changed for good since you’ve been work­ing in it?

Fan­tasy art used to slum­ber within books and then rest on book and record cov­ers. Now, with new tech­nolo­gies used in games and films it’s on new, fever­ish jour­neys. Fan­tasy im­ages writhe and ex­plode across the eyes of many more view­ers than be­fore. It’s more main­stream to our cul­ture.

What an­noys you about the in­dus­try?

It’s too shiny: much is over­wrought and over-ren­dered. More is not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. In its de­sire to be more re­al­is­tic, it’s in dan­ger of go­ing the op­po­site way and be­com­ing di­vorced from re­al­ity. What’s miss­ing is mean­ing or con­nec­tion.

Why is the fan­tasy art in­dus­try still the best place to be work­ing?

Mod­ern art has aban­doned so much. It’s only in fan­tasy art where tech­ni­cal skills and in­spi­ra­tion are in ser­vice to im­ages that en­gage; where pas­sion for ideas flour­ish; where metaphor and po­etic thought are val­ued; where drama and story are still thought to be es­sen­tial in elu­ci­dat­ing the hu­man mind and its re­la­tion­ship with the world. At its best, fan­tasy art is not a re­treat from the world, but an ex­pres­sive re-en­gage­ment.

queen of the faeries This image fea­tures in the artist’s lat­est book, Brian Froud’s Faerie’s Tales, which goes on sale in Septem­ber.

KLM Brian’s first paid com­mis­sion was work­ing with two of his art col­lege tu­tors on a brochure for the Dutch air­line KLM.

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