Friday, 29 July 2011
Out of the Forests
Way back, in the dim distant past, before I took up breeding, smoking, debt, paying tax, and before I understood EBITDA, Dense Wave Division Multiplexing, and how to sell stuff, life was a simple affair; Could I complete my paper round in less than 50 minutes? Would Claire go out with me? (she did) How could I raise funds to pay for the latest wonderous thing from Citadel? What fighter plane would I fly when I joined the RAF?
My ridiculously vivid adolescent imagination was fired in no small part by the artwork which always accompanied the Games Workshop products. Space Marine box art by Jim Burns remains, to me at least, the seminal box cover of any game, anywhere - it is exactly how my imagination portrayed the legions of identikit genetically enhanced super soldiers of the future (only much later did I realise the nod to De Niro's 'Leetle Friend').
Burns' solitary work apart, the only artist which really defined the whole period for me was Paul Bonner. Then, as now, an unknown outside of the gaming world, it has been argued that he influenced the GW spiral death dive into comedy space orks, or that his comic-esque lantern jawed hapless Guardsmen were the opposite of the gritty depravity of Blanche's work which defined the preceeding Rogue Trader era.
However, I like to recall the pen & ink work he did for the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook, including the feature panel work for the Warhound Princeps narrative. Or remember the obsessive attention to the minutae - spent cases, toolkits, etc. Or observe the expressive faces, the dynamics of the interaction between the subjects in the art.
So, some years ago, I decided to email Paul and see if he'd sell me any of his originals. To my surprise he replied with the unsurprising news that GW had retained all his artwork, but countered this with the welcome news that he had a book coming out.
So I bought his book.
Out of the Forests by Paul Bonner
It is, without a shadow of doubt, the best book I've ever owned. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy wargaming, or fantasy art. Simply stunning. It's also the only book in my considerable library that I would not part with, ever. Spanning his early work, his time in-house for GW, his work for Rackham and onwards, and his stunning Nordic themed Dwarfs and Trolls.
If you only buy one book this year, spend it on this, it's that good. If you aren't completely blown away by it, you have no soul.
Years after buying it, I still get it down from the shelf from time to time, and immerse myself in a world all but lost to me now; the world of my imagination fired by fantastic art.