Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Enki Bilal

Enki Bilal is one of the leading graphic novelists to come out of Europe in the past forty years. Still very active, he has occasionally left the field for movies, but has always returned to create something memorable. Although his work has rarely appeared in the UK (although many of his albums are available in English language translation), his work has been championed by Paul Gravett, who says: "Bilal’s visions reveal a decadent dystopia, overwhelming and baroque, inspired by directors like Andrei Tarkowsky of Solaris and Stalker. His plotting is dense, unpredictable, and really repays close attention. There is also a dark, absurdist humour, from the freakish make-up of politicians and the stripped alien cat Gogol to the world chess-boxing championships."

Bilal was president of the 14th Salon International de la Bande Dessinée at Angoulême in 1987. His exhibitions have included two months at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris in 1991-92 and he was asked to illustrate a stamp in 2006.

Bilal was born Enes Bilalović in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on 7 October 1951. His Bosniak father was the tailor to Marshal Tito, Yugoslavia's prime minister and, from 1953, president, and his mother a Slovakian. The young Bilal's twin passions were drawing and the cinema, especially westerns, and these were combined in a movie that he starred in at the age of nine. A short film, it concerned two youngsters from rival gangs who wandered around Belgrade, stopping to sketch out battles between cowboys and indians in chalk on the pavements. The film was never completed: Bilal's family moved to Paris in 1960. At the time, families were prohibited from going into exile and Bilal revealed to a teacher at school that he was shortly to be joining his father in France. Fortunately, the teacher had an eye on their apartment and helped hasten the family's departure. Bilal became a naturalized French citizen in 1967.

Five years later, he met the editors of Pilote, René Goscinny (author of Asterix and Lucky Luke) and Jean-Michel Charlier. Goscinny encouraged him to apply his artistic talents to comics. Bilal studied briefly (three months) at the École des Beaux-Artes, at the same time submitting work to Pilote, where his first published story, 'La Bal Maudit', appeared in 1972.

He began contributing science fiction stories regularly, later collected in Mémoires d'outre-espace, Histoires courtes 1974-1977 (Memories From Outer Space, 1978), although he was sidelined into producing pages of topical humor on current affairs and caricatures for the weekly paper.

His breakthrough came when he began working with Pierre Christin. Their early collaborations included Légendes d'Aujourd'hui [Legends of Today], a linked series of dark, haunting tales, La Croisière des oubliés (The Cruise of Lost Souls, 1975; serialised as 'The Voyage of Those Forgotten', Heavy Metal, 1982), Le Vaisseau de pierre (Ship of Stone, 1976; serialised as 'Progress!', Heavy Metal, 1980) and La ville qui n'existait pas (The Town That Didn't Exist, 1977; serialised as 'The City That Didn't Exist', Heavy Metal, 1983), each set in a different town threatened by mysterious forces – military testing, developers and multinationals – which were later collected as Townscapes (2004).

Bilal became associated with the French magazine Metal Hurlant, and its American counterpart, Heavy Metal, where many of his stories appeared over the next few decades. Serials in Heavy Metal – including Exterminator 17 (1979, written by Jean-Pierre Dionnet), the three volumes of Legends of Today, two volumes of the Nikopol trilogy and The Hunting Party (1983) – introduced Bilal to a wider English-speaking audience than most European creators enjoyed.

Bilal's popularity in Europe had grown considerably with the publication of the political thriller Les Phalanges de l'ordre noir (The Black Order Brigade, 1979), about the revenge sought by a group of former comrades from the International Brigade following a terrorist bombing in a Basque village. The book won the 1980 Prix RTL for best adult graphic novel.

La Foire aux immortels (The Carnival of Immortals, 1980; serialised as 'The Immortals' Fete', Heavy Metal, 1981) introduced the character of Alcide Nikopol, who finds himself in a future Paris ruled over by a corrupt, fascist dictator bent on gaining immortality from Egyptian gods travelling in an alien spaceship. Nikopol allows himself to be taken over by a disillusioned Horus. In its sequel, La Femme piège (The Woman Trap, 1986; as 'The Trapped Woman', Heavy Metal, 1986), Horus is trapped in a block of concrete while Nikopol has been admitted into a psychiatric hospital, although their lives are about to become entangled with that of a London reporter, Jill Bioskop. The third volume of this trilogy was published as Froid Équateur (Cold Equator, 1992).

Bilal had, meanwhile, received rave reviews for Partie de chasse (The Hunting Party, 1983), written by Christin, about a group of aging Soviet political leaders who plot the death of a politician whilst reminiscing about their growing disillusion with the Russian socialist dream.

Meanwhile, Bilal had become involved in the film industry as the production and costume designer for La vie est un roman (1983), directed by Alain Resnais, having earlier designed a poster for Resnais' My American Uncle (1980). He was subsequently asked to design a creature for Michael Mann's The Keep (1983) and  do graphic research for Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name of the Rose (1986) and designed the sets and costumes for the show OPA Mia (1990) by Denis Levaillant and the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1991) based on Prokofiev and choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj.

His graphic novels continued to appear, including Los Angeles - L'Étoile oubliée de Laurie Bloom (Los Angeles - The Forgotten Star of Laurie Bloom, 1984) by Pierre Christin, Hors Jeu (Off Play, 1987, by Patrick Cauvin), Coeurs sanglants et autres faits divers (Bleeding Hearts and Other Stories, 1988) written by Pierre Christin and Bleu Sang (Blue Blood, 1994).

In 1989 he directed the futuristic, post-apocalyptic movie Bunker Palace Hôtel, co-written with Christin, where the elite of a totalitarian regime have fled to an ancient underground bunker to escape from rebels; amongst them, a spy (Carole Bouquet) observes the power struggle as they await the arrival of their leader.

Bilal's other excursions into movies have been equally divisive. As the reviewer of Tykho Moon (1996) said: "The film has admirable art direction but no narrative or directional discipline. Like his earlier effort Bunker Palace Hotel, pic seems destined for Bilal fans only, plus a few comic-strip festivals." Tykho Moon was another futuristic thriller, featuring an aging dictator on the verge of death. His soldiers seek out Tykho Moon, who unwillingly donated brain cells years earlier. Tykho – actually an artist named Anikst – suffers from amnesia and is unaware that he is being sought. The film received a Special Mention at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film in 1997.

Bilal returned to graphic novels with Le sommeil du monstre (The Dormant Beast, 1998), the first of four volumes that tell the story of the downfall of a futuristic Yugoslavia split by wars in the 1990s. Three further volumes appeared to make up the Tétralogie du Monstre series: 32 Décembre (December 32nd, 2003), Rendez-vous à Paris (2006) and Quatre? (Four?, 2007).

Stand-alone titles published in the same period have included Un siècle d'Amour (A century of Love , 1999), by Dan Franck, Magma (2000) and Le Sarcophage (The Sarcophagus, 2001). In 2004, his film Immortel (Ad Vitam) was released, based on the first two Nikopol graphic novel (La Foire aux immortels and La Femme piège) with the action transferred to New York. The film was created in CG Animation using motion capture and was again met with mixed reviews that felt it was both inventive and incoherent.

Bilal's recent work has included Animal´z (2009), about a variety of survivors of global warming, Julia & Roem (2011) and Les Fantômes du Louvre (Ghosts of the Louvre, 2012).

The boxing scenes in Bilal's book Froid Équateur (1992) inspired performance artist Iepe Rubingh to organize the first chess-boxing bout – six rounds of chess plus five rounds of boxing – in Amsterdam in November 2003 (which Iepe won). The World Chess Boxing Organization continues to support championship fights of the hybrid sport around the world.

Examples of Bilal's artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

S. L. Bodik

Nothing is known about Bodik, whose book cover art appeared on what would seem to be an American family saga, a genre that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, although it had its roots in such popular novels as The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy and The Whiteoaks of Jalna by Mazo de la Roche.

Examples of S. L. Bodik's artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carl Barks

Carl Barks was nicknamed "The Duck Man" because of the quality of his work on Disney's Donald Duck. To Barks goes the praise for creating many of the inhabitants of Duckburg, the supporting cast featured in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories for which Barks was drawing in the 1940s.

Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon, on 27 March 1901, the son of William Barks and his wife Arminta Johnson. Although he had a brother (two years older), Barks described himself as a rather lonely child, his nearest neighbour being over half a mile away from his parents' farm. The local school had only eight or ten students although Barks later recalled that it offered a good education. In 1908 the family moved to Midland, Oregon, closer to the railroad, where they established a new stock-breeding farm.

The immediate success of this venture meant that within three years the family were able to move to Santa Rosa, California, where William began cultivating vegetables and orchards. Profits were slim and William's anxiety over their financial difficulties led to a nervous breakdown and the family returned to Merrill in 1913.

Barks completed his education in 1916, in part concluded because he was suffering from a hearing disability; it was in the same year that his mother died and Barks had a range of jobs – farmer, woodcutter, mule driver, cowboy and printer. In 1918 he moved to San Francisco, California, and found work with a small publishing firm.

His early interest in drawing had been developed through a correspondence course, although Barks had only taken four lessons because he had so little free time. Now in San Francisco and, in 1921, married to Pearl Turner, he began selling drawings to newspapers. Despite returning to Merrill in 1923 with his growing family (two daughters born in 1923 and 1924), he continued to submit drawings and sold to Judge and the Calgery Eye-Opener. He was offered the editorship of the latter, a Minneapolis-based cartoon magazine, where he earned $90 a month for scripting and drawing most of the contents. He and Pearl were divorced in 1930 and Barks met Clara Balken in Minneapolis and married her in 1938.

In 1935 he learned that Walt Disney was seeking artists and moved to Los Angeles where he was hired at a starting salary of $20 a week. He worked initially as an "inbetweener", drawing the movements of characters between key poses. In 1937, his success at submitting gags led to his transfer to the story department where he first worked on the Donald Duck cartoon 'Modern Inventions'. Over the next few years he contributed to a number of Donald's cartoons, including the first appearance of Huey, Dewey and Louie in 'Donald's Nephews' (1938).

Barks suffered from sinus problems caused by the air conditioning in the Walt Disney art studio and left in 1942. He had then recently collaborated with Jack Hannah – who also worked in the Donald Duck story department – on a number of comic strips for Dell, Pluto Saves the Ship published in Large Feature Comics and the 64-page one-shot Donald Duck comic Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold in Four Color Comics, both published in 1942.

Barks relocated to the Hemet/San Jacinto area east of Los Angeles where he set up a chicken farm, which failed. Barks, did, however, establish himself with Dell's Walt Disney's Comics and Stories as both the author and artist of numerous stories. His first story, 'The Victory Garden', was published in April 1943 and was followed by some 500 tales featuring the Disney ducks, his creations including Scrooge McDuck (1947), Gladstone Gander (1948), The Beagle Boys (1951), The Junior Woodchucks (1951), Gyro Gearloose (1952), Cornelius Coot (1952), Flintheart Glomgold (1956), John D. Rockerduck (1961) and Magica De Spell (1961).

During this time, Barks divorced his second wife and became acquainted with his third, Margaret Wynnfred Williams, known as Gare, who exhibited paintings locally. They married in 1954.

Although Barks' work was published anonymously, his name became known to fans around 1960. He continued to draw strips until 1966 when he retired, although he was persuaded to script stories until the 1970s. He painted in oils and exhibited and sold at local art shows. In 1971, he was granted permission by Disney's Publications Department to paint scenes from his various stories. When fans learned of this, Barks was inundated with requests and had to announce in 1974 that he was no longer taking commissions.

Duck paintings by Barks began to attract large sums at auction and unauthorized prints led to Disney withdrawing permission from Barks. They relented in 1981 following a campaign by Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz and Conan the Barbarian screenwriter Edward Summer. Summer edited Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times (1981), a collection of Barks' tales alongside a new story illustrated by Barks with watercolour illustrations.

The ambitious Carl Barks Library was published in 1984-1990, the thirty volumes reprinting every Disney comic strip written or drawn by Barks. Gladstone Publishing subsequently produced the Carl Barks Library in Color (1992-98). Barks appeared at his first Disney convention in 1993 and, in 1994, embarked on an 11-country tour of Europe. A retrospective of Barks' work was first held in 1994 and was shown around ten cities, attracting over 400,000 visitors.

In the 1980s, Barks had moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, close to where he grew up. His wife died in March 1993. Barks survived a further seven years before he also died  whilst undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, on 25 August 2000, aged 99.

Examples of Carl Barks' artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Harry Bishop

Harry Bishop is one of the finest artists in the UK who  has turned his gaze – and talent – to the wild west. For most of his career he drew western comic strips, and it was his work on 'Gun Law' – based on the television show Gunsmoke starring James Arness as Matt Dillon – for the Daily Express for which he is best remembered. With its superb figurework and accurate portrayals of horse and rider, Bishop drew on influences ranging from Tony Weare to Remington Russell and Norman Rockwell. He was awarded the British Cartoonists Award in 1965. He took over the ‘Wes Slade’ strip in the Sunday Express in 1980 and this also earned him an award from the Strip Illustrators Society in 1981.

Born in Painswick, Gloucestershire, on 3 May 1920, Harry Bishop was a fan of illustrators like D. C. Eyles, Stanley Woods and H. M. Brock and was keen to attend art school, an interest supported by his parents. He was educated at Hatherley School and the Gloucester School of Art, leaving the latter in 1937 to travel abroad.

Bishop served in the R.A.F. during the war – mostly abroad and for some time with Bomber Command – and recommenced his art education in 1947, using his ex-serviceman's gratuity to began studying at Wimbledon College of Art. Graduating in 1952, he took up a position as a teacher at Mitcham Grammar School.

At the same time he began drawing comic strips for the Amalgamated Press, his earliest known work appearing in Comic Cuts, where he took over the artistic chores for the adventures of 'Cal McCord', the real-life cowboy and actor, in May 1953. Comic Cuts came to a close soon after, but Bishop was to find a regular home for his work in Swift, which was about to be launched in March 1954. His first strip, 'Tom Tex and Pinto' ran for eighteen months, during which time he also took over the colour cover of Swift, drawing 'Tarna Jungle Boy' from June 1954.

After this rapid rise, Bishop found work on Junior Express drawing 'Wyatt Earp', 'Red Cloud' and 'Rex Keene', for Thriller Comics drawing 'Jesse James' and for Sun drawing 'Billy the Kid'. Through these strips he established himself as one of the leading western artists in the UK. In April 1957, he began drawing 'Gun Law' for Express Weekly, continuing the weekly strip until March 1961. A year earlier, in April 1960, the strip had begun appearing in the Daily Express. He continued to write and draw the strip for almost two decades.

Bishop continued to contribute to British comics, although often for brief periods only, drawing 'Smiley!' (Swift, 1958-59), 'Billy the Kid' (Lion, 1959), 'Tarna Jungle Boy' (Swift, 1962-63), 'Morg of the Mammoths' (Lion, 1963-64) and numerous one-off features for TV Express, Boys' World, Eagle and Princess. In 1970-85, Bishop was also a prolific illustrator for Deans.

After drawing a second strip for the Evening Standard, 'Judy and the Colonel', Bishop drew 'Tarzan' and 'The Saint' for TV Tornado and 'Blackbow the Cheyenne' briefly for Eagle before departing comics around 1967. He returned almost a decade later with 'The Wrangler', a brief one-off in Ally Sloper (1976), which year marked his debut in the Dutch weekly Eppo, where he drew the western 'Laben Tall' until 1977. 'Gun Smoke' ended in 1978.

Bishop brought the 'Wes Slade' series to a close in 1980-81 following the death of its originator, George Stokes, after which he concentrated on painting. He has produced surprisingly few paintings on western subjects, although a 'modest number' (around 30) were sold via Frost and Reed of Bond Street, London; he has, however, painted landscapes and other subjects and worked in most media, although he prefers pen and ink.

In 1984-85, an eye infection caused him to give up painting completely.

Artwork by Harry Bishop can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.