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The Deceiving Eye: The Art Of Richard Hescox
Randy M. Dannenfelser
Paper Tiger hardcover £20

review by Tony Lee

American illustrator Richard Hescox is not a fan of modernism or wholly abstract art. He prefers even surreal and impressionist paintings that successfully communicate a largely unambiguous message to the viewer. This first-ever collection showcases more than a hundred skilfully executed paintings and drawings covering all the multifarious themes, concepts and iconographies of science fiction and fantasy, along with several purely commercial designs, and some excellent 'fine art', although this last term is one that Hescox seems rather mistrustful of.

In his pursuit of and passion for the "Romantic Neoclassical" style, his work tends to feature a measurable degree of realism no matter how fantastic the subject matter. Influenced and inspired by artists as varied as the Royal Academician John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) and comicbook stylist Frank Frazetta, Hescox creates images of mythic power and dark mystery often brightened by elements of lyricism and a wry sense of humour. His enchanting mermaids and defiant maidens, noble warriors, fierce monsters and gigantic machines interact in positively dynamic fashion under luridly alien skies.

Randy M. Dannenfelser's mini-biography and interview excerpts reveal Hescox as the consummate, versatile professional who brings imagination and logic to both oils and CGI. And, regardless of his lengthy career in the art 'business' he maintains a healthy contempt for the corporate sector (and calls Disneyland the "tragic kingdom"). Yet, in addition to numerous book and magazine covers, Hescox worked on 1980s' films such as Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) and The Philadelphia Experiment, created a memorable poster for We Craven's Swamp Thing (1982), and has done sketches and comprehensive designs for computer games, including Gentry Lee's playable spinoff Rama from the classic by Clarke.

My favourites among these pages include the Arthurian sword-in-the-stone symbolism of The Rightful King (p.32); the beautiful temple girl of Invocation (p.46-7); the weird but intriguing sea-craft of Shai's Destiny (p.62) for a novel by Daniel Walther - Hescox's first book cover in acrylics; The Pacifist (p.86), which displays a nuclear bombardment from orbit; the colourful alien combatants of The Bug Wars (p.111) - a novel by Robert Lynn Asprin; and the curious, somewhat Dali-esque painting of Joe Dante as a Christ figure impaled through the chest by a swordfish (I kid you not!) that Hescox produced as a prop for Steve Miner's House movie.
The Deceiving Eye

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