Medusa by Chris Achilleos (book review).

Artist Chris Achilleos died last year and some of his books are popping up on the internet auction sites at reasonable prices. Hence me picking up his third book, ‘Medusa’ and its fourth edition from publisher Paper Tiger.

Achilleos work appears across a wide area of fields. Even he was amazed to discover his work being used for tattoos. If his name doesn’t sound too familiar, there’s still a bet you might have seen it in the animated 1981 ‘Heavy Metal’ film and its poster, details of how it was prepared are here. He was also involved in the design work for ‘Willow’ (1988) although, as this book came out before the film, couldn’t be shown here.

What is unique for this book is him showing how he creates his paintings. Achilleos was predominately an air brush specialist. However, before he starts he does detailed pencil sketches and, where he gets the right one, he copies it onto the right paper medium and traces the parts he needs to cover with tracing paper and templates that to Frisk film – not very sticky but it stays put – as he sprays the bit he focuses on. He didn’t work exclusively with air brush, switching to a brush for fine detail.

I suspect a lot of this is becoming a lost art when so much of it can be copied digitally these days using a layer and an eraser to remove the excess. If the colour isn’t quite right, you can go over it with the right colour although you might not necessarily get the air spray look but erase and start again also works. If anything, it shows how far we come in over thirty years and at least spared needing a well-ventilated studio to work in.

The biggest nuisance of books this old is pictures across two pages and much of the centre lost to the centre fold. Saying that, a lot of this book isn’t as well.

Achilleos fans are likely to have all of his books by now. If you’re new to his work then this will be an eye-opener to the days before digital art.

GF Willmetts

January 2023

(pub: Paper Tiger, 1988. 144 page softcover. Price: I pulled a copy for £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 1-85028-052-5)

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