Myth & Magic: The Art Of John Howe (book review).

I can’t recall where I saw John Howe’s art originally. Probably the ‘Dragon Art’ book from FlameTree recently and curious enough to see if there was and then found this book, ‘Myth & Magic: The Art Of John Howe’. There is an introduction by director Peter Jackson who explains he was inspired by Howe’s work for the film trilogy ‘Lord Of The Rings’, which might make some of you perk up your ears. Mind you, 20 years after this book’s release, I suspect some of you already own a copy.

From a design point of view, Howe certainly works from highly detailed dark paintings to an often surreal lighting option in others with the prime objective to capture the mood required, no matter the scene.

There are some surprises in this book like having Howe’s art translated into 3D panoramas in pop-up books.

Howe also turns over the book to several writers whom he provided covers to their books for their comments. Oddly, only Robin Hobb admits to having bought a couple of the originals and uses them to inspire herself while she writes.

What was surprising was a small section of Howe’s Science Fiction art and not being asked to do more. If there are any publisher art directors reading here, pull this book and consider putting him on your list to use. He has a good colour choice and balanced realism.

Something I’ve learnt from here is some usual colour choices with blue to a light yellow to light grey is not something I’ve thought of before. Lots to learn here and I’m not surprised he’s since written and drawn some ‘How To-’ books.

GF Willmetts

July 2021

(pub: HarperCollins, 2001. 141 page illustrated hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for under £ 7.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00710795-7)

2 thoughts on “Myth & Magic: The Art Of John Howe (book review).

  • “What was surprising was a small section of Howe’s Science Fiction art and not being asked to do more.”

    He may well have *been* asked, but charges more than publishers wanted to pay. Publishing budgets are increasingly strained, and cover art that is photographic or purely typographic are common. Does the book give an idea of the markets he works in?

    Decades back, I had a conversation with a popular SF i9llustrator. His wife worked, and they were a two income family. But she was expecting their first child, and wo9uld be away from the job for a while and not bringing home a salary.

    He was working on rearranging his work space and changing his workflow to be as efficient as possible, but there was only so much that could help. I asked “How is your relationship with your regular clients? Ultimately, you are going to hare to tell them “My wife is expecting our first child, and won’t be bringing home an income for a while. I love working for you, but I’ll have to charge more to cover the differe3nce.” Will they understand and agree?

    What I suggested was the conclusion he had already come to, and simply wanted a check on his perceptions. His clients were happy no0ugh with his work to be willing to pay a highe3r price, and did.

    • Hello Dennis
      Bear in mind Howe’s book was 20 years old, I did have a quick google scan and didn’t spot much in the SF line with his art. In the industry, you do get pidgeon-holed very quickly. Howe is recognised for his fantasy work, especially for the likes of ‘Lord Of The Rings’, might having something to do with it.
      You rarely see the rates of pay for book cover artists.


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