The Art Of John Harris: Beyond The Horizon (book review).
I first put a name to the paintings of SF artist John Harris with his book, ‘Mass: The Art Of John Harris’, which is now over a decade ago since I reviewed it. With ‘The Art Of John Harris: Beyond This Horizon’, there is now an opportunity to see what he has painted since then and for those who missed his first book, some of the paintings from there as well if you missed it then.
In many respects, John Harris is comparable to Chris Foss. Both artists are hired for a particular type of book cover art. With Foss, its mostly exotic and colourful spaceships with the occasional building thrown in. With Harris, it is often the desolate landscape with old buildings sticking out. That and also a variety of really gigantic spaceships, the scale given by the minute people walking around like ants in comparison. In other words, Harris paints huge. He’s not an advocate of digital art although there is one example of using it to modify a painting on pages 46-47, seeing it as a sterile environment. When you look at the larger paintings here with a touch of the canvas behind them, it is obvious that Harris has a feeling for texture and digital hasn’t quite got that yet. With his paintings, you can almost hear the winds whistling past or the thrusters of rockets in motion or the heavy splash of something dropping into an unspecified ocean.
This time around, there are a lot more preliminary sketches and paintings showing how he builds up to the final work. These tend to show form and colour than detail. Indeed, there is often a surrealistic edge to how Harris paints. A few dabs of paint and he has a building or a miniature person, cheating the eye to seeing more than you think is there. I really wish he would do more full size people though, as the rare examples shown indicates he’s just as capable here.
The laying out of shape and colour is a good example for any of you novice artists out there in creating a cityscape. Think of it as looking at a distant city through a haze and painting what you see rather than the detail. If you can master that, then you’ll appreciate just how Harris builds up his paintings before taking into account sun direction and any detail needed. I doubt if you’ll turn into an artist like Harris is because his composition varies from painting to painting but you’ll appreciate it even more.
I should point out that Harris discusses what affected him when young, some of his back history and even his thirty year old pet project, ‘The Road To Fire’, which he really ought to complete so it can be released as abook.. About the only thing missing is a photo of the artist himself.
If you’ve never come across John Harris’ work before or maybe you have but didn’t recognise him specifically, then this book is going to be a real treat. I love his use of colour and just when you think you’ve nailed his palate as relying on a few colours, he can then turn around and widen his spectrum to encompass more. A true Science Fiction artist.
(pub: Titan Books. 159393 page large hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $34.95(US), $39.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78116-842-4)
check out websites: www.titanbooks.com and www.hiddensun.com