The Art Of John M. Burns: Illustrators Special #8 (book review).

October 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

I think my first real encounter with John Burns’ artwork was in the 1972 ‘Countdown’ comic where he did the title strip and got rather struck by how his seemingly half-finished art was given to colour instead. In this book, he describes it as part of his ‘pop’ period. It shouldn’t have worked but it was really effective and eye-catching. It’s a shame that the one page selected from it here isn’t one of his best showing that, although the art from ‘The Tomorrow People’ does.

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

Reading in the latest Book Palace special, ‘Illustrators: The Art Of John M. Burns’, that he isn’t fond of Science Fiction, belies how much work he’s done in our field. Oddly, he wasn’t that keen on ‘Modesty Blaise’ neither. Then again, the range of artwork shown in this volume is truly jaw-dropping and I’ve made notes to pick up on some things I hadn’t known about. Always a good sign with favoured artists and although Burns’ artwork is always recognisable, you can see how it has evolved over the years and he really has been everywhere from comicbooks like ‘2000AD’ to newspaper strips. The range is from period pieces to fantasy and Science Fiction.

Oddly, he says he prefers ink drawing to full colour art but I would think that would depend on how long it takes between the two mediums. With colour, it’s interesting to see how he can afford to be more vague with background characters relying on the shadows to give form to what he shows. Above all, he conveys movement which is one of the key requirements in any form of illustration.

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

I think one of my favourite photos, though, as to be John and Julie Burns with Ron Embleton and Don Lawrence and all the men sporting beards. The same with Burns’ art studio, especially where he has a lay figure/mannequin inspecting some art.

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

An especially good nugget here is seeing how Burns creates a piece of coloured art from pencils up although it would have been interested to have seen a time frame attached to it. His command of water colour and gouache being especially strong.

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2020

A lot of people having been waiting for a retrospective of John Burns work and this Illustrators Special is certainly that. His career is covered but there is a lot more art which tends to speak far more about his talent. Prepare to be jaw-dropping and get a first edition.

GF Willmetts

October 2020

(pub: The Book Palace, 2020. 146 page illustrated squarebound magazine. Price: £25.00 (UK), $34.99 (US) via Bud Plant. ISBN: 978-1-913548-00-1. ISSN: 2052-6520)

check out website: www.bookpalace.com and www.illustratorsquarterly.com

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Category: Books, Illustration

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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