The Deceiving Eye: The Art Of Richard Hescox by Randy M. Dannenfelser (book review).

April 29, 2022 | By | Reply More

The biggest surprise was being able to get another old artbook in mint condition in ‘The Deceiving Eye: The Art Of Richard Hescox’ by Randy M. Dannenfelser. I pulled this one last year and just fitting it into my schedule. I’ve got some of Hescox’ art in other books and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see his work as a collective.

The opening section covers Richard Hescox (1949- ) career with art as a side-line as he built up his portfolio and breaking into the industry. His colour cover paintings for Marvel’s b&w line kept getting detail repainted so that’s a lesson in not getting too precious with your art. He also used to work in oils but with a 3 day drying time, limited working on detail he did, finally switched to acrylics. You also get better art opportunities if you can visit the publishers’ art directors rather than send samples. There’s a lot of lessons here that will still apply today.

Did I say you had to be capable of doing all-nighters or weekends, more so if you work in the film industry requesting work quickly and then as quickly dismissing the work. Art is a commodity but Hescox made it through.

Hescox moved from cover art to computer game graphics from the artistic side than programming design and the complications that have arisen from that in learning the language. Seeing the terms he had to adjust to, I think I would have similar problems. The computer digital graphics might need a new language but it does need a common ground to make a connection to normal speech.

Anyway, the real reason to buy this book is to have a look at Hescox’s art and ‘The Deceiving Eye’ is full of it. With each painting, Hescox made notes and they are here with each. He also has a taste for traditional mermaids, noting that they are instantly recognised as ‘fantasy figures’. Oddly, his paintings don’t often show their tails, just a hint of their nature.

His fine art section is devoted to oil paintings. Looking at them with my artist’s eye, the colours do look a little muted. Nothing wrong with that, as Hescox does a mean ocean and interesting effects giving a shine where its needed. It also looks like he was exploring his techniques in this period. Hescox does point out problems with drying times which might have contributed to shifting to acrylics.

When you contrast this with his acrylics, the colour selection does brighten up and so does the sharpness of his paintings and certainly a lot more that I’ve recognised from other books. A lesson in medium comparisons. The number of book covers Hescox has done is extensive and includes several preliminary paintings sketched out for approval by art editors allowing comparison. Of course, this goes on but generally, until now, other artists tend to do pencil sketches rather than quick paintings.

Comparing the two, we don’t see any of the comments the art editors makes and differences, although there are some subtle differences with emphasis for focus and detail so you do get some visual learning lessons. I can’t recall seeing any of his covers on UK imprints so this book is probably the best way to see them.

His work in computer games is more pencil orientated and with machines than the organics of his cover art. Hescox did do some and his work on the ‘Fifth Foreign Legion’ trilogy undoubtedly must have been a big influence on that.

Despite being 20 years old, I found it fairly easy to get a first hand copy of this book. If you like artbooks, you probably already own a copy. If not, its worth locating.

GF Willmetts

April 2022

(pub: Paper Tiger, 2001. 127 page illustrated large hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £13.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84340-184-1)

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Category: Books, Illustration

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About UncleGeoff

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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