Category: ARTS

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Science Fiction Paintings of Milton Luros

The first paintings by Milton Luros that I remember seeing featured beautiful women, rendered with a soft, almost flat touch. For some reason the image of a green-skinned Amazon, struggling in bondage as two human spacemen try to drag her into a cage always sticks in my mind. With a light touch, the artist shaped her glamorous lipstick into a snarl of defiance that would make Betty & Veronica proud, and he framed her pointed ears and antennae with a wild mane of red hair. Plus, you’ve got to give those wild alien women credit for their fashion sense - who wouldn’t kill for that strapless red shag mini-dress! Then there was the cracking good composition of a woman fainting in the embrace of a blue-skinned alien man, framed against a vivid red planet. Unlike the previous image, this is very much a loving embrace, the woman’s hand is delicately twined around our blue-skinned superman’s bicep, while his figure is framed by a simple white backlight for dramatic effect. This image is iconic, like some sort of Gone With the Wind in outer space. Years later, when I read Earl Kemp’s article, Cherry Pink and Uncle Milty Time, I was amazed by the number of covers Luros had painted during the 40s and 50s, before his career as a porno publisher took off.

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Lloyd Birminghams Ethereal SF Covers

Another artist who appeared briefly then disappeared into the woodwork of the illustration world was Lloyd Birmingham, who created one of my favorite covers from the early 1960s. His illustration for Mark Clifton’s story Hang Head, Vandal! (April 1962) has always fascinated me. It’s an image of a spacesuit being used as a scarecrow, propped up on a post so that it floats above a flat plane by a few inches. Tufts of straw are poking out of ragged holes in the suit,which is missing it’s left hand and right foot, and more straw is brimming out of the open visor of the helmet.

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Classic Illustrations for "Against the Fall of Night"

It was pure luck for me to pick up the classic first appearance of Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night before attending my first SF Con. That con was a very early one-off Star Trek show (which seems to have vanished from this dimension without a trace) and was held in Albuquerque around 1974 or 1975. The con featured a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, made of crude plywood and painted black, and George Takei was there, along with some other cast members whom I’ve forgotten. The reason I attended was to see A. E. Van Vogt, and to have him sign the paperbacks I’d been reading and collecting. He signed my copies of War Against the Rull and The Battle of Forever. In the first, he wrote: “Good luck, good wishes, good future!” all over the title page. I still have that on my shelf. I’m not sure what happened to Battle of Forever, but I recall that he inscribed it as: “My farthest out story!” Recently I was poking around the bookshelf looking for good alien images (to be shown at an Arisia panel in January), and I starting leafing through this copy of Startling Stories from Nov 1948. One thing I discovered was that Van Vogt also signed his story Domain, which appeared in this issue. Another thing I found out, on the editorial page, was that this was Van Vogt’s first appearance in Startling. But what most attracted my attention were the incredible black and white illustrations for Against the Fall of Night. Since I couldn’t seem to find existing scans of these images anywhere on the internet, I decided to scan them for everyone to enjoy.

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Pulp Life: A Major Exhibition of Charles Binger Art

The amazing works of Charles Ashford Binger will be shown in the first major exhibition of his works in 45 years! “Charles Binger: A Pulp Life“ will open at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, CA on January 7th and run through the end of the month. Binger’s interesting career spanned from movie posters and portraits, to ground-breaking science fiction covers in the 1950s, and hard-boiled detective pulps. His style has been characterized as utilizing “impeccable composition, rendered in a painterly style over roughened textures.” I would hasten to add that Binger was able to incorporate elements of cubism, realism, impressionism, and abstract expressionism into his works…often as not by combining them into a single canvas!

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Judge Dee Burns Up the Screen

Went to see the new Tsui Hark film “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame“ [狄仁杰之通天帝国] at one of the downtown shopping centers in Taipei and loved it! Apparently, the only showing in America so far has been at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it was reviewed as a return to fun for Hark.  I certainly thought it was fun myself, harking back to the crazy wuxia themes that played so well in Chinese Ghost Story [倩女幽魂] __and Green Snake [青蛇]. For those of us who also loved the series of novels fashioned on Judge Dee by Van Gulik, this movie seems to distort the character into a much-larger than life action hero.  Nonetheless, the cinematic style and lavish attention to sets create a fantasy epic very much worth seeing.  The underworld scenery and throwaway characters reminded me of the similar backdrops used in Hellboy II and Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Singapore sets, suggesting that Tsui Hark has made a close study of those design ideas and paid homage to them.

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What kind of monsters?

Tom Tomorrow serves up another biting comment on current affairs… with an extra dash of comics and science fiction. Good question, Tom!

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Visual Communication in a nutshell

Superb summary of design elements in the “History of Visual Communication” by Elif Ayiter is burning up the twitter waves. The writing is crisp and to the point. The images and references are all

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The Sacrifice of the Worker to the Banks

Browsing through Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, I was quite taken by the powerful image from 1844 called: “The Game Laws; or the sacrifice of the Peasant to the Hare.” The image of a scrawny rabbit on a pedestal, glaring with new found power down at the bound peasant on his knees is eerie; while the pompous aristocrat, bearing a sword emblazoned ‘according to law’ is either preparing to strike off the peasant’s head or to give him clemency…his disinterest in the outcome being completely obvious.

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Science Fiction Art of Charles Binger

Looking over some covers for Pennant Books and Bantam Books from the 1950s, I noticed several interesting and moody paintings with a signature that reminded me of Bayre Phillips. See for example Phillips signature on the left, and the signature of Charles Binger on the right. Although they both have a downward stroke in the middle, Phillips tends to have a rounder, upslanting B, and always ends with a curving capital E with an accent mark! Once I knew that that Binger was a unique painter, I gathered up the best images I could find, and there were some excellent ones! In addition the science fiction covers that follow (below the jump), there were quite a few in mystery, adventure, romance, western and the like…all of them with a soft, fluid style, using watercolors and oils, presumably, for some terrific effects. If I had to identify a hallmark style in these paintings, I would say that Binger likes to separate areas of the composition with color shapes that are smudged, that look like edges of torn rough-fiber paper softened with water. It’s a pity that I can’t find any biographical info on Binger in any of the usual reference books or on the internet. Hopefully, someone out there will contact me and fill in the life story of this fine artist.