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Is It Good? The Art of Ian Miller Review

The Art of Ian Miller can be described in two words: transmogrification and phantasmagorical.

The former is “to alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect” and the latter is “something with a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.” There are over 300 drawings in this book, most of them finished, who was made most famous for Lovecraft novel covers to Tolkien bestiaries to Warhammer 40,000 concept art. The weird, the strange and the frightening are contained in art within, but is it good?

The Art of Ian Miller (Titan Books)

The book is broken down into four sections starting with Maelstrom, moving on through with Dragons, Men to Monsters and Machines, some of the strongest portions focused on Castles and Kingdoms, and wrapping things up with Dreams and Nightmares.

Miller supplies commentary throughout the book ranging from what he may have been thinking, to why he loves drawing the subject itself. While his imagery ranges from completely random and monstrous, to a fantasy setting there’s one thing that remains throughout the imagery and that’s the fantastically impossible nature of his images. There’s some sense of the real here, but he’s taken artistic license to morph things into a place only he could show us. And that’s precisely why this book was published I’m sure, because by books end you’ll be convinced the man is a genius in capturing the weird.

Amazing buildings impossibly teetering.

Aren’t these dudes in this summer’s Disney movie Maleficent?

For my liking there isn’t enough commentary on Miller’s technique or background. There is a few snippets, for instance a recalling of a teacher who told him a masterpiece could be destroyed with a twitch, but it comes up rarely. That bit does make a heck of a lot of sense in how his style was formed when you consider how detailed and elaborate his work is. A simple twitch would assuredly destroy the delicate web of madness he weaves. Miller also delves into people assuming he’s on drugs, which is a pleasantly honest portion.

A piece made for Greenpeace.

There is also a single paragraph discussing the pens he uses although specific detail on what type is exactly will leave artists a bit let down. He does however go into how pens are responsive to mood and direction change. This is a fascinating bit that connects his lines to the emotional place he might be when drawing. Unfortunately by books end I’m not exactly sure what it takes for Miller to draw these masterworks, be it time or difficulty. As a collection of works though I can’t see anyone complaining.

The strongest pieces in this book are the most wild, at least for me, and while his horrific trees are also captivating it’s the chaotic monsters and their worlds that capture the most imaginative brainspace. The amount of detail lends itself to a reality you can easily comprehend and imagine. There isn’t much left to the imagination on the page, as that’s left to what is going on around it. Abstract art forces the viewer to react and register their emotion, but here the image itself is clear and vivid with impeccable detail. That forces one to delve into the world Miller has created and makes you wonder what it’s like, how it feels and what might be happening in the next moment. Some images are foreboding, others scary but all of them are awe inspiring.

Exquisitely grotesque.

Is It Good?

While I wish there was more info on the process this is an exciting and vivid collection. This book shows Miller is able to draw in a unique way, all from his own head, that shows a sense of wonder you can’t get from every artist. That makes this read a very worthy compendium of art for those who are interested in Miller and those who are simply interested in escaping this very ordinary world.


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