One of the most iconic things about science fiction novels, especially of the pulp variety, is the painted covers. So often these covers dictate how you’ll imagine things in the world because they are so vivid and (hopefully) jaw dropping. They’re so good at capturing the awesome nature (and I do mean awesome) of space. Fred Gambino is an artist who took things to a different level by imagining a world of his own creation which he created a script for known as Dark Shepherd. Is it good?
Dark Shepherd: The Art of Fred Gambino (Titan Books)
This book contains excerpts from Gambino’s career, but the highlight is a script he wrote with supporting art called Dark Shepherd. This book is less of a portfolio book, as you get in the Art of John Harris collection, and more of a smattering of Gambino’s work with a heavy dose of Dark Shephard. Gambino works mostly with computer painting which is obvious once you crack this puppy open. That makes sense for a variety of reasons, partly because his work on video games and movies is present in the book, but also because the nature of his work in science fiction lends itself to it.
The Dark Shepherd piece is interesting, partly because it’s neat to get inside an artist’s head and see how they think. The script he’s written helps strengthen his vision and proves he has big ideas outside of the art. It’s neat to see how he’s rendered characters and settings. Outside of this, there’s work he’s done for graphic novels, album covers, and the Battletech universe. If you’ve ever played Mass Effect you’ll recognize the look and feel of his work. It’s science fiction centric with a heavy computer generated feel.
Since a lot of Gambino’s work is concept art for movies and games, you find yourself less losing yourself into the world and instead just trying to piece things together. The wonderment is lost a bit because you know it’s piece of a whole rather than a living world. That’s not to say the art isn’t gorgeous, because it is, it’s just lacking in that extra immersion to take you there.
Now this might be personal preference, but I found the CG nature of his images a little cheap looking. Like a Pixar movie in a way, as it looks sharp and vivid, but not quite realistic enough for my tastes. It’s not so much his skill or style but the format he’s using.
Is It Good?
This is a good book with plenty of art from various points of the artist’s career which helps to understand his point of view. The ability to read a script written by him, and see how he’s imagined a universe, shows his vision is impressive. So impressive it’s worth a look yourself.