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The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal
Jim Burns
Titan Books, 160 pages

The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal
Jim Burns
Jim Burns was born in 1948 in Cardiff, South Wales. In 1972, after attending a foundation course at Newport College of Art in South Wales and subsequently a three year course in Graphic Design and Illustration at St Martin's School of Art in London he got his first professional science fiction commission, for an anthology called Towards Infinity, using the very uncommercial media of pencil and light watercolour washes. Preceding this and the 4 years at art college was an earlier career move... as a would-be pilot in the RAF. Which came to naught as, despite soloing on jets, he was really not a very good pilot. In the 40 years since has carved a name for himself as a science fiction and fantasy artist. He has won three Hugo awards and a dozen BSFA awards and his originals are now in many collections around the world.

Jim Burns Website
ISFDB Bibliography

A review by Sandra Scholes

Science fiction and fantasy artist, Jim Burns has won three Hugo awards, being the only non-American artist to have ever won it as well as winning more British Science Fiction Awards than any other artist. He has become a national treasure with his lifelike depictions of aliens and other far off worlds. Since he was a child, Burns had a deep interest in the fantastic. Being a pilot in the RAF might have meant he had to abandon his art from an early time, but he wanted his hobby to be his career too much and, after a few years of getting noticed, it did.

Burns is well-known for his concept work on the sci-fi classic movie Blade Runner. In 1979, he was invited to director Ridley Scott's office where he was asked to work on the movie. His vehicle from Behemoth's World formed the basis for the Police spinner craft in the movie. Scott's interest did not end there, however as he had seen his art of Colonel Kylling and thought it bore a close resemblance to his own character of Sindar Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from the movie Dune. Both movies were based on popular sf novels of the day, Blade Runner being based on Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? while Dune was based on Frank Herbert's novel of the same name. With his calibre of work being so high, it is not surprising that his cover paintings for George R.R. Martin's novels A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords have become just as iconic as his other sf work.

With an introduction by Joe Haldeman, for whom Burns has done many covers of his novels, There is no Darkness is one that features in here. In the painting a space pilot wears the futuristic clothing of the day, complete with the sort of science fictionalised helmet, belt and coat which, to us, are everyday objects, Burns turns into something alien, something special. Though we can see where Burns got the influences for these objects, his way of transforming them seems fresh and interesting. Hyperluminal contains artwork, both half page, full page and a two-page spread that chronicles forty years of his work as an artist. Starting in the 70s, Let the Fire Fall and Styrene Fome, he shows how he renders the female form of a pilot drawing down the zip on her suit to entice the readers. Her ample chest is just one example of Burns' women in sf that have become such a staple of men's interest. The 80s saw his art show his expertise with his newly realised space craft; "Refuge," and "The Long Run" have that same hyper-realism and command of perspective with an original use of colour. The 90s and 2000s saw his work undergo a transition to digital with his new cover for Michael Moorcock's novel The Dreamthief's Daughter. Even though he has got a grasp of digital art, it is good to see that a lot of his recent work has been done in acrylics, so he has not lost his artistic style.

The cover image, "Wanderers," was a painting commissioned by Pat and Jeanne Wilshire who are the founders of Illuxcon. The alien, four-armed with a backpack is wandering and looks learned while the space pilot also looks for clues as to which alien he is. This is iconic Burns artwork with the original looking design of the spacesuit and space craft. The book itself is a compilation of both old and new artwork, some paint, others digital. As the pages are of different sizes, there are those which are most popular among fans that are smaller than they should be; Hostile Takeover 1 – Profiteer, The Medusa Encounter, Hide and Seek, Ancient Shores by Jack McDevitt. There are also some which are extended as two page spreads that would have benefited from being reduced to one page so the detail could be seen rather than having faces and bodies split between the pages; Days of Gloriana, Keith Away with the Fairy Folk and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.

Hyperluminal is for readers who don't already have Burns' other art books, and also for those who have none of his digital work either; so maybe this will be the start of a series of new books on his newer works? Who knows? All that can be said is that existing fans of his work will be interested to see more, as will newer fans after seeing this book.

Copyright © 2014 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has a secret stash of artwork she daren't show to anyone else (reality is, it's not that good to be honest – good job she enjoys writing…) Her work has been published in Hellnotes, Albedo One, Active Anime, Love Romance Passion, The British Fantasy Society and Quailbell Magazine.

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