Friday 15 January 2016

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th January 2016 - "The Art of Star Wars - The Force Awakens" by Phil Szostak, with foreword by Rick Carter (Abrams)

So have you seen it yet? Our Book of the Week this week is a big thick weighty dive into the glorious preproduction artwork for arguably 2015's biggest movie - "The Art of Star Wars - The Force Awakens" by Phil Szostak with Foreword by Rick Carter...
I'd originally put this book on my list to Santa, but Santa didn't deliver. Thankfully the magic of christmas money meant I could go and grab a copy myself and what a book it is!

If you're worrying about spoilers, don't - I know there may be a few of you out there who haven't seen it yet and are somehow managing to dodge that particular bullet on the internet (you must be living in a cave somewhere with no wifi!) However it's fair to warn you that "The Art of Star Wars - The Force Awakens" contains quite a lot of character and concept art that may ruin things for you if you look a bit too closely.

That said, this is the absolute NADIR of source material for budding artists who just happen to be complete Star Wars geeks. Having seen the movie (and loving the art direction, characters and effects a lot more than I loved the plot - I'll leave it at that), it's incredible to see how the tiniest grains of ideas once the new movies were announced were fleshed out into designs that made it into the final film.

Gloriously illustrated spreads peppered with fantastic artist anecdotes make this book utterly essential for SW geeks or just art book lovers!
For example, Rey wasn't always called Rey and initially looked a lot different to Daisy Ridley's eventual portrayal. Most characters owe a heck of a debt to Glyn Dillon, a UK artist who I've admired since forever - formerly working on awesome 90s comic "Deadline". He drew up designs for pretty much everyone in the movie from the look and feel of the New Order Stormtroopers to arguably the most awesome character in the whole flick, Kylo Ren - who went through hundreds of revisions until Glyn got him just right.

Some awesome production art, fleshing out the eventual look of Captain Phasma and other key characters. 
The book doesn't just serve up glorious images, it serves as a fabulous timeline of the movie's production, and the various stages and plot changes that caused designs and scenes to evolve rapidly and impressively. It's testament to the immense talent of the team that were assembled to work on The Force Awakens that they managed to create stunning new designs while paying proper homage to the original George Lucas movies and those glorious concept pieces by Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang.

Rey's home - let's face it, who WOULDN'T want to live in a tipped-over AT-AT?
I got completely lost in this book, hoping some of the supreme talent displayed within it would magically rub off on me (it really is an amazing resource if you love drawing sci fi or fantasy subjects and want a bit of divine inspiration) before letting Charlotte have a flick through herself as, technically, she's now in the generation who have taken Star Wars and made it their own, soaking up all the newly created mythos as readily as I did when I was her age (which is when I saw the very first movie way way back in the groovy 1970s).

Ultimately, whether you love or hate the idea of your childhood heroes being rebooted and reinvented, and whether or not you saw and enjoyed The Force Awakens, you will definitely develop a huge amount of love and respect for the artists who made that fantasy world a reality on film.

We're fast developing a decent collection of these "The Art of" books from Abrams, who always do an utterly brilliant job of bringing the material together in a huge and involving volume. Cannot recommend this enough - it might be pricey but it's sure as heck worth it!

(Purchased ourselves)

Charlotte's favourite bit: Seeing all the different iterations of Rey's "look" before the final 'junker' desert look was decided on, and of course loads of awesome pics of Princess (sorry General) Leia Organa-Solo!

Daddy's favourite bit: Gorgeous gorgeous illustrations that are enough to humble anyone who thinks they've got a smidge of artistic talent, but also some really cool production notes and anecdotes from the art teams involved. So cool to read how various ideas were arrived at, and also the influences artists called on (everyone from Ralph McQuarrie to Chris Foss and Jodorowsky).

"The Art of Star Wars - The Force Awakens" 

Written by Phil Szostak

Foreword by Rick Carter

Published by Abrams Publishing

Publication Date: 18th December 2015