SFcrowsnest

Electric Dreams: The Art Of Barclay Shaw (book review)

Coming across Barclay Shaw in ‘Science Fiction And Fantasy Artists Of The Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary’ by Jane Frank, I looked up and saw the cover for his only book and decided to have a deeper look at ‘Electric Dreams: The Art Of Barclay Shaw’.

(c) Barclay Shaw

Artist Barclay Shaw’s big break came at the 1980 World Science Fiction Convention where Harlen Ellison out-bid at their auction for a piece of his art and then hired him to do the covers for his Ace Books. Shaw relates how when he went to the publisher’s offices to hand the first cover to the art director and told that they didn’t work that way. This was later retracted because Ellison had cover approval and Shaw went on to do many of the author’s books. Ellison also does the introduction to this book.

(c) Barclay Shaw

Shaw is also a sculptor and some of his pieces are shown here and he will make a model when he’s doing a painting to get everything right. There is also a small section on how he creates a painting and I hope his attention to using a custom-made venting hood and wearing a respirator when air brushing will make you think if you have neither of these items when using an air brush inside a building. I wish he’d included at what pressure he used the venting hood because there must be a fine balance between letting the paint spray settle on the canvas and how much it is sucked up without falling on other parts of the painting.

(c) Barclay Shaw

His painting material varies. Often adding oil paints to acrylics. As he points out, it doesn’t work acrylics on top of oil paints around because it doesn’t stick so please don’t try it to find out. As he explains at the end of the book, back in 1995, digital painting was only just taking off with some artists not preparing to turn to the technique. Shaw shows some of his early work that way although not what software he used other than it was a 3D program.

(c) Barclay Shaw

Assessing his work, I have to say the examples in this book are invariably not lived in or rather look pristine. Not saying that’s necessarily wrong and for book covers, ‘clean’ art might be seen as essential as book covers are smaller than the originals, just the consistency with the art pieces shown here. That doesn’t mean the odd one doesn’t look that way but this is in general and is of his work some 23 years ago. A lot of artists at the time were employing a similar technique. My eye did take an extra gleam when he reveals three covers for the Baen early ‘Wild Cards’ books edited by George RR Martin for 1995 and that completed the connection for me and if you’re a fan of these books then you will surely want to own this one, too.

GF Willmetts

January 2017

(pub: Paper Tiger/Dragon’s World, 1995. 128 page illustrated softcover. Price: I pulled a decent copy for £ 3.36 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 1-85028-364-8)

check out website: www.barclayshaw.com