Notes From the Shadowed City

by Arnie Fenner

What does it take to be a successful illustrator or gallery artist? Lots of things, really. Skill, imagination, tenacity, empathy, the ability to listen and observe, an incredibly thick skin, and a good dollop of luck are, of course, equally important components. But at the top of the list I would place originality. A unique voice; an ability to create works in such a way that no one else could replicate it, at least not in quite the same way and not with quite the same impact.

Here on Muddy Colors the emphasis is often on straight-forward realistic interpretations of subjects (regardless of methodology) with a traditionalist sensibility. It mirrors the (very) general preferences of genre: make the unreal real. But as Albert Dorne said, "Some artists, and often the public, mistakenly confuse technique or facility with 'Art.' An artist must have much more than virtuosity. A painting may approach technical perfection and yet be completely vacuous. And even a crudely made drawing or painting can be important if the artist has a really worthwhile statement to make."

As I've often said there's no singular, "approved" way to create art and no style or approach that is necessarily "more right" than another, no sensibility that is blessed. Even as our field has been—and is—dominated by a realist approach to the fantastic, it has also embraced through the years interpretative, graphic, impressionistic, and even surrealistic contributors to genre. Artists like Richard Powers, the Dillons, John Berkey, Hannes Bok, Bill Carman, and many others have added to the diversity, the depth, and ultimately the import of Fantastic Art. They're the non-traditionalists, the non-conformists, the spice as it were, that help to keep our field fresh, vibrant, and growing.  

I think Jeffrey Alan Love's name should be added to the spice list.

Above: Examples of Jeffrey's illustration work. Starting at top left, "A Song for No Man's Land"
for; A Natural History of Hell cover for Small Beer Press. Bottom left, an untitled piece
from an in-progress comics project; and the cover for Wolves for Gollancz.

I've been impressed with Jeffrey from my very first encounter with his art and my respect has only increased with each new work. Deceptively simple art upon closer examination reveals incredibly complex and mature content. Seemingly stark linear works surprise with a multitude of suggestions and interpretations.

At the core of any successful illustration or painting are affecting composition and strong design; Jeffrey's a thoughtful designer and problem-solver of the First Order. At a relatively young age he is producing, as Albert Dorne said, Art.

Above: Several pages from the book.

Now Jeffrey has produced his first book. Notes From the Shadowed City is a stream of consciousness narrative that is simultaneously an existential exploration and a pure tale of fantasy. Not quite a graphic novel, not exactly a monograph it is...exactly the type of book I had hoped Jeffrey Alan Love would create. And I'm not alone in my admiration:

"What is there to say? Jeffrey Alan Love is just plain brilliant."
—Mike Mignola

"Haunting, mysterious, and timeless, Notes From the Shadowed City takes us on a journey through the stygian landscapes of our dreams and nightmares."

"Jeffrey's haunted silhouetted world is a recent discovery for me, but like a great old battered European city, I want to excavate more of it."
—Dave McKean

Above: Jeffrey taught at this summer's Illustration Academy Summer Workshop in
Kansas City before jetting out to California to sign the limited edition copies of his book 

Produced by Flesk Publications, Notes From the Shadowed City is scheduled to premiere at the Flesk booth (#5019) during the San Diego Comic-Con International, but it's also available for pre-order right now directly from the publisher and even comes with a signed 5"x7" print. I've got mine ordered!

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