Fantasy and Imagination


Sometimes it’s good to just draw ideas from books or from images in your head. I always used to cop it as a kid from my brothers for ‘drawing princesses.’ Turns out if I’d stuck at doing that I might have become a mean games or film illustrator by now and my teenage kids would think I was cool.

The illustrator for some of the early graphic novels of Assassin’s Creed, Djilalli Defaux, established the visual look for this genre in the gaming world and shares the credit on these novels with the writer Eric Corbeyran – as did Alan Lee and John Howe for Peter Jackson’s Tolkein films.

However it’s a bit difficult to see how the artists who worked to further developed the characters and style of these great machines of film and games get much recognition. The composers for the soundtrack for the games seem to get more credit up front than the illustrators – maybe they stuck up for themselves better in the contract negotiations.

‘Art Direction’ also seems to be higher art form given recognition in the awards world. Dan Hennah won the Artistic Direction gong for Return of the King and was nominated five times in this category but Alan Lee only shared the nomination once (imagine The Two Towers losing to Chicago!). Mind you they all seem a self-effacing lot with barely a wikipedia mention to their names.

Raphael Lacoste also seems to have earned more stripes as the artistic director and illustrator for the Assassin’s Creed series than Djilalli (I’m assuming Djilalli came first). Also – I didn’t realise until recently – that James Cameron (who is usually cast as the villian film director in his own right) – worked his way up through the ranks as a set designer and poster illustrator to become the creator of Avatar. But of course he was lauded for his role as a Film Director rather than as a creative artist.

Anton Gill, a rather resourceful renaissance historian writing as Oliver Bowden, has penned the accompanying books for Assassin’s Creed, but his book covers don’t give a clue as to the illustrator (I will have to go and check the inside jacket for this). He also looks to be a modest bloke now counting his money in Paris – but once again the writer looks to earn more street cred than the artist when it comes to reinterpreting a visual art form.

So I had to dig a bit deeper to find the artists like Johan Grenier and Vincent Gaigneux who created the more recent series of characterisations for Assassin’s Creed. Although they are possibly drawing to an established formula, it’s certain they bring something new to each game and they are obviously revered by their gaming fans.

Nevertheless I imagine there are whole rafts of talented artists being poorly paid to hack out the artwork for these behemoth gaming and film productions – maybe a revolution is in order? Could Leonardo’s Revenge’ be the next Assassin’s Creed? © Chas Spain 2015 just in case …

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3 thoughts on “Fantasy and Imagination

    • Thanks so much – I haven’t actually finished these paintings yet and wondered whether I should start again. I should probably complete the main character – the Prince Childe – so the story can be told…

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