The Art of Neil Gaiman book review

By Leroy Douresseaux
Jun 28, 2014 - 16:43

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Introduction by Audrey Niffenegger

“Art of” books usually focus on the work of painters, illustrators, and other graphic artists.  Some “art of” books focus on visual media like motion pictures and television and comic books and comics strip, to name a few.  Writers don’t often have “art of” books, but one of the world’s most popular writers has an “art of” book about him.

Neil Gaiman is one of the best-loved authors today.  Gaiman is a novelist, screenwriter, poet, and occasional artist, but many readers know him for his work as a comic book writer, especially of the long-running comic book series, The Sandman.  His novels include the award-winning American Gods and the recent The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  Two of his works, Stardust and Coraline, were adapted into the films.  Gaiman wrote the English-language script adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, Princess Mononoke, and he co-wrote (with Roger Avary) the screenplay for the motion-capture, computer-animated film, Beowulf (2007).

Released May 20, 2014 by Harper Design, The Art of Neil Gaiman gives Gaiman’s fans and readers a peek into Gaiman’s personal archives.  This is a way to look at Gaiman’s artistic and creative process and also tell the story of his life as a writer and storyteller.  This full color, oversized volume is written by Hayley Campbell, a longtime friend of Gaiman’s.  [Semi-spoiler:  Hayley is the daughter of comic book writer and artist, Eddie Campbell, who created From Hell with Alan Moore.]

The Art of Neil Gaiman is a visual and graphical exploration of Gaiman’s life, exploring the connections between his life and his ideas and work.  Sketches, manuscripts, notes, etc. unite with Campbell’s interviews of Gaiman’s collaborators, editors, and friends in a biographical and exploratory account of Gaiman’s body of work… thus far.

THE LOWDOWN:  So how does one create an “art of” book for a writer?  Well, Hayley Campbell does it in a number of ways.  Neil Gaiman has many collaborators who are artists and illustrators, so she fills the books with sketches, covers, details, paintings and other art and graphics that were created for Neil’s writing and storytelling.

That includes the usual Sandman material, such as Dave McKean’s covers for The Sandman.  If you really want to be shocked, delighted, and “thrown for a loop,” you have to see British artist, Leigh Baulch’s early, David Bowie-esque sketches of Morpheus.  These sketches alone are worth at least ten bucks of this book’s cover price.  There is even a photo of Neil and Mike Dringenberg at a signing for Sandman #1 at Jim Hanley’s Universe.  Apparently, only six or seven people showed up for the signing.  They’d be lined around several blocks today.

There are also examples of Dave McKean’s art for Violent Cases and Black Orchid, among other works.  The book has art from Neil’s other comic books, including Miracleman and Spawn.  There are drawing, illos, sketches, and other miscellanea from his books (good stuff from The Graveyard Book).  The visual material from his film and television work includes a photo of the all-star cast of the radio version of Neverwhere (a photo featuring of some of my favorite actors, which I will cherish).

Here, is the surprise, Neil also sketches and doodles.  Campbell litters The Art of Neil Gaiman with this stuff.  I have already flipped through this book numerous times, and I’m still discovering drawings by Neil that I missed.  Campbell also reproduces numerous pages of Neil’s notes for his works, those that were completed, are semi-completed, and those that remain stillborn.  If you can make out his wild handwriting, you will have the small door into his imagination that you always wanted.  Crawl in if you can.

The Art of Neil Gaiman is a must-have for Neil’s fans.  Save your pennies, if you must.  Turn a few tricks, if you have to (but be safe).  This book is worth the price.  I think The Art of Neil Gaiman could even turn those who don’t know him into Neil Gaiman fans.

POSSIBLE AUDIENCE:  Fans of Neil Gaiman and lovers of books about authors must have The Art of Neil Gaiman.


Rating: 9 /10

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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