State of the Art: Shadowline: The Art of Iain McCaig

Fall/Winter is considered the season for art books—the idea being that they make ideal gifts and lend themselves to perusing with a glass of wine while sitting in front of a cozy fire. Now, of course, glossy collections appear at other times of the year, too, but there is always something of a colorful avalanche that hits the shelves just before the holidays.

One of the titles that stands out from the pack this year is Shadowline: The Art of Iain McCaig. Though his name might not be generally known in F&SF circles his work most certainly is. An influential concept artist for many major motion pictures, television shows, and video games his credits include Terminator 2, Hook, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—but he is perhaps best known as a principal designer on the three Star Wars prequels, including the visualization of the characters Queen Amidala and Darth Maul.

Shadowline itself has something of a “fantasy” conceit to it: rather than being a straight-forward “I painted this for that project” collection, McCaig conducts a “tour” of the mythical lands, characters, and creatures that are the subjects of his work, as if he’s merely recording what he sees rather than “making it all up.” Though that approach prevents him from sharing any behind-the-scenes gossip from working in the entertainment industry, it also has a certain amount of charm and allows a degree of separation that permits his art to be viewed as expressions of his own unique imagination rather than as artifacts of someone else’s film(s). That
disconnect means the art isn’t viewed solely within the context of Star Wars or John Carter of Mars but as Art, and as such the works in Shadowline have even greater relevance and resonance.

Of his work McCaig says, “I’ve been telling stories for years, with paint, with words, with film and video cameras, and pixels on computer screens. I can’t explain storytelling the way teachers explain math or history. To explain what I’m doing when I create would be like waking up while still dreaming. We are all storytellers night after night, for even the most inartistic of us can still dream like masters.”

Oversized, hefty (240 pages), boasting a wonderful selection of paintings and sketches spanning twenty years, and featuring an introduction by Nick Sagan (best-selling author of the The Idlewild Trilogy and son of Carl Sagan), Shadowline is big, beautiful, and ultimately unforgettable.


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