Art of My Misspent Youth: DEAN ELLIS

Along with Frazetta, Gino D’Ahille, Michael Whelan and a handful of others, Dean Ellis was a big part of my early years.

Ellis was a master of capturing that ‘sense of wonder’ some folks talk about, the rush that hits typically young people, making them users of the stuff for life, or at least until they’ve seen one crappy sci fi movie too many.

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Ellis specialized in space art. A link between Chesley Bonestell’s then-scientific accuracy and Whelan’s romanticism, Ellis’ are grounded space adventures in something like the real world. His art often showed he was in the real world and also in that fantasy world at the same time.

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Ellis’ cover for Samuel R. Delany’s DHALGREN may be my single favorite book cover.



The First Frank Frazetta Book I Owned


I’m having a rough week, don’t bug me about filler!


This one above is earlier Frazetta, which shows a little Roy Krenkel influence, methinks. A pencil-like roughness, as contrasted with Frazetta’s swashes of color-roughness.

My favorite Frazetta:

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The 2001st Blog Commentary on The 50th Anniversary of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

Random Thoughts on a monumental film:

It’s boring.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a classic, or a great movie. It’s both. AND I love it–I’ve watched it many times. The boredom is part of the charm in that the talk of ham sandwiches contrasts with the talk of previous space-set films.

Ever think of all  the good and the beautiful in the universe?

The plain dialogue shows how phony so many films set in spaceships were with their talk of interstellar justice and retro-rockets firing. All on its own it invalidates the Captain Video-level babble. Still didn’t prevent STAR TREK from feeding fake science to fans who bragged about the scientific accuracy of firing a sub-ionic pulse at something that saves the galaxy at the last minute, which of course is how so many science problems have been resolved in our time.

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2001 deals with one of the issues 99% of space-set movies simply ignore: artificial gravity. That’s a HUGE issue, and without the use of centripetal force pretty damned close to impossible. But imagine all that Star Trek with everyone floating around? Sure makes tilting the camera and everyone falling THAT way less exciting.


The Alex North score would have been a mistake, and the classical selections work. I’m not sure any traditional scoring could’ve saturated the movie with Kubrick’s grimly-amused tone. Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke weren’t into Lucas-like heroism in space. The most heroic thing done in the movie is turning off a computer, something you can do right now. Of course, that action shows mankind still can master its creations, and sets up humanity for its next step in evolution. Or something.

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SPACE: 1999 is what you’d get if someone not as smart or artistically-capable as Clarke and Kubrick. The mystical aspects in season one are more supernatural than the LSD-trip climax here.

2001 is one of the great Hard Science Fiction films…or so we’ve been told by Clarke fans. But Clarke had a mystical streak, too.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – ACC

This is one of those quotes fans think is neat, but it doesn’t seem particularly deep to me. What is it saying, really? The microwave oven is magic to someone from the fourth century, but what does that get us?

Clarke seems to introduce a lot of fantasy to the climax of 2001.

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The visuals are still beautiful, which just shows it’s about concept and artistry, not the latest gadgetry. See FANTASTIC VOYAGE, which won the Oscar for effects within a year of Kubrick winning for this.

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No windows to wash, but the floor lightbulbs are a pain in the ass to change.

For all the talk of 2001 being a most philosophical movie, what is its philosophy? Mankind needed a nudge to become technological, then had to catch up to his own machines. THEN he could be given another nudge to Star Childhood?

So what?

It’s value to me is in setting us in several beautifully-evoked settings and giving us the room to think about them. Kubrick nudges us along with the monolith, its presence forcing us to wonder, why THIS moment? What’s significant about it in Kubrick and Clarke’s idea of humanity’s rise?

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Creepy-ass starbaby


Zdzislaw Beksinski (1929-2005) was a Polish artist of dark, fantastic art. He’s perhaps the first fine artist of the macabre since Giger to be known to the public without being a cover artist.


A little Redon, a little Giger, he had his own style. His interest in death and horror makes him a favorite of those who love Giger, and makes his stuff perfect for the usual vehicles for current ‘dark’ artists–horror paperbacks and heavy metal album covers.


Wikipedia photo caption: “Beksiński as a young boy and a friend outside of a destroyed Soviet bunker playing with ordnance, summer 1941.” Yes, he’s the Polish Norman Rockwell.


Like every artist who’s worked this genre he did a riff on Bocklin’s ISLE OF THE DEAD.


If you don’t know his art, you should.

(This doesn’t count as a blog entry. Unless I get sicker.)