On Monday, the legendary Syd Mead—easily one of the greatest illustrators/futurists of our time—passed away. He was 86. Normally, I use this series to highlight artists who I think need more attention. But I thought to take a moment to recognize someone who’s work influenced not only me but a generation of designers, artists, filmmakers, and architects to look forward and envision a better future.
“We don’t go into the future from zero, we drag the whole past in with us.”
Mead left an incredible impact and his legacy is enormous. So many speculative fiction properties were shaped by his neo-futuristic style: Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Star Trek, Star Wars, even Gundam and think how many of those have gone on to influence a new generation of creators. There’s a wonderful vibrancy to his work and it continues to resonate.
The city of Lovat in my Bell Forging Cycle, was heavily influenced by my experience with Mead’s paintings as a student—especially his work on Blade Runner. Something about his cramped and claustrophobic street scenes inspired me and they stayed with me years later when I set down to write. I’ve shared some of my favorites pieces below, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well. As always, you can click to view them larger.
Syd Mead – “Cityscape Lightening”
Syd Mead – “San Angeles”
Syd Mead – Blade Runner Cityscape
Syd Mead – “Downtown Cityscape”
Syd Mead – “City Design 02”
Syd Mead – “Spinner Perspective View”
Syd Mead – “Deckard’s Kitchen”
Syd Mead – “City Sketch”
Syd Mead – Ship Design
Syd Mead – “Unipod”
Syd Mead – “US Steel Series”
Syd Mead – “US Steel Series”
Syd Mead – “US Steel Series”
Syd Mead – “Running of the Six Drgxx”
You can see so much more of Syd Mead’s work on his website. There are several great art books that gather his work in the movies and as a futurist. I’d recommend starting with The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist or Syd Mead’s Sentury II.
Rest in peace, Syd. Thanks for everything.
If you like Syd Mead’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.
Two years ago, I sat down and ranked all seven of the title sequences for FX’s anthology horror series American Horror Story. While I’ve never been the most die-hard fan, I’ve always been drawn in by its visuals and appreciated how well they set the mood of the show.
Recently, FX released American Horror Story 1984—the series ninth season. And, with a new season came new titles. So, once again I’m revisiting my rankings. Which opening sequence reigns supreme? How well did 1984 rank? See my updated list here.
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My readers know that I am an enthusiast of rich well-imagined worldbuilding. So when I stumbled across the work of artist and writer Sam Hogg, it’ll come as no surprise that I found myself enthralled. Her concept work is excellent, but I’ve become a bit obsessed with her high-fantasy project, The Whaler Girl.
This is visual worldbuilding at its best. Hogg captures and constructs a rich tapestry of a setting and inhabits it with fully imagined places, creatures, and characters. It’s something I strive for in my work, and here it feels so effortless which only makes it more enthralling and inspiring. These locations and characters don’t come across as templates, they feel like real people, and we can see hints of their story playing throughout the work. The sense of place is palpable and the shifts in style only cement that further, we’re exploring a world after all and worlds are not limited to a single style. As I moved through the project I found myself eager to learn more. I want to know all about Eidy’s story, and Saul’s troubles, and how a young whaler girl from Varlsbeyn ended up as a pirate courtesan. You will too.
With Sam Hogg’s permission, I’ve shared a few of my favorite pieces below. (Honestly, it was really difficult choosing, for each of these there were at least four more.) You can click on any image to view it larger.
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Whaler Girls”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Lanyra”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Varlsbeyn Summer”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Saul”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Tidal”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Kalam Masad”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Eidy, Dark Marchant Design”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Beware the dark jellyfish”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Varlsbeyn”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Old Twohorn”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “Courtesans Quarters”
Sam Hogg – The Whaler Girl – “First Visit”
This is just a small fraction of The Whaler Girl. You can see much more of the world and Hogg’s work on her website. Be sure to join me in following her on Twitter. Don’t forget to follow her excellent Instagram account, not only does she share work frequently, but it’s also often accompanied by evocative vignettes that only adds to the depth and richness of the story. Finally, you can buy prints of all this work from her store and hang the world of The Whaler Girl on your walls.
If you like Sam Hogg’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.
The urban landscape has long been a fascination of mine. Lovat—the central city in my Bell Forging Cycle—is my own love letter to the city form with its allure and optimism and the gritty shadows cast by those glowing ideals. Those contrasting juxtapositions are what makes the urban environment so appealing. I love the spaces between spaces, the often ignored corners where lives are lived, and the drama of humanity is played out. Whenever I find an artist who can capture that essence, I find that it enlivens me creatively.
“I strive to create a visual universe where fantasies, dreams and travels come together. Landscapes at night exacerbates a specific contemplative feeling which has encouraged me to create a new, obscure and sparkling world full of secrets and mystery.”
So, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m an enormous fan of Marilyn Mugot’s photography, in particular, her Night Project series and much of the work she shares on her Instagram account. She excels at finding those small places and capturing them from angles that make me dwell on the city and its impact on our lives. There’s a beauty inherent within the urban environment, and in each of her pieces, Margot encapsulates those spaces with a cinematic quality, a touch of the surreal, and a subtle tenderness.
I’ve shared a few of my favorite pieces below. You can click on any image to view it larger.
Marilyn Mugot – Conquest of paradise
Marilyn Mugot – Seven in the evening
Marilyn Mugot – Light candies
Marilyn Mugot – Back street
Marilyn Mugot – Nupital moment
Marilyn Mugot – Colorvision
Marilyn Mugot – Ultraviolet night
Marilyn Mugot – Backstairs
Marilyn Mugot – God moves in mysterious ways
This is just a tiny sample of Mugot’s work. I’d encourage you to check out her Venus’ Gardens series where she brings her iconic use of color to the natural world. It’s stunning stuff. You can see much more on her website, and I’d encourage you to follow her on Instagram as well. If you’re looking to purchase any of her pieces, you can buy prints from her online store.
If you like Marilyn Mugot’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.
If you’re in Seattle next week, and you’re looking for something to do, might I suggest swinging by Roq La Rue Gallery on Thursday, June 13th from 6:00–9:00 PM for the opening of The Visions of Graces, a three-person show featuring my brilliant partner, Kari-Lise Alexander, the always incredible Laurie Lee Brom, and the inimitable Syd Bee. (Be sure to check out Syd’s show from April, Dear Illusions, as well—it’s a stunner.)
Each artist is bringing three to four pieces, and I’m excited to see them up on the walls. I’ve gotten a few glimpses at what’s to come, and I cannot wait for everyone to see the work these talented women have been creating. It’s going to be great. I’ve included a few small previews of what’s to come below, but you’ll soon be able to see more.
Laurie Lee Brom
A Vision of Graces opens Thursday, June 13th and will run for a month. Both Kari-Lise and I will be at the opening, so if you drop by, be sure to say hello. You can contact the gallery with inquiries about any particular piece. I highly recommend signing up for the Roq La Rue newsletter as soon as possible so you can receive the show preview. You can sign up by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.
Hopefully, I’ll see you there!
My friend and mezzo-soprano vocalist Roxanna Walitzki is currently touring Europe with her sibling Redd (who I’ve featured in the past.) While they journey, Roxanna has begun to record classic acoustic performances in urban ruins wearing ethereal fashions created from found materials sourced on site. The results are as evocative as they are beautiful. You can see her acoustic performance of Robert Schumann’s In der Fremde (In a Foreign Land) below recorded in an abandoned paint factory in Pula, Croatia.
This is a small part of a broader ongoing collaboration between the siblings that pushes us to confront what we consider trash and disposable with the intent of encouraging us to reevaluate our own impact on the natural world. You can find out more about the project here and read the statement behind this video here. It’s a unique and thoroughly fresh approach to raising environmental awareness. I’ve enjoyed watching it come together and it’s made me pause and think about my own impact.
As an artist, Roxanna is quite prolific, and you can watch more videos and listen to more of her previous work on her official site. I recommend buying some of her music from her Bandcamp as well. She’s also a fantastic photographer so follow her on Instagram.
Support this work
Want to journey with the Walitzki siblings across Europe? Redd has set up a Patreon where they share insights, artwork, and experiences from their adventures. It’s very much worth checking out (and the perfect use of the platform.) You can find out much more over on Patreon.