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Monday, February 24, 2014

Brian Froud

"I work intuitively, the images appearing before me and demanding attention, their meanings and voices unclear until much later, when the sketch or painting is done. This was the approach I used when I designed two of Jim Henson's movies: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The scripts and characters developed organically from my sketches and paintings rather than the other way around."
                                                                                                             --Brian Froud

Brian Froud Self-portrait
The other Brian Froud.
It's hard to say which is the real Brian Froud.

Emergence, Brian Froud
A couple days ago I wrote on the art of Frank Frazetta. At the time I said fantasy art, and especially that of Frazetta, was not my "cup of tea." I've not changed my opinion of fantasy art, but I must say that the work of English artist/illustrator, Brian Froud, is considerably easier for me to take. Whereas Frazetta, it could be said, represents the mucho macho side of the genre, Froud occupies the more feminine realm--fairies, pixies, trolls, wizards, elves, dwarfs, imps, unicorns, alien creatures, and erotic errata that might cause a father to worry if his son started posting them on the walls of his room. His figures range from the level of "cute" to "cutthroat" (below). Although it's quite unfair to both artists in comparing their work (as in apples and oranges), like Frazetta, Froud seems to have discovered his own niche market and is milking it for all its worth. Along with his wife, Wendy (who tends to limit herself to sculptural fairies and pixies), they've illustrated enough books to alone fill the fantasy art book rack in any public library.
From cute to cutthroat.
Brian Froud's Trolls,
An illustration from Froud's
Good Faeries, Bad Faeries.
Brian Froud was born in 1947 in Winchester, England. In 1971 he graduated from Maidstone College of Art with a degree in graphic design, whereupon he moved to London, and later Devon working as a designer and illustrator for children's books. His work gained attention not just for his technical prowess combining a variety of media, but also his in-depth knowledge of folklore contributing an authentically earthy look to his faeries (old English spelling), and trolls. In 1978, Froud was tapped by Muppets genius, Jim Henson, to help with the conception of a film he wanted to do titled Dark Crystal. Work on the film went on for four years as Froud provided the visuals, while Henson brought them to life on screen. It was during his work with Henson that Froud met his wife, Wendy, who was a puppet maker also working on the film. Their son, Toby, was born in 1984 and immediately made his film debut as baby "Toby" in Froud's second Henson collaboration, the more lighthearted Labyrinth, released in 1986.
Wendy Froud and some of her sculptural trolls.
Wendy's Yoda--lifelike puppetry
In some respects, the work of Wendy Froud is more familiar than any of the myriad of creatures dreamed up by her husband. Although created by a design team, Wendy was largely responsible for the appearance of the recurring Star Wars character, Yoda. Though Wendy doesn't paint and draw, her sculptural fairies and pixies, often in doll or puppet form, make her an equal partner in the Froud team. A third important figure in the "World of Froud" (their Website)  is Terry Jones, the screenwriter for Labyrinth, who has collaborated in the writing of several of Froud's film-related books. With the death of Jim Henson (an quite recently, his son), it's unlikely Froud's form of conceptual art will again make it to the silver screen, but the Froud team's experience at all levels in fantasy art production (their son has recently joined the Henson team, having worked on Lord of the Rings) ranks them as pioneers in the rapidly developing world of digital art.

Click the bottom image for a short video clip from the Froud creative team.

The Brian and Wendy Froud team at work amid the clutter.



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