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  • Writer's pictureSimon Faiers

Sliding Into The Uncanny Valley

I'm a little concerned by where book illustration is heading now. In the library the other day a book caught my eye - it was a graphic novel written by Philip Pullman and illustrated by Fred Fordham, entitled John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship (sample of the interior above) and the artwork looked like it had been toon rendered in Poser or traced from images created in Poser; the figures have that hyper-real-shaded but lifeless, mannequin-like quality that CGI people have, although there was nothing in the blurb on the back of the book about the artist's technique. Apparently Fred Fordham is a successful illustrator, and in addition to this, he has put out a graphic novel version of To Kill a Mockingbird, among other things, in exactly the same style. From a look at the user reviews on Goodreads, it appears that readers really like his artwork, and I certainly saw no objections to the robotishness of his human characters or any questioning of where his images come from.

It's possible that I'm wrong, and this is an artist who just happens to draw in a very Poser-ish style. I'm obviously being a hypocrite, having based my pictures very heavily on Poser recently, and they say the things that annoy us most in other people are the things we least like about ourselves. However, I wonder how many artists are going to start doing the same thing, and whether we're going to eventually end up with a deluge of homogeneous book illustrations populated with identical, robotic-looking figures and stock backgrounds.

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