Book Review: The Art of Greg Spalenka by Greg Spalenka

It is a tribute to the artist and to the liberating freedom of art itself.
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The name Greg Spalenka may or may not be a familiar one to you, but once you have seen his work in The Art of Greg Spalenka, you will never forget it. The new, oversized hardback collection features his creations in many different styles over the past 30 years, and is a tribute not only to his talent, but to the liberating freedom of art itself.  

I first discovered him as the creator of some of the more memorable fantasy film images I have seen. While his work on The Ant Bully (2004), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), and Escape From Planet Earth (2013) are probably his most widely viewed works, they represent only a fraction of his range.

As amazing as all of the artwork is, the accompanying text is highly important as well. Besides being a noted artist, Spalenka has labored to help others realize their goals through his “Artist As Brand” program. While it may sound a bit calculated, it also addresses what may be the biggest stumbling block to aspiring artists, which is simply how to make a living doing what you love to do.

Lest I give the wrong impression, The Art of Greg Spalenka is primarily a picture book, with some text. He has an incredible eye for detail. Outside of his fantasy work, what really surprised me were Spalenka’s biographical efforts. His series of  Mike Tyson “Polaroids” are especially striking. These are paintings of Tyson in the ring, made out to look like the old, instant Polaroid photographs, with their distinctive borders and sometimes unusual color compositions. As he explains, “The [Polaroid] SX-70 had ‘happy accident’ technology built into it, because at times it could manifest real magic.”

The book is divided into six sections, including “Early Work,” “The Sketch,” “Portraits,” “Editorial Works,” “Film Work,” and “Photography.” One of Spalenka’s key early inspirations were the science fiction book covers of Frank Frazetta, along with such pop-cultural landmarks as The Jetsons and the original Adam West Batman show. Besides telling his own story, The Art of Greg Spalenka is also something of a primer for aspiring artists. His explanations of his process seem invaluable, and add a lot of context even for a person like myself, who know nothing of the process, but finds the images to be irresistible.

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