Deader Than Disco: Art

  • Science Fiction book cover illustrations. Artists such as Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Michael Whelan, Frank Kelly Freas, Bob Eggleton, and their imitators illustrated tons of memorable illustrations for SF book covers and magazines during the 60, 70s and 80s. Their art was frequently collected into volumes such as the Terran Trade Authority and Great Space Battles. A large majority of these covers featured elaborate spaceships, big dumb objects, space battles, futuristic scenes and alien landscapes. Today's science fiction book covers are more mundane and minimalize the art in favor of displaying the author's name (especially if he's a big name) in bigger fonts as well as extra space for blurbs. Art, when present, typically feature human subjects, human character content being a selling point to today's more diverse (increasingly female) demographic. This is one of the reasons Elson (who has stated that his human figure drawing skills weren't up to par) became less prolific after spaceship covers went out of fashion. Books based on licensed properties (Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Star Wars) have moved away from hand drawn illustrations, replacing it with artwork that is clearly rendered using swiped (and Photoshopped) images from the franchise in question, probably to give the books a uniform appearance. Works that have been turned into recent blockbuster movies often reject illustrated covers entirely in favor of using photoshots of characters from the film (such as in print runs of The Lord of the Rings after 2001).
    • The Science Fiction cover art which had enjoyed some popularity in the Eastern Bloc during the heyday of Communism exploded like a supernova just after 1990 - throughout the 1990s, all translations and reprints of Western Sci Fi featured glorious covers imitating the above-quoted artists, with complex spaceships, images of deep space, galaxies, and space-suited buxom heroines (with the bad habit of copying Western covers from completely unrelated works for both translations and original books). Once the decade ended, the cover art style had become more tasteful, restricted and subtle.
  • Record album jacket covers: Once this was all that was needed to sell a record album, no matter how bad the album actually was. The phrase "Never judge an album by its cover'' was rarely heeded by customers. Beautifully illustrated album covers have often made the purchase of an unremarkable album worthwhile. Art has ranged from surreal, psychedelic to sci-fi/fantasy illustrations. Notable artists included Roger Dean, Hipgnosis, and Shusei Nagaoka. Today's CD covers are more decidedly pedestrian and minimalist, either sporting a naturalistic photo or group photo of the artist(s) or simply the logo of the band. With the increasing popularity of direct digital downloads, art for music packaging is likely to vanish altogether in the not too distant future.
  • In the late 19th century the contemporary art of the academy was hailed as great masterworks, and the art of the impressionist was all but vilified. Today it's the other way around.
  • Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries illustrations and advertisements were often hand-painted by artists, but beginning with the 70's, hand-illustrated advertisements and posters began to die out. While there are still illustrated advertisements in many magazines, they are often outright cartoons that don't even try to be photorealistic (as strange as it may now sound, those colorful, Norman Rockwell-style painted ads of the 1960s and earlier were done by illustrators trained at prestigious art schools, and were hailed at the time for their startling realism, in sharp contrast to the Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism of "serious" art world).
  • The movie poster also isn't what it used to be. Hand painted movie posters from pre 1990s films are still considered collectors items. Prolific artists included Frank Frazetta (What's New Pussycat?, Fire and Ice), Boris Vallejo (Barbarella, National Lampoon's European Vacation), Jim Steranko (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and the Brothers Hildebrant (Star Wars). These illustrators often drew the films characters larger than life and often highly stylized, though still recognizable. They also experimented with creative stylish layouts in which the cast and characters were not depicted at all in the poster, a practice which is absolutely frowned upon today given that big name stars are intended as part of the film's appeal. During The '90s, digital editing such as Photoshop enabled movie posters and advertisements to be created cheaply by staff on hand and in a minimum amount of time removing the expense of hiring a dedicated illustrator. This has resulted in movie posters that have very homogenous, formulaic, trope-ridden layouts and designs. They are no longer the unique, iconic works of art that caught moviegoers' attention in previous decades.