REVIEW: "Blacklight--The Art of Andrew Skilleter" Book

by Zepo
17 May 1998

RATING: 6 (of 10)

Skilliter, Andrew, _Blacklight: The Art of Andrew Skilliter_, 
(London: Doctor Who, 1995).

[Image of Cover]

     Doctor Who large-sized hardback titles have covered many aspects 
of the television show and its spin-offs.  A few times before there 
have been portfolios or books on the works of artists who have 
contributed artwork to the Doctor Who experience.  One of the more 
prolific artists of the 1980s was Andrew Skilleter.  The tome 
_Blacklight--The Art of Andrew Skilleter_ reproduces many of these 
pieces of art work and gives the artist a chance to tell his story 
within the real world of Doctor Who publishing. 
     Skilleter's narrative accompanying his artistic works range from 
his introduction to Doctor Who publishing, through the creation of 
his own publishing company (Who Dares) and to the possible end(?) of 
his Doctor Who illustrations at the time this book was published.  It 
gives a short overview of his illustrating career before Doctor Who 
and even reproduces a very few of his other works such as the cover 
of the Silva Screen CD for the John Wayne film _True Grit_ and the 
BBC Radio Collection cover for _Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the 
Wardrobe_.  It then covers the story of how he was commissioned for 
his first Doctor Who related work (the cover of the Target "Destiny 
of the Daleks" novelization) and how he was slowly sought after for 
more and more Who related projects.  Interesting is his insight into 
why certain covers appear the way they do, some containing a likeness 
of the Doctor, others not, or some with a certain subject.  He covers 
a few other events in the Doctor Who television program's history 
that are not often covered by other works, such as the BBC's Who Tour 
USA for which he was commissioned to design the illustrations for the 
side of the semi-tractor trailer that in 1986 travelled from city to 
city in the United States promoting Doctor Who.  However, his insight 
to these projects is very limited as we are given the viewpoint of 
only an illustrator involved in the project.  There is very little 
factual information into the production of the show or even the works 
themselves that would help researchers or even give new artists a few 
ideas.  This narrative is probably the low point of the book.  Even 
though Skilleter tries to cover his experience in Doctor Who 
publishing, he does not quite break down enough to give us any 
information that would lead us to any conclusions on how daily 
business in the show was handled.  Skilleter reveals to us that he 
illustrated other science fiction works such as pieces for _Star 
Wars_ well before his Doctor Who experience but he does not tell us 
with which works he was involved.  It is the fact that his previous 
works are hardly touched on that does not allow us to put his 
contributions for Doctor Who into a greater perspective.  Skilleter 
is a multi-talented artist but without a greater framework of his own 
projects, or a larger look at the works of other Doctor Who 
illustrators, it is hard to find a perspective for his works without 
a personal context greater than the book's own narrative.      The 
beauty of this book, however, lies in the illustration.  The works 
glow and truly allow Skilleter's use of color and composition to be 
properly featured.  It is quite fascinating and stunning to see many 
of the works on their own, free of the dulling interfearance of 
titles and logos which usually surrounded them when they were used on 
a book cover or a video box.  Some of the pieces of art work are 
reproduced for the first time in color or in the proper 
representation (rather than flipped backwards as on the video cover 
of "Vengeance on Varos").  A number of illustrations also have 
explanations in the side bars expanding on parts of the work 
or giving an interesting comment on the piece.  These are quite 
refreshing to read and often explain elements not included where the 
original works were featured, such as in the case of the Adrian 
Rigelsford and Andrew Skilleter book _Doctor Who: The Monsters_.  The 
book's illustrations allow the reader to see the changes in 
Skilleter's style.  His early works mirrored the form found in 
reality and the fictional Doctor Who universe exactly.  Later his 
style was quite different as he started to enjoy more curved lines 
and a style more biomechanical and alien.  His new style seems not to 
fit with the Doctor Who universe as seen in the program but, in the 
scope of an endless universe for the Doctor to travel in, they are 
often interesting (though in my personal opinion not as appealing).  
It is Andrew Skilleter's art that this book properly features as the 
focus and it is the art work that makes the book most interesting.  
Having been a person fortunate enough to have seen a number of the 
originals that appear in this book at convention art rooms such as 
Visions '96, I can say that the art works contained inside are 
reproduced in their true glory.
       _Blacklight--The Art of Andrew Skilleter_ is an amazing book 
if one enjoys the art work of Doctor Who.  It does not reveal much 
more about the program but captures Skilleter's works in all their 
majesty.  If one is not interested in art work related to the program 
I would not recommend this offering.  However, if one truly enjoys 
the mastery of ink and paint on canvas as related to the show, this 
is a book that should not be missed. 

(c) copyright Zepo, 1998.

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