Thursday, December 04, 2008

James Cawthorn / 1929-2008

Very sad news -- James Cawthorn, the fine sf/fantasy illustrator best known for his seminal visualizations of Elric of Melnibone, died Tuesday. John Coulthart eloquently commemorates Cawthorn's artistic contributions and his impact on the Elric saga. This quote from Mike Moorcock sums up that impact: "Jim Cawthorn and I have been inseparable for over twenty-five years, sometimes to the point where I can't remember which came first--the drawing or the story. It is his drawings of my characters which remain for me the most accurate, both in detail and in atmosphere. His interpretations in strip form will always be, for me, the best."

As for my own thoughts about Cawthorn--he and I never met, but because I'm currently doing illustrations for Del Rey's new editions of the Elric series, I almost feel like we have because I've studied his early Elric drawings so intently. When I visited Mike while preparing to illustrate the Del Rey edition, ELRIC: THE STEALER OF SOULS, I kept pressing him for his favorite visual takes on Elric. He was reluctant because he wanted me to be free to follow my own unbiased path, which is typical of Mike's generosity. Finally, he pointed to the image you see here and said he would always see Cawthorn's Elric as the definitive interpretation. It's a testament to Mike and Jim's genius that Elric so explosively fires the engines of all creators who encounter him. My work doesn't look anything like Cawthorn's, nor does Yoshitaka Amano's, Michael Whelan's, Robert Gould's, or any of the other illustrators that have added to the visual legacy of Elric. We've all tried to contribute our own unique vision to Elric. The angst, majesty, and power of the character never ages. Today, as Mike related the bad news of Jim's passing, I'm working on more Elric illustrations for the forthcoming ELRIC: THE REVENGE OF THE ROSE. The goodness of Jim Cawthorn's Elric drawings will remain in my thoughts as I finish the rest of this work. Thanks for lighting that first match, Jim.


Blogger Mair said...

John, thanks for sharing the information. It is always sad when someone leaves this world for the next. His vision will live on in his work...a form of immortality.

Mary Ann

4:51 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Thanks, Mair....his work will definitely be remembered by the Moorcock masses...

11:09 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I will not forget Cawthorn's work as I loved the Elric series and illustrations and am grateful to have met the other part of that team,Michael Moorcock, at the Nebulas this year.

Losing James Cawthorn and Forry Ackerman in the same week saddens me, as I wonder whom we shall lose next. Still, I am grateful to have seen the work and met some of the people who created it.

We are in the stage of our lives when we begin to see more of our heroes, mentors,& influences get their ticket to the next ride (my personal carney influenced metaphor), and while it makes me sad, that is a selfish thing. For those who go, I wonder what the next adventure will be like.

1:43 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Well said, Sara! :)

9:40 PM  

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