|Frank Bellamy: Radio Times (3 July 1976 - 9 July 1976)|
Doctor Who - The Planet of Evil
I received the following email recently from Owen Claxton -[before you search, much of his work is NSFW - links below]:
Firstly, I would like to thank and congratulate you on your work for the The Art of Frank Bellamy book. I’ve been a Bellamy fan ever since I bought the Timeview book as a young Doctor Who fan in the mid 80’s, I found that book so inspiring that I took up pen and ink drawing as a hobby. I persevered at drawing, went to art college and am now an artist myself. The recent book has given me much more info about the man, his methods, times he worked in as well as introducing me to more of his marvellous drawings, for which I’m very grateful!He then went on to ask me about Bellamy's technique - I responded with part of the Skinn/Gibbons interview and, with hope in my heart, asked him if he'd like to write a piece for the blog on how Bellamy inspired him! So I present (in two parts) another in the series "Fans of Frank": Owen Claxton.
OWEN CLAXTON: When I started school it was quickly discovered that I was mildly dyslexic and I found learning to read and write a frustrating chore. Consequently I tended to cast aside books for comics where I could follow the story by ‘reading’ the pictures and picking up the odd word or phrase that I understood from the captions. I found it much easier to learn to read from these bite sized captions with a pictorial context than from the dense pages of text in books. Eventually I managed to progress onto the books from my favourite TV show of the time 'Doctor Who'. I also loved to draw, maybe when I grew up I could draw comics and book covers too.
Like all young Doctor Who fans of the late 70’s and early 80’s I avidly scoured bookshops for the Target "Doctor Who" novels, on the lookout for another missing title to add to my ever growing collection. The appeal of these books wasn’t just the fantastic adventures within but the sumptuous artwork on the covers. The often brooding portraits of The Doctors surrounded by monstrous alien creatures always stood out amongst the Enid Blyton’s, CS Lewis, Black Beauty and other seemingly more wholesome fare of the children’s section.
|Andrew Skilleter cover|
|Jeff Cummins cover|
I quickly began to recognise the styles of the various artists responsible for these alluring images, occasionally the artist would get a credit so I could put a name to a style. Jeff Cummins and Andrew Skilleter, were two that stuck in my memory, but my early favourite was Chris Achilléos. Achilléos employed a dot stipple black ink technique that fascinated me, as a typical child with no patience I couldn’t begin to imagine how long it would take to build up all those individual dots to make such accurate images. In short it seemed like magic. Reading in Doctor Who Monthly I discovered that Chris Achilléos had been asked to draw in a similar style of another artist, Frank Bellamy, I was intrigued- Frank who?
|Radio Times 13-19 May 1972|
In those pre-internet days there was no easy way to discover information about anything remotely ‘niche’, so I resigned myself to never hearing anymore about this mystery artist or ever seeing any of his work. Then again in DWM I read that the aforementioned Andrew Skilleter had set up a company called Who Dares to promote his striking airbrush work, also he planned to publish two art books of work by his own illustration heroes, Frank Bellamy and Frank Hampson. I was excited by this prospect, not only would I get to see Bellamy’s work but there was another mysterious Frank out there to discover too!
|Frank Bellamy's son David wrote Timeview in 1985|
I was 12 when Who Dares published Timeview- The Complete Doctor Who Illustrations of Frank Bellamy in 1985, I pestered my mum to order me a copy as soon as it came out. It did not disappoint. I was blown away by the artwork and pored over every one trying to work out what it was that made them so compelling. I discarded my pencils for a dip pen and tried to copy many of them. I scoured the excellent text by Frank’s son David for any clue as to how his father approached his work. There wasn’t much for a young learner to grab onto- ‘never used process white’, ‘never did meticulous tracings’, ‘liked to get the essence of a photograph’ but I took them to heart and decided that’s what I must do to improve my own drawings. I have Frank to thank for getting into good habits early on!
|Chris Achilléos cover|
The two major works in the book are of course the 'Day of the Daleks' Radio Times cover and the colour illustration for 'Terror of the Zygons'. Frank’s depiction of the Skarasen Loch Ness Monster on the latter is just fabulous. Although it is extremely unfair to compare it with Achilléos’ version for the Target cover of the same story, I find it unavoidable. Achilléos does wonders breathing life into what was a very clumsy and unconvincing TV model but it doesn’t look as if it could give you more than nasty bite on the leg. In contrast Frank’s Skarasen twists and rears ready to lunge down and tear its prey apart with huge razor sharp claws that break out from the background frame. In the original story this fearsome cyborg was supposed to be able to sink oil rigs, here that terrifying potential seems credible. Again it’s wrong to compare two artists, Frank has obviously been given a much freer hand by RT than Achilléos has by Target books, the latter has been told to stay as true to the images from the TV programme as possible and has discussed before his frustrations that such constraints caused him. I don’t remember the creature on TV having claws but their addition by Frank is a masterstroke. Gratitude must go to the RT art director [David Driver ~Norman] for allowing Frank a free hand.
|Radio Times (30 August 1975 - 5 September 75)|
Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons
The beast is upon us, there seems no way of getting out of its way, with bloodlust in its eye and drool swishing from its mouth as it looms out of the darkness, The Doctor looks genuinely alarmed! Frank is a master of composition, here you have the Zygon spaceship blasting off upwards, the monster pushing forwards and to the right while in top right Tom Baker fixes us with his wide eyes, yet the whole drawing hangs together. The two rectangles of the background give stability but the way their edges are broken or sometimes left out stops them having a dulling effect and the jagged lightning border, the abstract shapes to Tom’s right and the zig-zagging wave of sea foam help to move the eye around the drawing and keep the two halves in harmony.
|Radio Times (1-7 January 1972)|
Doctor Who - Day of the Daleks
On the 'Day of the Daleks' cover he brilliantly uses negative space
on the left to break up the square format, the strong diagonal of the
speech bubble along with the foreground sucker arm breaking the right
border adds dynamism and the circle, which is not drawn but painted in
by colour alone, provides focus. The composition is so perfect you don’t
notice that Jon Pertwee doesn’t appear to have any ears. [He had a lot of hair covering them -~Norman] Also, note the
Dalek eye at the centre of the circle, a lesser artist such as myself
would be tempted to add more detail to that which would be the wrong
thing to do as it would pull focus and send The Doctor into the
background. One of the hardest things for an artist to learn is economy-
when to make a mark or to leave it out- it’s something that can only
really come from experience and a lot of drawing. Beauty comes from
simplicity. The more simply something can be drawn, the more beautiful
it will be. There are never any unnecessary lines or marks in Frank’s
work, if something like a Dalek eye can be convincingly suggested by
just a black oval and a bit of flat cream colour then why add anything
more? Something you see a lot of in his work is a half defined face, the
other half being lost in shadow or bleached out by bright light or even
cropped off entirely. This is economy, you only need half a face to
read the expression and if you’ve got tight deadlines you don’t have
time to render everything so you must decide what’s the simplest way to
get the story across dramatically and effectively. Less is more, it
allows the viewer to fill in the gaps with his or her own imagination.
|Twelve Doctors by Owen Claxton|