Ballistic Publishing and CGSociety are extremely happy to announce the availability of EXPOSÉ 11, the Digital Art Annual on the Ballistic site below and at all good book sellers. This gathering of digital artist's work contains 548 images in 21 categories, from 406 successful artists, 185 of them new to EXPOSÉ. There was hearty agreement among the Advisory Judges for British fantasy artist and designer Roger Dean to be the Grand Master of EXPOSÉ 11. Dean's art has helped pave the way for incredible invention throughout the artistic community.
Roger Dean’s father was in the army, so he grew up traveling all over the world. This gave him a unique overview of many different cultures and sparked in him an interest in the way design differs and changes in different countries. His family moved back to the UK from Hong Kong, and he left school at 16 and started at the Canterbury College of Art. “I had this idea that I’d like to design the future. A lot of my paintings at school tended to lean into the future. That was the one motivating force in my being where I was.”
As a younger man, Dean was also interested in natural history illustration. “I used to draw animals and birds ... but I was dragged out of a life drawing class by the principal at Canterbury, not for any reason but being young and impressionable. As I had maths and physics, I wasn’t allowed to do art, and I was sent off to do industrial design.” At the time, the Canterbury College of Art was trying to get accredited to offer an industrial design course. This meant that Dean bypassed the foundation course and jumped straight into heavy duty industrial design. “It was great that I was switched to design, but I didn’t like the way it was being taught,” he recalls. “I didn’t like that everything was a ‘box’. I used to challenge the tutors and ask ‘Why are we put in boxes?’ and I was given the old Bauhaus maxim in that ‘Form follows function’. I’d be directed to Corbusier, the founding father of modern architecture.” Corbusier’s idea was that the butcher, the baker and the banker should all live in identical boxes. Dean saw this as social engineering and was increasingly disillusioned with that aspect of design.
Although he completed his course, towards the end of it he had to make a choice between architecture and industrial design. “One of my tutors said I shouldn’t do either because I wouldn’t like them and they wouldn’t like me. He recommended strongly that I apply to the Royal College of Art and start a furniture design course, which I did.” Roger was using forms from nature as surface decoration and parts of 3D form in his creations. Organic forms were a huge inspiration for him. “I was designing a gyroscopic engine,” Dean explains, “and I had these cubes on my sketchbook, and I sort of jokingly put pine trees on them, and they were bouncing around in the air, kind of detached from gravity. That was ‘Flights’, around 1966.” (below)
At the Royal College of Art, Dean conducted some unique research on the psychology of the built environment, or, as Dean refers to it, “the psychology of architecture”. He studied what made people feel comfortable in buildings, and his research revealed that modern buildings presented problems for their inhabitants. It took a while longer for him to come up with some positive conclusions – a list of what to avoid and what to include in building construction. Upon leaving university, Roger quickly exhibited a ‘Sea Urchin’ beanbag chair, a piece of furniture borne from his research. Almost as soon as Dean was out into the job market, he won a contract to design the interior of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in the Soho theatre district of London. The owner-saxophonist saw Roger’s paintings he always carried with him, and asked if he would design an album cover for The Gun, a band he’d recently signed with his management company.
This was Roger’s chance to make some noise in the right crowd. “Doing the album covers, I could generate a very big audience and demonstrate an enthusiasm for my architecture through that,” he explains. Over the next few years, he featured a lot of his house and furniture designs, and, after his cover work for The Gun, he took on the album cover art world. “I did a cluster of jazz covers stemming from that first job, but they had a very fixed idea of what they wanted,” Roger says. Even still, there were new clients lining up. Roger designed a cover for pop band Osibisa, a robotic horse image for a band called Paladin, and then some work for Uriah Heep. He also did work for the prolific bands Yes and Led Zeppelin.
There was an element of fantasy and science fiction in Dean’s album work at the beginning, and he brought a degree of credibility to those genres with his designs. “If I put a machine into a painting, that machine had to look like it would work,” he says. Also, the architectural side of Dean’s work was based on a certain practicality. “Syd Mead once said he designs everything with the intention to be built, while I have designed buildings to be practical as well, and sometimes it just doesn’t get built. I am much more interested in things that could be built and perhaps, should be built, than science fiction.”