Born in September 1960, Bob Eggleton’s SF and fantasy art has won him countless awards and hordes of fans devoted to his vivid depiction of the darkness waiting just over the horizon. His recent work as a concept artist for films such as The Ant Bully are proof of his versatility as an artist.
There’s a school of fantastic art that has sunk its roots deep into the earth and come up with something a little strange. Something that has you worrying about home security, the locks on the doors and that light in the basement.
Though his subject matter ranges from pure science fiction through to horror, the thing that unifies Bob Eggleton’s work is his ability to capture the sensation of wordless incomprehension – the precursor to both amazement and fear. His work has the ability to arrest the attention.
Bob learned to draw when he was about four or five: “My dad sat me down and taught me perspective,
and at 18 months – so Mum claims – I knew all my primary colours and could name them.”
Some years later, this bright-eyed beginning connected with the randomising Arthur C Clarke factor: “2001: A Space Odyssey was a turning point for me at nine years of age. It was like an epiphany in fact.”Dinosaurs
Pulling these observations together, Bob recalls his father taking him to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. “They had this Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit. I was four at the time, but it just blew my mind.” He could now put a name to it: “The fascination I had was with anything vast, or big. Whether it was the size of Godzilla or the immensity of space.”Alone in the vastness
If scale was the starting point, then an unwillingness to accept the world at face value was Bob’s chosen direction to head in. “Alone in the vastness,” he might be, but also, “standing on higher ground and fighting off the forces of mundanity.”
These two forces led to fantasy art: “I found SF and fantasy this terrific way of expressing ideas that some might not be able to accept if presented in a straightforward manner.” The kind of ideas that require dressing up to become palatable during times of conflict: “Star Trek did that well back in the Vietnam days.”
In a similar vein: “Godzilla is a warning against abuses of nuclear energy. The original, Japanese film Gojira is terrific and stands as a classic to this day.” Science fiction isn’t just about escapism and fun though, “It’s a way of looking at ideas, and the world, if you will.”Paying the Devil
Bob’s work isn’t all allegory though, there’s a note of darkness, which comes through, above and beyond the actual themes he works with. “I suppose I had a rough time on my own,” says Bob. “I had a lot of anger too, due to kind of being a ‘freak’ in high school.”
Merging these emotions with his visual flair gives Bob’s work a powerful energy source. “Thing is, I have this dark side,” he says, “but, unlike people who are scared of theirs, I kind of take mine out and have some fun with him. I look on it as paying the Devil his due.”
And the Devil is more than generous with the goods he supplies in return. A nine-time Hugo Award winner, Bob’s work stirs the imagination without ever slipping into cliché. At least part of the reason for this is his determination always to work from the source: “Art is exploration and evolution in action.”
This process has naturally taken Bob from book covers and illustration on to concept work for film. Although he’s credited as a ‘running extra’ in the 2002 film Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, he says: “My big break came when I got a call from John A Davis to work on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”
John wanted to work with the guys who inspired him so Bob found himself on a team that included Fred Gambino and Don Maitz. “We did a ton of work and designed a film in a record amount of time. You can see me in the monster Poultra and a lot of the creature stuff.”Reforming
The success of Jimmy Neutron meant that when John was shaping up for The Ant Bully he naturally wanted to reform the old team. “The thing about working in films is that you have to leave your ego at the door. A film should never look like the work of one artist, but a kind of amalgam of all the styles of work,” Bob points out.
Bob’s a busy guy. There’s another film project in the pipeline, book illustrations, covers for a new set of Brian Lumley stories and the daily updated art blog. It seems that life is just too brief: “I’ll never live long enough to do all my ideas.” In the face of that you have to make some decisions: “I have to do what I can.”
Somewhere in there you have to start thinking about your own needs: “I want to take time out and do some paintings for me!” says Bob. “Big epic kind of things.” Somehow you knew it wasn’t going to involve miniatures: “I like the ‘big picture,’” he laughs. “Once again it comes back to what I said about vastness. Claustrophobic is just not me.”
From issue 14.