Connecting with Bob Eggleton
Picture a little boy growing up in the 1960's fascinated by fossils
and especially dinosaurs, which leads to a fannish devotion of the original
Godzilla movies. His world is inundated
with images from the heady days of the US space program, and that new
television show, Star Trek, so that's what he draws when he puts
pencils to paper.
Now picture that little boy not letting go of any of those boyhood
dreams as he grows into adulthood, instead he lives them one by one,
and that gives you a thumbnail sketch of who Bob Eggleton is.
As a child of the 1960's, science-fiction artist Bob Eggleton was possessed
with a sense of wonder for the world around him. Some 40 years later
it's clear through viewing his art (www.bobeggleton.com)
and talking to him that this sense of wonder hasn't diminished in the
least, and Bob has channelled these interests into the creative outlet
of drawing, designing and painting, and has gone on to make a living
from them in his adult life.
He claims his life was changed in 1969 when the Monolith in the movie,
2001, "spoke" to him. It was watching the movie that made him
decide at the age of 9 that he wanted to draw SF art for a living.
Bob was lucky that his interest in art was nurtured by his parents.
From an early age they provided money for art classes and the stimulation
of comic books.
He sites making $600 from selling portraits and landscapes the Christmas
he was 17 years old as an indicator that he could one day make a living
from his art, and he has relentlessly pursued that dream.
For a while, he probably felt like a square peg in a round hole, having
decided that art school/college wasn't for him. His work was out of
synch with what was being entered at local Rhode Island art shows. He
was entering renderings of dinosaurs and Star Wars characters while
others were showing more traditional and acceptable works of art such
as portraits and landscapes.
It was Eric Ladd who suggested Bob should explore showing his art at
science fiction conventions. On his first outing to a SF con, Bob met
Carl Lundgren, Don Maitz, Ron Walotsky and Michael Whelan. "Blown away
by their stuff," as he likes to put it, he was inspired to enter his
artwork in Norseacon II, the Worldcon in 1980, where he won the award
for "Best Monochrome Artwork" in the Amateur Division and found himself
surrounded by 5,000 other "odd" (i.e. just like him) people who loved
his artwork. The square peg had found his niche and hasn't looked back
Art shows led to art sales, and Bob soon began getting regular work
in magazines. His paintings have graced the covers of such magazines
as Fantasy and Science Fiction, SF Age, Analog and Asimov's,
and books such as Brian Lumley's Psychomec trilogy, Rulers of the
Darkness by Harry Turtledove, and C.J. Cherryh's book, Hammerfall,
the collection of "Skylark" stories by E.E. 'Doc' Smith, as well as
other covers for Tor and Baen Books, and other genre publishers.
In recent years he has provided conceptual art for The Star Trek Experience
ride in Las Vegas, and the movie Jimmy Neutron, which was nominated
for an Academy Award in 2002. Bob is currently working on The Ant
Bully, an animated feature film being produced by Playtone Picture.
While Bob says he has no preference for computer-generated art over
traditional art media, or vice versa, he does point out that he likes
to be involved at the beginning of a project. "It all begins with designs,"
he says. "You can have the most incredible computers on earth, and talented
renderers to render stuff, but they have to have designs to work from
in the first place. That is where I come in. I'd rather not do the animation
myself at all. That is a whole different ballgame. Takes a certain way
of thinking and, it's not mine, and I respect that. I would rather do
the pencil drawings that start the whole process."
There's a strong possibility that there's more conceptual design film
work slated on Bob's agenda in the future, but he won't be drawn to
talk about the subject.
Recently voted second most popular artist in a poll conducted by Locus,
Bob has been nominated for, and has won, a swag of awards, including
multiple Chesley and Hugo awards. The latest award to add to his trophy
cabinet is the ANLAB award presented by Analog magazine for best
cover in 2001. It shows a dinosaur/reptilian influence in the alien
pilot commanding his ship, with a planet appearing through the view
port in the background.
Indeed, a lot of Bob's work has been inspired or influenced by dinosaurs
in one form or another. He's worked with Dark Horse Comics on their
Godzilla series (#16), reportedly enjoying the writing of the comic
more than the actual drawing. He has also done Godzilla picture books
for young readers. He has also illustrated the young reader book, Watch
Out, Jar Jar! written by Kerry Milliron (Random House, 1999).
His painting, "Sue's World", one of two paintings used for the covers
of the program books for SF convention, Chicon, 2000, depicts a Tyrannosaurus
Rex in a prehistoric landscape. This inspiration for this painting was
"Sue", one of the largest T-Rex skeletons ever found, which is housed
in Chicago's Field Museum. The painting happily blends Bob's interests
in science and science fiction with his talent for art, while also marrying
the science and science-fiction theme for the 2000 World science fiction
Just as many of his paintings reflect his interests in dinosaurs, his
rendition of space ships as pointy, delicate constructions harks back
to classical SF paintings of the 40's and 50's when pointy rockets were
a recurring theme. One of these space ships made it onto the back cover
art for the Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes book, Encounter With Tiber.
If he hadn't pursued art as a career path, Bob thinks maybe he would
have pursued a career in astronomy if possible. When asked about space-art,
he sheds a surprising new light on the subject for the novice viewer,
stating: "A lot of space art -- especially the so-called 'accurate'
work, requires math to be used. And, as a consequence, it all looks
very diagrammatical -- like a scientist designed it or something. It
always seems to be the more we learn about space or the solar system,
the less imaginative it starts looking. The greatest sin is for space
art to look boring." He's also been quoted as saying, "Space art for
me is pure feeling, something that anyone can understand."
While Bob agrees science may have made space art a bit obsolete commercially
(magazines that previously called on artists to give a rendering of
a space scene can now turn to photographs taken by the Hubble telescope
for instance) there are still plenty of opportunities for the artist
to be inspired by the science. Take for instance, Bob's dramatic painting,
"Ocean of Ice". Described as a "self-commissioned piece", it was inspired
by the Galileo probe "finding huge chunks of ice, frozen in an ocean
of ice on the Jovian moon, Europa." His rendition of what the surface
of the moon might look like in close detail, captured the viewer's
imagination in a way the NASA photos could not.
There are times when it seems the artist takes a back seat, and Bob
Eggleton the would-be scientist/astronomer takes the lead. I have found
few artists of the genre who go into such scientific detail when describing
one of their paintings as Bob does with his painting, "Fountains of
Fire" (painted in 2001). Displayed on his web site, (www.bobeggleton.com)
he describes it thus: "This is a planet, close to a binary star system.
The small blue star is in fact a neutron star that is so dense its gravity
is sucking matter off the larger red sun. The flux of the gravity is
causing this world to be tormented by seismic and volcanic activity."
In a different, perhaps slightly lighter vein, one of his paintings,
commissioned by a friend, had to show an alien planet, with a galactic
background, and the planet "had
to look like Hawaii." It succeeds in meeting all the criteria, and is
also displayed on Bob's website.
When painting space art, as Bob puts it, "What I try to do is go beyond
Hubble. I go to places the Hubble (telescope) hasn't seen."
"Painters can capture things that photographers cannot," were the words
reviewer Martin Grampound used when describing Eggleton's book of art,
Greetings from Earth (Paper Tiger publications, ISBN 1 85585662X).
Another book, with images by Bob and text by Nigel Suckling, The
Book of Sea Monsters (Paper Tiger, ISBN 1 855854635) is devoted
to unusual sea creatures, the stuff of myths and legends, also received
A collaboration between Bob and author John Grant, called Dragonhenge,
was released in October 2002.
As the title suggests, its primary theme is dragons. Here again you
can find an interest in dinosaurs influencing Eggleston's dragon art.
Bob and John are working on a new book, The Stardragons.
When asked if he prefers creating fantasy art to space art, Bob admits
he goes through phases of preferring one to the other, but he says about
producing fantasy sketches and paintings, "(with) Fantasy, however,
you can do what you want, and that to me is more imaginative overall
... Fantasy is total escapism.
"Book projects are the most fun," Bob declares, though he seems ultra-enthusiastic
about all areas of his diversified career, and this becomes obvious
when talking to him.
He was the artist GoH at Chicon, the Worldcon in 2000, where he spent
a great deal of the con in a "fishbowl" -- a glass sided office, where
he spent a lot of the con painting costumer and fellow artist, Joy Day,
and explaining his techniques and talking to his growing legion of fans.
"I sort of go into a different mode of thinking when I do public work.
I just coast and let the work flow out of me. You step aside and let
it come out." It's an experiment that Bob's been asked to repeat at
other cons both in America, and overseas. He attends, and shows his
art at about 10 conventions a year, and admits that his outlook is changing.
He'd like to concentrate on more personal commissions, and says, "I'm
more interested in making things that count rather than just doing one
paid job after another and not enjoying life." He also says, "Life is
short. Too short to do bad art!"
With his wife, ex-pat Australian, Marianne Plumridge, he has visited
Australia several times, and doesn't discount the idea of either living
here on a part-time basis, or perhaps eventually retiring to Australia
in the future. Bob also says he'd love to be invited to attend
as a Guest of Honour at an Australian con at some time.
Where a lot of artists prefer quiet and solitude, Bob isn't fazed by
interacting with the public at all. "It's a lot of fun to talk to people
and connect with fans," he states. "That is what's most important, if
people like your work you have to go out and connect with them."
© Edwina Harvey 2003.
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