Artist Spotlight: John Blanche

About a week ago,
asked who John Blanche is. I didn’t get a comment notification so I
just now noticed his question. Been getting notifiations at really
wierd times lately, it seems. A number of them have come weeks after
the fact. Thus, an Artist Spotlight!

Anyhow, this dwarf-looking guy below is John Blanche.

He’s been a prominent and highly influential fantasy gaming-related
artist since the seventies (he painted the first full-color White Dwarf
cover in 1977, for example), and got his first break thanks to
album-cover artist Roger Dean. A lot of his imagery is heavily informed
by a mix of punk and late medieval/early renaissance/gothic sources,
with an aggressively bent and grungy edge to things – though his
private work tends to be much more introspective and visionary in tone.
He cites his influences as including Rembrandt, Bosch, Dürer, Da Vinci
and Edward Burn (all of the above being visible in his work as well) –
many of the same artists that I most admire. He’s worked with Steve
Jackson and numerous others, but he is best known for his work with
Games Workshop, where he has been working for over twenty years and is
now the art director. Several books of his work exist, most notably his
1989 collaboration with fellow Dürer/Bosch-inspired artist Ian Miller
(another artist I’m very fond of), Ratspike. Also, a number of
collections of his sketches are available, like The Inquisitor
Sketchbook. Regrettably most of the reproductions of his images I found
online were really really big so I’ve kept the number down.

Here are a few of his images:

Adepta Sororitas – the cover from Codex: Sisters of Battle.

John tends to see fantasy as a very Moorcockian/Dickensian sort of
thing:  it’s dark, grungy, oppressive and brutal, but at the same
time there are rays of hope, majesty and a place somewhere in there for
a bit of ironic justice. His people are very, very flawed.

“The Face” this is a watercolor painting that ended up as a novel cover, but I’m not sure what book or the date.

John Blanche firmly believes in giving life and meaning to the
fictional universes he depicts, and in trying to push the artists that
he guides at GW to “make our art visionary, make it lyrical, give it a narrative.” The above is a detail of a fairly typical JB illustration.

I also like that he doesn’t feel trapped to represent the same figure
in exactly the same way, like in the last Blanche image I’ll put in
here: my favorite of his (numerous and very different) depictions of
the Emperor of Mankind from warhammer 40,000. It and Wil Rees’s
depiction from the Rogue Trader book will forever define The Emperor
for me.

A few of his many well-known pieces include the iconic Knight Panther, The Enemy Within (Der Fiend Drinnen), Hrothyogg’s Tower, his spin on the Mona Lisa and Jonah (Death’s Dark Shadow).

I have a love/hate relationship with his work. I love a lot of it, and
I hate a lot of it. I do appreciate where he’s trying to go with it all.


4 Responses to “Artist Spotlight: John Blanche”

  1. devolve_absolve Says:

    I love Blanche. His art just sums up 40k to me. Even the pieces I don’t like give it a repulsive feel which only adds to the whole universe.

    it’s a shame GW can’t get the consistency or game rules to do the history of the universe justice =(

  2. creativedv8tion Says:

    Very cool stuff, thanks for the exposition.

  3. uhlrik Says:

    His art just sums up 40k to me. Even the pieces I don’t like give it a repulsive feel which only adds to the whole universe.

    Absolutely. On an individual level, not all of his works do it for me, but taken as a whole, they unify the whole shebang and are the defining force of two universes, plus he leads the rest of the artists’ stable in coordinated effort and individual creativity yet still gets consistency out of the lot of them. That’s an amazing achievement.

    As you say, if only the writers could manage the same.

  4. uhlrik Says:

    Any time, my friend. I love to share.

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