Monday, February 09, 2009

Good Faeries, Bad Faeries

As many of you are aware, I am a huge fan of Brian Froud’s work. I got into it almost three years ago and have since bought almost all of his books. You need to be aware that I was going into this knowing that I was going to love it. There was never any question about that.

There’s just something very organic about the way Brian Froud draws. His sketches are often simple, even rudimentary (depending on the subject), but they’re so expressive and lively that they don’t need any additional line work or color. That’s not to say that his color work isn’t amazing, of course. In another of his books (The World of Froud), he explains the geometric pattern that lies beneath all of his paintings. Where Brian’s sketches are organic and unstructured, his paintings are carefully lain out along this pattern, which creates this beautiful symmetry and balance in the figure(s).

And his paintings are incredibly unique in the way that the human eye perceives them. There’s not much variance in terms of light/dark contrast in each of the characters individually, and there’s little three dimensional set up in terms of foreground and background. Each figure is placed in the same plane as all of the other figures. Our eyes register this as something off, but it isn’t something that you’d necessarily be looking for. It just makes viewing his work a memorable experience, like looking at an intricate tapestry.

One aspect of Brian Froud’s work that I’ve mentioned before in my video reviews as something that I particularly enjoy is the layout of his books. In his book Goblins! for instance, paragraphs were flipped, words were crossed out, and a general mess was made of the text by the goblins depicted in the book. When you pick up a Brian Froud book, you’re experiencing more than just words and pictures- you have a tangible experience of the book itself. Changing the way you hold the book and read the words changes how you think about the subject.

Which is the whole point of the book anyway. If you understand one thing after reading this book, it’s that things aren’t always what they seem. Not all Faeries are good, but neither are all of them bad.

Good Faeries/Bad Faeries is really two books. If you’ve picked up Good Faeries, Bad Faeries is on the back and reversed. The good Faeries are literally the reverse of the bad Faeries, and as you read towards the middle, the Faeries get more and more vague. Some bad Faeries are on the Good Faerie side, some good Faeries are on the Bad Faerie side, and some Faeries have faces on both sides, so you never really know what you’re looking at.

The spectrum is complicated and fascinating, and the writing is lovely.

It’s amazing how much information is contained within only a few sentences. In one short paragraph, Brian Froud can provide the basic history of the creature, cite its appearances in three different cultures, and crack a joke, all without sounding like droning mythology professor. His tone is consistently conversational, so it reads as if you were having a chat at your kitchen table, and his personal stories and anecdotes make his writing a joy to read.

As per my usual, I’d recommend this book to anyone at all interested in Faeries. Perhaps not young children, as there is quite a lot of information to read, but certainly anyone above the age of twelve.

No comments: