Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Wizard of Oz: Illustrations by Contemporary Artists

"25 Various Styles of The Wizard of Oz Illustrations"
The Design Inspiration (July 27, 2009)

"The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical-fantasy film mainly directed by Victor Fleming and based on the 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In the film, Dorothy, a schoolgirl living in Kansas, is struck unconsicious during a tornado. She dreams about how she and her dog Toto, with the help of a Scarecrow, a Tin man and a Cowardly Lion, find their way home from the magical world of Oz...."

Artists include, but are not limited to, Sebastian Giacobino Maurenilson Freire, Robb Mommaerts (two illustrations, pictured below), Skottie Young (also with two illustrations) and Maurenilson Freire (pictured below).

This post is mostly the 25 illustrations, by 23 artists: several of whom seem to have read parts of the book. Here's a sample:

Hats off to whoever compiled this collection of Wizard of Oz illustrations. There's a wide variety of styles - although the selection is limited to contemporary artists who display their work on Deviant Art. (That website's not what you might think: I've got some of my work there, too, as Norski.)

I've got no problem with artists creating new visualizations for stories like The Wizard of Oz. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a durable story: published in 1900, with many sequels written by L. Frank Baum, and the original still for sale in reprint (on, and elsewhere).

Although some illustrators choose to show Dorothy of Kansas wearing clothing that's appropriate to (or evocative of) that era, I don't see a problem with giving the subject a more contemporary look. Medieval artists 'updated' their illustrations of people in the Bible, dressing them in clothing that was familiar to their contemporaries. It could make sense to do the same with Dorothy of Kansas.

On the other hand, I think artists - and movie makers - should pay a little more attention to the characters they're re-thinking.

Let's take a fairly familiar set of characters: the people in Star Wars. Sure, an artist could show Luke Skywalker as a middle-aged guy with a pot belly, going through a mid-life crisis; Obi-Wan Kenobi as a thirty-something dude with long hair and the air of someone who'd gone on a few trips too many; and Princess Leia as a precocious thirteen-year-old.

But: would it make sense?

I've read The Wizard of Oz, and a number of Baum's sequels - they're pretty good stories, if you don't mind picking up your literature in the 'juvenile' section. As far as I can remember, Baum didn't nail down Dorothy's age: but it's hard to imagine her much older than 15 or 16. Judy Garland did a good job in the 1939 Wizard of Oz, but that's because she was pretty good at acting several years younger than she was at the time.

I wouldn't expect contemporary artists to mimic the illustrations by W. W. Denslow, but honestly now: fishnet pantyhose and the figure of someone in her mid-teens? At least? Oh, well, maybe I'm not artistic enough.

Here's a look at some of W. W. Denslow's art: which is a trifle more true to L. Frank Baum's descriptions than some.

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