THE FABULOUS WOMEN OF BORIS VALLEJO AND JULIE BELL
by Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The husband and wife artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell are renowned for their portrayal of muscular humans in fantastic settings. As might be surmised by the title, The Fabulous Women of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell focuses on their portrayal of women in fantasy art.
The image of the warrior woman in a chain mail bikini is ubiquitous in fantasy art, as familiar to the public at large as bubble-headed spacemen rescuing women from the clutches of bug-eyed monsters. Vallejo and Bell's artwork is firmly in this tradition. However that is not to imply that their depictions of women are of the damsel in distress. Both Vallejo and Bell have clearly studied the human form, and depict the musculature of their subjects.
In fact, strength is practically universal in their depiction of women. From Vallejo's frontispiece "Lilith," showing a single woman (in a barely there bikini) attacking, and cowing, a group of three mail warriors through his "Never Fear," the last painting reproduced in the book, the women shown are strong. Even in "Never Fear," which shows a woman (in a barely there bikini) protecting a young girl, there is a strength in each of the women. While they may be concerned about whatever predicament they are in, they are not afraid to face it.
There is a distinct lack of victimization among all of the barely clad women who are shown in The Fabulous Women of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. In the relatively few paintings which depict men and women together, such as the aforementioned "Lilith," Vallejo's "Corissa," or Bell's "Jason and the Golden Fleece," women are constantly shown in control of the situation.
Their women also all have an air of sensuality and sexuality about them. Partly, of course, this is a result of the amount of flesh shown by the women and their poses, but mostly it has to do with the clear sense of determination they all show and the strength, not only physical, which comes from them. The main image in Bell's "Dragon's Mentor" lacks the bulging biceps of so many of the figures (but not the barely there bikini), but her general mien shows her power and sensuality.
If the book lacks on thing, it could use more descriptive passages describing Bell and Vallejo's process of creating their artwork and using models. Rather than have any extended descriptions, each painting is accompanied by the artist, title, date, and a short two or three sentence paragraph which might comment about the individual assignment, model, or piece of art. This is one area where more were certainly be better. Yes, Vallejo and Bell's art can stand on its own, but it already has done that on the book covers, magazines, and calendars where it originally appeared. This is the chance for the artists to add their own thoughts to the finished painting.
The reproduction of the artwork in The Fabulous Women of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell is colorful and clear, providing large images for the reader to appreciate. While there is some repetition in the images due to the theme of the book, both artists provide enough surprises to make the reader want to keep turning the pages and studying the imagery and techniques which these two artists use.
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