For my latest piece of artwork, I finally decided to create something inspired by my favourite SF novel – The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke. Not only was this the book which sparked my obsession with reading science fiction, but it also re-ignited my passion for SF art, thanks to Chris Moore’s amazing cover artwork.
I had always been hesitant in doing an illustration based on The City and the Stars, as I feared it might never be as epic or stunning as Moore’s cover to the Gollancz paperback, nor do justice to such an awe-inspiring novel. But then I decided to ignore any artistic inferiority complex, and simply make my version – a piece in my own style that embodied the concept of the book, while looking at another angle of visualising the it.
The joy of working digitally meant I had a great deal of flexibility. Taking the novel’s protagonist Alvin, and the domed city of Diaspar, the first version I created showed a silhouetted figure staring back towards the city.
From this, I tried a second version, without the figure, instead adding a starship (which if you’ve read the book, you’ll know its relevance). The addition of a planet in the sky was more metaphorical, suggesting the notion of other worlds beyond our own. Overall I didn’t think this worked as well without the human element – it’s key to the book after all!
I looked at the dozens of covers the book has had over the decade – some better than others; some brilliant, some completely irrelevant! So I was pretty confident my interpretation was going along the right lines, but I wanted to create something that would also work as a piece in its own right, outside of the original inspiration.
The finished piece – "Last City"
All the elements were in place, and it was simply a case of finding the right balance. So here’s the final version, now titled Last City, which was derived from a tagline on one of the early editions, “It was the last city built on Earth”.
This takes the piece into its own, especially viewed with Richard Hayes’ accompanying text, which you can read on my website…