Brian Froud, World of Faerie (Imaginosis, 2007)

Ari Berk, Brian Froud's friend and collaborator, says in his foreword to World of Faerie ". . . .Faerie is not always easy to find, but sometimes, after a long and uncertain journey, there it is: well hidden, but waiting for you just past the veil of leaves." He also says that "Brian . . . is interested, always, in deepening the story of the world, not limiting it or reducing it." These two quotes encapsulate this book amazingly well.

Brian Froud's World of Faerie is a bit of a retrospective on his life and work so far, inasmuch as he discusses his beginnings in the art world, how he got started doing paintings for advertising, and art that he has thus far produced. This is not, however, some dry scholarly tome detailing the work of some long-dead artist. Brian Froud is very much alive, and so is his artwork. This book takes us on a journey through Faerie, through the eyes and mind of the premiere fairy artist of our time, and what a journey it is!

This hefty 172 page book of art and poetical text is what we would theoretically call a "coffee table book," at least in a world where there are still coffee tables displaying oversized books of art. For me, it's more of a "sipping Earl Grey with cat or two in lap and book propped on arm of couch" book. It's also not a "coffee table book" in the sense of moderate amusement value, or flipping through looking at the pretty pictures and then putting back on the table for display. This is a book you need to read more than once, in more than one frame of mind, and plan to spend many hours with.

You can wander through, looking at the paintings, looking into the paintings, discovering new worlds and revelling in the intricate details. Is that another faerie, there in the corner? Why, there are two more there that I didn't see the first time that I looked at this picture! Wait, is that a face in those leaves? Froud's paintings, like the land of Faerie itself, are full of hidden wonders around corners and in crevices that can go unnoticed and unseen even after several trips through -- and then suddenly, another bit leaps off the page, another magical being is revealed. Faeries and goblins, magicians and queens, elves and unnameable beings populate these pages, and as they are the work of years, finding them all might be the work of years as well.

You can read from beginning to end, drinking in Froud's poetic prose descriptions of how he works, bits of his life, and how he interacts with the Faerie world to create his art. He discusses his painting and his paintings, his artistry and his art. He captures little moments of Faerie and talks about both specific paintings and his general subjects, not so much explaining his world as using his world to give flashes of insight into a deeper reality.

You can stop to look at the several mini-booklets of story and art hidden in the larger pages: Peter & Wendy, Muse, or a mysterious book of Green Men and Green Women. . . .

Brian Froud's World of Faerie is a true reflection of the land of Faerie, insofar as anything can be; just as winding, secretive, shifting and beautiful, just as mysterious and fascinating. In the book, Froud says "Maps and charts are needed to find Neverland, for it is far, far away. But many have travelled there and left us clues to help us find it in our own time." Indeed, Brian Froud is one of the many who have travelled there and back again, but he is one of the few so truly able to illustrate it for us. He makes it much easier for us to connect with and discover, and this book is as fine an example of a map to beyond the fields we know as any you'll find, anywhere.

 

[Mia Nutick]

 

You can find more about Brian Froud's work at The World of Froud.