I’ve long had a fascination with airships. The idea of an aircraft that drifts slowly through the sea of sky, gently buoyed by the density of air rather than forcing its way up with raw power, has always seemed appealing. If they ever get around to offering luxury cruises by airship, I’ll be among the first to sign up.
It was airships that attracted me to Tom Kidd’s work. I first encountered his illustrations a number of years ago at a comics and science fiction convention (somewhere on Long Island) in which some of his originals were on display as part of the art show. The first thing I noticed were his wonderful depictions of airships, not ordinary airships, mind you, but airships as H.G Wells might have enjoyed them, imaginatively designed, richly decorated and finely arrayed.
The paintings were from an ongoing project of Kidd’s called Gnemo, a series of images of a fantastical world, the origin of which he assigns to a mythical artist of the same name.
The name, of course, it a take off on the lead character from Winsor McCay’s incredible newspaper strip from the early 20th Century, Little Nemo In Slumberland. The world Kidd has conjured up, in fact is filled with references to McCay (such at the name of the city pictured here, “Winsor McCay City”) and other famous illustrators and artists like Wyeth, Schoonover, Pyle, Dunne, Moran, Sloane, Krenkel and others.
Kidd is a fantasy and science fiction illustrator who has done illustrations for publishers like Tor Books, Random House, Doubleday and William Morrow. He has also done work for Marvel Comics and has illustrated versions of classic books like Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (gallery here) and Wells’ The War of The Worlds. His illustrations can also be found in The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories, written by Liz Williams, and in the new collection of his work, Kiddography: The Art and Life of Tom Kidd.
Kiddogrophy is also the name of Kidd’s blog, in which he posts his work, both recent and past, and talks about how it was created, including a detailed discussion of the Gnemo image of Winsor McCay City shown here. The blog is supplemented with another, Gnemo’s Sketchbook, dedicated to the imaginary artist from which Kidd supposedly “inherited” the drawings.
Kidd’s illustrations run from straight-ahead science fiction subjects to dragons-and-wizards fantasy, but the ones I enjoy most, in addition to the Gnemo illustrations, are the ones in which his penchant for portraying the style and feeling of Victorian fantasy holds sway. His illustrations are richly colored, wonderfully imaginative and often lavishly detailed.
Kidd is a 4-time winner of Science Fiction’s prestigious Hugo Award and a 5-time winner of the Chesley Award, named for pioneering space illustrator Chesley Bonestell, who Kidd lists as one of his influences.
There are quite a few images on Kidd’s site, and there is a nice click-through feature for browsing through them, but many of them are unfortunately a bit small to get a real feeling for his work. I’ve listed a couple of unofficial galleries below with larger images, but they require a strong pop-up blocker and stomach for animated banner ads.
Kidd is currently working on a new book with more of his delightful flights of fancy on the Gnemo theme, Gnemo: Airships, Adventure, Exploration. Hopefully, it will be among the books found in the reading rooms on the next generation of luxury cruise airships.