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Interview

Alex Jay Brady p4

Artist Alex Jay Brady talks about some favorite novels by American author Greg Bear, which influenced one of her pictures…

READERSVOICE.COM: The drill string lifting volatiles into orbit for fuel in I drink Your Milkshake was inspired by Greg Bear. And Evacuation was inspired by Forge of God by Greg Bear. What is it you liked about his works?

ALEX JAY BRADY: I was completely blown away by Eon and Blood Music as a teenager and still haven’t really found another writer who can combine big whizzbang sci fi ideas with smart emotional characters and interesting themes. Usually it’s one or the other. It reminds me of the way James Cameron could nimbly juggle blockbuster entertainment with themes of motherhood in his classic 80s and 90s movies.
Anvil of Stars is in my opinion Bear’s most under-rated book and also his best. I read it before reading the first book in the series and enjoyed being thrown into the situation. Some of the images of the voyage of that latter-day Dawn Treader [A Narnian ship in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in The Chronicles of Narnia series of novels by C.S. Lewis] will always be burned into my mind and the rumination on the themes of justice, vengeance, mercy and genocide are very relevant today.
The drill string, called a Stirrer in the book, represents high technology and huge energies at work but it’s basically a petrol pump. Some things never change. It was a fun opportunity to play with perspective, like those Dali paintings of the tiger spitting a rifle, jumping out of the mouth of a larger tiger which is in turn leaping from the maw of a giant fish.
I love Dali.

RV: Do you always start with a paint-like sketch before you create photography-like scifi works? Do you use Photoshop for concept sketches like Alien Covenant : In Utero?

AJB: For the In Utero VR job, I worked with a sketch by Bill Thompson. Big projects are always very collaborative, with people working with sketches by a different artist. It’s actually great fun, especially seeing others rework one’s own contributions.
In a big project you are given an understanding of what’s needed and a reference folder, and I work the same way in my own stuff. Usually I’m triggered by reading a novel or New Scientist, and then pursue materials related to that idea.
Then back-of-the-napkin pen sketches, trying to put the images my imagination automatically creates onto the page, and then building simple models.
My method is pretty similar to folks who construct scale props of spacecraft for movies; basic idea, block in, refinement, paint scheme, decals, posing the finished model in a diorama. The fun aspect of computers is I can make my models do stuff that’s difficult and expensive to achieve with a physical model; functions like undo, copy-paste, scale are much harder to do with physical models!!
In my online portfolio, I’ve tried to group and order work chronologically, so you can see the process from idea to finished images.

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-copyright Simon Sandall