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Enchanted World Reviews

Reviewed by Charles de Lint

Text by John Grant
Paper Tiger, 2000; 112pp; $29.95
Hardcover; ISBN 1-85595-830-4

Much is made of the fact that Anne Sudworth's work is Fine Art rather than illustration, with the distinction rather strongly hinted that illustration is somewhat of a poor cousin to Fine Art. Normally that would annoy me, but as I went through the book I became more amused instead since the weakest work to be found here are Sudworth's paintings with figures (her wizards and fairies), fantastical creatures (dragons, unicorns), and her few book covers (for a number of Storm Constantine novels)-in other words, the more illustrative work. Her biographer John Grant shouldn't toss stones from inside the glass house of his text.

But with that said, I have to admit that Sudworth's arboreal paintings and her landscapes--particularly their skies--are quite stunning. There's little fantastical in either (for all that both Sudworth and Grant appear to think that they're the embodiment of what fantasy art should be), but they are fascinating, and while they could certainly serve as the backdrop for any fantasy painting, they work very well as they stand. The trees in the arboreal paintings are especially striking with the strong light that appears to pour right out of their bark.

Also present are a handful of figurative works that are more mainstream (horse races, riders, etc.). Oddly (considering the weakness of the fantasy figures), these are far more satisfying in terms of technique and overall design.

Grant's text is a little gushy in places; one quickly gets the idea Sudworth is his favorite artist--nothing wrong with that, of course, though it does get a little tiresome. But happily most of the text concentrates on the origins of the art and Sudworth's techniques, with sidebars of Sudworth's own commentaries and fascinating snippets of folk and fairy lore.

Enchanted World isn't really successful as a whole, but I'd recommend it on the strength of the arboreal paintings alone. Anyone who appreciates trees will love these ones that Sudworth has brought to life with her evocative pastels.