Paul Bonner is one of the most famous fantasy illustrators working nowadays; for over 20 years he has been producing great quality artworks for the most important games companies. His training was influenced at first by the work of Tolkien and by the Scandinavian fairy tales, and later by the paintings of John Bauer, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Ivan Shishkin.
Paul Bonner began his career illustrating many covers books, including those of the series World of Lone Wolf (Grey Star the Wizard, The Forbidden City, Beyond the Nightmare Gate, and War of the Wizards), and a couple of posters (Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander). He collaborated with games companies such as Games Workshop, and then he started working for Target Games on the series Mutant Chronicles. At the same time, Paul lent his visual suggestions to FASA Corporation, for which he realised some boards, appeared on the great Shadowrun. The latest works are those made for the French games company Rackham; these works contributed to shaping the mythological-fantasy universe created for miniature games Confrontation and Ragnarok. Instead, his works for the Swedish company Riotminds have allowed Paul Bonner to continue to explore his dearest mythological universe, the Scandinavian one. For the series Dungeons & Dragons he also developed the covers book of the adventures Die Vecna Die! and Into the Dragon's Lair. Recently, he has been engaged in the expansion of Magic: The Gathering, starting from Eventide.
In 2004, he was guest at Lucca Comics festival, and in 2005 he won a Silver in the Sprectrm (Spectrum) Award with Cadwallon Goblin. In 2008, his first works collection, Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner, was published for the games company Titan Books; this collection contains a “taste” (150 tables) of almost all of his major projects. Many Bonner’s works appeared several times also in the art books Spectrum.
The use of vivid colors, the sharp contrast of lights and shadows, the exaggerated characterization of personnages and their weapons are some of the main features of his work. Bonner has represented most of the races, although we can see a certain lack of Elves and a passion for the Orcs. Despite Bonner often reproduces scenes of battles, blood is rarely shown. His world is full of life and color, it is populated by heroes, fearsome, curious, and sometimes grotesque creatures. Figures, such as Orcs, notoriously and typically represented as wild, came out his pencils as nice and provided with imagination.
Thanks to Bonner, the stylistic standards, normally used to represent these heroes and these terrible creatures, were completely re-written. Instead of showing grunting, bloodthirsty monsters surrounded by explosions, Bonner represented their lives even outside the theater of war, highlighting their distinctive and wry sense of humor. This new imagery made them being loved by many young guys. In fact, these creatures cease to be simply killing machines or bloodthirsty beings, and become characters with a philosophical vein. In Bonner’s tables, Orcs love war, but they particulary enjoy the show that war represents, the stories of fighting, the smoke that comes out of their gigantic roaring machines, and the resulting chaos.
In his works Bonner uses mainly watercolors, and all his tables reveal a great attention to details and a refined illustrative technique. The attention to details is often maniacal: in fact, Paul gets to paint even the smallest details. You may notice this obsession in clothing, in skin, in ripped tissues, in the old blades with chipped border or worn hilt, in the backgrounds, in the stones, in the trees, in the handles, in the belt buckles, and in every little detail designed with great meticulousness. Every table is a world that begs to be explored, it is an adventure, a journey to another world where we will find humans and creatures fighting for their own survival.
Paul Bonner is definitely an absolute point of reference for any fan of fantasy in all its forms.
Hard to translate an illustration into a three dimensional piece. The balance between what you would naturally do, with your own style, colours, ideas and the respect of the painting, even if you really love that painting (it was my case, hopefully! This Bonner's painting if fantastic). The good point is the pleasure I had sculpting the characters, building the scenery and painting the whole project, but in the other hand I was always looking at the painting and comparing the work I was doing, and to be honest the painting is always superior, to my eyes. So the project also have a big part of frustation!
I'm happy with what I've done, but there are many points I would correct, and many others I would chose another way to make it, but well I just can't spend a year on a diorama and have to accept it and maybe try to do better the next time. Can't wait to start the new one!!