Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Perfect Passage: Schoenherr

Greg Manchess

John Schoenherr's compositions are among the very best in illustration. His command of picture space allowed for large open areas to give his elements breathing room, and yet never feel empty. He positioned his subjects to control space without taking up space.

Schoenherr’s paintings for DUNE were perhaps the first visualizations of the book that captured the imaginative story with the right amount of description. His design for the sandworm mouth is so simple and classic that no one has improved it.

In the depiction above, of the sandworm battle with the Sardukar, the entire painting hinges on the way the light has sliced through a break in the clouds, just capturing the lips and illuminating the soldiers with differing levels of value, showing how many are pulled into the maul of the worm while others are still firing away. The contrast is both exquisite and dramatic.

The grouping of the figures is as important and intentional a design element as the bits of sand clumped and blowing through the scene.

Another masterful depiction, achieving a grand sense of scale and beautiful night light...


  1. These are just pure genius! I'm looking up more of his works now!

  2. This artist is still the definitive illustrator for Dune.The sense of scale and awe , comes across so well.

  3. This artist is still the definitive illustrator for Dune.The sense of scale and awe , comes across so well.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. HIs black and white work for Dune was amazing too- Here are a bunch of images. Wish there was a book collecting his dune work this is the closest it will ever happen.

  6. Thanks for that link matt.A lot of the B&W stuff was new to me.

  7. Gary all those images are from that one illustrated dune book. worth finding a copy.

  8. Thanks, Matt! You're right....would be a nice art book. Actually, a book on all of John's work would be great.

  9. I was lucky enough to find a copy of the pre-film Dune Encyclopedia (correct name?) a few years back. It had several paintings by Schoenherr that I had not previously seen. Truly a master of scale and composition.

  10. Thanks for writing this, Greg. Rumor has it that I'm compiling a book of ALL of my father's DUNE illustrations - or at least as many as I can locate.

    1. What?! Amazing! Thanks for the heads up, Ian! If you need help getting the word out later, please let us know.

  11. FANTASTIC, Ian!! (Have been traveling and missed comments) I hope that they are shown as large as possible in the book. Such remarkable work!
    Yes--please keep us informed of the progress, and if you need a review post or just to gush, happy to help!


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