Book Review: Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner

Book Review: Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner

Paul Bonner is one of the finest fantasy illustrator around. This book is a collection of over 150 paintings he has created for many big name clients, namely Games Workshop, Mutant Chronicles, Fasa, Riot Minds and Rackham.

I love his style of mixing stylized creatures, extreme details and a little quirkiness into all his paintings. Imagine a desperate monster holding a human hostage, or maybe an orc wearing the head of a mammoth as helmet. The details in the design of characters, costumes and background makes everything looks so believable.

Although his paintings capture a frame in fantasy time, I always imagine what would happen in the next frame, to learn more about the story of that world. The composition is wonderful, always framing the scene when the characters are suspended in action.

And all these paintings are done on traditional medium. There are a few photos of his workplace at the back.

Throughout the book, there are writeup from people he has worked with. He also talks about his college days, his travels in Europe and his creative process.

If you're interested in fantasy art with lots of orcs, dragons, warriors, intricate armour design and dinosaurs, this book is for you. Oh, there are no elves, but there are a few human character designs as well.

The book is printed in low gloss high art quality paper.

Here are some quotes from people he worked with:

John Howe, who wrote the preface:

There is no contradiction between fantasy and functionality in his work. His costumes are colourful and his weapons and armour outrageous and original, but they work. Paul doesn't just look at landscapes, he knows his history too. All his illustrations are a masterful distillation of anecdote and archetype.

Theodore Bergquist (RiotMinds):

Paul is second to none when it comes to details and design. Looking at his paintings you'll find so many beautiful intricacies, not only in terms of a figure's accountrements, anatomy and expression, but also how the light plays with the surroundings, how the shadows shroud the forest and how it all reflects from a dark pool.

Jim Nelson:

Expressions and anatomy aren't simply exaggerated in Paul's art, they are amplified, given a presence within the picture that commands the viewer's attention. You can believe the darwes, trolls and beasties in Paul's work are real beacause they look as if they have lived. The lines on their faces suggest experience. They appear as multi-dimensional individuals with distinct quirks and personalities.

Others who wrote on their experience working with Paul Bonner includes Jean Bey (creator of Rackham), Nils Gulliksson (creative director 1985-1999 Target Games AB), John Blanche.

You can see more of Paul Bonner's work at

Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner - 01

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Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner - 11

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You've convinced me to buy two books this evening, Parka. The Art of Mass effect and this book.

Shame on you!
I was sold on the first picture, before even watching the video review, haha. This book looks really good. I think it's been in my cart before but I've always removed it before checking out.


Thanks fro the review! I've been contemplating whether to get this book or not, you're words and pics have now convinced me! cheers!

At first glance this book is quite impressive especially the fantasy creatures. All the more tempting to purchase when it first came out at the local art book shop because it was relatively cheap.
But what held me back was one particular piece called "Bauhaus Winter Campaign" (under Mutant Chronicles page 1 on his website). The huge tank in the background is an exact copy of Miyazaki's Akuyaku tank from his "Daydream Notes" book. I can understand an homage or tribute so I searched for any mention of this on his book and there was none.…
That turned me off completely from buying the book. Everytime I see it, I'm tempted to get it, but I remind myself not to.

Wow, orange3d, you can even catch that detail. Amazing.

It's not mentioned probably because Paul Bonner doesn't caption each of the illustrations in the book except for the title. So we'll never know his inspiration for that specific piece.

I fell in love with this book at first glance, and I hadn't read this review at the time. I was in the book shop, saw this minotaur-like creature on a shelve... It just took a few seconds and pages to make me buy it ! Paul Bonner's artworks are stunning, he's probably one of my favourite fantasy artists as of now. The fact that John Howe wrote the preface is a good hint already... :)

Paul Bonner's technique is near perfect ; his landscapes are beautiful and natural, his creatures and characters very lively and primal. There's always something caricatural to the poses, faces and expressions, but it's well-enough measured that it doesn't turn ridiculous or steals the global power of the drawing. What strikes me the most is the incredibly realistic lighting and the liveliness of the colors - and it's all natural, nothing digital ! Very few artists can boast such skills nowadays.

When I first went through the pages, I recognized many artworks as stuff that kept inspiring me when I was a kid. At the time I was fond of all fantasy art such as what could be seen in Dragon Magazine, RPG manuals and merchandising from TSR... Besides Jeff Easley, Keith Parkinson, Frank Frazetta or Brom, Paul Bonner was already there yet I didn't know his name. Now, as I've stumbled upon this wonderful artbook many years later, I can finally put a name on these terrific pieces of art ! Long live Paul Bonner. :D

In reply to by orange3d (not verified)

You are damn right it is the same tank. Most probably this guy Miyazaki is the one that has invented it but from there on many artists can draw the same thing if they are asked to. For an example you work for marvel and they ask u to draw spiderman vs godzila or smth -u have a clear vision what these chars look like and you MUST draw them that same way. I guess it is the same here , because when the art director sends u a meil with what the next game card should be like, he/she would include such detail like: Akuyaku tank in the background and PS : dont warry, we have arranged everything, u can copy the tank concept. Do not doubt that Paul is a great and unique artist. His skills are godlike and his concepts are one of a kind, and among all his brand new chars, if he has one tank that has been coppied , well... go take his book God damn it, it is totally worth it.
Best regards

Buenas buenas... muy contento acabo de adquirir esteart book yme quede anonadado, perplejo, ipnotizado... este sr. bonner es un artista de otro mundo... aqui entre nos me encantaria ser parte de ese mundo tam maravilloso... oviamente la referencia de este art book la tome de este gran sitio gracias de nuevo sr. parka... saludos desde colombia.

The artist of my childhood. Something beautiful! I have and will not give!

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