We at Leading Edge Magazine are saddened to hear of the passing of James C. Christensen, one of the most prominent fantasy artists. After a long battle with cancer, he passed on at age 74. Our condolences are with his family. The Deseret News wrote a wonderful piece on Christensen’s life, which was full of beautiful and fantastical things; you can read it here.
We were fortunate to have Christensen illustrate the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue, Issue 41, way back in 2001. The cover went on to win the 2002 Chesley Award for cover artwork, adding another award to Christensen’s many. You can view the cover below. He also agreed to be interviewed by our staff; the interview was conducted by now-famous horror author Dan Wells while he was on the Leading Edge staff. Below is an excerpt from that interview.
DW: Most people consider your art to be a bridge between fine art and fantasy art. Is that something you’ve done consciously?
JC: I like the idea that somebody thinks that. I didn’t start out as an illustrator, and a lot of fantasy artists make their living being illustrators and doing book covers because book covers, game materials, and magazine work is how you make a living. I started out as a painter who just happened to like to do some of that kind of work. So yes, I probably am kind of a bridge. In my years at BYU I taught in both the illustration department and the fine arts department.
DW: Human follies is a great theme that runs through your paintings.
JC: I do deal with the things I see in real life. People say “Where do you get your ideas?” and I say, “Right here. We’re doing it right now.” I look at people. I look at selfishness, I look at pretension, at thoughtlessness, and I’ll portray those, but I try to do it in a way that’s fun enough that we laugh at ourselves. I’m not interested in this big dark art, where the world is going to hell in a handbasket and people are no good and tomorrow we die. We can see that on the news. I’m more interested in the possibilities. Pointing at something and going “Take a laugh at that, then get over it.” Boyd K. Packer once said that artists should think more about what life could be than what it is.
DW: Any final words?
JC: … The best advice for kids, I think, is “Get Good.” My mantra is “Get Good.” You can be the best there is at what you do, and you will always have opportunities. You will not be denied. But you have to be really, really good at it—the best you can be. There’s a lot of people out there who are better painters than me, but I’m doing my best, and I’m getting better, and I’m good enough that I now get the opportunities.
Issue 41 was dedicated to Marion K. “Doc” Smith, the fearless educator without whom Leading Edge Magazine would not exist. Issue 41 was lead by Brandon Sanderson (Editor in Chief), Peter Ahlstrom (Managing Editor), Dan Wells (Associate Editor), Matt Jones (Fiction Director), Jeffrey Creer (Art Director), and Greg Creer and Izzy Teichrieb (Production Directors).