June 6, 2023
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Art of Ron Cobb by Jacob Johnston
There are not many things I get really excited about when I hear about them. Interested, sure. Really excited? Nope. But when I heard that a new book covering the work of legend Ron Cobb was coming out, I got excited. Really excited. And I got to say ‘The Art of Ron Cobb’ did not disappoint.
For those that know of him, Ron Cobb was one of the great concept artists/designers, right up there with the likes of Ralph McQuarrie; perhaps even greater. For those that don’t, Cobb was truly one of the seminal fictional visionaries, having been responsible for so many of the great on-screen designs that set the standard the minute they appeared; most of which have become iconic in their own right. Oddly though, the cataloguing of his work was rare at best and up until this book, there had been only one – ‘Ron Cobb – Colour Vision’ printed in 1980, which was actually prior to much of his now legendary work hitting the big screen.
‘The Art of Ron Cobb’ more than makes up for this absence, but as life goes, the book was released after Cobb’s death, so is now not so much a catalogue but a tribute to one of the greats.
It’s hard to put into words just how influential Cobb was without gushing, the selected images I’ve posted here can do more for that than I ever could. But perhaps what I found most surprised, as I worked my way slowly through the book, one page at a time, was just how deep his reach was – he was responsible for designs that I never had any idea of but knew intimately well. Even more surprising than that, having always thought Cobb an Industrial Designer, or similar based on his meticulous drawing and draftsmanship, that he in fact started out as a cartoonist first and then moved into other fields. You would never guess this looking at his near technically fastidious work.
In terms of a tome to one man’s work, I feel that ‘The Art of Ron Cobb’ hits all the right spots. Jacob Johnston’s text is detailed, easy to read and more importantly, insightful. And the accumulated body of work astounding, covering just about every aspect of Cobb’s career in film, TV and print. The cataloguing of Cobb’s process from sketches, to plans and elevations and illustration shows the uncanny and rare breadth of ability to turn ideas into near reality, is beyond impressive. As a designer, I know how rare it is to find someone that can cover every base equally well, especially today.
James Cameron in his foreword states that Cobb’s work is still important today and will stand the test of time. Flicking through the book for the umpteenth time as I write this I could not agree more – his work is a bedrock for those that follow, to learn from and admire… to learn how it’s done… properly.