Another great artist whose work I sought out while I was living in Madrid and working on Conan the Barbarian was the incredible Spanish fantasy artist José Segrelles.
Every Christmas, the Illustrated London News gave Segrelles four full color pages to do whatever he wanted to do. This is from his Edgar Allan Poe set:
…and two of his Beethoven pictures:
I had only seen some of the illustrations printed in the Christmas issues of the Illustrated London News in the 1930s until Al Williamson showed me the two Arabian Nights volumes Segrelles had illustrated (I searched for those two books for over twenty years before finding them.
One was in Argentina, the other I found in Portugal — within a week of each other!).
Through the comic shop Totem I met some avid art fans. Whenever Segrelles’ name was mentioned it was always spoken in hushed awe. They told me it would be impossible to find any Segrelles illustrated books. His work was the most sought after of any Spanish illustrator.
As soon as I hit the bookstores in Madrid the hunt was on. The first book i found was one of his last major works: a profusely illustrated gigantic two-volume boxed set of Cervantes‘ Don Quijote. I didn’t find any other Segrelles books, however until many years later. Finally, from a Texas book dealer who made regular trips to Spain buying Spanish art books, I purchased a huge volume on the art of Segrelles.
This led me to other Segrelles book purchases that culminated in my obtaining the two Arabian Nights volumes. About twenty years ago a book collecting all of Segrelles’ Arabian Nights paintings (and many of his studies) was published in Spain. The book includes a CD-Rom that allows the owner to enlarge Segrelles’ work to gigantic proportions. This astounding book should be in the collection of anyone seriously involved in the pursuit of great fantasy art.
I had a lot of trouble convincing the Conan the Barbarian producers that the demand for a great Conan film was huge. They had no clue.
On Sundays in Madrid I would usually visit El Rastro, perhaps the largest flea market in the world. One Sunday, I took the Conan producers to a section of El Rastro.
“Look around,” I said. “Right here there are two city blocks of book and comic book dealers selling nothing but Conan comics and books. If we do this movie right, we are tending to a volcano that, upon our film’s release, will explode.”
The producers looked shell-shocked over the vastness of Conan’s popularity.