This book is something of a compilation and its contents span the course of Froud's thirty-year eldritch journey. There are familiar and well-loved images in its pages — paintings recognizable from Faeries, The Faerie Oracle, The Runes of Elfland, Good Faeries/Bad Faeries, work that has made fleeting appearances on his website over the years, etc. In addition, it includes numerous pieces which were created to accompany Terri Windling's lovely mythopoetic novel The Wood Wife. While these images have appeared online on the Endicott Studio website, I believe this may be the first time they are widely available in print. For die-hard Froudians, there are a few never-before (publicly) seen paintings and drawings scattered throughout. The Unicorn Women are richly-detailed, symbol-laden pieces which are brand new.
Observant fans of Froud's work will also find not just familiar pieces within its pages, but also familiar faces. To my knowledge, Froud often uses his own photographs of friends and acquaintances who pose for him as reference for his artwork, and one can note the features of his favorite muses (including, of course, his preeminent muse Wendy Froud to whom the book is dedicated) reflected throughout. For example, the male faery in the drawing on page 121 is obviously based on the same model for the painting on page 128. The gorgeous olive-skinned fay on page 39 also appears in sketch form on page 8. One of my only criticisms though might be that there are a handful of paintings in which virtually the same exact pose and/or composition is replicated. There is a painting of a faery called "Lilu" in Good Faeries/Bad Faeries whose visage also appears in World of Faery on page 44 along with other members of the Unseelie Court. For some reason this is especially the case with his depictions of Frog Women. I would love to see Brian take a slightly new perspective on these beautiful creatures who are some of my favorite of the fae who visit his studio.
Taking a presentational cue from the Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy series, this book also incorporates three smaller booklets: one in memory of a late friend and composer, one of Froud's digital/photomanipulated art, and one relating to Greenmen and other arboreal fay. There is also a poster tucked away on the inside of the back cover featuring a poem by Neil Gaiman. Froud mentions in his introduction that an alternate title for World of Faerie is "Brian Froud's Book on How to Paint and Draw Faeries," and Gaiman's Instructions is definitely in the spirit of a genuine approach to creating mythic art, infinitely more so than the slew of previously published books which claim to teach one to do so.
The conscious role of World of Faerie as a catalyst to (hopefully) initiate a shifting towards more soulful faery art in the face of the overly-commercialized facet of the genre is only indirectly derived from Froud's own words — the explicit statements to this affect are outlined in Ari Berk's foreword. Berk is an author/artist/scholar after my own heart, and I am pleased to see concerns and sentiments that I have been writing about for years1 expressed in such a broadly dispersed, printed form.
I wholeheartedly agree with David Riche's statements in his review regarding this book as a powerful touchstone to counter the onslaught of superficial "fairy art" which has become popular in recent years:
A major publication from Brian Froud his `World of Faerie' and his image of faeries scythes through popular fairy art and Disney type fairies.[...]It seeks maturity in the tide of current commercial perception of fairy, on this point alone Froud will continue to be revered.[...][H]is work may be seen as mad and incomprehensible especially to those influenced by lack of folklore knowledge and vision, yet energy bursts artistically from every page with detailed explanation. His timing to publish on the current wave of juvenile images and enthusiasm such a volume is a brave and welcome lesson for adolescent artists to reach maturity he will undoubtedly be regarded with awe and devotion.2
Another thoughtful review of this book was written by Brenda Sutton for the Mythic Imagination Institute.
1) For example, see my essay A Personal Philosophy of Faery Art which was written in September of 2004. The major points I present in that essay as well as in my numerous writings addressing the issue here and on my website are mirrored in Ari Berk's foreword quite closely. I do wonder if Berk has read that essay or if we just happen to be on the same wavelength.
Update 10/15/07: A short while ago I was contacted by one of Dr. Berk's students who mentioned that Dr. Berk recommended my Livejournal to him (see the comment dated from September 26th). So obviously Dr. Berk is familiar with at least some of my art and writing.
2) David J. Riche, "Fairy Godfather." Energy bursts artistically from every page. September 6, 2007. http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A37GSFJ5J01N88/ref=cm_cr_auth/102-4002391-8706502?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview