Brian Froud, was born in Winchester, England in 1947, and grew up in Kent. In 1967, he attended Maidstone College of Art, and graduated with a first class honors diploma in Graphic Design in 1971. Enrolled as a painter, Froud gravitated to graphic design where his interest in and deep involvement with folklore, myth and oral story-telling tradition began. Today Brian Froud is considered the pre-eminent fairy artist of our generation, whose prolific body of art is recognized the world over.
While at Maidstone, the discovery of master illustrator, Arthur Rackham, re–awakened Froud’s childhood interest in fairy tales and their imagery. He began to study in depth the folklore of Great Britain, and the tales of other lands. Froud was fascinated by the magical traditions in Greek, Druid, Celtic and German 15th Century history and became influenced by the painter Richard Dadd, in particular, as well as the Pre-Raphaelites, Edmund Dulac, and the Robinson brothers.
After graduation, Froud spent five years in London with the Artist Partners Agency, working in the field of commercial illustration. Perfecting his technical mastery of mythic imagery, Froud continued to develop a distinctive style of his own. Within his office cubicle, Froud constructed an ever-growing three-dimensional fantasy world. Fabricating wooded hills and dells with tree stumps turning into castles; gnomes, goblins, frogs, toads and faeries filled Froud’s environments with as much life as the very creatures inhabiting them.
While at Artist Partners, Froud designed award-winning book jackets and magazine covers, created advertising ads and illustrated several children’s books. In 1975 he left the agency and moved to Chagford in Devon, to share studio space with fellow artist Alan Lee and his family. Set on the edge of Dartmoor, an area of wild moorland, encrusted with moss covered ancient stone walls, high peaks and tumbling rocky streams, Froud walked the moors, listening to the mythic voice of the landscape, taking both photographs and inspiration from nature.
During his first year in Chagford, Froud illustrated Ultra Violet Catastrophe! Or, The Unexpected Walk with Great-Uncle Magnus Pringle and The Wind Between the Stairs, both authored by Margaret Mahy (for which Froud won “Best British Book” at the Bologna Book Fair) and Are All the Giants Dead? by Mary Norton. In 1976, Froud’s early mythic art was included in the first-ever survey of modern English illustration entitled, Once Upon a Time: Some Contemporary Illustrators of Fantasy, edited by David Larkin and published by Peacock Press.
In 1977, Pan Books chose to feature Brian Froud as one of the first ‘living artists’ in their roster by publishing an anthology of Froud’s own work entitled, The Land of Froud. Propelled by the books’ critical acclaim, the following year Pan co-published with Peacock Press, Bantam and Harry N. Abrams in 1978, Faeries – the first artist/collaboration between Brian Froud and Alan Lee. Faeries became an instant international success, placing Number 4 on the New York Times best sellers list. Reissued in 2002 and again in 2010, Faeries has sold more than 3 million copies and is considered a modern classic of its genre.
Brian Froud’s draughtsmanship, artistic techniques and wisdom of folklore caught the eyes of many, including Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Upon discovering Froud’s lavish and mysterious drawings in the book, Once Upon a Time, and recognizing Froud’s complex and singular artistic vision of the faerie world in The Land of Froud, Jim Henson chose Froud, in 1978, to help him create a unique otherworld feature-film which became known as The Dark Crystal. With Froud as the film’s conceptual and costume designer, The Dark Crystal won the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Prize for Best Fantasy Film and The World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award for both the Best Related Non-Fiction Book and Best Dramatic Presentation for feature-film. In 1982, Alfred A Knopf published a companion book to the film with Froud’s spectacular illustrations, sketches and art concepts, with text by J.J. Llewellyn entitled The World of the Dark Crystal.
It was at the Henson studios, in 1978, that Brian Froud met his future wife, Wendy Midener-Froud, doll-maker, puppet builder, sculptor and writer, who had been hired to sculpt three dimensional versions of Froud’s “Gelfling” designs for The Dark Crystal.
In 1983, Froud and Henson conceived the story for their next film collaboration, Labyrinth, for which Froud was the film’s concept designer. David Bowie starred in the lead role as the Goblin King and Brian and Wendy’s son Toby Froud made his film debut as the infant baby “Toby.” Once again, Labyrinth, like The Dark Crystal, set new standards for design, puppeteering and animatronics in film which are today, considered landmarks in the evolution of modern day special effects. Both films have achieved an international cult following. Brian Froud continued working with Henson, creating designs for other film/media projects.
In addition to The Dark Crystal in 1978, Faeries, (which became an animated feature of the same name in 1981) and Labyrinth, in 1986, Brian Froud’s filmography as concept designer continued; in 1988 with The Storyteller, the live-action/puppet television series for Jim Henson, in 1989, as designer for the Japanese animated film, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, in 2000, as consultant to director Glen Hill’s, The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, and in 2003, consultant to director, P.G. Hogan’s live action and animated film, Peter Pan. Mythic Journeys, the multiple award-winning animated documentary by Steve and Whitney Boe, featured Froud designs, sculpted and fabricated into puppets by Wendy Froud, in 2009.
In the late 1980s, Froud began an artistic literary collaboration with Terry Jones, who had been the original screenwriter on Labyrinth. Jones, a member of the Monty Python comedy team, was himself the director of numerous Monty Python films: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with Terry Gilliam), The Life of Brian, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Together they produced a treasury of books that brought elevated recognition to their already esteemed careers: The Goblins of the Labyrinth in 1986, which was later re-issued in abridged form as The Goblin Companion: A Field Guide to Goblins in 1996, a number of non-Labyrinth-related books about fairies and goblins, including one of Froud’s most popular, titled Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book in 1994, which won The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, Chesley Award, for Best Interior Illustration and the Hugo Award for Best Original Artwork in 1995. Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells: Quentin Cottington’s Journal of Faery Research followed in 1996, Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Journal in 1998, and Lady Cottington’s Fairy Album, in 2002.
In 1991, Brian Froud produced the artwork for Faerielands, a collaborative-project series he envisioned. Froud invited two esteemed English fantasy authors to choose their favorite paintings and write a story that the pictures evoked for them. In 1994, Bantam Books published Something Rich and Strange, by Patricia McKillip and The Wild Wood, by Charles de Lint, in elegant hardcover editions.
Whereas the acclaimed 1978 book Faeries had been about faerie folklore of the past, in 1998 Froud turned to celebrated fantasy author Teri Windling to edit his new book Good Faeries/Bad Faeries – Froud’s otherworld of pixies, trolls, gnomes and faeries in today’s present world. In November, 1998, Sotheby’s “Realm of the Mind: Fantasy Art and Illustration” catalogue featured the work of such artists as; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Bell Scott, Richard Doyle, John Anster Fitzgerald, Walter Crane, Simeon Solomon and George Cruikshank. Brian Froud’s painting from Good Faeries/Bad Faeries was selected for the auction catalogue cover.
In 2000, Froud created a deck of sixty-six Oracle cards with accompanying book by Jessica Macbeth, and published by Simon and Schuster, entitled The Faerie’s Oracle, based on his artwork in Good Faeries/Bad Faeries. With these mythic illustrations, Froud invited us to journey into Faeryland, to understand its magical powers through the popular practice of divination.
Froud collaborated with Ari Berk, award-winning writer, folklorist, and scholar of medieval literature, iconography, and comparative myth, on The Runes of Elfland in 2003 and Goblins! in 2004, both published by Harry N. Abrams, who also re-released Brian Froud’s The World Of The Dark Crystal, in 2003.
In 2006 Froud designed the album artwork for the German band Qntal’s, Qntal V: Silver Swan. The enhanced 2CD version of the album features a visual gallery of Froud’s faerie and goblin work. And in March 2010, Abrams released the first collaboration of Wendy Froud as author and Brian Froud as illustrator with The Heart of Faerie Oracle, the sequel to the bestselling, The Faerie’s Oracle.
The most recent book collaboration by Brian and Wendy Froud is Trolls – a comprehensive exploration of the world of those often misunderstood beings, told in story, sketches, paintings and three dimensional figures, published by Abrams in the Autumn of 2012.
Brian Froud is an Academician of The British South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts. Froud’s “faery portraiture” paintings and original artwork conceived for film and book illustrations have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the U.K., the United States, Europe and Japan and his work is represented in private collections throughout the world.
Throughout the years, Froud has created some of the most respected and highly acknowledged folklore/mythic artwork of our time and some of the most well known fantasy images of the Twenty-first Century. Froud’s imagery; sensual, humorous and at times frightening, has rescued fairies from the Victorian nursery, to which they were relegated for so many years, and returned them to the dark, elusive and mysterious world of “Faerie”.
With over 30 books in publication and over 8 million books sold to date, Brian Froud continues to create visual, spiritual and poetic tales today.
“After years of painting faeries, I’m often asked if I ‘believe’ in them. The best answer I can give is that I don’t have much of a choice in whether I believe in them or not, for they seem to insist on my painting them.”