Masque book

The Graphic World of Mark Wilkinson, Fish & Marillion.

Babel Books, issued December 2000
Available by mail order only.
ISBN 0 9539 5510 9

The text of the book consists of transcripts of a series of conversations between Fish and Mark.

1. Beginnings
2. The Script
3. Club Fugazi
4. Drowning in Real
5. Childhood's End
6. Like Roman Candles...
7. Holding up the Mirror...
Interlude - 'Vigil' - Step-by-Step
8. Eye of the Storm
9. Celtic Illumination
10. The Emperor's New Clothes
11. Negative/Positive
12. 7 Pillars of Wisdom
13. Lighting a Flame
14. Fellini - The Brief
15. Post Script

All illustrations © 2000 Mark Wilkinson
Graphic design by David Axtell at L-Space Design
Production by Colourwise Ltd

The book about Mark Wilkinson's sleeve designs for Fish and Marillion is more then a picture-book. Based on doodles made by Fish and Wilkinson it is made clear which creative process was running in the heads of both artists before reaching the final design. It is demonstrated which concepts didn't make it and why. Also an impression is given of the creative problems and solutions Mark was dealing with. Handwritten song texts of Fish are printed (interesting detail: his hand-writing has changed in the course of years, the loops of the letters became longer: food for graphologists!).
But the book is especially fascinating because Fish and Wilkinson explain the meaning of the figures on the album-sleeves. Why is the jester playing such a big part, as well as the magpie and the chameleon? And who are the men hanging at the bar on the cover of Clutching at Straws? And who were the two people that were modelling for the painted couple on the hill of Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors? But also: did everybody study the sleeve of Real to real? Did you notice that the wheel in fact is the little round inside of a cassette? And does everybody know that Fish' (ex)wife Tammie was modelling for Gentleman's Excuse Me? The book contains hundreds of this kind of interesting facts.
Also you will find business-like considerations. Marillion intented to dump Wilkinson because he was too expensive. The band wanted to introduce the new artist on a tricky way. For that reason they invited artists to send in paintings. The paintings would be used as 'amateur'-paintings on the wall of the room on the Fugazi-cover and simultaneously as an introduction of the new sleeve-designer. Ironically it was Mark's wife (at that moment his girl-friend) who was chosen by the band, but she was not interested in designing the new cover. However you can see her paintings on the Fugazi-sleeve.
The book is written in an easy style. It contains just the dialogue between Fish and Wilkinson. Late at night, with a bottle of wine, they muse about the past and the future. The tape recorder is on and later these brainspinnings are typed out. The English is very accessible, once started reading, you won't stop.
When you read the book, without doubt, you'll take the cd's and lp's of Fish and Marillion out of the cupboard. But this time not just for playing them, but for studying the sleeves with a refreshed insight.
Marianne Timmer, Jan 2001

I couldn't wait to get my copy of The Masque; but my husband wrapped it and made me wait until midnight on Christmas Eve before I could have it.
I think he regretted giving me it at all as I have had my nose in it ever since.
As a fifteen year old I was obsessed with every detail of the Marillion album covers, just as Fish hoped would happen. I used to come up with all sorts of theories as to what was being said; it was therefore fantastic to finally get the low-down on what was trying to be achieved.
I love the way the book is split into M and F and the different outlooks from the two perspectives. It's also great to see the drafts of some of the designs in the 'raw' state.
It's one of those books that you can go back to again and again, particularly when you're listening to the tracks from the artwork.
I think that Mark is one of the great artists of our time, and very underestimated. It's a great shame that his work has not been viewed by as many as it should have been.
Alison Drysdale, 11 Jan 2001

Well I've just spent the last three days reading the Masque and, I must say, what an engaging and pleasurable experience it was! I decided to take the 'slow' route ie: listen to the specific album each chapter related to. Unfortunately, this meant that the chapter was normally over after the first 25/30 minutes and so I then decided to re-read the inlay notes for the re-masters as well. Which meant the album was over before I'd finished the inlay cards. So I then need to play the bonus disc....... see what I mean by it being the 'slow' way to read the Masque!
But really, it is the only way to do it. What you end up with is a backtrack through the complete Marillion (Fish era) albums plus all his solo work, in a totally enjoyable way. The days of this christmas holidays just flew by. Anyway, anybody who hasn't purchased The Masque yet, you're missing out. Many are no doubt like me who decided to use the split between Marillion and Fish to get a consistent crossover from vinyl to CD. It seemed the right time to do it. But, of course, the downside has always been that I've never sat and pored over the Fish solo album covers in the same way. No gatefolds, just 5 inch windows.
And so what a pleasure it has been to re-discover all this artwork on pages where the artwork is significantly larger than the CDs. Not only are the album and singles wonderfully represented but carefully and chronogically organised so you are actually looking at the pictures you are reading about. Very good.
John Boye, 26 Dec 2000

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