John Schoenherr’s compositions are among the very best in illustration. His command of picture space allowed for large open areas to give his elements breathing room, and yet never feel empty. He positioned his subjects to control space without taking up space.
Schoenherr’s paintings for DUNE were perhaps the first visualizations of the book that captured the imaginative story with the right amount of description. His design for the sandworm mouth is so simple and classic that no one has improved it.
In the depiction above, of the sandworm battle with the Sardukar, the entire painting hinges on the way the light has sliced through a break in the clouds, just capturing the lips and illuminating the soldiers with differing levels of value, showing how many are pulled into the maul of the worm while others are still firing away. The contrast is both exquisite and dramatic.
The grouping of the figures is as important and intentional a design element as the bits of sand clumped and blowing through the scene.