I rarely like surrealist art, except for a few notable exceptions. I appreciate many of the amazing works of art by notables like Dali, but they're not works that I choose to view or surround myself with. One surrealist, however, has been quite influential on my art: the art and creature design of H. R. Giger. He was a very successful designer and artist, and his work has a unity and consitency without being monotonous. Check out this website dedicated to his art. The image above is a prominent example of his work from that same site.
Many of his works are oddities of biomechanical and sexual themes. The alien monster itself from the movie is basically a large spiky phallus that goes around eating people. The pseudo-Freudian nature of Giger's imagery both distracts from and contributes to the elements that intrigue me: the anatomical basis, the use of transparency, and the play on familiarity and alienation.
All those facets of his art are manifest in the Alien creature. The anatomical basis transcends the sexual inspiration that defines the eggs, face-hugger, and Alien's head. The endo- and exoskeletal nature of the creature itself is both human and something more. You can see in some of Giger's work that the Alien cranium, though lacking eyes, is based on a human skull:
Here's the same sculpture (I don't know who made these) topped with the cranial covering:
The pretty tansparencies aren't limited to the cranium, depending on the artist and, moreover, the movie designers' choices. Which brings me to the cool full effect of the anatomy and transparency, and that's the humanness of these aliens. Sure, that's not hard to pull off, we're used to seeing and creating humanoid things. In the case of Giger's designs, the Aliens are just humanoid enough to be accessible to the imagination, but so . . . alien that they make the viewer uncomfortable with their familiar elements rather than comforted by them.
You'll see more artwork posted here based on Giger's Alien designs, but here are two sketches to start with: