Artists: Michael Whelan

Integral TreesWhen I first started going to S/F conventions the word was “Michael Whelan is the Robert Redford of the science-fiction illustration world”. While at this point in time Redford’s name may have been traded out for Brad Pitt the fact remains that Michael Whelan =  superstar.

Years ago I sat on panels at three different conventions with Mr. Whelan so we’re not really acquainted – but during those discussions he seemed pleasant, professional and blessedly free of that common artist’s ailment: an ego requiring a separate life-support system. I also watched him conduct a tour of the 1991 BOSKONE art show and was impressed when he delivered a constructive commentary of every item in the show, from marginally recognizable Spock portraits scratched out by desperate middle-school fans to polished professional work by peers and competitors working in the photorealistic manner of the Brandywine school of illustration.

He’s created a fantastic  body of work over the last 40+ years but the illustration I’m posting today is my pick of the bunch because:

  • Larry Niven is one of my favorite writers
  • As I grew up in Alaska it should be no surprise that I am “tree-hugger”.
  • Green dominates the composition.

So why is green such a big deal? For starters I just like the color green, especially cool greens that run to the pthalo green side of the palette; for “seconders”: from day one of my first illustration class and all the way through my entire career  all I’ve heard about green is that it’s  the kiss of death on a cover…

This image proves otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Artists: Michael Whelan

  1. I remember Whelan discussing how green was forbidden on book jackets. He was discussing his initial selection of green as the background for The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I think for that one he caved a little and modified the green. But I think book publishers have moved beyond that idea

  2. I’m not sure if it is a matter of the publishers moving as much as it is MW being the 500 lb. gorilla in the middle of the room. You know, the old joke: “Where does a 500 lb gorilla sit in your front room?” Answer: “Anywhere he wants to sit”

  3. Michael Whelan has always been one of my favorite cover artists. Him, Darrell K Sweet and the Brothers Hildebrandt were the first artists that I would recognize their art on the cover of a book.

    In the several times I have met him, he has always been one of the nicest persons you could meet.

    I have prints of the Integral Trees and the Smoke Ring hanging in my bedroom.

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