That Riverside Whelan Exhibit

By John Hertz:  We’ve long known Michael Whelan was among our best.

He was first a Hugo Award finalist in 1979, for Best Pro Artist.  Next year he won that, and since then twelve times more, plus Nonfiction Book for his Works of Wonder (1988) and Original Artwork for The Summer Queen (1992), an unequaled 15 Hugos; 31 times a finalist.

He was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at the 56th World Science Fiction Convention and (with Amano Yoshitaka) at the 65th.

He’s been voted Best Artist in 31 Locus Polls, most recently in 2016; 44 times a finalist.

He has 13 Chesleys (Ass’n of S-F Artists); 53 times a finalist.  More honors too.

Now the Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California, is holding an exhibit of his work, as announced (with links) here.  It opened on February 11th and runs through May 25th.

That’s news.  In the wide wide world our graphic art is not well-known.  People familiar with Chen Ju-Yuan or Salvador Dalí or Tamara de Lempicka or Paula Rego or Andrew Wyeth aren’t acquainted with Michael Whelan.  He is not in the New York Museum of Modern Art, or the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Vincent Di Fate’s superb and still indispensable survey Infinite Worlds is not on curators’ shelves.

The Riverside Art Museum is a pioneer in staging an exhibit of a leading S-F artist.

I went to the opening-night reception.  Here’s the banner outside the front door.  You’ll recognize the striking 1984 cover illustration for Asimov’s Robots of Dawn.

Whelan seems to have adopted the term alternative realism; see it on the banner.  It suits him.  It may be a good name for the mode of which he is such a master.  The greater the reality, the better the fantasy is elemental to S-F.

I found him surrounded by admirers – which was as it should be – wearing a Revolver necktie and answering questions.  When I remarked on the tie, a man said “Oh yes, old Beatles.”  I said “Old-fashioned is old-fashioned.”

The Museum has done well by him.  A gallery of 1,560 square feet (146 square meters) displays 54 pieces, some time-honored, some new.

The exhibit, and a Kickstarter commemorative book, are called Beyond Science Fiction.  This may be wise.

Before I went, I winced.  Did we need another apology?  Another variation on Robert Conquest’s theme “‘S-F’s no good,’ they bellow till we’re deaf.  ‘But this is good.’  ‘Well, then, it’s not S-F”?

Looking at the pictures I saw a different perspective.

Most of them were book covers (I’ll get to “palette gremlins” in a moment).  They were, they had to be, indeed they were proudly illustrations.  Whelan is an illustrator.

Kelly Freas would never let himself be named anything else; he declined artist (over my protest, among others), and viewed with suspicion what he more or less privately called “easel painters”.

Of course an illustration has to illustrate – which means shed light on.  It had better be good art – but what’s that? not that it means nothing: we’d not keep using it if we thought it meant nothing: but it’s fiendishly difficult to get a grip on.  Kelly Freas (that was his surname, folks) used to say an illustration has to make you want to read the story.

Superficial?  Maybe so, in a way.  If you think it’s only superficial, think again.

The best illustration (1) satisfies the illustrator (2) satisfies the author (3) sheds light on the story (4) makes people want to read the story – and, if you will, (5) makes the publisher think it will make people want to read the story.

Down that road is the possibility that the very best illustration, in addition to and without in the least failing (1-4) or (1-5), may also reach people who run into it apart from the story, have never heard of the story, don’t know there is a story, don’t know the picture they’re looking at is an illustration.

Does that necessarily follow?  I don’t know.  Ask again later.  But it came to me from pictures at an exhibition.

Of course read and story needn’t be literal.  A Kelly Freas picture was used by the band Queen.  Whelan pictures have been used by the Jacksons and by Meat Loaf.

In that sense I applaud the title Beyond Science Fiction.  Yes, maybe it’s a lure, maybe a needed lure to draw people who might not otherwise – I’ll say it – dare to come here and look.  Also I think it says These images are science fiction; certainly they are; we don’t hesitate [I hope] to say so; in addition to which and not failing it in the least they reach farther and are worthy for themselves.

That’s why they’re in the Riverside Art Museum.

I said I’d get to “palette gremlins”.  They are – I’ll quote Whelan,

small creations found in random shapes … errant fingerprints and paint smears … usually on a palette or the mat board I use to protect my drawing table….  I added a touch here and a brush stroke there until the abstract elements began to resolve….  Passage: The Red Step was suggested by shapes in the over-spray left from a complex airbrushing session….  when they spark an idea that leads to a larger work, it feels like a gift from my Muse!…  The point of it all, however, is to play with some paint – and see what happens.

One wall has a dozen.  One of them, Amethyst Fantasy, I saw was lent by Shaun Tan.

You know some of the pictures.  You have books they cover, or prints, or Infinite Worlds or one of Whelan’s own books – which I recommend – or you can summon them from Electronicland.  See the originals.  See them often and long.  Each medium is different.

Study originals.  Go to this exhibit if you can.  Bring what you have with you and compare.  Bring a sketchbook and copy them, or an easel (in a good cause, Kelly) and a paintbox; get permission.  Beethoven wrote out a Mozart string quartet; he was perfectly able to read the score, and he intended to write his own music, but he wanted to get into his fingers what Mozart had done.

And if you ask “What has Whelan done for us lately?” cast a Cottleston on this, “In a World of Her Own” from 2016.

Cottleston pie, that’s your eye – no, wrong slang – wait, I’ll have it in a minute – wait –

Whelan Exhibit at Riverside Art Museum

The Riverside Art Museum (RAM) presents Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan, curated by Baby Tattoos’ Bob Self, from February 11–May 25. The exhibit will launch with a free, open-to-the-public Opening Reception on Saturday, February 11 from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m which will be attended by artist Michael Whelan.

Beyond Science Fiction is the world premiere exhibition of major works by artist Michael Whelan.

Whelan is one of the world’s premier painters of imaginative or alternative realism. For 40 years, he has created book and album covers for authors and musicians like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Anne MacCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Melanie Rawn, Michael Moorcock, the Jacksons, and Meatloaf. His clients have included every major U.S. book publisher, CBS Records, the Franklin Mint, and many more.

As the most honored artist in Science Fiction, Whelan has won an unprecedented 15 Hugo Awards, three World Fantasy Awards, and 13 Chesleys from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. The readers of Locus Magazine have named him Best Professional Artist 30 times in their annual poll and the Spectrum Annual of the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art named him a Grand Master in 2004. Other noteworthy awards include a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, a Grumbacher Gold Medal, and the Solstice Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. In 2009, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

RAM is holding two youth art education classes in conjunction with the exhibition. Fantasy Dragons on March 4 will tour the exhibit and then create their own fantasy dragon based on surrealism. The Art of Illustration is on March 25, where students will be asked to bring in their favorite science fiction book and they will create the cover of their own sci-fi novel after a tour of Beyond Science Fiction. For ages 6 and up, you can sign up here . Scholarships are available.

The museum, located in Riverside, California is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m.

[Based on a press release.]

 

Lucas Museum Will Be Built in Los Angeles

lmna-la-02

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has landed in Los Angeles. After failing to win permission to build on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco, and being blocked by litigation from accepting a lakefront site in Chicago, Lucas had simultaneously offered the museum to Los Angeles and San Francisco, a competition that depended in part on which city could get the museum through its legal approval process most quickly.

The announcement by the museum’s board of directors said the choice of Los Angeles allows the museum to “have the greatest impact on the broader community, fulfilling our goal of inspiring, engaging and educating a broad and diverse visitorship… Settling on a location proved to be an extremely difficult decision precisely because of the desirability of both sites and cities.”

The project is predicted to create 1,500 new construction jobs, 350 new permanent jobs, and between the building and collection, a $1 billion investment by George Lucas and Mellody Hobson.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the decision:

Art exists to inspire, to move, to educate, and to excite. Thanks to George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, millions of Angelenos and visitors will enjoy an extraordinary collection anchored in storytelling — an art that carries so much meaning in the history and legacy of Los Angeles.

L.A. is gaining a new jewel with the breathtaking Lucas Museum of Narrative Art — and its presence here means that a day at Exposition Park will soon bring unrivaled opportunities to be immersed in stories told on canvas and celluloid, be moved by the richness of African-American history and expression, be awed by the wonders of science and the natural world, take a journey to the world of space exploration, and sit in the stands for a world-class sporting event.

I believed in the vision for the Lucas Museum, and we went after it with everything we have — because I know that L.A. is the ideal place for making sure that it touches the widest possible audience. I am deeply grateful to Mellody and George, and to our educational, governmental, and cultural leaders for their extraordinary support in helping us bring the museum home. Now it’s time to build the vision.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee bowed out gracefully:

I am disappointed, of course, but must respect the decision… I am pleased that the museum will be built in California for our state’s residents to some day enjoy.

DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg greeted Lucas’ decision:

This is a real triumph for the city of L.A., and this will be a transformative opportunity for L.A… First and foremost for our residents who are going to have an outstanding cultural, iconic new force here — the force will be with us — and I think for tourism, and for the continued, extraordinary transformation of downtown Los Angeles, and for Exposition Park and the other museums it will be joining.

Art historian Don Bacigalupi will serve as founding president of the museum.

Spectrum 23 Signing in SoCal 12/3

spectrum-23-hb-jacket-fleskThere will be a signing for Spectrum 23 at Gallery Nucleus in the Los Angeles area (Alhambra) on Saturday, December 3 from 7-10 p.m. Over 20 artists will be in attendance to autograph copies. Admission is free and there will be free refreshments.

Featured Artists

  • J.A.W. Cooper
  • Alina Chau
  • Craig Elliott
  • Tooba Rezaei
  • William Stout
  • Joseph Sanabria
  • Erik Ly
  • Brian Haberlin
  • Geirrod Van Dyke
  • Chuck Grieb
  • Waiji Choo
  • Julia Blattman
  • Tuna Bora
  • Chris Ayers
  • Bruce Mitchell
  • Vin Teng
  • Richard and Wendy Pini
  • Shane Stover
  • Brynn Metheny
  • Victor Maury
  • Esben Rasmussen

spectrum-23-event

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner for the story.]

Where Will George Lucas’ Spaceship Land?

lucas-lmna-la-01

The Lucas Museum as it would look in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park.

To speed prospects of getting his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art built somewhere, George Lucas has released architect’s drawings of the building as it would look in Los Angeles, beside the Coliseum in Exposition Park, and in San Francisco, on Treasure Island. Each location has the support of its city’s mayor—Eric Garcetti in LA and Ed Lee in San Francisco. The museums have been designed by Chinese architect Ma Yansong (MAD Architects) — and both look like space ships.

In June, Lucas abandoned efforts to build the museum in Chicago, unwilling to engage in time-consuming litigation with Friends of Parks to use the lakefront location approved by local government. That was Lucas’ second defeat, having turned to Chicago after his original proposal to build on the grounds of the Presidio failed to gain acceptance in San Francisco.

The Los Angeles version of Lucas’ museum would include:

  • underground parking for 1,800 cars (the museum’s construction would take out two surface parking lots)
  • between 265,000 and 275,000 square feet of indoor space
  • about 100,000 square feet of gallery space
  • “shaded landscaping” underneath the new museum structure
  • landscaped, public terraces on the roof level
The Lucas Museum as it would look on San Francisco's Treasure Island.

The Lucas Museum as it would look on San Francisco’s Treasure Island.

And what will be on the walls of the museum? Controversies about public land use have overshadowed some writers’ nagging efforts to belittle the works likely be on display in the museum. Attempting to fend off these complaints, a museum executive gave Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle art critic, a personal presentation about the works being donated to the museum. Desmarais has pronounced them worthy:

Leaning against the walls and sprawled on tables is a selection of 55 original drawings and paintings, as well as eight thick notebooks containing more than 700 photographic reproductions of works in Lucas’ art collection. All are slated to become part of the first holdings — the Seed Collection — of the long-planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Guiding me through the images, which were brought here just for our meeting, is Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s founding president and a much-credentialed art historian and museum director. Bacigalupi says the museum will eventually have its pick of the rest of the collection — about 10,000 paintings and works on paper and 30,000 film-related objects — that the renowned filmmaker has assembled over a period of 40 years and that is still growing.

It seems nearly everyone has an opinion about the collection of the Lucas Museum, which made Bacigalupi its first professional staff member last year. “It’s a ‘Star Wars’ museum,” some have said. “It’s a Hollywood memorabilia museum.” On Twitter, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight called it “George Lucas’ planned Treacle Museum.” But who has actually seen the collection? Only a few people, says Bacigalupi — and no journalist. Until now.

Having had the first opportunity to evaluate the collection, I am glad to say it is none of those things. In fact, it may just be the core of a great museum.

San Francisco officials are hoping their city has a stronger claim on Lucas’ affections than Los Angeles.

“We’d like to think their heart is here,” said Adam Van de Water of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “He lives and works here, it’s a spectacular site, and we think it’s a natural fit.”

But the decision could come down to which city is able to get the museum through its legal approval process most quickly.

According to Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s president, the design work and search for approvals are being done simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Within the next two to four months, Lucas and his team will decide which location offers the clearest path to starting construction in a year or so, with opening day three years later.

Describe Your Favorite Cover Art

By Carl Slaughter: Roaming publisher and agency catalogs in search of interesting/impressive books/series to feature or authors to interview/profile, I estimate I’ve seen the cover art for 5,000 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. Few have caught my attention. Fewer still have compelled me to study them in detail. Take, for example, Todd Lockwood’s cover for Visitor, by Hugo winning author C.J. Cherryh, the latest in her long-running Foreigner universe series.

visitor-enlarge

  • The aliens are considerably taller than the visitor.
  • The aliens have dark skin, the visitor has light skin.
  • The aliens have dark hair, the visitor has blond hair.
  • The aliens are muscular, the visitor has a smallish, plain physique.
  • The aliens are wearing soldier uniforms and armor, the visitor is wearing a diplomacy/business suit.
  • The aliens are dressed in solid black, the visitor is dressed in solid white.
  • The aliens are carrying weapons, the visitor is carrying a book (folder? laptop?).
  • The aliens are looking left and right, as if they are wary of their surroundings (are they in enemy territory, are they bodyguards for the visitor?), the visitor’s attention is fixed straight ahead, as if focused on the task he will accomplish when he reaches his destination (or is he departing the building in the background and thinking about the meeting he just attended?).
  • There are 4 aliens, one visitor.
  • The visitor is enclaved within the aliens. Again, are they guarding him? Who is he negotiating with/for? Which side wants to assassinate him?

What caught my attention about the cover art for Visitor is that it’s so vivid, making the vast majority of its competition look crude by comparison. Something about the other covers in the Foreigner series caught my attention and I didn’t realize what until I studied them: They have distant shots of multiple characters. Most speculative covers have closeups of one or two characters. Half the covers of the Foreigner series don’t have the characters in a battle-ready pose. The typical speculative cover has a character clutching a gun/sword ready to slay the nearest dragon, zombie, or imperial trooper.

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Another example of a cover that grabbed my attention and intrigued me is Daniel Dos Santos’ cover for Misfortune Cookie, one of Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond paranormal mystery novels. Rather than a scene, there are numerous items depicting various elements of the plot. I count at least 4 hands sticking out of that giant fortune cookie. Esther is a striking pose and portrayed as being perpetually on the move as she solves the case. The other art in the Esther Diamond series is almost as good.

What about you? What cover art has caught your attention and why?

Home Town Selects Design for Bradbury Statue

bradbury-statue

I think I’d be happier with the winning design if I had never seen Slim Pickens riding the A-bomb in Dr. Strangelove.

In August, the Ray Bradbury Statue Committee chose the design for the statue that will be erected in the writer’s honor outside the Waukegan Public Library in his home town. Zachary Oxman’s “Ray Bradbury: Fantastical Traveler,” depicts “an older Bradbury astride a rocket ship waving a book on his way to another whimsical world.”

“I think he really captured Ray’s spirit and imagination,” said Richard Lee, chairman of the committee and executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. “He was familiar with him (Bradbury) and really wanted to go after it.”

Forty-one designs were submitted. Oxman was one of three finalists invited to Waukegan to make a presentation to the committee.

The statue will be cast from several tons of stainless steel, stand about 12′ tall.

Funding remains the Achilles heel of the project. The Waukegan Public Library started a Generosity (Indiegogo) campaign that after two months has raised ony $440 of the $125,000 goal.

Bradbury Mural Dedicated at LA High

Bradbury mural

Los Angeles Senior High honored one of its most famous alumni, Ray Bradbury, during an annual open house event on April 14.

A mural celebrating the author, who attended the school in the 1930s, was unveiled in the school’s remodeled Ray Bradbury Library.

Susan Bradbury Nixon

Susan Bradbury Nixon

“We’re really proud of this space and the opportunity it will offer to the students,” said Joyce Kleifield, executive director of the Alice G. Harrison Memorial Trust, sponsor of the showcase. The trust made available $10,000 in private donations to use for the mural.

Los Angeles-based muralist Richard Wyatt, Jr., with student help, painted the piece in two months.

Librarian Tikisha Harris had the idea to do something for Bradbury after the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs chose Fahrenheit 451 for its annual “Big Read” event. The book was assigned reading for students.

Two of Bradbury’s daughters, Susan Nixon and Ramona Ostergren, were scheduled to attend the event.

Artist Richard Wyatt, Jr. at work.

Artist Richard Wyatt, Jr. at work.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Two Magic: The Gathering Artists Pass Away

Magic: The Gathering card artists Wayne England and Christopher Rush died within a day of each other.

Wayne England, an English artist whose work regularly appeared in role-playing games, wargaming rulebooks and magazines died February 9 according to Bell of Souls.

Mr. England worked on a variety of iconic franchises over the decades from Magic the Gathering, to Dungeons & Dragons, to all things Games Workshop.  His unique style and artistic vision has graces countless cards, module, rulebook and adventure covers, and endless magazine covers.

Wayne England is survived by his wife Victoria and children Harry and Millie.

Christopher Rush died February 10 reports the Wikipedia.

He illustrated over 100 cards for the series, including the most expensive card in the game, the Black Lotus (currently offered on eBay for $3,900.)

Most of his work for Wizards of the Coast was done on the earliest sets, where he also helped with design and marketing.

Black Lotus card for Magic: The Gathering, by Christopher Rush

Black Lotus card for Magic: The Gathering, by Christopher Rush

Gerard Quinn (1927-2015)

Cover by Gerard Quinn.

Cover by Gerard Quinn.

A leading artist in British sf magazines of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gerard Quinn died November 30 at the age of 88.

Quinn was a self-taught artist who lived most of his life in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He submitted his work on spec to New Worlds editor John Carnell who was impressed, launching Quinn’s prolific career.

His interior illustrations began appearing in New Worlds in 1951. “Quinn was endlessly adaptable and some of his best interior work had the style and quality of Virgil Finlay’s illustrations,” writes Michael Ashley in Transformations: The Story of the Science-fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970.

Between 1952 and 1963 Quinn did the cover art for over 75 books and magazines (per ISFDB), the majority for Carnell’s New Worlds and Science Fantasy. In the assessment of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “His early covers can seem amateurish, but he gradually improved his craft and discovered his forté, realistic astronomical paintings in the manner of Chesley Bonestell.”

However, the sf field of that day was not a good place for an artist to make a living, and it became unprofitable for Quinn to take his time doing his best work – something he came straight out and said when profiled for New Worlds #51: “The most pointed reason for my own economy of line in recent months has been lack of time – and still is. Commissions for science fiction are few and my services are often better employed elsewhere although I would prefer to spend all my time working in our own specialized medium….” (Quoted in Building New Worlds, 1946-1959: The Carnell Era, Volume One by John Boston and Damien Broderick.)

Quinn’s obituary in the Irish News astutely observes, “These [sf] artists set out to envisage the future but when we admire their work today it is evocative of a distinct period in the middle of the twentieth century and we are instantly transported back to that stylish age.”

Quinn did his part to shape the style of that time, first in sf publications, then in the late 1960s working in the powerful medium of advertising, primarily as an artist for Belfast firms such as AV Brown.

He continued to work in advertising through the 1970s before going into retirement.

His wife, Jean, passed away in 2013. He is survived by his five children.