Hertz: Two Chicon Exhibits

Leo & Diane Dillon Exhibit

Chicon 7 exhibit about Leo and Diane Dillon. Photos by Richard Lynch.

By John Hertz: In May when Leo Dillon died I felt that Chicon VII (officially “Chicon 7” for the Mercury 7 astronauts) really ought to have an exhibit honoring the Dillons’ work, two of our finest illustrators over fifty years.  I found nobody else was yet planning one.  I got valuable advice from Vincent Di Fate and Jane Frank.

Mark Olson had the swell idea of displaying books the Dillons had done.  Alice Massoglia rounded up two dozen decent-quality reading copies – not collectors’ copies, I wanted to let people pick them up and look through them.  A good handful of Harlan Ellison books, issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Dillon covers, the Byron Preiss collection, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with their cover and interiors, Ashanti to Zulu which won one of their Caldecotts (and reminded me of my Nigerian drum teacher), Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymous Bosch which they did with their son Lee, the hundredth-anniversary Wizard of Oz, some Lafferty, The Snow Queen, and a host of others reached me in Los Angeles, were sent on to Chicago, and arrived safely.

Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink resplendently with her electronic powers made three banners, one for the top with “Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” and a color photo, one mounted under that and one mounted on the front of the display table with images of every shape and size, some we had physical examples of and James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Shakespeare, Mark Twain.

Richard Lynch took photos so you can see how it looked.  This involved his climbing onto a chair on top of a table muttering “This is stupid, this is stupid” while Nicki across the Exhibit Hall wondered.

Richard also helped me put up the Rotsler Award exhibit and photographed that for you.  My guide through various spacetime problems with it was Randy Smith, as ever a big help.  All three judges, Claire Brialey, Mike Glyer, and I, were at the con, but no more than two of us ever managed to be in the same place.  If we all had, that might have popped Dave McCarty into the 14th Chorp Dimension.

Which reminds me, Dave, what happened to the Jay’s potato chips?

Dillon exhibit.

Dillon exhibit table display.

Rotsler Award exhibit at Chicon 7.

John Hertz.

Signature Art

Marilyn Dahl at Shelf Awareness reminisces about Leo and Diane Dillon’s Ace Specials book covers:

I began with Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness–I was not a science fiction fan, but I couldn’t resist the cover. And then Keith Roberts’s masterwork Pavane (just reissued by Old Earth Books with the same cover), Harlan Ellison, Joan Vinge, Roger Zelazny–drawn in by the Dillons’ art, I explored science fiction. I also embarked on collecting picture books, with the Dillons making up a major percentage or my purchases.

Dahl’s passing reference to Old Earth Books is quite enough reason to mention this post, don’t you agree, Michael Walsh?

The Dillons in 1977

The Dillons created a round-robin family biography for the August 1977 issue of The Horn Book, with Leo and Diane Dillon writing about each other and Lee Dillon, then 12 years old, writing about his parents.

From Diane Dillion by Leo Dillon:

Once, after we were married, we were working on a piece and she mentioned very casually that we should do the color in pink and orange. “If we do it in pink and orange,” I said, “that will be the end! I can’t live with someone who’d do anything in pink and orange. We’ll have to get a divorce!” We did it in pink and orange, of course, and a couple of years later everywhere I turned I was seeing things in pink and orange. It’s a common combination now.

From Leo Dillon by Diane Dillon:

I do know, though, that our real feeling about aiming for perfection began with Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. Suddenly it seemed that neither of us could tolerate even a tiny flaw, a minute speck on the black night sky, and we strove for artistic perfection on that book more than on any other except Ashanti to Zulu (both Dial). In a way, when Mosquitoes won the Caldecott Medal, it was as much a reward for us as an award. We had worked harder to achieve perfection—although, of course, we didn’t achieve it—than we ever had before, and people somehow knew it.

From Leo and Diane Dillon by Lee Dillon:

What I don’t like is that they’re always working. Since they won the Caldecott Medal the first time, things have been lots happier around here, but there’s been a lot more work too, and I don’t like that so much. They’re really nice people, my parents, and I’d like to have more time with them when they’re not working.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Keller: Leo Dillon, Dead at 79

Leo Dillon

By Ken Keller: As Steven H Silver reported:

 Born in 1933, he died on May 26, 2012. Dillon was an artist who collaborated throughout his career with his wife, Diane Dillon, and they shared a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 1970, among many others.

I had the privilege of working with the artist team of Leo Dillon and his wife Diane back in the mid-’80s. This was in producing a pair of fine limited edition art prints of their beautiful hardcover dust jacket paintings for Joan Vinge’s Hugo-winning novel The Snow Queen and Harlan Ellison’s short fiction collection Deathbird Stories. These prints were signed and limited to just 300 for each painting; they were published by my company Ground Zero Graphics, so named after the Dillon’s fine establishment, Ground Zero, their one-time Brooklyn coffee house.

In fact Leo and Diane were, for a period in the ’60s and ’70s, strongly associated with Harlan by their cover art on most of his books; they produced many beautiful, distinctive covers for his and other writer’s books in this same period.

In addition to their Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award (for Life Achievement), the Dillon’s were multiple winners of the prestigious Caldecott Award and a huge number of other important awards for their original, unique art. They worked in every medium and style you can imagine, always as an artist team, their finished artwork a perfect, seamless blend of their different styles and singular talents.

My own association with them in the mid-’80s was friendly and very cordial; we enjoyed swapping fond tales about our mutual friend Harlan Ellison and discussing the details of their lives in and out of the fantasy and science fiction genre.

I’m so sorry Leo has been forced by lung cancer to break his long marriage and artistic partnership of more than a half-century to Diane. What a loss for her, for their family, and to the world of art.

The beautiful work they created together, as a distinctive artistic team, continues to live on in hundreds of fine books and art prints published, fondly held and remembered by many thousands of their admirers.

Myself included.

Cover, "The Snow Queen"

Cover, "Deathbird Stories"

Leo Dillon Passes Away

Leo and Diane Dillon. Photo by Andrew Porter.

Renowned artist Leo Dillon died May 26, reportedly suffering from a tumor on a collapsed lung. Dillon was 79. He is survived by his wife and collaborator, Diane.

Leo and Diane Dillon painted innumerable covers for sf and fantasy books, drew and even occasionally wrote children’s books.

They won the Best Professional Artist Hugo in 1971 and their work was celebrated in a memorable exhibit at L.A.Con I (1972). 

Among many tributes paid to them during their careers, the Dillons received two Caldecott Medals (1976, 1977), were named to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame (1997) and were recognized with a World Fantasy life achievement award (2008).

The Dillons proudly identified themselves as illustrators, and Leo told a Scholastic interviewer, “We love illustrating and I suppose we can say we love everything about it. It’s very difficult; it causes us immense pain (sometimes), but like all things that cause pain if it’s worth doing, the outcome will be very pleasurable.”

Within the science fiction field the Dillons were made famous by their Ace Book covers and their work with Harlan Ellison.

They first met Ellison in 1959 while he was editing Rogue. Their illustrations for Ellison’s Dangerous Visions (1967) led to a meeting with Terry Carr, editor of the Ace Specials, who recruited them as cover artists.

Leo revealed in an interview for Locus how the two artists’ relationship with Ellison was as much adventure as creative collaboration:

Leo: …Harlan Ellison edited Dangerous Visions – and I don’t know if too many people know about this, but there were not supposed to be illustrations in that book. Harlan, with the power of only Harlan, said ‘I want illustrations.’ And the publisher said, ‘Okay, if you can do it over the weekend, you can have it. We’re going to press on Monday, and if you don’t have any drawings, that’s it.’ They thought they had him. [laughs]. So Harlan called us and said, ‘There’s this impossible task. I want each story illustrated. We’ve only got two days to do it.’ That’s Harlan. We had gone down some very odd roads with him already. [laughs] So we said, ‘Well, yeah, we can try. Come on over.”’

So Ellison came over — bringing Terry and Carol Carr with him, and that introduction led to their work with Ace Books.

The Dillons’ association with Ellison continued for over 50 years. Their latest creations included the artwork for his Nebula-winning short story “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” (Realms of Fantasy, February 2010).

Leo and Diane Dillon's art for Ellison's "How Interesting, A Tiny Man."

New Dillon Exhibit

Dillon Exhibit 

The exhibit of Visions and Dimensions Selected works of Fantasy & Science Fiction by Leo and Diane Dillon will open with a cocktail reception on May 28 from 6 – 8 P.M at Fusion Designs Gallery. Visitors will have a chance to meet the artists and view their work.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]