by Don Maitz
Illustration by G. Duncan Eagle son
Michael Whelan, the Guest Artist at this World Fantasy Convention, is a present-day master of
communicating visual scenarios non-existent in our world. Put a little more simply, he is a fantasy
illustrator of very high calibre. Having spent some time and effort searching to acnieve that title myself, I can say through experience that it is a difficult position indeed to attain. To produce quality
illustrations of a fantastic nature one must have artistic capabilities pushed to the maximum, an incredible imagination, perception, diligence, patience, and whatever else it takes to have people look,
react, and then . . . wonder. Not only is Michael Whelan a competent fantasy illustrator, ne is a successful one. Which means that a lot of people what to see want this artist has to present to them.
An artist whom I have a great respect for once told me that the first one thousand paintings an
artist attempts are the hardest to produce. As in achieving most any goal, one must take many awkward steps until proficiency through experience results, enabling one to run and leap with fluid coordination. Fluid coordination in making intelligent illustrations requires an artist to have a thorough conception of light on form, size and shape relationships, anatomy, perspective, color reactions,
aerial perspective, mood, textural sensitivity, photography, and draftsmanship. I have yet to see an
illustration by Michael Whelan that fails to exhibit a marvelous display of all these factors. A considerable amount of study and practice is necessary to demonstrate such expertise. Michael, now at
an age of twenty-nine, began studying the art of making pictures fourteen years ago by taking
summer art classes before entering high school. He attended San Jose State University, receiving a
B.A. in Fine Arts and Painting. Another nine months were spent studying at the Arts Center College
of Design in Los Angeles, after which he moved to the east coast to freelance for New York publishers.
I was in art school at the time Michael's work was first published (Fall of 1974), and I recall the
impression his work had upon me. The illustrations were very imaginative, yet the works had a serious dedication to form . . . real but unreal. Michael's work obviously had favorable reactions from
book publishers as well, for more than one hundred and ten paperback covers have subsequently
appeared. His publication includes the following: Marvel Comics, DAW Books, Random House,
Ariel Books, Ballantine —Del-Rey, Pocketbooks, Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club, Gallery Magazine, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and National Geographic Magazine.
Michael is also a member of the Society of Illustrators. Membership in this group requires the
recognition of an illustrator's capabilities and performances by several of the artist's peers who are
already members. In attending conventions and art shows throughout the United States and abroad,
Michael Whelan has not only exhibited and sold his work, he has secured awards at all those he
entered. Surely that is a positive response from those that look upon what he chooses us to see.
It is evident that Whelan enjoys what he does by the vast amount of work that he has produced.
There has to be something rewarding and enjoyable happening for someone who faces frightful
deadlines, incredible competition, and constant pressure. Yet, one after another, Michael caresses
each work with imagination and artistic grace. As an added attraction, he teases us with his MW seal,
his sigil which is incorporated in his illustrations with a treatment reminiscent of searching for the
bunny's head in the photography on the cover of one of this country's major magazines. It is there;
just look for it