The Art Of Michael Whelan (book review)

Now here’s one book you’ll only be able to get on the second-hand market and the third of Michael Whelan’s artbooks. In something I haven’t seen before, the main text pages are on what can only be described as textured paper and the colour art on the more standard dulled gloss paper used at the time.

To get you into the mood for the art, the opening has a long interview between Whelan and Anne McCaffrey, whom he painted several of her Pern book covers. You get to read about Whelan’s upbringing and history and him getting recognised when he was least expecting it.

An odd thing is that although the smaller works are given details of paper and painting/drawing materials yet neglected to the full page works although Whelan gives details of the reasons behind his choices for the cover paintings. It is at the back of the book that you get this information. Yes, I can appreciate it might have intruded on the inspection of the art but they could have easily have been put on the opposite page rather than divorcing them like that.

The interview with Terry Booth about Whelan’s personal work gives insight. I can understand the constraints of professional work and the desire to do what he wants to paint to let loose. It’s also fascinating that some of these have ended up as covers. After all, good art is good art and it needs to be seen. Whelan also uses them to slip in metaphors as well. In that regard there is some comparison to writing. The metaphor is there for those who want to find it but the interpretation is up to the individual.

The final interview is conducted by David A. Cherry where they effectively discuss shop although it’s pretty obvious that Whelan knows his materials and willing to experiment more. You will also learn a lot from this and some of the virtues of liquid acrylics that even I had never thought of using before.

If you’re a fan of Michael Whelan then you either have this book already or looking for a copy. There are still some out there on the secondary market so don’t leave it too long.

GF Willmetts

June 2017

(pub: Bantam Books, 1993. 200 page illustrated large hardback. Price: varies on the second-hand market. ISBN: 0-553-07447-4)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.