If you don’t recognize the title, it’s from Omar the Tentmaker (Fitzgerald translation):
“And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour—well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.”
In this case, I’m referring to artists and their art. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, or whatever your season is and was, and that Santa, or Père Noël, or Sinterklaas or whomever, brought you lots of goodies. But today, I’d like to talk about one of the symbols of the Christmas season.
I was digging through some boxes and found one of the several Christmas cards sent to us, back in the day, by George Barr, whom I’ve known close to 40 years now. (Hey, congratulate me: next year will be the fortieth anniversary of the first con I ever attended—Westercon 28, at the Hotel Leamington in Oakland, California!) Because his eyes aren’t what they used to be, George doesn’t draw anymore; newer fans might not recognize his name. Back in The Day, George was a well-recognized artist—you might know his “Enchanted Thingamajig,” or his poster for Flesh Gordon, or any one of a hundred paperback covers, as well as record covers and so on. In fact, George was the Fan Guest of Honour (FGoH) at MidAmeriCon, the Kansas City worldcon in 1976.
Card number one (Figure 2) wasn’t originally intended to be a Christmas card, but George says it just worked. This beautiful drawing of a girl with a lyre is very much like a Virgil Finlay work. Figure 3, for which I’m lucky to own the original pencil drawing, is a wonderful piece of art that somehow brings Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows to mind. It’s for a commercial card, available on Cora Lee Healy’s (Khorah) Photobucket account. In fact, Cora has a lot of George’s art available as well as her own for sale as prints, T-shirts and all kinds of stuff. (There is also a book, Upon The Winds of Yesterday, available on Amazon.)
All this is meant as an introduction to one of the fun things about being an artist, being married to an artist (which I am) or knowing artists, which is that many, if not most of them, draw/paint their own Christmas cards. I am the child of an artist and a craftsman, have two artist sisters, and am married to a terrific artist, all of whom have made their own Christmas cards for years!
One of the artists I was privileged to know for years and call “friend” was the late, great Frank Kelly Freas, who was often called “The Dean of SF Illustrators.” The very first commercial Christmas card he did, back in the 1950s, is illustrated in Figure 4, called “All I Want for Christmas.” (I started this column with a self-caricature Kelly did for Context ‘91, in Edmonton, Alberta, Figure 1.) Kelly often denied he was an “Artist with a Capital A,” insisting he was an illustrator; just another working stiff—but his art always gave the lie to that. Kelly’s throwaway illos were often better than many another artist’s “best” work. He won multiple major art awards during his lifetime.
Figure 5, “Santa, You’re Late” is an illustration that was obviously done (commissioned) for a gamer, as not only is Santa playing some kind of game similar to Missile Command, his bag is full of board games. One of the things that shone through Kelly’s work was his sense of humour. Figure 6, “Wrong Way Santa,” was probably commissioned for a Naval person, maybe a pilot. Kelly was also very meticulous in his research; if you saw a plane on a carrier’s deck in a Freas painting, as in Figure 6, you could be darned sure that that particular carrier had a plane exactly like that! If you’re interested in original Kelly Freas art, prints, Christmas cards, etc., you can get them from Northern Star art.
Although most SF/F artists have a sense of humour, and that comes through in their paintings, they don’t always do humourous Christmas cards. Figure 7 is by Bob Eggleton who, although he does all kinds of paintings, and is the recipient of something like 9 Hugos, 12 Chesleys and both Skylark and Locus awards for all kinds of SF/F art, is still often thought of as the “go-to guy” for paintings of dragons and, most especially, Godzilla. (He even got to be an extra in a Godzilla movie. Now, that’s dedication! Bob is often seen on the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland, too. The “Winter Dragon,” a dramatic, almost Chinese-style dragon with reindeer horns, can be seen in Figure 7. You can find more of his art at www.bobeggleton.com.
Another artist, this one from Edmonton, Alberta (here in Canada) is James (Jim) Beveridge, who’s a relative newcomer to the SF/F scene, but who has been featured on the cover of On Spec multiple times; he has at least one book out featuring his art, and he’s been nominated for Canada’s Aurora Award. You can often see his humourous art on Facebook, but this particular card is a non-humourous work. You can catch his art at http://www.jamesbeveridge.com.
While we’re talking about Canadian illustrators, let me bring in one of Quebec’s finest: Jean-Pierre Normand, whose work can be found at http://www.illustrationquebec.com/en/illustrateur/jeanpierrenormand/illustrations/2339. He’s one of the best of Canada’s SF/F illustrators, and has wone the Aurora at least six times! He’s also got a book available at Amazon. He has his own strong connection with the big lizard, as shown in this card, called “Which One Do I Open First?”
Speaking of humour, there’s one artist I must show you, whose card is apparently based on some Olde-World Christmas Goat legend. Or maybe not… Tim Kirk is something of a legend himself; his art has always, whether he’s drawing hobbits or cards for Hallmark (yes, he used to work for them) or as a Disney Imagineer, had its own special whimsy. He’s a multiple Hugo winner, both as fan and as pro. He’s a funny guy, and if you haven’t seen his work, you need to avail yourself of the opportunity, by going to Google images. (I can’t find a working website for Tim right now.) Figure 10 should give you some hint as to this man’s mind and talent. I’ve been very lucky to know him for a long time.
What can I say about the artist who drew Figure 11? I first met Bobby London in Seattle about 30 years ago, while he was still drawing Dirty Duck for National Lampoon (I have my own Dirty Duck drawing on my wall); then he drew the Duck and Weevil for Hefner’s Playboy; he’s a real Ramones fan, he drew Popeye for a number of years until, according to Wikipedia, he got fired (probably for being too original, is my guess). He’s worked on Spongebob Squarepants; he’s got his own IMDB page. He’s won the Yellow Kid Award. He’s witty and he’s snarky, and kind of a fun guy to know, even just on Facebook. He’s just Bobby London. Enjoy this cartoon, which appears to owe a lot to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat.
Steve Stiles is one of fandom’s treasures. Although he does professional work, he’s probably best known for his contributions to fanzines. He’s fast, he’s furious and he’s accurate. If there’s anything fandom is known for, it’s intelligence and wit… and Steve’s cartoons have that in abundance. One of his early influences was Wally Wood, and it shows. He’s won the FAAN award more than once, I believe, and probably deserves more recognition. You can check his website at http://www.stevestiles.com/index.html.
Without much more ado, I present three of his best.
And now, just because I can, and because it’s MY blog entry/column, I present an image by a friend who’s not a graphic artist, but who is a wizard on guitar—I refer to Edmonton’s Randy Reichardt. He also took the photo of Dave Kyle in a notable book about SF art by the latter. This photo, Lilies, has been on a calendar as well as Randy’s Christmas card one year. I think it’s a stellar photo, even if it doesn’t have a Christmas theme. He works at a university library in Edmonton, Alberta, and I’ve been friends with Randy for something like 35 years. Randy writes a very good blog at www.podbaydoor.com
For our last card, I humbly submit my wife’s and my Christmas eCard for this year, called “Bad Fairy Bot Card,” or “Have a Fairy Merry Christmas” (Figure 16.) I was planning on doing a lenticular card, but time and money got away from me. The central figure here is Lynne’s Bad Fairy Bot, against a backdrop of snowy pine boughs stolen… er, borrowed from the interwebz. We offer this Christmas card to all Amazing Stories readers everywhere, and hopes for a joyous holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or some other holiday.
And before I go, I want to leave you with a Christmas poem sent to us many years ago by the late writer—America’s poet, Ray Bradbury; although I never got to meet him, every time I or we corresponded with him he was warm and gracious and a wonderful person. He was also a friend of my late friend Jerry Sohl, whom I remember fondly this season. I hope Ray’s poem strikes a chord in your hearts. See you in the New Year!
Transcription of poem, in case it’s too hard to read:
A Christmas Wish 1990
From Maggie and Ray Bradbury
It is the hour of the wish,
Upon the very sill of midnight
All is still and bright
And soon the morn
When in a bestial manger
He is born.
Within this night, young man,
What’s your desire?
Wish: it will transpire.
But quick, there sounds the bell
Which makes Christ’s elder wounds
Show in the newborn, bled.
What would you wish?
“Arousals of the dead!”
The last chime sounds,
The snow falls deep
In graveyard where your father,
Long years dead, lies fast asleep:
Does your wish waken him?
Then run to graveyard!
There to find
Your father on the rim of Earth.
He asks the wind
“Who summons me?
My sight! I cannot see!”
The old man’s mouth is frost
And all his syllables are lost
To fall away in sleeps of snow.
His brow with crystal thorns
Yet all his trembling words
“Oh, wait,” the young man cries;
“Is what you’re trying to say is:
Love? I love you, so?”
And with this guess
The old man’s mouth gapes wide
And he shouts, “Yes!”
And fastened close
Their eyes give showers of rain.
The two are one, so closely do they cling,
That winter for a time turns spring.
Both cry it, “Yes!”
No more is said.
Nor could a witness tell
Which living is, which dead.
The old man sighs and signals final love
With brimming eye.
All time is torn, but mends itself with snow.
It’s Christmas morn.
The grave is covered now
The snow with powder whispers all the deeps
And where the old man stood
His marble sleeps.
The young man’s footprints surf the wind,
As now he wanders home
To, joyed with weeping, fall abed
Alive with love
A love not dead,
Oh, no, not dead!
The Hour of The Wish
By Ray Bradbury
And by the way, ALL IMAGES are COPYRIGHT by their respective artists and authors. Please respect their rights and don’t copy. If you must share, please send the link to this column. Thanks!
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