When I was a wee lad (okay, Junior High), I began to realize that creating art would be part of my future, and given that, I also began to notice the work of artists whose work I admire. Funny thing, though. While I appreciated many fine artists, particularly Dali and the other surrealists, the artists I gravitated to were illustrators—comic artists, magazine and book cover illustrators. They were doing the work I wanted to do. Here are some of those illustrators, the ones that made me want to be an artist. This is off the top of my head, and certainly not a complete list. I’ll start with the three illustrators mentioned above.
VIRGIL FINLAY and HANNES BOK—I’m lumping them together because for some reason I always think of them together. Both did extraordinarily imaginative, extraordinarily detailed work for pulp magazines on crappy pulp paper that in no way did their work justice. Truly inspiring.
STEPHEN FABIAN—I discovered Fabian in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and his work immediately stood out for the texture and shadow of his work.
FRANK FRAZETTA—I came of age in the seventies, so of course Frazetta is on this list, and not just because of his voluptuous women. His paintings have so much power, so much purpose. He’s a master of competition, and I love his paint handling. Boris Vallejo was working at the same time, in much the same market, but I always loved Frazetta more. As excellent a technician as Vallejo was, he was a little too polished for my taste. Frazetta was just more exciting.
ROBERT CRUMB—Crumb is a master, pure and simple. Consummate style, humor, storytelling, and above all exceptional pen and ink technique. Hey may be a curmudgeon, but he’s my kind of curmudgeon.
BILL WATTERSON—Speaking of curmudgeons, Watterson is another one. Calvin and Hobbes is, to my mind, the finest comic strip ever made (nods to Doonesbury and Bloom County as right up there). Beautifully loose, expressive brush work. Watterson walked away from it when shrinking newspaper comic sections pissed him off. He lives not far from me here in Northeast Ohio, and it makes me happy just knowing he’s there.
WILLIAM STOUT—Another graduate of underground comics, Stout is just one helluva illustrator, with exquisite line work and amazing detail. Not as well know as he should be.
LEO AND DIANE DILLON—I worked my late teen years at a Waldenbooks, and Leo and Diane Dillon were responsible for some of my favorite book covers. An interracial married couple, the Dillons have a unique style all their own. Their work is instantly recognizable.
MURRAY TINKLEMAN—Often, right next to cover art by the Dillons, you’d find cover art by Tinkleman. His densely cross-hatched artwork is also instantly recognizable.
DONALD ROLLER WILSON—Chances are you may not have heard of Wilson, and that’s a damn shame. Richly realistic, yet utterly fantastic, often hilarious, often featuring animals of all kinds. Wilson is a true original.
ROBERT TUBBESING—Unless you grew up in Northeast Ohio, you probably haven’t heard of Bob Tubbesing, either. He taught commercial art at Maple Heights High School, my alma mater, and at Cooper School of Art, which I attended as well. Perhaps more importantly, he did some of the most inspiring pen and ink work I ever saw, filled with mysterious imagination. I believe he had some success as a gallery artist, but I couldn’t find any decent art links to include here.
Looking for links to include here, I was thrilled to discover that many of these artists are still doing exciting, vital work. Have a look for yourself, and get to know these inspiring illustrators.