Oct 19 2011 2:00pm

Lovecraft, Asimov, GRRM, Heinlein & More: Painting SFF Writers

I was thinking about portraits the other day, partly because of the “Making Faces” show currently going on at the Society of Illustrators, partly because I had just received a copy of Brian Movies that features Iain McCaig’s portrait of Harlan Ellison on the cover, partly because I noted the sale at auction recently of what, to me, was a not-terribly-good painting of Robert Silverberg by the late Ed Emshwiller.

What makes a successful portrait, particularly when the subject is a writer? The answer that immediately comes to mind is: personality. If the artist is able to capture something of who the writer is, not merely what they look like, and elicit responses from viewers and which prompts conversation... then there’s a good chance of creating art, not just a painted version of Glamour Shots.

Now, I’ve never really heard of any controversy surrounding a genre writer’s portrait; certainly nothing like the brew-ha surrounding John Singer Sargent’s painting of Madame Gautreau aka “Madam X.” The flip-side is that I’ve heard very few people say anything positive about some of the clever SFF writer portraits that have been done... so I think I’ll point out a few.


H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft has been drawn many times over the years, one of the earliest being the one above by Virgil Finlay. Moore recently by Matt Buck, John Picacio, and Roberto Parada below.


Isaac Asimov

Michael Whelan’s portrait of Isaac Asimov. Since Asimov devised the Three Laws of Robotics, Isaac’s AI companion is appropriate.


Jules Verne


Edgar Allan Poe

Above, a pair of scratchboard pieces by Mark Summers: Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe respectively. Below, Michael Deas’s portrait of Edgar Allan Poe for the U.S. Postal Service won a Spectrum silver medal.


Theodore Sturgeon

Rowena Morrill’s painting of Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon joked at the time that she had made him look too puny. 


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Below, a pair of portraits of Tarzan’s dad, Edgar Rice Burroughs; the first is by Reed Crandall, the second by Tom Lovell.


Robert A. Heinlein

Donato’s and George Barr painting of Starship Trooper, Robert A. Heinlein


J.R.R. Tolkien

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt transported J.R.R. Tolkien to Middle-Earth for this painting.


George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin as painted by Anita Kunz.


Harlan Ellison

A pair of portraits of Harlan Ellison; the top a classic Bosch-inspired painting by Leo and Diane Dillon, the bottom is a mixed-media work by Iain McCaig.


Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman, painted by life-long collaborator Dave Mckean.


Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert, author of Dune, by Greg Manchess.


Stephen King


Ursula K. Le Guin


Jonathan Lethem


Kurt Vonnegut

David Levin created hundreds of drawings for the New York Times Book Review like the ones seen above.


Mark Twain

Mark Twain, recently commemorated on a U.S. Postage stamp by Greg Manchess and earlier drawn by Leo and Diane Dillon.



Anne Rice

Anita Kunz’s painting of Anne Rice.


Ray Bradbury

And finally, the illustrated man, himself, Ray Bradbury as painted by Ed Emshwiller and Dean Ellis.


Expanded from the original article on Muddy Colors.

Arnie Fenner is the co-founder and editor of Spectrum: Fantastic Art.

Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
Greg Manchess' stuff never fails to amaze me; just what he can portray a few thick, chunky brush strokes...
Irene Gallo
2. Irene

Another Asmiov by Rowena.
Duncan Long
3. Duncan Long
What a facinating collection of illustrations (and of some of my favorite science fiction authors, too). So nice to see these all in one blog -- thanks for collecting them.

Illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, ILEX, Asimov's Science Fiction, Moonstone Books, Enslow Publishers, and many other presses and self-publishing authors.
Duncan Long
4. Duncan Long
And one by me (after one of the few photos of Poe). --Duncan Long

Irene Gallo
5. Irene
That's great, Duncan.

Anyone else have any? Pros and post-it-note dooders welcome.
Duncan Long
6. Federico Piatti
Lovely selection! Here's my contribution, Mr. Philip K Dick:
Duncan Long
7. Russell Dickerson
Some great works here! I'd also mention the portraits that Alex McVey did of Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale (

Here's my own ink work, "Cthulhucraft", that I did for Lovecraft's recent birthday:
Nancy Lebovitz
10. NancyLebovitz
Russell, the link to your Lovecraft portrait didn't work.

I'm pretty sure I've seen a portrait of CJ Cherryh on a DAW paperback. Anyone remember which one?

I'm surprised to see no Freas, but I can't think of any author portraits by him. Anyone know whether he did any?
Chris Hawks
11. SaltManZ
@10: To get the Lovecraft portrait to come up, drag the link up to your address bar.
Santiago Casares
12. Santiago
And here's my own contribution, a portrait of HP Lovecraft:
Duncan Long
13. Eugene R.
Wow, a lot of iconic images, here, particularly the Dean Ellis portrait of Ray Bradbury, which has stared out at me from many a Bantam paperback.

NancyLeibovitz (@10) - The cover with C.J. Cherryh is on her collection Visible Light (DAW, 1986), painted by David Cherry, her brother.

Also, two minor "oops" - the pen-and-ink caricaturist is David Levine (with an 'e'), and his work is most associated with the New York Review of Books (mundane twin to the New York Review of Science Fiction).
Duncan Long
14. Russell Dickerson
Thanks Nancy! I'm not sure what the deal is with that, it should work. Here's the link to the post on the site for it, this one should work:
Duncan Long
15. Larry Hancks
Great idea. I can think of others - Whelan's portrait of Heinlein for Grumbles from the Grave, and multiple instances of portraits of Harlan being incorporated in cover artwork by the Dillons. One correction - the portrait of Ray Bradbury was done by his frequent collaborator Joe Mugnaini, not Ed Emshwiller. It was originally for the special Bradbury issue of F & SF, and was subsequently used for the dustjacket of Jerry Weist's Bradbury: An Illustrated Life.
Duncan Long
16. A Fenner
Doh! Larry, you are absolutely correct: the Bradbury is definitely by Mugnaini, not Emsh. Since I have Jerry's Bradbury book sitting on my shelf, I was obviosuly experiencing a Senior Moment while typing credits. Another correction is that the new Ellison book is Brain Movies, not Brian Movies...
Michael Robertson
17. mrob12
The October 1952 issue of Galaxy magazine has protraits of several then active science fiction and fantasy writers and artists. Among them: Fritz Leiber, Heinlein, Chesley Bonestell, Sturgeon, Kamon Knight, H.L. Gold, Willy Ley, Bradbury and Asimov.

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