Dec 5 2011 7:00pm

Darrell K. Sweet, 1934-2011

It is with tremendous sadness that I report that Darrell K. Sweet passed away this morning. Since the mid 1970s, Darrell’s illustrations defined many of fantasy’s most beloved series—including Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time—among literally thousands of genre book covers. An avid history buff, Darrell also spent much of his time painting frontiersmen and the American West. His paintings evoked the classic storytelling narration of the Golden Age illustrators. A Sweet cover promised an adventure to be had. 

Darrell was one of the first painters I called when I started my career at Tor, eighteen years ago, and we’ve worked together continuously throughout these past near-two-decades. He was the 2010 World Fantasy Guest of Honor and I was very grateful to spend a full weekend with  him and his son, after so many years of talking on the phone and trading notes through express mail.  Regardless of how many years he had in the business, or how many paintings off the easel, he was as eager to talk about technique and craft and his passion for painting as any student at the beginning their career.

I’m particularly sad that he was unable to finish Memory of Light, the final book in Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series the The Wheel of Time. He has been a vital part of this series since its beginning, 25 years ago. I know he was hoping, to the end, to be able to see this epic body of work to its completion.

His son stated, “He lived his life as an artist — seeing the beauty that surrounds.” Our thoughts are with the Sweet family.

This article is part of A Memory of Light: ‹ previous | index | next ›
j p
1. sps49
I didn't know he was 77.

He was talented, and his art covers a lot of my SF/F.

How complete is his AMoL cover?
David A. Hill
2. David A. Hill
So many of the books on my shelves are there because this man's cover art grabbed me and demanded my attention. What a loss.
Lee Whiteside
3. LeeWhiteside
That is sad to hear. We had Darrell as a guest at LepreCon earlier this year. He told some good stories and it was neat to see some of his original pieces of art on display. Our thoughts are with his family.

Lee Whiteside
LepreCon 37 Chair
Melissa Shumake
4. cherie_2137
i have to say, i have never been a huge fan of his WoT covers, but it's gonna be weird to have aMoL without his work on the front.

i did, however, love his LotR covers.

too bad that he's gone... =(
Samantha Brandt
5. Talia
Well shoot, I'm well familiar with his work. That's a shame. :/ RIP.
David A. Hill
6. JulieB
So sorry to hear that. He was a great artist and a really nice man.
David Rodriguez
7. strakul
I knew him for the WoT covers, though looking back I see that other books I've also read were also illustrated by him. While some of his WoT covers were so-so, I still think they were unique and special. It's a shame he couldn't do the AMOL cover.
Alice Arneson
8. Wetlandernw
I had the impression that he'd already done the AMoL cover art. Maybe it was less complete than I'd understood?

My sympathies to his family and friends - he sounds like a great guy.
David A. Hill
9. AGrey
I have 13 of his pieces of art on my shelf.

And as much as I like to poke fun at his Wheel of Time covers (especially Fabio Rand on book#6), to me, Darryl Sweet artwork is as much a part of being a fan as *sniff* and 'woolhead'

Darryl Sweet, you will be missed.

I hope he had the chance to finish the final cover. I want one more chance to see Rand breakdancing in front of a haunted house.
David A. Hill
10. DMcCunney
I met Darrell, years back. He was a friendly and affable chap, always frantically busy, but seeming to thrive on a workload that might crush another artist.

He was never my favorite artist. There were others I thought technically superior, and I wondered if the workload he thrived on was a factor - that there simply wasn't time to do the sort of work he might have been able to do, and still meet the deadline.

But he defined a segment of illustration in a way few others have. In much the same way that Norman Rockwell was synonymous with the old Saturday Evening Post, Darrell embodied fantasy. You knew what kind of book it was, without knowing anything about the author or the title, because it had a Darrell Sweet cover.

I'm glad he was able to complete the cover for the last Wheel of Time book, as that series might just constitute his magnum opus.

An era has ended. RIP, Darrell.
Claire de Trafford
11. Booksnhorses
My condolences to friends and family. I shall treasure my Sweet covers all the more now and also regret that we shall not see Rand break dancing again.
Leigh Butler
12. leighdb
I am made very sad by this news. I never met him myself, but I was given to understand by those who did know him that he was a lovely man who will unquestionably be missed. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
David A. Hill
13. Portia
A Memory of Light feels incomplete without him. This is depressing :'(
David A. Hill
14. Danny Sichel
Awwwww crap.

Requiescat in pace, Mr Sweet. Vita brevis, but ars most definitely longa.
David A. Hill
15. Angela Lowry
Was an artist guest with him as Artist Guest of Honor at Soonercon in Oklahoma this year. As another artist his work ethic and style was admirable and distinctive. He will be missed.
Beth Meacham
16. bam
oh, I am sorry to hear that. What a loss.
David A. Hill
17. Matthías Páll G.
Man. That's really sad. A great artist, and greatly enriched my boohshelf. RIP.
Laura Domitz
18. LauraD
My sympathies to his son.

I only got to meet him once, at World Fantasy. I really enjoyed helping him there.
David A. Hill
19. Kadere
I've always been a fan of every single one of his WoT covers, and have
always stood by them as being the most quintessential fantasy cover
around. Before I even read the books I used to pick them up and stare at the covers, and looking at them I knew this was something I wanted to tackle when I was older cause whatever story could demand covers like this, I wanted to read.

I don't know what state the AMoL cover was in when he died. I know we had something rough at least. I really hope that they still use it and
have some one touch it up, cause the idea of having some other artists
cover on the finally book of this series, kind of makes me sick.

RIP Darrell, I hope to see you and RJ together some day, but not yet.
Martin Cohn
20. arixan
Back in the Seventies I used to buy books simply based on DKS art work. Books like Lord Foul's Bane and Doomfarers of Coromonde The Xanth books and so many more. His passing hits as hard in its own way as did RJs.
YouDont NeedToKnow
21. necrosage2005
It looks to me like RJ may have called DKS up to Heaven to help him complete his books up there.

R.I.P. Darrell K. Sweet
Noneo Yourbusiness
22. Longtimefan
I am not feeling very eloquent but I am feeling a loss. Life is a dream and we all must wake sometime.
Brent Longstaff
23. Brentus
That's sad news. I really liked his work. His covers are what make Wheel of Time books look like Wheel of Time books.
24. Freelancer
Prayers for comfort and peace to his family. To the beholder, artists never pass away, for the fruit of their soul is ever with us.
Marcus Mashburn
25. MarcusManuelMashburn
I could spot a DKS cover from across the room. I really wanted to meet him and that is sad that he's gone now. My condolences to his family. His artwork was appreciated and valued.
Robert Matheny
26. rsmportland
Neither Jordan nor Sweet survived to see the Wheel of Time to completion, I certainly hope it was worth the wait. Mr. Sweet's artwork grabbed my attention for sure.
David A. Hill
27. Heuren
R.I.P. Darrell K. Sweet
Sorcha O
28. sushisushi
While not a fan of his fantasy book illustrations, I have to say he produced some *fantastic* hyper-realistic landscape art, which should get as much, if not more attention as his covers. That said, WoT wouldn't be WoT without his 'narrative paintings of dubious authenticity' and I *do* hope that AMoL will have one, for completeness sake.
Marcus W
29. toryx
It's downright tragic that he won't be able to finish A Memory of Light. Man, that's so sad! I know a lot of people didn't like his work on The Wheel of Time but his art on the covers was as much a part of the series for me as seeing Robert Jordan's name amongst the colors.

I, for one, will miss him.
Tricia Irish
30. Tektonica
My sincerest condolences to his family. He will live on through his beautiful work. The illustrations above are incredible.
David A. Hill
31. Lynette
So sorry to hear of his passing. What an incredible artist. As an avid fan of the Wheel of Time series, I've thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Sweet's artistry over the years. My prayers go out to his family.
Eigor Maldonado
32. e-mann
I would like to offer my thanks to Mr. Sweet for helping me pick up The Eye of the World so long ago, for his portrayal of flight from the Two Rivers was so captivating.

Rest in Peace Mr. Sweet, may you now dwell in the worlds you so passionately created!
Jason Denzel
33. JasonDenzel
Here's a tribute I posted on It includes links to all of DKS' full WoT artwork.

I posted this on twitter today:
I've had the privilege of seeing (and holding) the unfinished AMOL book cover that Darrel Sweet was working on before he died. While this unfinished work wasn't perfect (it was only a 1st draft), I think it's his most emotionally evocative cover in the series. I emailed Team Jordan and Irene Gallo (Tor's Art Director) suggesting they include the art on the inside flap of the book along with a blurb about him. Yes, I have pictures of it, but it is not my place to release it. Tor and Team Jordan would be the ones to do so, at the proper time.
David A. Hill
34. PJ123
Despite the fact that I've never really cared for the WoT cover art, since I heard about Darrell K Sweet's death I've been thinking that it's going to be very sad to see someone else's artwork on aMoL's cover. Given Jordan's death, and now Sweet's, plus the name of the final novel being "A Memory of Light" - it makes me wonder if the powers that be will decide to do a plain black cover. It would seem very fitting.
Fake Name
35. ThePendragon
He's definitely a good artist and my condolences go out to his family. As much as I disliked most of his WoT cover art, there were some good ones. I actually loved the Eye of the World and the Dragon Reborn one is what got me to read the series in the first place. As many have stated, for good or ill, his covers are an integral part of the series. It would be a shame not to have his cover on aMoL in some form.
David A. Hill
36. BlackAjah
RIP DKS!!!!! COmpletely black cover? Perhaps. Or use his first draft and have someone complete it? Why not?! I would REALLY LOVE to see what he was working on for AMOL, please TOR, the fans of WoT have been around for 20+ years and deserve to see it!!! I'll miss you DKS...
David A. Hill
37. Ravenslair
It is with saddness in my heart of hearts i read of his passing. For years now when i have seen a cover by Darrell i knew i could look forward to a rollicking good book inside the covers he has so skillfully illustrated. when he would team up with a author to then further go and illustrate the interior pages on a few novels i counted myself doubly blessed. the wolrd of Fantasy and science fistion Artist have lost a legend today and he will be greatly Missed by one and all. rest in Peace DKS
To his Family my sincere condollences may all your memories of him be good ones from when he was in the best of health.
David A. Hill
38. Jonellin Stonebreaker
And so another icon of the fantasy community passes...

I was never a great fan of his Wheel of Time work, but I do appreciate that you picked what I thought was the best piece of work he did for the series to illustrate the article.

Count me as one who thinks that it will be odd not to have a DKS cover to rail against ("that's not what Perrin should look like!").

RIP and condolences to his family.
David A. Hill
39. Tony Witherspoon
Any time I look at my bookshelf, my eyes are always drawn to his art for The Eye of the World. Of all the Wheel of Time books, that cover has always been my favorite and always puts a little smile on my face.

As others have stated, his artwork was as much a part of the Wheel of Time legacy as were the stories contained on the pages they covered. He will be missed. When A Memory of Light is sitting in my hands for the first time, a long moment of silence will be honored to remember those who've put so much into bringing us such a cherished adventure.

R.I.P Darrell K. Sweet - Gone but never forgotten.
David A. Hill
40. Cookie Massamillo
He was an amazing artist and will be sadly missed by all of our familly. He was a great uncle and a loving father. Our sympathies go with my cousin, his Darrell and his family. RIP Uncle Darrell
David A. Hill
41. Brad M
@Jonellin Stonebreaker

Agree. I was not a fan of his WoT work at all, but thought The Path of Daggers was by far the best WoT cover he did. I do appreciate the other fantasy work that he has done, though. His covers for Xanth and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are part of how I got into fantasy in the first place.

AMoL will be a bittersweet book. Both the writing and the cover finished by someone else...
David A. Hill
42. JillA
I am very sad. He's been my favorite fantasy artist since the Riddle-Master of Hed series in the 70's. I'm very glad I got to meet him a few years ago and tell him how much his work meant to me. My sympathies to his family, and I'm so sorry he won't be finishing the Wheel of Time series.
David A. Hill
43. Sarah Gray H.
I recognize almost all of the illustrations above from my own bookshelves. The literary community has lost an amazing artist. Darrell Sweet: Best wishes on your continuing journey.
David A. Hill
44. Katherine Kurtz
I was privileged to have at least a dozen Darrell Sweet covers on my Deryni books. He was a prodigious talent, and he will be much missed.
David A. Hill
45. Craig Shaw Gardner
Darrell Sweet painted the very lavish covers for my Arabian Nights trilogy (THE OTHER SINBAD, etc.) I never met the man, but I greatly admired his work.
David A. Hill
46. Kali
Actually someone else finishing his cover would be so appropos with Sanderson finishing the books.
David A. Hill
47. Andrew-Porter
I was privileged to meet him in the 1970s. His covers were unique and brilliant, and sold books, while they offered the reader sometimes sly interpretations of the contents within. He was a wonderful artist, and a professional in every sense of the word. The SFnal genre is diminished by his passing.
David A. Hill
48. Jane Frank
I have known Darrell for more than 30 years, and I can't believe I won't hear his voice on the phone again. His painting style was among the most original and distinctive in the field, right from the day he started with Ballantine and Xanth - his art was instantly recognizable. It's the kind of talent that made sf/f illustrative art worth putting on your wall - as well as on books. And I will miss him greatly.
David A. Hill
49. Teresa Mayberry
Darrell K. Sweet's style is nothing short of iconic. You can look at a book cover from across the room and just *KNOW* that he painted it. There were many books I read just because he painted the covers! It is so sad that he is gone. Sincere condolences to the Sweet family.
David A. Hill
50. Melanie C. Duncan
It's hard to believe he's gone. You could always tell Sweet cover art because of his distinctive style. Would you consider publishing the final Wheel of Time book with his partial artwork (since you mention he didn't get to finish it)? Even if it's only sketched out or partially painted, it would make a unique tribute to Sweet and Robert Jordan since both didn't live long enough to complete the series.
David A. Hill
51. Alessandra Kelley
My condolences to the family of Mr. Sweet.

I didn't always like his art, but he was a tireless worker and he always had a brilliant color sense. If it's not too trivial to say here, he painted magnificent horses, better than any other illustrator.

He contributed a lot to the feld of science fiction and fantasy.
David A. Hill
53. Armand Sedai
God rest your Soul Mr. Sweet... You justified the quote "Judging A Book By Its Cover" on a positive note. And now that you're gone, reading Fantasy will never be the same. Who could parallel your genius? Only the Creator himself. Thank you so kindly Mr. Sweet for the inspiration that saved the lives of the multitude... Including me. It was in part because of you we have gone through life...

But this is so sad a news. Appalling... First, the author, & now the illustrator behind the book cover artworks. God rest Mr. Sweet's Soul. He will be greatly missed by the communities of Science Fiction and Fantasy readers alike. With "A Memory Of Light" scheduled for release next year, his death has left us with a concern of who will fill-in his place beside Mr. Sanderson in concluding THE WHEEL OF TIME series of books. Devastating, this is...
Susan Brownhill
56. SusanB
My condolences to the Sweet family.

As a long-time fan of WOT, I too would be sad to see AMOL without a Sweet cover. I hope they have someone touch up his draft & use it as the cover.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
57. tnh
For so many people, "fantasy" meant "a book with a Darrell Sweet cover." His death leaves a hole in the world.
David A. Hill
58. M Collins
We were lucky to have him for so long. Also, lucky that he loved
art so much and shared it with us oh those many years. Thanks
for leaving us so much to remember you by.
David A. Hill
59. Antonio Marine
Very sad to hear of the passing of such a great artist. His covers were the reason I gave a lot of books a chance. He will be missed.

@AGrey - I am an art collector and I have a few of Mr. Sweet's paintings on my want list. Please contact me - I'd love to know what you have. I'd be grateful to anyone who could help me find a painting. Thanks. Rest in peace Darrell.
Ron Garrison
60. Man-0-Manetheran
It might be an interesting tribute if Whelan were to complete Sweet's concept art - much in the way BWS is completing RJ's work. What greater tribute to an artist or author than when their work is so loved by their fans that the thought of it not being completed is unacceptable.
David A. Hill
61. D. Crawford
I haven't been this bummed out since Robert Jordan passed into Valhalla. =\
David A. Hill
62. Erasmus
You know, the best tribute to DKS (even though I frankly hated his covers, they are WoT to me, as much as the story and the characters) would be for his incomplete AMoL cover to be used as the cover of the book. In its incomplete state. Unadulterated, un-'restored' by someone else. DKS's artwork, even if it often takes liberties with the story and characters, is nothing short of stunningly beautiful. At this point in the series, no one will be reading the book who doesn't already know DKS or WoT, so there is absolutely no need to impress anyone with an Amazing Technicolour book cover or somesuch. Let the cover of the final book of the series he has served so passionately for so long be an eternally in-print In Memoriam for him.
Alice Arneson
63. Wetlandernw
Erasmus, I hope we at least get to see the draft artwork. It won't be the cover, though; Michael Whelan will be doing that.

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