The first time I was aware of Al Williamson’s artwork was when I was shown his Gold Key Comics Flash Gordon work in 1965. I didn’t have the words then to describe what grabbed my attention: I’m sure I just said “WOW!”
It was Al’s combination of draughtsmanship; composition; drama; and ability to add a sense of reality to an obviously fantastic setting, presented with profound elegance, that nailed my attention and devotion. His storytelling used apt gestures and body language as well as his native drawing ability to reinforce the world he was portraying. Along with the best artists, Al also had the ability to “make it look easy,” to make even the student artist get caught up in reading the story instead of dissecting the art.
In the studio, Al was also a teacher. He was an open-handed instructor, giving tips and insights into the drawing process while working on whatever job he had before him. Without any of the arcane accoutrements associated with a Wizard’s Laboratory, Al took his assistants deep into the mysteries of making good storytelling art. The main secret was (and is) doing the work: lots of it, all the time… hating it while loving it. As any who’ve worked alongside the man will tell you, the work and lessons were always couched in humor. Drawing and Laughing was the order of the day at Al’s studio.
Here, 40-odd years after my introduction to Al and his work, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t use one or another of the techniques he showed me… and hardly a day goes by where I don’t remember the man, his family, his art collection, and my early days of hoping to draw just like him.
Michael Wm. Kaluta is an illustrator and comic book artist living in New York City.