-by Arnie Fenner

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 Brain 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 f&sf writer portraits that have been done…so I think I’ll point out a few.

H.P. Lovecraft has been drawn many times over the years, one of the earliest being the one above by Virgil Finlay with one of the more recent being by Matt Buck below.

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

Above, a pair of scratchboard pieces by Mark Summers: Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe respectively.

Above, Rowena Morrill’s painting of Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon joked at the time that she had made him look too puny. (I’d run a link to Rowena’s website, but it looks like her homepage has been hijacked.)

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

Above, Donato’s painting of Starship Trooper, Robert A. Heinlein.

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

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

Finally, 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.