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Zanimljivosti ZP Izdvojeno

Hrvoje Bubić | Interview with Michael Whelan

 

 

Michael Whelan je američki ilustrator, specijaliziran za naslovnice romana iz područja fantastike i to pisaca kao što su Stephen King, Michael Morcoock, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, H.P. Lovecraft. Njegova karijera se proteže preko 50 godina te je dobitnik brojnih nagrada na području fantastike kao što su HUGO, NEBULA, LOCUS, SATURN te je od 2009. jedini živući član Kuće slavnih znanstvene fantastike.

For start, please tell us about your influences & your beginnings as painter. You mention that your growing up near military bases had a large impact on you, as well as the SF of the 1960’s. What was the moment when you decided to become a painter?

My family moved every year or two so I was often in a neighborhood without any friends. As far back as I can remember I enjoyed reading and drawing, so I regularly turned to those activities whenever I found myself alone and looking for something to do. Growing up I never considered art as something I would do for a living as an adult, it was just something fun to do. It wasn’t until I was in college that I seriously considered becoming an artist and even then I was rather slow in coming to that realization. I first tried to combine my interest in art with my fascination for human anatomy by doing medical illustrations and working in the anatomy department of the university I attended. When that failed to satisfy I decided to try to break into book illustration. After getting a positive reception to my work at a couple of SF convention art shows, I sent samples of my work to a publisher and started my career as a professional illustrator and artist.

Your style is similar to romanticism like Caspar David Friedrich with themes like ancient ruins, gardens, strange buildings, mythological beings and beautiful ladies with hidden message.  From where did you get inspiration and did you ever have experience with super-natural?

Being a fan of CDF and his art I take your comment as a great compliment-thank you!

Art is best employed as a means to communicate ideas and feelings that are difficult to put into words, whereas in illustration one is tasked with finding a way to instantly communicate the essence of something already expressed, often in very many words.

In both cases one is attempting to use image elements in place of words to convey feelings, themes, ideas, and narrative. In my gallery or personal work, however, there is rarely any narrative associated with the image.

Through the use of symbolic references and universal elements that span different ages and cultures I try to bridge the gap of understanding between myself and the viewer using subjective means.

I’ve had some strange encounters and seemingly supernatural experiences, but as I get older I find myself becoming a little more cynical and doubtful about my earlier perceptions. Nonetheless, at times I do ponder over ideas like out-of-body experiences and try to express my emotions about such things visually, such as in my “Passage” series of works.

I’ve long agreed with this Albert Einstein quote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. ”

Like many people I’m drawn to the mysterious and unusual, and I’ve found that one often needn’t look far afield to find inspiration for such, if one is attentive to one’s own life and surroundings.

You made a lots of covers for sci-fi, horror and fantasy writers like Stephen King, sir Arthur C. Clarke, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P.  Lovecraft,  Robert A. Heinlein, Michael Moorcock and rock & pop artist like Sepultura, Cirith Ungol,Meat Loaf, Michael Jackson.  Stephen King praises that you did very good job, Michael Moorcock said that he is more than a grateful while Cirith Ungol  said that without you, they would be just an ordinary heavy metal band and plus there are  countless honor awards like Nebula, Saturn and you are a member of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame. What is for you as artist and painter biggest award and recognition?

Oh boy, that’s a tough one. There are many ways to answer that question, and I find myself responding to it differently under various circumstances.

Regarding  book covers, an author’s praise conveys the greatest weight, wouldn’t you think? If the writer him or herself regards my painting as being a faithful interpretation of the book, then who else is to argue?

In a gallery situation, well, it only takes one person– the buyer — to like a painting well enough for me to feel successful.

As far as awards are concerned, my feeling has always been that of course it’s better to win awards than not! Unfortunately, while it is a welcome affirmation to be thus recognized, getting awards makes little difference in my life on a daily basis.  They don’t make the next painting any easier,  or make my faults and inadequacies go away [alas].  Actually it’s the opposite; I can’t help but be aware that expectations (among clients as well as fans) are higher, and when one sees better work by another artist one feels like a fraud. This often happens, though many award winners hide the fact. Even artists who I regard as pinnacles of their chosen art (Stanley Kubrick and Norman Rockwell come to mind) were prey to insecurities and self doubt, and questioned their own acclaim at times.

In my SF work, aside from the authors, the Saturn award and my many LOCUS poll awards are very meaningful as they represent the opinions of professionals in the field and can be seen as having more validity than other awards. The SPECTRUM awards are always welcome as well, for they are awarded by one’s own peers and thus carry significant weight, or so it seems to me.

As painter did you ever collaborated on another projects like animated film, video games? Could we expect a something new? 

Over the years I’ve worked on a variety of projects away from my usual book cover assignments. Aside from the album covers you mentioned I’ve done conceptual work for a toy company, worked on a few film projects, and collaborated on a children’s book version of the novel Little Fuzzy, etc. But in general I’m a solitary person and don’t seek collaborative work if I can help it; I have my own fish to fry, as the saying goes. At my age I don’t feel I have the time now to be distracted from painting the themes and messages that have been given to me to midwife into reality.

You have a very long career like 50 years, what would you advise to someone who just started his art career as experienced artist

Wait a minute! I won’t be 50 years into this business for another 6 years yet!

Simply put, I’d say: Work hard and stay true to your vision. Don’t waste time imitating others’ work; do the work only you can do. There’s only one person who has lived your life, and that is you. Your job is to create the work that you and you alone can do.

One has to practice until one is as good as what you see already being done in the field. Because you are new, you fees will be less and once you are in, keep getting better until you are so good that you are considered indispensable – then you can raise your rates.  It’s really as simple as that.

But success can bring problems too: you can do anything too much. If you accept every assignment offered, you can burn out in a surprisingly short time.

Be aware that once you have succeeded in a particular subject or look, your clients will want more of the same. A desperate boredom can set in which is death to creativity. Its like being typecast as an actor.

Illustration is like any other art form — there is a star system — and the top stars earn a lot more than the bottom rung names. This competition and struggle can be tough for some to deal with.

What are the pros and cons of working as an illustrator?

The first thing that comes to mind from a positive perspective is being paid for work I would have been happy to do anyway.

On the other hand, there are negatives with any profession, and many of the ones in freelance illustration are due to being self-employed: no health plan, pension, etc., without spending enormous sums to cover all your bases.

The hours are long, often not a steady income, there can be constant fighting to get paid and defending one’s work against rip-offs and stolen rights.

Though it has abated a bit in recent years, there has long been a lack of respect towards illustration compared to “gallery” or so-called “fine art.”  Finally, most freelance illustrators have to be perpetually looking for new jobs. It is rare for one to be in a position of relatively constant employment, and one has to plan accordingly .

I have been very fortunate in that once I started working in 1974, I have never been without an assignment, and usually was booked up at least a year in advance.

Sci-fi has been biggest impact on world today. What does sci-fi means to you as fan and as recognized artist? 

Sure SF has become “mainstream”, but I question whether it has much impact at all save to function in mass media as a diversion and escape. From what I can tell, most people believe that if we can’t have hoverboards and small interplanetary spacecraft like X-Wing fighters, they’re not much interested and has no connection to their lives or reality.

I grew up at a time when progressive ideas were in vogue and humanity seemed to be on the verge of attending to social inequities and reaching for the stars. For most of my youth a very positive and optimistic feeling pervaded my sense of the long term future of humankind (provided we avoided a nuclear holocaust) in spite of negative political clashes and conservation reactionism.

Alas, then in the 70s public support and enthusiasm for the space program seemed to dwindle, and the pace of progressive advance-not to mention attention to science as a whole-seemed to lose favor among a dismayingly large percentage of the public. At the same time, contemporary assessments of our collective future have soured dramatically (depending on who you read), dimming my hopes for a bright tomorrow. We’ve seen a significant rise in dystopian scenarios for our future, and Star Trek fantasies have come to seem naive and ill-informed.

Consequently, I’m experiencing a decided pessimism regarding things to come, and hardly have the heart to read the SF that so enthralled me as a youngster. I can only feel that as things diminish and crises increase there will be far less appetite for future scenarios, so I’m not optimistic about the future of SF.

Who are your favorite sci-fi writers?

Hard to say, as I rarely read any SF these days. The names that come to mind are not very current, which is a reflection of how little SF I’ve been able to get to recently. Anyway, my roster in no particular order would include Isaac Asimov, Andy Weir, Neal Stephenson, Stephen King,  Connie Willis, John Scalzi, CJ Cherryh, Michael Chabon, Frank Herbert, John Wyndham, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke,  Roger Zelazny, Joan Vinge, Mike Resnick, and others I can’t recall.

For the end, what are you future plans, new project, will you ever do another  Elric painting? 

Since the 1980s I’ve been, for the lack of a better word, “visited” by visual themes and ideas which I feel are coming to me for a reason: that they are paintings which I need to be doing. Since 1988 I’ve managed to scratch the surface of some of those themes, but I feel I have much work yet to do. Every time I accept a commission for an illustration assignment my start date for new work on those other paintings get delayed again; so as I get older I feel an increased sense of urgency to out aside everything else and attend to those works, works which have been waiting for me to realize.  Therefore, my current agenda is to get to doing some of those works as soon as I can make it happen. Beyond that, I can’t say. That will be enough to deal with for the rest of my life, I’m thinking.

Meanwhile, though, I do like to revisit some of my earlier themes and occasionally-when the mood stirs me-I like to turn out a modest Elric or Dark Tower piece, just for the fun of it. A part of my artistic soul will always be in the realm of F/SF art, which is why it is so hard for me to say no to a lucrative and engaging illustration assignment when offered me.

Since you love ancient ruins, would you ever stop by in Solin?

If I can, yes.

PRIJEVOD

Za početak, molim vas recite nam nešto o svojim uzorima i vašim slikarskim počecima. Spomenuli ste da je vaše odrastanje u blizini vojnih baza uvelike utjecalo nas vas, kao i SF ’60-ih. U kojem trenutku ste odlučili postati slikar?

Moja obitelj se selila svaku godinu dvije tako da sam često bio u nekom susjedstvu bez ikakvih prijatelja. Otkako znam za sebe sam volio čitati i crtati tako da sam se laćao tih aktivnosti kad god bi bio sam i nisam imao što za raditi. Tijekom odrastanja nikada nisam smatrao da ću se kad odrastem baviti zaozbiljno baviti umjetnošću, bila je samo razonoda. Sve do fakulteta nisam ozbiljno razmatrao postati umjetnik i čak tada sam tek polako dolazio do te spoznaje. Isprva sam pokušavao kombinirati moje zanimanje za umjetnost sa svojom fascinacijom za ljudsku anatomiju tako što sam radio medicinske ilustracije i radio na odsjeku anatomije na svom fakultetu. Kada me to nije uspjelo zadovoljiti odlučio sam početi s ilustriranjem knjiga. Nakon što sam dobio odobravanje što se tiče moga rada na nekoliko umjetničkih izložbi na SF konvencijama, poslao sam uzorke svoga rada izdavaču i započeo svoju karijeru kao profesionalni ilustrator i umjetnik.

Vaš stil je sličan romanticizmu, poput Caspara Davida Friedricha, s temama kao što su stare ruševine, vrtovi, čudne građevine, mitološka bića i prekrasne dame sa skrivenom porukom. Odakle vam inspiracija i jeste li ikada imali iskustva sa nadnaravnim?

Budući da sam fan CDF-a i njegovog rada shvatit ću tvoju primjedbu kao kompliment – hvala ti!
Umjetnost je najbolje primijenjena kao sredstvo poručivanja ideja i osjećaja koje je teško iskazati riječima, dok u ilustraciji netko ima zadatak pronaći način za momentalno iskazati bit nečega već iskazanog, često u puno riječi. U oba slučaja netko pokušaje koristiti elemente slike umjesto riječi kako bi iskazao osjećaje, teme, ideje i priču. Ipak, u mojoj galeriji ili osobnom radu rijetko imam priču vezanu uz sliku.

Korištenjem simboličnih referenci i univerzalnih elemenata koji se prostiru kroz različita doba i kulture pokušavam premostiti razliku u razumijevanju između sebe i gledatelja koristeći subjektivna sredstva.

Imao sam neke čudne okršaje i naizgled nadnaravna iskustva, ali što sam stariji to postajem sve ciničniji i sumnjičaviji u odnosu na moja ranija iskustva. Unatoč tomu, povremeno razmišljam o idejama kao što su izvantjelesna iskustva i pokušavam izraziti svoje emocije o takvim stvarima vizualno, kao na primjer u mojoj seriji radova „Passage“.

Odavno se slažem sa citatom Alberta Einsteina: „Najljepša stvar koju možemo iskusiti je misterioznost. Ona je izvor svake prave umjetnosti i znanosti.“

Kao i mnoge ljude, privlači me misteriozno i neobično i shvatio sam da se često ne treba tražiti daleko ako se dovoljno dobro promatraju vlastiti život i okruženje.

Napravili ste mnogo naslovnica za znanstveno-fantastične, horor i fantazijske pisce kao što su Stephen King, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert A. Heinlein, Michael Moorcock i rock i pop izvođače kao što su Seputura, Cirith Ungol, Meat Loaf, Michael Jackson. Stephen King hvali vaš rad, Michael Moorcock je rekao da je i više nego zahvalan dok su Cirith Ungol rekli da bi bez vas bili tek jedan obični heavy metal bend, plus to što imate nebrojene nagrade kao što su Nebula, Saturn. Član ste The Science Fiction Hall of Famea. Koja je za vas kao umjetnika i slikara najveća nagrada i priznanje?

Ajme meni, to je zeznuto pitanje. Postoji mnogo načina da se odgovori na to pitanje i sam se često uhvatim kako u raznim situacijama drugačije odgovaram na njega.

Što se tiče naslovnica knjiga, pohvale autora ima najveću težinu, zar ne mislite tako? Ako sam pisac smatra da je moja slika vjerna interpretacija knjige, tko još može nešto reći?

U situaciji u galeriji, pa, dovoljno je da se jednoj osobi – kupcu – svidi slika i osjećam se uspješno

Što se tiče nagrada, uvijek sam smatrao da ih je bolje osvajati nego ne osvajati. Nažalost, dok je dobrodošla afirmacija biti tako priznat, dobivanje nagrada ne čini toliku razliku u mom životu na dnevnoj bazi. Oni ne olakšavaju izradu iduće slike ili ne ispravljaju moje greške i nepreciznosti. Zapravo je obrnuto; ne mogu ne primijetiti da su očekivanja (kako ona klijenata tako i ona obožavatelja) viša i kada vidim bolji rad drugog umjetnika osjećam se kao lažov. Ovo se često događa iako mnogi dobitnici nagrada skrivaju tu činjenicu. Čak i umjetnici koje smatram vrhuncem svojeg područja (Stanley Kubrick i Norman Rockwell mi prvi padaju na um) su bili žrtve vlastite nesigurnosti i sumnje u sebe i propitkivali su vlastitu priznatost.

U svojim SF dijelima, osim autorske, Saturn nagrade i moje brojne LOCUS anketa nagrade su jako važne jer predstavljaju mišljenja profesionalaca u tom području u mogu se smatrati bitnijima od ostalih. SPECTRUM nagrade su također uvijek dobrodošle zbog toga što su dodjeljivane od strane vlastitih kolega i zbog toga nose znatnu težinu, ili mi se bar tako čini.

Jeste li kao slikar ikada surađivali na drugim projektima kao što su animirani filmovi ili video igre? Bismo li mogli očekivati nešto novo?

Tijekom godina sam radio na raznim projektima van naslovnica knjiga. Osim covera albuma koje si spomenuo napravio sa konceptualni rad za tvornicu igračaka, radio na nekoliko filmova i surađivao na dječjoj verziji romana Little Fuzzy itd. Ali općenito sam solitarna osoba i ne tražim kolaborativni rad ako mogu sam; kao što se kaže, imam vlastitu ribu za isfrigati,. U mojim godinama smatram da nemam vremena da me nešto odvlači od slikanja tema i poruka koje su date meni da ih pretvorim u stvarnost.

Imate vrlo dugu karijeru, nekih 50 godina. Što biste kao iskusni umjetnik savjetovali nekome tko je tek počeo karijeru u umjetnosti?

Čekaj malo! Neću još nekih 6 godina biti 50 godina u ovoj branši!

Jednostavno, rekao bi: marljivo radi i ostani predan svojoj viziji. Ne trati vrijeme imitirajući tuđe radove: radi ono što samo ti možeš. Postoji samo jedna osoba koja je živjela tvoj život, a to si ti. Tvoj posao je da kreiraš rad koji ti i samo ti možeš napraviti.
Pojedinac treba vježbati dok ne postane dobar kao ono što vidi da se već radi u tom području. Zbog toga što si novak, tvoja postignuća će biti manja i jednom kad si unutra, postaj bolji sve dok nisi toliko dobar da te se smatra nezamjenjivim – onda možeš podignuti svoju cijenu. To je jednostavno to.

Ali uspjeh može donijeti i druge probleme: možeš nešto previše raditi. Ako prihvatiš svaki zadatak koji ti se nudi, možeš izgorjeti u začuđujuće malo vremena. Budi svjestan da jednom kada uspiješ na nekom određenom području ili izgledu, tvoji klijenti će htjeti još. Može nastupiti očajnička dosada koja je smrt kreativnosti. To je kao typecastanje glumaca.
Ilustracija je kao svaka druga grana umjetnosti – postoji sistem zvijezda – i vrhovne zvijezde zarađuju više nego oni na dnu. Ovo natjecanje i naprezanje nekima može biti naporno.

Koje su prednosti i mane rada ilustratora?

Prva stvar koja mi pada na pamet što se tiče pozitivne perspektive je biti plaćen za rad koji bi svejedno rado napravio.S druge strane, postoje negativne strane svakog zanata, i mnogi koji rade u freelance ilustriranju su žrtve toga: nemaju zdravstveno osiguranje, penziju itd., bez da potroše ogromne svote kako bi pokrili sve svoje osnove.

Sati su dugi, često bez stalnog dohotka, moguće su stalne svađe kako bi se bivalo plaćenim i branjenje vlastitog rada protiv plagijatora i ukradenih prava.

Iako se ublažilo u zadnje vrijeme, odavno nestaje poštovanja za ilustraciju u usporedbi sa galerijom i takozvanom „finom umjetnošću“. Naposljetku, većina samozaposlenih ilustratora treba konstanto tražiti novi posao. Rijetko je da pojedinac ima relativno stalnu zaposlenost i treba se planirati sukladno tomu.

Bio sam jako sretan što, kad sam počeo raditi 1974., nisam nikada bio bez zadatka, i obično sam bio rezerviran unaprijed bar godinu dana.

Znanstvena fantastika je bila najveći utjecaj na svijet današnjice. Što vama kao obožavatelju i priznatom umjetniku znači znanstvena fantastika?

Naravno da je SF postala „mainstream“, ali pitam se da li je imala puno utjecaja osim što je služila kao diverzija i bijeg u masovnim medijima. Ono što mogu reći, većina ljudi vjeruje da ako ne možemo imati hoverboardove i male interplanetarne letjelice kao što su X-wing fighteri, nisu toliko više zainteresirani i nema veze sa njihovim životima ili stvarnošću.
Odrastao sam u vremenu kada su progresivne ideje bile u modi i kada je čovječanstvo naizgled bilo na kraju završavanja društvenih nejednakosti i posezalo za zvijezdama. Većinu moje mladosti sam imao jako pozitivan i optimističan pogled na dugoročnu budućnost čovječanstva (pretpostavljeno da izbjegnemo nuklearni holokaust) unatoč negativnim političkim sukobima i reakcionizmom konzervatizma.

U 70-ima se činilo su podrška i entuzijazam za svemirski program opali, a brzina progresivnog napretka – da ne spominjemo pažnja na znanost u cjelini – je izgubila na popularnosti kod neugodno velikog postotka javnosti. U isto vrijeme, onovremene pretpostavke za našu kolektivnu budućnost su se dramatično srozale (ovisno koga čitate), muteći moje nade u bolje sutra. Svjedočili smo znatnom porastu distopijskih scenarija za našu budućnost, a Star Trek fantazije su se počele činiti naivnima i loše informiranima.
Naposljetku, osjećam presuđujući pesimizam što se tiče nadolazećih događaja i jedva smognem srca da čitam SF koji me toliko uzbuđivao kad sam bio mladić. Jedino mogu zaključiti da što su događaji manji i krize veće biti će sve manje apetita za futurističke scenarije, tako da nisam optimističan što se tiče SF.

Koji su vam najdraži autori znanstvene fantastike?

Teško mi je to odlučiti, budući da rijetko čitam SF ovih dana. Imena koja mi padaju na pamet nisu vrlo suvremena, što odražava koliko malo uspijevam pratiti SF današnjice. Bilo kako bilo, moj roster bez nekog posebnog redoslijeda bi uključivao Isaaca Asimova, Andyja Weira, Neala Stephensona, Stephena Kinga, Connieja Willisa, Johna Scalzija, CJ Cherryhja, Michaela Chabona, Franka Herberta, Johna Wyndhama, Roberta Silverberga, Arthura C. Clarkea, Rogera Zelaznyja, Joan Vinge, Mikea Resnicka i još druge kojih se ne mogu sjetiti.

Za kraj, recite nam nešto o svojim budućim planovima, novim projektima. Hoćete li napraviti još jednu sliku Elrica?

Od 1980-ih sam bio, zbog manjka izraza, „posjećen“ od strane vizualnih tema i ideja za koje osjećam da mi dolaze s razlogom: one su slike koje trebam uraditi. Od 1988. sam uspio zagrebati površinu neke tih tema, ali imam još toliko rada kojeg bi trebao napraviti. Svaki put kada prihvatim zahtjev za ilustraciju moj datum početka za novi rad na tim drugim slikama se ponovno pomiče; tako da što više starim osjećam povećan osjećaj hitnosti da izbacim sve ostalo i bavim se tim radovima, radovima koji čekaju da ih realiziram. Dakle, moja trenutna politika je da odradim neke od tih radova što ranije mogu. Dalje od toga, ne mogu reći. Mislim da bi to bilo dovoljno za bavljenje ostatak mog života.

U međuvremenu, međutim, volim se vraćati na starije teme i povremeno – kada me raspoloženje ponuka – volim proizvesti skromno Elric ili Dark Tower djelo, čisto iz zabave. Dio moje umjetničke duše će uvijek biti u prostoru F/SF umjetnosti, što je razlog zašto mi je toliko teško reći ne unosnom i zanimljivom ilustracijskom zadatku kada mi se ponudi.

Budući da volite antičke ruševine, bi li ikada svratili u Solin?

Ako uzmognem, da.

mm

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Student morskog ribarstva u Splitu, član umjetničke udruge Dadanti gdje obavljam funkciju voditelja glazbenog odjela i glumačke družine Banana Split. Bavim se poezijom, glumom, glazbom, novinarstvom i performansima...

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