Monday, March 2, 2009

My Best Darkover Picture

I have been scanning in my entire collection of Darkover-related art from the old slides, and this one came up tonight. It is "Hawkmistress," which I painted in 1982 for the DAW Books publication. (Acrylic on illustration board, 12 1/2" x 22".) You can see how the picture was used for two different covers in the Wikipedia entry for the book. A friend posed for the figure, and I drew direct from the (clothed) model without the use of photographs. I borrowed the flying hawk from a Buick ad of the time. It's a composite bird, because the markings and size are more like a Peregrine Falcon. The main character depicted here is a girl who escapes a detestable arranged marriage by running away dressed as a boy. 

I sold a lot of prints of "Hawkmistress" before the image was retired in the 1990s. For a while this was my most popular painting. I only did one subsequent cover for DAW. The four Darkover covers for DAW that I did in the early '80s were the most success I ever got as a professional fantasy artist. The whole illustration world is very different now. 

I feel very ambivalent about my fantasy art. On the one hand I regard it as wonderful stuff I'd love to go back to, but I know that there isn't much of a market for stuff like this any more at conventions or even for book covers or other illustrations, unless I were willing to totally re-train myself to work in digital media as a game artist. On the other hand, I was trained to make "serious" fine art and fantasy art has always been regarded as trivial kitsch by the fine art types, even in post-modern now. If I want to show art in a "fine art" gallery I have to make non-fantasy or at best "surrealistic" art. It is a constant issue in my artistic life which I have never resolved, not even in 30 years of work. Meanwhile I am almost ready to self-publish my Mereth Kahn architecture booklet, which is quite far removed from Darkovan heroic girls and flying hawks.

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