Back in the late 1970s I was re-introduced to Ayn Rand's work by some Harvard friends. In 1978, while trying to leave graduate school, I read Rand's famous blockbuster, "Atlas Shrugged." I was energized and thrilled by this book which everyone else but I and my libertarian friends thought was tacky and ridiculous. For me, Rand created a universe where I mattered, where I could decide to be a success, where I could stand up strong and proud in a world of technology and progress. In Randworld, competence and rational intelligence, daring and boundless energy were virtues, not mental problems. I wanted to be a Rand person, and in some ways I still do. I don't care whether it is a mind-cracked fantasy or not, nor that Rand's personal life had few of her own written virtues. And I'm sorry that some public figures use Rand for their own ideological crusades, either for or against the aforementioned ideals. The whole "virtue of selfishness" theme in Rand's work has been distorted and misunderstood, but I am not the person to explain it again and again.
I did a number of character portraits and illustrations for Rand's books, especially "Atlas." This one above is one of the better ones. It's painted in the "portrait montage" style that was used for big, multi-character books at that time. That style of cover is rarely if ever seen today, but I think it still works for Rand's 1959 epic. The painting is amateurish (I was, uh, an amateur) and the photograph is poor, but my ambitions were Randworthy.
"Atlas Shrugged Fantasy" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 12", summer 1978.