Thursday, October 2, 2014

Zenna Henderson's "People"

One of my earliest professional illustration jobs was doing frontispieces for collector's item editions of fantasy and s.f. books for Gregg Press. This Boston-based publisher specialized in hard-bound reproductions of old but important texts for libraries and collectors, and used real art on their frontispieces. The covers were not pulp pictorials but dignified panels with the signature of the author reproduced in gold foil print. I eventually did work for Gregg illustrating books by Philip K. Dick, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Zenna Henderson.

Zenna Henderson, who was a schoolteacher in rural Arizona, wrote a series of stories and longer texts about a race of aliens, who were visually identical with humans, who came to Earth after the destruction of their own planet and settled in the American Southwest. The difference was that these folk had magic (or psychic) powers and could do all sorts of miraculous deeds. They hid their powers from their neighbors lest they would be persecuted, but occasionally some of them, especially children, would use them anyway, as I depicted in this image of three levitating sisters. These alien refugees called themselves simply "The People," as many tribes do. Eventually they were assimilated into human society, since they could interbreed with humans, and their magic powers were lost. You can see other Henderson illustrations and my comments on them in older postings on this Blog.

In those ancient days I still did my black and white drawings with a very thin technical pen, the fabulous European Rotring-Rapidograph which I had brought back from the Old World. I could get a very high level of detail, perhaps too much for a simple illustration which would be reproduced at only 5" x 7". The image on this posting is taken from an archaic and forgotten method of printing black and white drawings called a photostat. This photostat was high resolution and could preserve every little graphic detail, and it didn't fade or yellow or warp. The photostat I used for this picture is well-kept from (yikes!) 1978. The house and tree are taken not from the Arizona countryside but my very own street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Technical pen black ink on Bristol illustration board, 7" x 10", spring 1978. Recommended click on the pic to see Rapidograph ink details.


Tristan Alexander said...

Really like this! The style and the design are both really nice!

Mo. Robin Smith said...

Really like this. I love Zenna Henderson's People, so it was fun to stumble on this. I wish she had written more about them. I have two books - I think that's all there were.