Walotsky has painted covers for just about every major writer in the business, from Asimov to Zelazny.
-- Crescent Blues

One of the more prolific science fiction/fantasy illustrators, Ron Walotsky is actually a pretty good artist. Until you've seen a couple thousand random SF magazine covers, you don't realize how rare that is.

Walotsky was born in Brooklyn in 1943. As a child, art was his best subject in school, and his love of painting eventually led him to attend the School of Visual Arts in New York. He graduated in 1966, and quickly discovered that art was not an easy field to make a living in. He had been doing mystical and abstract paintings, and decided his best entry into the world of commercial art was through SF and F magazines. He had the good fortune to walk into the offices of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction just as they were running short of cover art, and landed his first professional job. He continued to draw for MF&SF, off and on, for the next 35 years, doing more of their covers than any other artist.

By the late 60s he was doing the cover art for various books, including a slew of Roger Zelazny's books (including many of the Amber books). Although he was very prolific, his best known covers are probably the Amber covers, including the splayed cards on the cover of Nine Princes in Amber. He has been a popular illustrator in the SF and F field ever since the 60s, although never one of the most popular. As far as I can find, he only ever won one award, the Frank R. Paul Award for Outstanding Achievement in Illustration, in 1987, although he was nominated for several others.

Most of his work is in acrylics, although he also uses watercolor, and he also makes rather cool masks out of the shells of horseshoe crabs (the Ancient Warriors from Lost Civilizations series). He paints the upper rounded bulb of the shell as an ornately decorated mask, and the lower portion as a human face. They are very striking, and my favorite all of his pieces that I've seen. The faces he drew on the cover of Rachel Pollack's Temporary Agency are modeled on these masks.

It's hard to characterize Walotsky's art, as he has experimented with many different styles. He tends towards the somewhat traditional, science fiction realism and brightly colored, slightly flat and oddly proportioned fantasy art. Usually high in detail with lots to look at, although this can not always be fully appreciated on cramped and crowded book and magazine covers. He has a bad habit of occasionally superimposing multiple images in one illustration, sticking a random ghost or outsized alien into the scene. Overall, he's pretty groovy.

He published one volume of his collected illustrations: Inner Visions: The Art of Ron Walotsky . Published by Sterling in 2000, it has only 112 pages, so it is obviously not comprehensive. I do not, unfortunately, own a copy, and therefor cannot say anything more about it.

Ron Walotsky died July 29, 2002 of kidney failure.


References:
http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/walotsky_ron.html (has some good links to image galleries of Ron's art.)
http://www.crescentblues.com/3_2issue/walotsky.shtml (an interview with Ron. Includes more images)
http://isfdb.tamu.edu/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Ron_Walotsky
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/185585774X/ref=nosim/theartcyclopedia
http://www.locusmag.com/2002/News/News07Log.html

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