Sunday, June 13, 2010

Original Science Fiction Artwork, Pt. 3

And now, the last of the three part series on the Attic's collection of original science fiction art. For those who are finding this via direct link, or who are just too darn lazy to scroll down, here are links to part one and part two.

1. "Far Horizon," by Morris Scott Dollens. 19" x 15". Ca. 1952. Casein on board.

Morris Scott Dollens was another of science fiction's most famous fan artists. He specialized in astronomical and interstellar landscapes, and produced hundreds such works over a more than 40 year career. He also experimented regularly with different painting techniques and stylistic approaches, often combining photos of models with paintings and other elements to create early multi-media montages. He's credited with publishing one of the earliest fanzines, and his work regularly appeared in both his own publications, and those of other fans (such as Roy A. Squires).

In 1952, Dollens published -- with Squires -- Approaching Infinity, a small chapbook of artwork and what can best be described as science fiction prose poems. While at times kind of cheesy, it nonetheless displays some of Dollens' earliest, most visually complicated art, pieces that combine his love of different media with his grand sense of wonder.

I've enjoyed Dollens' art for a while, so when "Far Horizon" came up for auction, I knew I wanted it. I also kept thinking that it looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. It wasn't until after I won the auction that I thought to check my copy of Approaching Infinity, which I've had in my vintage book collection for a while. Imagine my glee when I discovered that there, on the "About the Artist" page, was a thumbnail reproduction -- about one by two inches -- of "Far Horizon." While it wasn't part of the Approaching Infinity narrative, I guess Dollens liked it enough to use it on the page representing himself. Very cool!

From the George H. Scithers collection. Scithers was a science fiction fan, author, and Hugo award winning editor of both Amazing Stories, Asimov's Science Fiction, and various anthologies and collections. He worked with a who's who of authors and artists, and had a massive impact on the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Scithers passed away on April 9, 2010.

2. "Approaching The Nebula," by Donald Simpson. 10" x 7". Ca. early 1970s. Watercolor airbrush and ink on board.

Don Simpson was a well known science fiction and astronomical artist who presented at many of the science fiction conventions in the 1970s. His work was often commissioned by George H. Scithers.

"Approaching the Nebula" was used as part of the cover art for L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine Crook de Camp's A Science-Fiction Handbook, Revised, which Scithers published in 1975. According to the auction in which I purchased the painting, Simpson said that he used "a technique I did a lot of art with at that time, a mixture of spray paint and Prismacolor colored pencil. I didn't have an airbrush, so I bought cans of spray paint and used stencils (raised above the paper when I needed a soft edge) and various modulation techniques I figured out, such as delicate touches on the spray-can button, or a wire near the nozzle to make the stream turbulent for textural variation. The spaceship design was heavily influenced by the works of Tim Kirk." (Don Simpson, as told to Jane Frank)

Personally, I think the technique lends a lot of atmosphere to the painting, giving it a sense of loneliness that you'd expect if you were on a space ship zooming towards some far off nebula. Technique and theme coming together -- it makes for a perfect piece of art.

And that's all for the Attic's original art. Back to toys this week!


Much of the biographical information contained in this post comes from the be-all and end-all of books about science fiction and fantasy artists, Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, by Jane Frank. It's an exhaustive study of the subject with hundreds of in-depth entries about pretty much everyone who's ever produced any sort of art within the genre. Highly recommended!

A nice review:

Copies are available at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

And if you're looking for science fiction artwork yourself, check out Jane Frank's online store, Worlds of Wonder ( She's been collecting and selling artwork for decades and really is one of the tops in the business.


  1. Amazing. Fantastic. I am impressed by the artworks you collected!

    And I for one appreciate being able to see them all. =)

    Are you able to display most or all of these? I hope so.

  2. Yep, I'm able to display it all. I don't like adding stuff to the collection that has to remain in storage, so I try to make sure I've got the space for something before I buy it. Sometimes I need to juggle the displays, but generally speaking, everything has a home.

  3. Fantastic!

    Have you ever shown a whole "room" or "home" tour of your collections and artwork on your blog?

    I'm big on getting the big picture. I love to see how others decorate and display their treasures. =)

  4. I haven't actually done the whole Attic Tour. There are many reasons, but mostly I'm a fan of maintaining the mystery of it all...


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