Imaginative Realism

“The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.”

G.K. Chesterton

Picture of Michael Whelan

M ichael Whelan is one of the world’s premier painters of imaginative realism. For more than 35 years he has created book and album covers for authors and musicians like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, the Jacksons and MeatLoaf. His clients have included every major U.S. book publisher, the National Geographic Society, CBS Records, and the Franklin Mint.

Since 1995, he has also pursued a fine art career and his non-commissioned works are in established collections throughout the world.

A graduate of San Jose State University with a BA in Painting and a President’s Scholar, Michael went on to attend the Art Center College of Design also in California, but he dropped out to accept his first book cover assignment. He soon became known for his dedication to bringing an author’s words to life and Whelan covers dominated the science fiction and fantasy field throughout the 80’s and 90’s. He was largely responsible for the realistic style of genre covers of that era, and his stunning color and composition have influenced many artists to this day.

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Acrylic on Canvas – 36″ x 54″

My initial inspiration, I believe, grew out of concern for the destabilizing and immense effects of global climate change, a sense of nature out of control and giving birth to unnatural and cataclysmic phenomena. I realize that it is not the happiest of subjects to dedicate a painting to, but the idea just wouldn’t let me go without painting it.

It remains to be seen whether the catharsis of this painting will suffice or if I will have to revisit the idea again in the near future.



Acrylic on Panel – 12″ x 24″

With this painting I revisit themes developed in my “Passage” series, which featured heavily in my first couple of one-man shows at the Tree’s Place gallery. All of the Passage works use the dream-object of the lighted bubbles—symbols of spirit or unfettered consciousness—to convey the idea of movement from one state of mind to another, a transition to a more open and lighted place; a release. The “Faded Star” on the right is a frequent symbol in my work, a representation of life’s unfulfilled ambitions or desires; it is in moving past such hollow corridors that one seeks to discover clarity and peace.