Drawn from the Imagination: Artists and Illustrators of Speculative Fiction at the Merril Collection

August 8, 2022 | Isabel

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They say never to judge a book by its cover, but who are we kidding? Cover art and illustration are gateways into story, beckoning to us from across the crowded shelves.

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy is celebrating artists in a new exhibit, Drawn from the Imagination: Artists and Illustrators of Speculative Fiction. We singled out nine outstanding artists who are well represented in our collection. Some achieved fame in their field and some did not. Their lives and careers are as varied as their styles, but all are dedicated to the art of the fantastic.

This exhibit runs from July 18 to October 1, 2022 at the Merril Collection and can be viewed during our open hours. We’re on the 3rd floor of the Lillian H. Smith Branch.

But for now, come closer and take a peek at some of the artists in our exhibit.

Who Goes There - Cropped
Cropped picture of Hannes Bok's cover for Who Goes There by John W. Campbell, Jr., published by Shasta Publishers, 1948.


Hannes Bok

Hannes Bok is considered one of the greatest science fiction artists of the 1940s. Born in 1914 as Wayne Woodard, Hannes Bok used his chosen pseudonym for most of his life. The name was based on his favourite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bok sketch
This delicate sketch shows Bok’s use of line and movement. Undated and unpublished.

Bok got his start illustrating for fanzines in the 1930s. Fanzines are amateur magazines published by fans, for fans. This included the fanzine of his friend Ray Bradbury, a little-known writer at the time. Bradbury loved Bok's art and took samples to the First World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. He showed them to various editors and Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird Tales magazine, decided to hire Bok. Bok’s first professional piece was on the cover of Weird Tales, December 1939.

Weird Tales  December 1939
Bok's first cover for Weird Tales.

Weird Tales was one of the early science fiction and fantasy pulp magazines. They're called “pulps,” because they were printed on inexpensive paper made from wood pulp. Like Bok, many artists started their professional careers in these magazines. To see more of these wondrous publications, check out the Internet Archive's Pulp Magazine Archive or drop by the Merril Collection. The Merril has hundreds of pulp magazines, some of which date back to the 1920s, including the first science fiction pulp magazine, Amazing Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback in 1926.


Jack Gauhan

One of the Merril Collection’s interesting holdings is a nearly complete set of original art for Fritz Leiber’s novel A Specter is Haunting Texas, illustrated by Jack Gaughan.

Jack Gaughan case - front
Front of the Jack Gaughan case with the 1969 hardcover of A Specter is Haunting Texas on the top shelf. On the bottom is an introductory page for the Merril Collection's portfolio of the original art.

Jack Gaughan (pronounced "gone") was one of the most important and influential science fiction illustrators during the 1960s and 1970s. He dominated the 1960s with his vigorous, abstract interior drawings and stylized cover paintings.

Gaughan was very involved in the science fiction fan community as a teenager and young man. He was published in fanzines and continued to illustrate for them even after he gained professional success. He is the only artist to win Best Artist and Best Fan Artist in the same year at the Hugo Awards.

A Specter is Haunting Texas was first published as a three-part serial in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1968. It was collected in a hardcover novel in 1969, which includes none of the original illustrations except for the cover art.

Jack Gaughan case - Scully
Here are two illustrations of Scully, the main character of A Specter is Haunting Texas. One is a colour image for the magazine cover. The other is done on scratchboard and was used as interior art.

A Specter is Haunting Texas is available in book form from the library. While the Merril Collection's copies of the serialization are on display, you can read the stories in Galaxy Science Fiction at the Internet Archive: part 1, part 2, part 3.


Martin Springett

Martin Springett was born in England in 1947 and moved to Canada in his teens. In the 1960s, he began working as a children’s and fantasy book illustrator.

Martin Springett case

Springett returned to the UK in 1973 to pursue a music career. While there, he was hired to illustrate and design covers for Columbia records. Five years later, Springett moved back to Canada and settled in Toronto in 1978. He started a band, the Gardening Club, which released their first album in 1983. The band is still active and you can find their music online. Springett describes their music as “cosmic giggle” and creates the art for all of their albums.

Springett case close-up
Close-up of the Martin Springett case. At the bottom left is a signed promotional print for the song “Ravensgate” from the album Boy on a Bike, released by The Gardening Club in 2020. Above is an original drawing for an unknown project.

In 1984, Springett received a commission to illustrate the cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, book one of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. He created the covers for the whole series, and they skyrocketed his career in fantasy novel illustration.

The Summer Tree
The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. First edition.


Learn more about these artists and explore their work at Drawn from the Imagination: Artists and Illustrators of Speculative Fiction. There's much more to see, including original art by Canadians George A. Walker and Ron Lightburn.
To let you get up close and personal with the Merril’s art collection, we will be holding an after hours event on Wednesday August 10, 2022, from 7 to 8 pm. Drop in for an exclusive look at more original art that could not be featured in this exhibit.


For even more amazing artists, check out these books!

Masters of science fiction and fantasy art

Masters of science fiction and fantasy art : a collection of the most inspiring science fiction, fantasy, and gaming illustrators in the world

The Chesley Awards for science fiction and fantasy art

The Chesley Awards for science fiction and fantasy art : a retrospective

Spectrum 27

Spectrum 27 : the best in contemporary fantastic art
The Spectrum series showcases all kinds of art, from book illustrations to movies to video games. They produce a new art book each year.


Post adapted from Drawn from the Imagination: Artists and Illustrators of Speculative Fiction (2022), curated by Brian De Wolfe, Maya Fang, Isabel Fine, Ames Geddes and Kim Hull.