Lines and Colors art blog

Michael Whelan
For many years, Michael Whelan was one of the best known, most popular and well respected artists in the field of fantasy illustration. His work set new standards for the field and continues to inspire new generations of artists.

In the mid 90’s, Whelan transitioned from illustration into gallery art, bringing his refined draftsmanship, dramatic color and wide ranging imagination into the service of imaginative realism. The galleries on his website include extensive selections of both his illustration work, familiar to many as iconic book and record covers, and his newer gallery paintings.

In the latter, I see possible influence of 19th century painters like Arnold Böcklin and Caspar David Fredrich, as well as other symbolists and perhaps some of the other Victorian painters.

Whelan has a deft touch to blending the classical and modern, both in his subject matter and his approach to painting.

Some of his gallery paintings appear to be parts of series, though they are not arranged that way, in which Whelan returns to visual themes. Many of them have a narrative feel, with an implied rather than implicit story waiting for the viewer’s imagination to take up thread and fly.

In addition to the galleries on his website, there is a shop where you can find original art, prints and books; and under “About the Artist”, a series of FAQs that include information on materials and techniques. Though he occasionally works in oil, Whelan’s preferred medium is acrylic, usually on gessoed panel or watercolor board.


15 responses to “Michael Whelan”

  1. How very strange… I have that Whelan piece with the staircase that goes to nowhere hanging on the bulletin board behind my computer right now… it is exactly the same piece, down to the leaf… except there’s a different figure on the stairs. A standing man. I love that piece and it’s very odd to find that there is a variation on it out there.

    1. Interesting. Maybe, instead of “imaginative realism”, I should have said “magic realism”.

  2. Curiouser and curiouser… your version must be the “official” version, as that is what is on his personal website. I can find my variation online… except the postcard I have tacked up has a second figure on the path, and none of the versions I can find online have that. Now I want to know why he changed it!

    1. He may have brought the original into the computer and done a digital variation. He works primarily in acrylic, but he does work digitally as well.

  3. Another artist whose work I adore! Love the stories these works promise and the colors are so rich and vibrant, I feel like I am looking at paintings made with liquid jewels.

  4. Gavin Mann Avatar
    Gavin Mann

    What great illustrations. Very imaginative

    1. Gavin, As long as your comment is relevant to the topic, you’re welcome to include a link to your site, but to save you time and energy, you should understand that links in comments on WordPress blogs like this one are automatically ignored by Google. So posting your link here will not increase your search engine rankings one iota.

  5. I so love the detail in his work. I lose patience with mine and always try to simplify or lose the background all together. The stories in each of his images are so rich. I much admire his composition and, well, everything. Thanks for sharing. Made my morning!

  6. I met him as a student in college. Very generous man and he still is. He has influenced so many in the fantasy/sci fi genre. A giant.

  7. Long time ago… the former Words and Pictures Museum in Northampton, MA [where to this day Teenage Ninja Turtles still look down upon Main Street] Michael Whelan was invited to talk about his art. I reviewed, looked, soaked in, read and perused his “Art of Michael Whelan” from cover to cover, listened to his talk intently, and eagerly stood in line to get his signature… [hold on second I’m going to get the book now…] and had him sign on page 78 Destiny’s Road, a favorite painting as I am always looking across the world ahead of me…day dreaming or visualizing something… So Mike signed the book and looked at me as I stood there trying to to come up with a question or a statement -and after weeks of anticipating his talk, to meet him, and ask him all sorts of wonderful, intuitive questions- for the life of me I didn’t know what to say…

    Thanks Charlie, Thanks Michael …cheers. Mike P.

    1. Thanks for the personal account, Mike. That’s happened to me on occasion as well! Of course, you thought of 5 brilliant questions when you got home!

  8. I love his work. I personally would describe it as “metaphysical realism.”

    1. Interesting thought, Todd. Thanks.

  9. It’s a few years late, but I can offer an explanation for the difference in THE LANDING.

    The original was one of three PASSAGE TO SANCTUARY prints that Michael created digitally for Mithril Publishing. That’s the image that features the male figure standing in the foreground.

    After the print was produced, his original files were destroyed, but Mithril went bankrupt before all of the prints were distributed. It’s hard to find them and they are a bit of a rarity.

    Michael revisited the concept in 2002 as a traditional painting. Much of the work is the same as the digital print, but he re-imagined the figure in the foreground (as you can see in the image above).

    I know all of this because the updated version of the painting is hanging on my wall. He painted it for me.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Always good to have the story first-hand.