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Interview: Fantasy art legend Michael Whelan relates his vision of Deathwing

Fantasy art legend Michael Whelan's vision of Deathwing
Sometimes we're so busy geeking out over the ways Blizzard inspires us with World of Warcraft that we forget that behind the curtain, the folks at Blizzard are busy geeking out over the people and things that inspire them. So when we learned that Blizzard had commissioned fantasy art legend Michael Whelan to create a painting of Deathwing for Blizzard's headquarters, we knew we had to bring you the inside story of how this singular vision of the iconic dragon came to fruition.

The most honored artist in science fiction, Whelan has created book and album covers for authors and musicians like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, the Jacksons and Meat Loaf. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009, the first living artist to join such luminaries as H.G. Wells, Steven Spielberg, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

While Whelan actually executed the commission for Blizzard early last year, his enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed. The world-renowned painter of imaginative realism chatted with us about his rueful discovery of Deathwing's unique draconic qualities, his admiration for Blizzard's art team, and the special project he's working on now in memory of "Dragonriders of Pern" author Anne McCaffrey.

WoW Insider: Your artwork is such a part of the fantasy world that we need to go back a bit to get the full perspective of what you've done here, the long view you bring to an upstart like Deathwing.

Michael Whelan: It's been a little ways ... (laughs) I've been working at this for what, 35 years?

We have a Pern fan on staff who's curious about how you reconcile the stylistic differences between the art for Pern and art like what you've just done with Deathwing for Blizzard. Now that you're focusing more on fine art than illustration, was it odd to switch back to working on a commission with someone else's vision?

Yeah, it's really hard. Try as I might, there's always a period of adjustment between working on a commission piece and doing something for the gallery, where I'm just trying to satisfy my own aesthetic and intellectual sensibilities. It's funny; it can take me days, even, to switch gears and go from one mindset to the other.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Michael Whelan forges a vision of Deathwing

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If you're a fan of science fiction and fantasy, the name Michael Whelan is likely familiar to you. And even if the name isn't familiar, it's incredibly likely you've picked up a book with Whelan's art on the cover. Michael Whelan has been one of the world's premier fantasy and science fiction cover artists since 1980, with covers that grace the works of Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey and many more. In 2009, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle -- the first living artist to be included in a distinguished list of notable authors.

Whelan was approached for a commissioned piece by Blizzard's Art Director, Jeremy Cranford. The subject? Deathwing. This month's ImagineFX magazine includes a two-page spread of the full painting, but Whelan has also featured a behind-the-scenes glimpse showing the full process behind creating this beautiful work of art on his official website.

It's a fascinating look at what that process of creating a piece of art is actually like. There are a tremendous number of steps involved -- including, in this case, a detailed head study of Deathwing, shown above. The end result is a dramatic, bold, beautiful and very Whelan piece, but the post on Whelan's website includes all of the developmental pieces of art as well.

Head to Whelan's website for the full story behind this gorgeous piece of art and an illustration of the work it takes to go from idea to finished piece. And if you're interested in a truly unique holiday gift, the head study of Deathwing is available for purchase, too.


Filed under: News items, Arts and Crafts

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