Virgil Finlay is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest illustrators of science fiction and fantasy. Born on July 23, 1914 in Rochester, New York, Finlay took to art early in life, selling his first illustration at the age of 21 to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright for the magazine’s December 1935 issue. Over the next 35 years he completed more than 2,500 drawings and paintings, an achievement made even more impressive by the time required to execute his painstaking and labor-intensive pieces. To give his black and white drawings a photorealistic look, Finlay developed a unique style that combined stippling with scratchboard techniques (scratchboard being a type of art board manufactured with a white clay coating that accepts ink and can be cut away, allowing artists to “scratch” white lines into black areas). The result was an image so detailed that pulp editors were initially hesitant to accept his work, fearing that the tiny dots would not reproduce on their coarse paper stock. Fortunately they did, and the mesmerizing visions that Finlay brought to the page proved to be tremendously popular with readers across the decades, from the heyday of the pulps in the late 1930s to the opening of the Space Age. Working to the end, Finlay died of cancer in January of 1971, just before Donald M. Grant published Virgil Finlay, the first of many books celebrating his unique talent.
Find out more about Virgil Finlay, and see samples of his work here.
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