In JohnJosMiller by JohnJosMiller2 Comments


This time around I thought I’d post the work of a specific artist, Virgil Finlay, who is one of my very favorites and who has been called the most popular science fiction artist of the 1940’s -1950’s.

Finlay was born in 1914. His first magazine cover (I don’t know when he sold his first interior illustration) was for the February 1937 issue of WEIRD TALES. 

His first cover

He quickly became their most popular artist, doing (for example) covers of eight of the eleven issues published in 1938.

December 1937

He was popular from the beginning. Even H.P. Lovecraft wrote him fan letters, as well as a poem about his work entitled “To Mr. Finlay, Upon His Drawing for Mr. Bloch’s Tale, ‘The Faceless God.'”

April 1938

His covers are great, but his interior black and white work is magnificent. His preferred media was ultra-fine lithographic pen on clay-finished scratchboard. His preferred technique was called stippling. He would dip his pen in black India Ink, then hold it close to the scratchboard, but not touching it, allowing a single minuscule drop of ink to drip from the tip of his pen. Then he would wipe the pen clean and dip it again in the ink, repeating the process until he had an astonishing illustration that was near photographic clarity. Needless to say this was a time consuming method of “drawing,” but he was a master of the technique, and produced over 2,800 illustrations during the course of his career.

A plate from his SHIP OF ISHTAR portfolio

An illo from Seabury Quinn's "Roads," the story of Santa Claus (really)

I don't know what this is from, but I like it.

Like many men of his generation, Finlay sacrificed three years (1943-1946) to World War Two, which he spent as a combat engineer in Okinawa. He continued to draw until his death from cancer (1971) at the tragically young age of 56. He frequently spent 16 hour days, seven days a week, at the drawing board to support his family, and he left behind an amazing legacy of magnificent fantastic and romantic art that will never be forgotten.


 Clue #1:  Written by Steve Earle

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