Saturday, July 24, 2010

Uncalculated Risk

I ran the Queens Half-Marathon with my friend Charlie Nix today and this illustration pretty much sums up how it felt. The runners - or crawlers - even resemble us a little (I'm on the left and Charlie, as usual, is in the lead). Dad made this (while living on 39th Avenue in Queens, I might add) for Christopher Anvil's short story “Uncalculated Risk" in the March 1962 issue of Analog.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big Cat, Little Study

Dad isn't very well known for his cat paintings, but he did a lot of them in the 1960s and at one point hoped to collect them in a book or a portfolio of prints. He even wrote a text to accompany the pictures, but the project never materialized.

This study of...a jaguar? (please correct me if I'm wrong) the same size, medium, and vintage as "Moonlight at Midday" below (i.e. gouache on illustration board, 4.375 x 7.5"). I don't think a more finished version was ever painted or published, unless it's in a lost issue of Reader's Digest - and since Dad did paint an entirely different jaguar for that magazine in 1969, maybe this was a rejected concept. It's nice, though - and the tree branches are so "him."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Moonlight at Midday

I've always liked this small gouache painting on bristol board, but it only just dawned on me that it could have been a study for one of Dad's many paperback covers. He labeled the back "Moonlight at Midday," so I searched for a book of that title and easily found Moonlight at Midday by Sally Carrighar, published by Pyramid in 1967. Dad didn't have a copy of the book, nor a proof of the cover in his files, so I'm happy to add something new to his bibliography.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

News From Bear Alley

A piece by author and editor Steve Holland on his blog, Bear Alley:
John Schoenherr, one of the finest SF magazine cover artists of the 1960s and a writer and illustrator of children's books for many decades, died in New Jersey [sic: Pennsylvania, actually] on 8 April, aged 74. Below is what I wrote about Schoenherr for Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic Historywith a couple of minor additions:

The artist who dominated Analog (as Astounding SF became in 1960) was John Schoenherr, of whom Vincent Di Fate has said, "Once in a while an artist comes along with so much innate ability that he instantly gains the respect of his peers and becomes known as an 'artist's artist' ... Schoenherr possesses just such a talent and, to put a finer point on the matter, he is one of the best compositionalists who ever worked in the field of commercial art."...

Read more

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Early Risers

"Early Risers" (oil on canvas, 1994) by John Schoenherr

Before plagues of them spread across the United States, Canada Geese were rare, magical, dinosaur-looking things that came and went in small numbers. We tended to see only airborne flocks, not huge armies permanently encamped on soccer fields. In the late 1970s, Dad had a half-acre pond carved out of a scrubby field on our property, largely to lure in geese, so he could study them up close. Almost every year a pair would settle on the tiny island, build a nest, raise a family - and then leave with goslings in tow. For almost two decades, Canada Geese were one of Dad's primary subjects, culminating in the last children's book he wrote and illustrated, originally titled Gone Goose, but published as Rebel by Philomel in 1995. Much of its setting is based on the pond out back.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Impossibles, 1963

Great color, concept, and composition. This was used on the paperback cover of The Impossibles by Mark Phillips (Pyramid Publications, June 1963). I'm pretty sure it's gouache and casein white on illustration board, but I haven't seen the original in person. Love, love, love it.

Mission of Gravity

Centauri Dreams - The News Forum of the Tau Zero Foundation has a post which features Dad's cover art for Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity (Pyramid Publications, August 1969) and asks: "Could anyone capture the essence of a story better than the remarkable Schoenherr?"

A Tribute From Sci Fi Wire

Sci Fi Wire printed this a while back. See the original post for some key science fiction illustrations - and some nice comments...
John Schoenherr, one of the finest science-fiction illustrators of the 1960s and 1970s—and the first artist to draw Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Pern—died Thursday at age 74. Herbert was so taken with Schoenherr's images that he referred to the artist as "the only man who has ever visited Dune."

Schoenherr was perhaps best known for his illustrations for Dune, which was first published in two parts as "Dune World" and "The Prophet of Dune" in the science fiction magazine Analog in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and for which he won the 1965 Hugo Award for Best Artist. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the late 1970s, Schoenherr contributed hundreds of distinctive and memorable illustrations for various science fiction magazines and books.

For those of us who discovered science fiction in the 1960s, John Schoenherr was one of a handful of artists who helped create our visual memory of the classic science fiction of that era. His interior illustrations, especially those in scratchboard, were iconic in their dark precision. His full-color cover paintings often made use of bright, glowing colors to create dramatically alien landscapes, artifacts and creatures. In addition to Dune, he did illustrations in 1967 for Anne McCaffrey's first Pern story, "Weyr Search." He thereby contributed to the genesis of two of the most popular science fiction series of the past 50 years.

In 1978, he returned to the world of Dune with new art for The Illustrated Dune, after which he worked only occasionally in SF but continued his prolific and award-winning work in children's book and wildlife art. But for 20 years, John Schoenherr played a seminal role in helping visualize the sense of wonder of SF, and in his passing we have lost another of our greatest artists.

The Day the Bears Go to Bed

For a long time I've had a bamboo suitcase filled with Dad-related ephemera: prints and proofs and F&Gs and extracted pages from magazines. I've finally started to archive the contents and put them in some kind of order.

This is one extract I just found, which I hadn't remembered well: it's an illustration for "The Day the Bears Go to Bed" by Jean George from the October 1966 issue of Reader's Digest.

Dad made the original (kept by the publisher) in ink on scratchboard when he was at the top of his game in that medium. And this was a "collaboration," so to speak, with Jean George that predated their pairing on the Newbery Award-winning novel, Julie of the Wolves(Dad's cover has since been replaced by another, but the pictures inside are his).

Gregory Manchess Remembers

Artist Gregory Manchess' generous tribute, "Remembering John Schoenherr," appeared on Irene Gallo's blog, The Art Department, a few days after Dad passed away.

Classic Horror Film Board's Final Farewells

Here are some final farewells to John Schoenherr from the Classic Horror Film Board - "This is the place for all fans of classic horror, sci-fi and fantasy films to discuss their favorite characters, actors, movies and more."

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Studio, April 12, 2010

A few days after Dad died, I took some photos his studio. On the big easel is a snowy owl perched atop an Inuit inukshuk or inunnguaq. It's one of his last "finished" paintings - at least in that he signed and varnished it. Next to that is an old, local barn, thinly painted on foamcore. And on the left (and below) is the last picture he started, sometime after Christmas and before he went to the hospital in January. It shows an old bear slowly moving over a rocky landscape.

New York Times Obituary

Here is the obituary of John Schoenherr that appeared in The New York Times online on April 14, 2010, and in print the following day. Many thanks to Margalit Fox, who summed up his life so eloquently:

Photograph of John Schoenherr by Elizabeth Riddle

John Schoenherr, Children’s Book Illustrator, Dies at 74
by Margalit Fox

John Schoenherr, a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator who for a half-century produced painterly, exquisitely detailed images of creatures from this world and others, died on April 8. He was 74 and lived in Delaware Township, N.J.

His death, in a hospital in Easton, Pa., was from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his son, Ian, said.

A highly regarded nature artist, Mr. Schoenherr illustrated more than 40 children’s titles. He won a Caldecott Medal in 1988 for “Owl Moon” (Philomel, 1987; text by Jane Yolen), the story of a father and daughter who go looking for owls on a cold winter’s night. Presented annually by the American Library Association, the medal honors the best illustrations in a book for young people.

Mr. Schoenherr had a parallel, equally prominent career as a science-fiction illustrator. He was the first artist to depict the world of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” stories, with its vast windswept deserts and huge menacing sandworms. Through the scores of book jackets and pulp magazine covers he drew in the 1950s and afterward - including cover art for masters of the field like Philip K. Dick, John Brunner and Anne McCaffrey - Mr. Schoenherr is widely credited with helping shape midcentury America’s collective image of alien landscapes and their occupants.

John Carl Schoenherr, familiarly known as Jack, was born on July 5, 1935, in Manhattan and reared in Queens. Growing up in a German-speaking household in a polyglot community, he used drawings to communicate with his Italian- and Chinese- and English-speaking neighbors. As a young man, he studied at the Art Students League of New York and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Pratt Institute, where he failed a class in nature drawing.

Though Mr. Schoenherr planned a career as a painter, in the late 1950s he began a long association with Astounding Science Fiction magazine, later known as Analog.

“Painting was my initial impetus,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 1988. “I just got sidetracked into illustration by things like mortgages and children. Not a bad way to prostitute yourself.”

Mr. Schoenherr was known early on as one of the few commercial illustrators to work mainly on scratchboard, which gave him stark blacks and whites and a level of fine detail that recalled Renaissance woodcuts. In later years he turned to media like watercolors and oils.

In 1965 Mr. Schoenherr won a Hugo Award, presented by the World Science Fiction Society, for his artwork for “Dune,” which first appeared as a serial in Analog. He later provided the cover and interior art for several novels in the “Dune” series and for “The Illustrated Dune” (Berkley, 1978).

It is no small thing to make a worm look terrifying. Mr. Schoenherr did so evocatively, rendering Mr. Herbert’s sand creature as a rearing, pipelike organism whose jagged, gaping maw revealed a terrible blackness within.

In an interview quoted in The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Viking, 1988), Mr. Herbert called Mr. Schoenherr “the only man who has ever visited Dune.”

Mr. Schoenherr’s first children’s book illustrations were for “Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era” (Dutton, 1963), by Sterling North, about a raccoon. His art for children centered often on the natural world and in particular on mammals. Mr. Schoenherr was especially partial to bears, in all their dark-brown density.

His other children’s titles include “Julie of the Wolves” (Harper & Row, 1972), which won a Newbery Medal for its author, Jean Craighead George; and several he wrote himself, among them “The Barn” (Little, Brown, 1968) and “Bear” (Philomel, 1991).

Mr. Schoenherr’s paintings have been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout North America.

Besides his son, Ian, who is also a well-known children’s book illustrator, Mr. Schoenherr is survived by his wife, the former Judith Gray, whom he married in 1960; a daughter, Jennifer Schoenherr Aiello; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

If Mr. Schoenherr’s twin careers had a common bond, it was the rigorous fealty with which he drew all life-forms, real or imagined.

“I’ll always be proud of the ‘genuine aliens’ I designed,” Mr. Schoenherr told the journal Artists of the Rockies and the Golden West in 1983. “Never were they humans with insect antennae.”

An Obituary

A few days after Dad died, I needed to write his obituary for the local paper and the funeral home's website. I thought it would be more appropriate to talk personally on my own blog and in my eulogy, so I kept this as straightforward as possible. Consider it a "just the facts" primer:
John Schoenherr, Caldecott and Hugo Award-winning artist, died April 8, 2010, at Triumph Hospital in Easton, PA. He was 74.

Born July 5, 1935, in New York City, NY, he was the son of John Ferdinand and Frances Braun Schoenherr. He studied at the Art Students' League, and was a graduate of Stuyvesant High School (1952) and Pratt Institute (BFA, 1956). After living in Woodside and Long Island City, NY, he moved to a Delaware Township, NJ, farm in 1964.

Mr. Schoenherr devoted his recent years to wildlife painting, but spent decades working as an illustrator. The notable children's books he illustrated include Rascal by Sterling North, Gentle Ben by Walt Morey, The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix, Incident at Hawk's Hill by Allan W. Eckert, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, for which he won the Randolph Caldecott Medal, awarded annually by the American Library Association to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. He also wrote and illustrated The Barn, Bear, and Rebel.

His science fiction illustrations earned him a Hugo Award and he was the first artist to depict the worlds of Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. Herbert is said to have credited him as "the only man who has ever visited Dune."

Over the years, Mr. Schoenherr was an avid hiker, spelunker, and photographer, and his pictorial research took him to such places as Iran, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the American West. He was a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Animal Artists, the Society of Mammalogists, and was also an advisor to the Friends of the Locktown Stone Church.

Surviving him are his wife of 49 years, Judith Gray Schoenherr; a daughter, Jennifer Schoenherr Aiello of Frenchtown, NJ; a son, Ian Schoenherr of Woodside, NY; three grandchildren, Nyssa Retter, Emily Hargrave, and Samuel Aiello; and two great-grandchildren, Rivers and Eliza.

Memorial contributions may be made to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931.

A Blog About John Schoenherr

"Fields of Summer" (1990) by John Schoenherr

My father, John Schoenherr, was born 75 years ago today. Since his death in April, I've been sorting through his photographs, letters, sketches, drawings, paintings, illustrations, magazines, books, and other ephemera. As many of the things I've uncovered or rediscovered by and about him might be of broader interest, I've decided to display and discuss them here. I hope you'll take a look and keep coming back.