Michael Whelan’s original painting FIRESTARTER goes to live auction with Heritage, an online auctioneer of collectibles, on October 17-18.
In 1980, Phantasia Press commissioned Whelan to illustrate the cover of their slip-cased, limited edition of the novel, which would be Whelan’s first work for Stephen King.
For a long time, you’ve talked about splitting time between illustration and your fine art work. What does each mean to you?
What I wanted to do more than anything was to be a pilot or an astronaut, but I couldn’t do that. Then I had other goals, like any person who does something creative. You’re setting new horizons for yourself.
Once I actually started making a living as an illustrator doing book covers, which was something I thought I’d never really get to, then it was a question of—well, I’ve always wanted to do the John Carter Mars series and boom I got the assignment. These things just kind of came to me.
I was honored to paint the cover image for the final book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, but it was a daunting prospect given the massive backstory of 14 books written over a span of 20+ years.
Each volume, illustrated by the late Darrell K. Sweet, had a similar look and feel. I decided the last cover should retain a sense of continuation while bringing the epic to a close.