In my Forgotten Gems series of blog posts, I try to highlight older works that are still worth consideration by current-day readers. Previously, I’ve focused on fiction. This time, I’ve decided to do something different. There’s a cover painting that I first saw about 40 years ago that I’ve never been able to forget.
Artist Dean Ellis (1920 – 2009) was one of the top SF cover artists in the 70’s and 80’s, noted for realistic space scenes. He produced the painting below for the 1970 edition of Andre Norton’s Star Born (click on the picture to see it in full size).
This is one of my favorite cover paintings of all time. It is, to the best of my knowledge, in the public domain, because copyright laws were different back when this painting was produced.
When I was a kid, first discovering science fiction, Andre Norton was the author, producing four squeaky clean adventure novels every year without fail. She was YA before YA was ever a category for books. Star Born was one of the first books I discovered (and devoured). Even at the time, I was mesmerized by the cover, which was literally the most striking cover I had ever seen.
Most covers that featured star ships showed them in flight, with some fanciful flame shooting out the back, or in mortal combat with laser beams flashing. This looked like a working ship, newly landed on some alien planet, with no spaceport or support infrastructure anywhere in sight.
It’s journey done, the crew begins unloading the newly landed colony ship, which towers over the surrounding plain like a 40-story building. There are cranes to assist in the unloading of the equipment and supplies. A separate shuttle is being assembled from parts stored in the larger vessel. Passengers who have been allowed to leave the vessel gather around and watch, while others still aboard the ship view the scene from windows.
I like to think of a painting as a canvas for the imagination, not just for the artist but also the viewer. The artist has a vision and tries to communicate that vision as best he can via the medium of paint. A viewer looks at the painting, sees the details the artist has provided, and imagines the scene in their own mind, augmenting it with details from their own imagination.
For me, this painting evokes many emotions. The sense of accomplishment in successfully reaching, and landing on, an alien world. A sense of sadness, in that this is probably the last journey of the colony ship, it’s probable fate to be dismantled in order to provide materials for the new colony. The excitement of a new beginning, with all sorts of possibilities ahead. The fear of the unknown, because who knows what dangers lie in store for the colonists. The determination to succeed despite all obstacles; if you don’t have this, then you’re not really suited to be a colonist. A sense of opportunity, because new challenges breed new solutions.
If I could say something to Dean Ellis about this painting, it would be this: Bravo!
I hope that someday I have a cover this great for one of my books.