Book artistRowena Morrill

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

A painter, Morrill first worked at a New York City ad agency. “The ad agency was unbearable,” she said, “so I quit.” Her next idea: call book publishers to see if they needed a cover artist. It worked: she soon was commissioned to paint the cover for Isobel, a 1977 Jane Parkhurst romance. If you can find a “perfect” copy of that pulp paperback, its price will probably be north of $750, almost entirely attributed to Morrill’s cover.

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Rowena c1977 (Photo: her Facebook page)

Rowena, as she usually signed her work, became especially known for her science fiction and fantasy work, painting book covers for Anne McCaffrey, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, and Madeleine L’Engle, among others. In all, she has painted the cover for more than 400 novels, along with various other commissions. Her work is an interesting cross of fantastical and photo realism (see example below), which brought many fans — including three of her pieces found in one of Saddam Hussein’s homes. “I had no idea they were there,” she said. “My sister called me and said, ‘I don’t know if you want to hear this but….’ Her husband had seen it on CNN. They were actually copies, probably done in some Asian copy mill. I had sold the originals some years earlier to a Japanese collector.” She was the winning artist at the 1984 British Fantasy Awards, and recognized for her Lifetime Achievement at the 2020 World Fantasy Awards. Morrill died February 11 “following years of poor health,” said the science fiction magazine, Locus, apparently due to a series of heart attacks. She was 76.

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A 1979 example of Rowena’s work: Twilight Terrors, painted for a National Lampoon cover. (via her Facebook page)

From This is True for 14 February 2021