Morrill, Rowena

Tagged: Art

(1944-    ) American artist who often signs herself simply Rowena; she and Victoria Poyser were among the earliest women who had a major impact on sf and Fantasy art. After leaving college to marry a military man, Morrill began fascinated with art and returned to school to earn a BA from the University of Delaware and to enter the MFA program of the Tyler School of Arts, though she left without obtaining a degree. She then moved to New York City to launch a career as a cover artist, beginning with her cover for Jane Parkhurst's Isobel (1977), showing a naked woman holding up a chalice for a demonic Monster. She demonstrated the ability to handle sf tropes with her covers for a 1978 edition of Harry Harrison's Skyfall (1976), a straightforward depiction of a Spaceship in Earth orbit, and for a 1979 edition of Robert Sheckley's Dimension of Miracles (1968), wherein a man confronts a Dinosaur wearing a bow who has emerged from a space warp. However, she became better known for painting covers for works of Heroic Fantasy in a manner that recalled Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo; one representative example is her cover for Ellen Kushner's anthology Basilisk (anth 1980), showing a topless, sword-wielding woman confronting a naked male wraith with a two-horned unicorn in the background.

Still, Morrill's covers could display great variety and creativity as well: among many examples, one might mention her cover for a 1979 edition of Bob Shaw's Night Walk (1967), with a blind man staggering toward an array of floating eyes; her cover for Theodore Sturgeon's The Stars Are the Styx (coll 1979), featuring the venerable author as a boatsman on the river Styx; and her cover for Philip K Dick's The Divine Invasion (1981), foregrounding a baby drifting in space. Her work also attracted attention for her unusual artistic techniques, as she employed a combination of acrylics and oils rather than one or the other, finally coated with a high-gloss glaze, and she cannily promoted herself by prominently placing her signature, "Rowena", on her covers. As she built her reputation, she received the first of four Hugo award nominations for best professional artist in 1982 and published a compilation of her artwork, The Fantastic Art of Rowena (1983), which also garnered a Hugo nomination as best nonfiction book.

Morrill worked steadily throughout the 1980s, and while her pace of production slowed in the 1990s, she remained a prominent figure: her cover for Anne McCaffrey's The Dolphins of Pern (1994), depicting a man on a fire lizard next to a figure riding on a dolphin, was later reused as the cover of Robin Roberts's biography Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons (2007); she received a Chesley Award nomination for a subdued cover for Victoria Strauss's The Garden of the Stone (1999), featuring a woman in oriental dress placing a flower in a vase; and another collection of her artwork, The Art of Rowena (2000), appeared in 2000. One assumes that she now considers herself retired, since her website has not been updated for several years. Morrill was named the Artist Guest of Honour at the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, but could not attend due to health issues. [PN/JG/GW]

Rowena A Morrill

born 14 September 1944




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