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Shaw, Barclay

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1949-    ) American artist. After brief employment as a sculptor and woodworker, Shaw received additional training at the New England School of Art and Design and did some freelance work in advertising before moving into sf art. He began his career in 1979 with two covers for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (to be followed by several more) as well as one for Cinefantastique, and he was soon painting book covers as well. His early paintings often depicted subtly strange human figures against stark or symbolic backgrounds, one example being his cover for the March 1980 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction showing a Robot cowboy gesturing toward the reader; at times he would also display a playful impulse to include a portrait of the book's author on its cover. A 1980 meeting with Harlan Ellison led to a number of assignments to illustrate Ellison's works, beginning with the cover of the November 1980 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (which celebrated Ellison's "All the Lies That Are My Life" with an image of Ellison sitting on remnants of an automobile against the background of Stonehenge), followed by numerous covers for republications of Ellison books which at times also featured the author. For Bluejay Books, he did several covers for new editions of Philip K Dick's novels, all cleverly incorporating Dick's images, while his realistic covers for some Robert A Heinlein reissues in the late 1980s are still being employed on current editions.

Overall, Shaw's style, which seems indebted to European Surrealists and painters of the grotesque, can be sophisticated, surreal, and even decadent, although he is also capable of producing pedestrian work; one wonders, for example, why his dull portrait of alien humanoids for the cover of Alan Dean Foster's The False Mirror (1992) earned a Chesley Award nomination. For whatever reason, despite five consecutive nominations for the Best Professional Artist Hugo, Shaw never won that honour, and never earned recognition as a major sf artist. It was not unsurprising, then, that he drifted away from sf illustration in the 1990s to work for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as other government agencies and private companies, specializing in digital art and animation involving cutting-edge technology. [PN/GW]

Barclay Shaw

born Bronxville, New York: 12 October 1949



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