The Second Occasional LoneStarCon Science Fiction
Convention and Chili Cook-off, Variously known as the 55th World Science
Fiction Convention and LoneStarCon 2, the 1997 Worldcon, To be held from
August 28th through September 1st, in the year 1997, in San Antonio,
Our Honored Artist Guest, by Janny Wurts
LoneStarCon 2, the 1997 Worldcon Progess Report #3, August 1996
t could be presumed that after sharing a
studio with Don for eight
years, and knowing him for nearly two decades, a fellow artist would have
gained a firm grip on his techniques, and an insight into his prodigious
Surprisingly, this is not the case. Or not so
surprisingly, as anyone lucky enough to befriend Don will agree that he
delights in the unexpected. The truths are that he has no set technique,
no established habit of working, no formula for his broad-ranging success.
He has a gleeful and sometimes twisted penchant for innovation that
manifests at odd hours, and with frequently hair-raising results.
He's a very approachable guy when not frustrated by a
sketch or a difficult technicality in a painting. (Ask about the time he
bombarded an advertising job with his breakfast bagel.) He'd delight in
telling you of the role the toilet seat played in his painting for Carolyn
Cherryh's Rimrunners, or about the for real crutch he used on the
monster pirate drawing, complete with ship, that he completed for the
Greenwich Workshop, and which received a certificate of merit from the
prestigious Society of Illustrator's annual exhibition. No household item
is safe from his odd fits of inspiration in the studio. Plastic wrap,
kitchen bowls, L'eggs pantyhose containers, aluminum foil, windows
screens, doilies, and fingerprints have all been used when traditional
brushes failed to achieve the perfect effect.
The composite of such endless experimentation shows a
technique that is distinctive, but so varied it is impossible to typecast.
In the publisher's office I have often asked the question, "Who did that
I should not have been startled to hear the credit was
Don's. He's content painting the wildest scenes of fantasy (Gene Wolf's
Book of the New Sun) and precise and fussy enough to do justice to
hard tech. But who would have guessed he could also do portraits (Piers
Anthony's But What of Earth?), renditions of German cathedrals (for
Wicked Enchantment), or those stylistically radical covers with
their near to abstract backgrounds? He wears a wealth of artistic hats.
Since publication of two art books, First Maitz by Ursus Imprints,
and Dreamquests by Underwood Miller, and two sets of trading cards
for FPG, find art prints from Millpond Press and Mithril, and even a best
selling screensaver, fans have had many chances to recognize the scope of
his work. This has given rise to a wave of appreciationDon has
won two Hugos for Best Artist, and a special Hugo for C.J. Cherryh's
Rimrunners. He's taken eight Chesleys in categories for
Achievement, and Best Hardback Book Cover for his painting Cyteen
in 1979, and in 1990, for best body of work.
In his honest moments, Don admits that his art career
began with cave painting; out of respect for his mother, his early works
are unavailable for public view. His career since has spanned twenty
years, and progressed from drawings on paper, anytime there was a pencil
and enough light, to a luminous style of painting. Although a better than
average student, his goal was a career in art.
Solid, sensible people tried to advise him to aspire
toward something more practical than struggling to enter a competitive and
difficult fieldbut Don had other ideas. He attended night
classes in figure drawing, then entered the Paler College of Art in
Hamden, Connecticut, and immediately earned the envy of his peers. At
Paler, under the influence of distinguished instructors, he studied figure
drawing and applied himself to painting. By the time he graduated at the
top of his class in 1975, he had already been published by a professional
magazine, and Marvel Comics. He stayed on for a fifth year at Paler to
refine his skills, and began to show his portfolio in New York. Popularity
put a stop to extra education as Don gained his first paperback
assignments. The fact that Don's penchant for lousy puns didn't get him
thrown out on the sidewalk forever is a testament to the strength of his
The admiration of his peers has only increased, after
some 400 published works, one of which, The Second Drowning, cover
for the novel, The Road to Corlay, won a silver medal at the
Society of Illustrator's annual exhibition in 1980. That same year, Don
received the Howard Award for Best Artist at the World Fantasy Convention.
Apparently bad puns are no impediment to success. In
addition to doing covers for leading novelists not yet mentioned, such as
Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Raymond E. Feist, Stephen King, and Michael
Moorcock, Don's magic with the paintbrush produced the pirate image which
launched Captain Morgan Spiced Rum into success in a marketplace where new
products fail more often than not. Now, Don's envious peers can't even
seek escape in the bars. The labels on the rum have his signature on them,
as do their billboards, T-shirts, and beach towels of multiple advertising
Not being content with having science fiction and
fantasy illustrations confined to the book stores, Don was the driving
force behind the first major museum exhibition of works within the field.
Held in the New Britain Museum of American Art in spring of 1980, the show
broke all previous attendance figures; the record holds today. Other
museums since have launched similar exhibits, always with Maitz artwork
included, and always with public enthusiasm. Perhaps the most exciting of
these was sponsored by NASA, in conjunction with its 25th anniversary
celebration. Housed in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, paintings
by thirty science fiction artists were shown alongside photographs from
the Apollo space program. Don also had four paintings in the first
exhibition from the National Academy of Fantastic Art, held at the
Delaware Art Museum. The paintings by Maitz were awarded the bronze medal,
and not even that accolade stopped the puns. Now, the Canton Art Institute
plans a second, larger show, which will open in spring of 1996.
This success story might lead one to believe that Don
Maitz is permanently attached to his paintbrush, and inseparably chained
to his easel. Certainly the world would seem logical if this were true.
But between ideas, inspiration, and the deadlines that are inescapable in
the illustration field, Don goes windsurfing, downhill skiing, horseback
riding, and jogging. He also hangs out behind his camera lens, and in
museums, continually adding to his stock of ideas.
He has shown himself willing to share his techniques,
his enthusiasm, and his inventive imagination, by serving a year as a
guest instructor at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota,
Florida. The impression left on his students and fellow instructors has
seen some minds permanently bent, as any attendee of LoneStarCon 2, the
1997 Worldcon willing to sit wit him over a beer will come to find out.
Like the wizards he paints, Don's magic is elusive, and if his humor is
deplorable, his generosity cannot be disputed. Warning: carry protection
from bad puns at all times while in his presence, or else keep your
fingers in your ears, and don't risk reading the painting titles on his
bid sheets at the art show.