View Full Version : Michael Whelan's skies

06-27-2002, 11:20 AM
I'm wondering how Whelan achieves his perfectly blended skies. I'm suspecting an airbrush but I'm confused because I have a quote from him stating he dislikes using an airbrush. I guess you could get the same effect from careful scumbling?

06-27-2002, 12:09 PM
interesting question.
don't know the answer but love his skies.

06-27-2002, 06:16 PM
Whelan uses the airbrush for skies/backgrounds only if I remember the description from his book, I can dig it out and check if you like, but I'm pretty sure he uses one only for long, smooth graduations and everything else is done with a brush.

Two things to bear in mind, he builds up his images with layers of thinned paint and like most illustrators the originals are much larger than paperback size, something like five times in his case, both of which help the illusion of smoothness and tight rendering when reproduced. Larger reproductions show some brushwork and transparent passages. If you're interested in working in this way I recommend having a look at Daniel Chard's book Landscape Illusion.


06-27-2002, 11:17 PM
Thanks Einion,

I do have a book of his paintings (worlds of wonder I think it's called) but there were a few passages in there that made one believe he doesn't like using the airbrush that much - but now it seems to me some of these statements were just thrown in because he has been accused of using it a lot. I sure don't want to get into airbrushing now - I was just curious. He manages to blend colors into each other that normally I would make into mud - like an orange sky graduating to blue!

Keith Russell
06-27-2002, 11:18 PM

That sounds right. Whelen hates being called an 'airbrush artist', though like most 'airbrush artists', the airbrush is only one of the many tools in his arsenal.

Whelen only uses the airbrush, if I remember correctly, on his smaller, acrylic paintings.

He is creating more and more 'fine art' pieces, and fewer and fewer commercial 'illustration' pieces, and his 'fine art' paintings are done in oils.

To my knowledge, he does not use the airbrush for his paintings in oil.


06-27-2002, 11:51 PM
Keith - I was not aware he was working in oils now. Something to think about.

Keith Russell
06-28-2002, 12:46 AM
kiwi, Whelen has always worked in oils, but he has done most of his paintings in acrylics, due to the speed required for commercial work.

Every now and then he would take a 'break' to paint his 'personal' work, and then he would do a few oil pieces. Some of these might end up as book covers, but works done specifically for commission were usually done in acrylics.

I think, as he turns more and more to his 'personal' work, he is working more and more in oils, rather than acrylics.