“An illustrator, whether science fiction or otherwise, is essentially a story-teller who can’t type… Actually being an artist is a bit like being a pioneer. Your real goal, like his, is freedom.”- Kelly Freas
Kelly Freas, a prolific artist for over thirty years and considered the “Dean of Science Fiction Artists,” has remained a fan favorite whose quality of work matched its quantity. Along the way, he created some of science fiction’s most iconic images and illustrated for noted authors such as Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Clifford Simak among others.
Freas was an engineering and pre-med student who had always enjoyed science fiction stories, particularly those in Astounding Science Fiction in the early 1940s. After serving as a photographer in the Air Force during World War II, Freas returned home to a career in freelance advertising illustration and continued his art studies at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Encouraged by a fellow student, Freas successfully submitted a painting to Weird Tales magazine in 1950 and by 1952 decided to give up his lucrative career as an advertising artist to move to New York to work full-time on science fiction illustration. Freas would create covers for countless science fiction magazines for three decades well into the 1980s. His works are known for their focus on people (whether alien or not), their character, their emotions, their expressions- all with a touch of humor.
“I always tried to say in my drawings and paintings something the author would have said had his medium permitted, and it was usually a human reaction which would have taken pages to describe.”
– Kelly Freas (from The Art of Science Fiction)
Freas also created works for Mad magazine from 1957 to 1962 and depicted the magazine’s “What, me worry?” mascot Alfred E. Neuman on many of its covers. He also designed the shoulder patch for Skylab I astronauts and six posters for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The band Queen used his 1953 robot cover for Astounding Science Fiction magazine for their 1977 album cover for “News of the World,” in which band members were added to the image. A werewolf drawing by Freas is featured in a classroom scene in the 2004 movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.