Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art – Part 2

At the risk of losing my vast audience (ha, ha!) by revealing how much of a book nerd I am, I’ll submit a second entry in this week’s photo challenge, with this week’s theme being: “Work of Art”. Though the post here is more of a story rather than just a photo.

There was an essay in The Wall Street Journal a week or so ago by Bob Greene where he laments the lack of illustrations on magazine and book covers. Not too long ago, you didn’t have to go to a museum to see artwork, you could just go to the newsstand to see the covers of the latest issues of such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker, Colliers, and even Time magazine, to see some great art on their covers. Now just about all magazines and book covers use photographs, much faster and cheaper apparently. The focus of the article is on Norman Rockwell and how in the 40’s and 50’s you could get a piece of Rockwell art for fifteen cents, while now you could pay millions for the original. (Here’s a link to the article )


For a long time, I’ve admired those old illustrations, and while I do like the work of Rockwell, I especially like the illustrations from older Science Fiction magazines and paperbacks. Any book collector types out there from Boston may remember the Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore on Newberry Street. I was fortunate enough to attend College not too far from that bookstore. Or maybe unfortunately, as I spent quite a lot of money there in between classes. I recall the first time I bought a vintage paperback there. The owner of the store wanted me to make sure I also bought a ‘reading copy’ since the one I was buying was very hard to find. I told him not to worry, I was buying it since I liked the cover artist; Richard Powers. He looked at me as if I had two heads as I explained who Richard Powers was. Powers was the Art Director for Ballantine Books in the 50’s and 60’s, providing the covers for hundreds of books, mostly Science Fiction, but some Mysteries and Classics as well.

Powers’ style is similar to Yves Tanguy, with lots of nebulous bobs floating around on brightly colored fields of color. Any identifiable human figures are at least somewhat abstract, with long drawn out limbs, sometimes they are just shadows. His covers have a mysterious, dreamy look.

My work in Advertising may influence my taste here as I like everything from the type fonts used and overall layouts as well. For example, the ones from the 50’s are very much typical for time, with lots of use of Times New Roman. (No wait, don’t go away, type fonts are not boring!)I will read them, but my main interest is really in the cover designs!

And the titles! “Those Idiots From Earth”, what could be better for a Sci-Fi book from the mid 50’s ?




I think this is one of the first ones I bought. I may have spent just $5 or $6, though they are getting much harder to find now. I’m not sure how much they go for these days, I don’t really check values on places like ‘Ebay’.



Another great title here “Get Out of My Sky!”





Here’s one from the late 60’s. The font used on the title looks similar to what was used on Sci-Fi movie titles of the time, such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.


Here’s a couple more:






Ok, so that’s just a few of the maybe 50 or 60 I have. Yes, I am a nerd. And what’s worse, it’s not as though I’m a typical Sci-Fi nerd too. When I find one of these, I don’t say ‘Wow, a book by Wilson Tucker!”, I say “Look at the use of red in the background, and in the “X” of the title, and the large point size used in the title too!”

So don’t throw away those old paperbacks, bring them to the used bookstore, there’s art fans for everything and someone out there might be a fan of the cover designer!

13 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art – Part 2

    • I used to be able to find them easily at used book stores, now I’m lucky if I find one. There’s always the Internet, but the prices are much higher than I’d want to spend.

  1. Peter, interesting take on the challenge. Reminds me of what I liked about collecting baseball cards…not so much the players and the statistics, though that was part of it, but the style of the cards themselves. The simple style of the Topps 60s cards vs. the flamboyant style of the 70s cards…I found that aspect fascinating. That went away when all the other companies got involved and flooded the market…

      • I’m embarrassed to say…I have an antique truck full. 🙂 They aren’t worth as much as they used to be, but I can’t bring myself to part with them yet. 🙂

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