|"The Astrophysicist" courtesy of Michael Whelan|
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FACTOID: Michael's signature is in every single painting. He disguises it like a "Where's Waldo" painting. Sometimes it's a coin on the ground, sometimes a shadow, but it's always there and never in the same place. It can even be the design on a scabbard (for a fantasy painting) or the detail on a shoe.
Yesterday in the comments, Cindy Borgne said, "I wonder how much he charges for a book cover. I need one." I have to chuckle. Roger Zelazny on his deathbed said his one wish was to have a Whelan cover. That's how prized this guy is by people who understand the industry of publishing. Consequently, Blizzard paid a fortune to have Whelan do a picture of Deathwing the Dragon for the launch of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm that reached some 14 million regular subscribers. Also Whelan is officially retired and has been for years. He only takes on personal projects that appeal to him (he has "F you money" at this point), and he only does covers for books that he has personally read. So factor that in...an artist who reads your entire book cover to cover before they begin to paint so that the feeling and symbolism are perfect.
It makes me wonder if Brandon Sanderson (who has had two Whelan covers at this point) even knows (or is humbled) by the fact that someone so great has painted his last two Robert Jordan books.