January 3, 2005 by

Frank Kelly Freas

2 comments

Categories: Artists

kfreas.jpgFrank Kelly Freas, an award-winning illustrator, died on Jan. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 82.
Freas was born in New York, but raised in Canada. He conducted photo reconnaissance for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and drew pinup girls on the noses of bombers. After the war, he worked at an advertising agency and attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
In 1950, a friend encouraged Freas to submit a class assignment to Weird Tales magazine. When the editor, Dorothy McIlwraith, used the illustration of Pan dancing in the moonlight for her November cover, his career as a science fiction/fantasy artist took off.
Each assignment involved a process of studying, dreaming, drawing and painting. Freas would read each story assignment three times — once as a reader, once with a sketchpad and once to add specific details. A die-hard science fiction fan as well, he knew the genre well enough to incorporate background concepts and imaginative speculation within his illustrations.
For nearly half a century, Freas painted covers for Astounding Science Fiction Magazine and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. He illustrated stories by legends in the field, including Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin, Frederik Pohl and A.E. Van Vogt. The prolific artist painted 58 covers for Laser Books and 90 for Ace, and drew MAD Magazine covers from 1958 to 1962.
He wrote and illustrated the books “The Astounding Fifties: A Selection From Astounding Science Fiction Magazine,” “Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction,” “Frank Kelly Freas: A Separate Star” and “Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It.”
Outside of the genre, Freas drew over 500 portraits for the “Franciscan Book of Saints,” and illustrated the cover of the Queen album, “News of the World.” An official NASA mission artist, Freas also designed the crew patch for the Skylab I astronauts. His inspiring space exploration posters hang in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Freas received numerous honors, including 10 Hugo Awards, three Chesley Awards, five Locus Poll Awards, a Skylark Award and a Retro Hugo. In 2000, Freas was elected a fellow of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. He is survived by his wife Laura Brodian Freas, an artist and the host of a Los Angeles classical music program, two children and six grandchildren.
Watch a Short Documentary With Freas

2 Responses to Frank Kelly Freas

  1. Sharon Mannell

    I’ll weep for lost chances of visiting with you again Kelly, but I’ll always have your artwork and many fond memories to enjoy.
    Gremlins may not exist, but you did in a big way.
    A great artist and a wonderful man.
    He will be greatly missed for many reasons.

  2. Keith R. Wood

    Kelly, you were an inspiration and you were very polite and kind to a young kid who got clumsy when I realized just who was sitting next to me that day in 1974. I’m sorry that I won’t be seeing any new work with the “KF” logo on it, but wow, what you showed us for so long is still worth studying, whether it’s the Wizard, a pirate with a slide rule in his teeth, or such art as that young mother cradling her baby in a helix. One of my greatest regrets was discovering that my copy of “The Art of Science Fiction” had been stolen. Thank you for what you’ve done for us.

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