It started with a rhino...
Actually, let me back up. Murray Tinkelman had already been working as a professional illustrator for about a decade and a half by the time he noticed that photo of a rhino in his studio that day in 1970.
No doubt the photo of the rhino was something he had clipped for reference. That day it intrigued him. He took out his 0.50 technical pen (his preferred weapon) and began hatching...
The hatching grew into an illustration of a rhino with a bird on it's back. Murray liked it.
He had never been afraid of experimenting with styles and techniques and this was something new for him. He submitted the rhino to the Society of Illustrators Annual Awards Competition.
The rhino won a gold medal.
"My work had been in the annual show many times by then," said Murray. "But I'd never won a gold medal. Well," he continued, "it turns out that art directors like working with gold medal winners."
Jobs began pouring in for this new style of Murray Tinkelman's. Among them was a book cover series from Ian Summers at Ballentine. "Ian called and told me Ballentine was going to reissue the Edgar Rice Burroughs "Tarzan" books, and he thought my new style was just the thing for the covers. But I was familiar with Tarzan, I knew [Tarzan newspaper strip artist] Burne Hogarth. In fact I'd hired Burne to work for me at Parsons, and I knew my style would not be right for Tarzan."
"But then Ian called again and offered my a series of covers for a new release of H.P. Lovecraft! I had read Lovecraft as a teenager, my father read Lovecraft, I thought the stories were great - I immediately said yes."
The result was a series of eleven striking covers that are fondly remembered to this day by Lovecraft fans.
On one blog I found in my research, the author writes, "The covers of the Lovecraft paperbacks published by Ballantine books during the early 1970s by Murray Tinkelman... took the Lovecraft themed artwork way beyond the typical gothic horror covers that had been used for earlier HPL editions.
[Tinkelman was] able to evoke the mood of otherworldliness that played such a huge part of Lovecraft’s writings."
At Ballentine, Ian Summers must have felt just the same. Murray says it was one of the most enjoyable assignments he'd ever had. "I would source old pulps, natural history textbooks, old prints - a whole variety of things - and amalgamate various elements that struck me as effective."
"Ian let me do whatever I wanted to without ever having to submit a sketch."
"Once a week I'd show up at his office with two coffees - one for him and one for me - drop off the artwork in one corner and sit down for a chat, then go home and begin the next cover.
"He never asked for even one correction on any of the illustrations."
* Murray Tinkelman has won Gold Medals from The Society of Illustrators, The New York Art Directors Club and The Society of Publication Designers. He has over 200 Awards of Merit from The Society of Illustrators. Murray is the director of Hartford Art School’s limited-residency Master of Fine Arts in Illustration program.