The world of illustration lost a real treasure this past week when artist Glen Orbik lost his long battle with cancer on May 11th.
Orbik was not a household name. He was not as well known outside of illustration circles as Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo, but Glen Orbik was a solid craftsman and a versatile artist. His compositions were always rock solid and his color choices were bold and direct. He knew how to draw the eye around a picture and he know how to make it stop and focus on the one salient detail. With an economy of brushstrokes he could convey a scene bursting with energy or quiet, pensive moments filled with potential. He deftly conveyed mood and emotion with mere daubs of paint.
Orbik studied art at the California Art Institute. He studied under the school’s founder, retired movie and advertisement illustrator Fred Fixler. Fixler was a highly skilled illustrator, a contemporary of James Bama and Robert McGuire among others. He was best known for painting movie posters (Comedy of Terrors, Pit and the Pendulum, Man with the X-ray Eyes, Burn Witch Burn, House of Usher, Hercules- Unchained, etc…). and elegant pretty girls. Orbik learned well from his mentor, especially how to paint the elegant pretty girls.
Originally Orbik wanted to draw super heroes. That he was a huge comic book fan is evidenced by the number of cover paintings he produced for Marvel of some of his favorite heroes. But studying with Fixler inspired Orbik to look beyond that, opting to undertake serious art study.
While at school Orbik met his future partner and sometimes collaborator, Laurel Blechman, a fellow Fixler student.
Orbik learned well from the master, eventually taking over teaching some of his classes after Fixler retired.
In his time as an artist, Orbik produced work for multiple mediums from book covers to movie posters, collectable lithographs and plates, to video games and comic books.He has done covers for such authors as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. He did a series of covers for Joe. R. Lansdales’ Hap and Leonard books.
It was his covers art for the Stephen King books that probably gave him his widest notice, particularly his cover for Hard Case Crime’s paperback release of the Stephen King novella The Colorado Kid. That cover painting was striking and elegant with his signature bold color choices and a main figure sporting and expression just as bold and direct. The figure is a seated woman holding a cassette recorder. She is looking out at the viewer with a challenging expression. It’s as if she is daring the viewer to open the book and find out what the story is all about. It is a rare artist who can pull of an expression that is at the same time so bold and direct and yet full of subtlety as well.
As well as painting several more covers for the Hard Case Crime imprint, Orbik would go ion to create stunning work for clients such as DC Comics, Vertigo, Marvel Comics, Warner Bros., Clampett Studios, Universal Pictures, Sony, Avon Books, Berkley Books, Random House, Del Rey, and even TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons.
As Orbik himself said on his website; “I’ve painted retro detectives, femme fatales, fantasy heroes, Sci-Fi rockets & Jedis, western bandits and Hammer-style vampires… art, and film- noir.”
Orbik was a major fan of classic magazine illustration, pulp paperback art, and film-noir. This influence shows up unabashedly in his work.
For me, the first time I saw a Glen Orbik painting I got very excited because he pointed the way that I wanted to go as an artist. I was not certain of the direction in which I needed to go with my own art, but seeing his work was a revelation. It was like a sign post in the woods saying “this way”.
I will always be grateful for every example of Glen Orbik’s work that I find and He will be greatly missed.