Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Checking in with Tom Barber

Tom outside his home.
This past week I had the privilege of dropping in for a visit with the great Tom Barber. As followers of this blog might know, Tom was a prolific fantasy and science fiction illustrator in the 70s and early 80s, with credits on a wide range of paperback titles and magazines like Galileo, Heavy Metal and Amazing Science Fiction. He did that wonderful skull with the rat that we all love, adorning the cover of the Lin Carter paperback revival of Weird Tales (he was never paid for this piece by the way, thanks to a shady agent).

You can find a couple write-ups of my previous meet-ups with Tom here:

Tom dropped out of painting for a few years while battling alcohol addiction, but has since returned with a vengeance, getting some steady work from Bob McLain over at Pulp Hero Press. One of his recent projects was the cover of Flame and Crimson. I was incredibly honored to have someone of Tom’s caliber on the book.

Tom is a fun, interesting dude. We talked for a couple hours about some experiences he had meeting the likes of Harlan Ellison and Andrew J. Offutt at conventions (Ellison purchased one of Tom’s paintings at WorldCon in Phoenix), meditation and Zen states and humanity stuck in cycles of violence, checks bouncing for work he sold to Amazing Science Fiction, and the tension artists face trying to reconcile illustrating for money vs. pursuing their true muse. All while outside on his front lawn, socially distanced of course, and enjoying the sunny 80 degree weather.

The coolest bit to come out of our meet-up is the news that Tom is working on a short memoir of his own for Pulp Hero Press, one that will focus on his addiction years (his “drinking years”) and eventual recovery. The working title is Artists, Outlaws, and Old Timers. As befits the author it will be illustrated throughout with Tom’s own artwork. Tom is still writing the manuscript but is nearing completion. It will contain some amusing scenes from his early days in the late 1960s attending art school and breaking into commercial work, convention life, crazy bohemian days in Arizona, and recovery and lessons learned.

Train to Nowhere
Tom also gave me a look at some of his recent pieces, scanned onto his PC. These include the cover for an upcoming novel by Adrian Cole (a piece called Train to Nowhere; I’m not sure if this will be for a reprint of Cole’s previously published short story or a collection).


John said...

Interesting post. Good to see that Mr. Barber is back at work and productive.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks John! He's a cool dude who has lived an interesting and varied life.