|Harry Turner writes: "Fandom first saw my artwork on the covers of NOVAE TERRAE, monthly bulletin of the newly-formed Science Fiction Association, way back in 1937. Fifty-plus years later, to my surprise, I still can't resist responding to pleas for artwork from fanzine editors.
"My taste for sf was sparked in the late '20s, during visits to an uncle in whose library I discovered bound volumes of turn-of-the-century magazines like the THE STRAND and PEARSON'S. I revelled in tales and serials by H G Wells, George Griffith, Conan Doyle, Cutcliffe Hyne and countless others; and the illustrations of invading Martians, prehistoric monsters and alien landscapes set me off drawing my own feeble versions. Then I became an avid reader of American sf pulp mags, haunting Manchester's city centre market in search of remaindered copies of AMAZING STORIES, WONDER STORIES and ASTOUNDING STORIES, wide open to the influence of the illustrators: the ubiquitous Frank R Paul, Wesso and Elliot Dold.
"In the art class at school, I was largely left to my own devices, happily churning out fantastic drawings and paintings that dominated the displays of work on the artroom walls. When later I became involved in the first active stirrings of British sf fandom and found fanmag editors looking for artwork, I was only too happy to help out.
"The fanmags of the '30s and '40s were shoestring productions, usually cranked out on decrepit duplicators. I made myself some styluses, found a few wheelpens and practised drawing direct on to wax stencils, acquiring a certain facility in this limited artistic medium. Right through into the early years of the Second World War, I was kept busy providing cover designs for fanmags like NOVA E TERRAE, FANTAST, SATELLITE, NEW WORLDS and FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST, and eventually published my own mag, ZENITH. This burst of feverish activity ended when I was drafted into the RAF.
"The outbreak of war also put a stop to dreams of earning my keep as a freelance illustrator. Back at the 1938 London fan convention, I'd met Wally Gillings, editor of the new, struggling British pro-mag TALES OF WONDER. Despite resistance from a cost-cutting publisher, Wally introduced small illustrations into the pages of the magazine, and I started to draw for him. When a rival mag appeared, FANTASY, I was asked to do work for that too. But it proved a very brief career!
"This ambition revived in the '50s, when I spent several years illustrating British sf magazines, mainly SCIENCE-FANTASY and NEBULA SR But with a growing family and a newly-acquired mortgage to support, I had to face the hard reality that the financial rewards of freelancing were slight, and editors' tastes decidedly conservative. I settled for running a design studio for a regular income. I still did graphics for editors of amateur magazines — their increasing use of litho printing offered my work more scope and better reproduction — hut most of my spare time was devoted to painting, and I showed work regularly with local art societies and in open exhibitions.
"I became intrigued with perceptual anomalies and the wide diversity of 3D illusions in flat geometrical patterns. Exploration of the inherent visual deficiencies of isometric drawing led me into a system for creating 'impossible figures', which in turn can be used to generate infinite paradoxical patterns, reminiscent of Islamic geometrical art.
"I reckon I could cheerfully spend the next 50 years sorting out the ramifications of this development."
Critical Wave issue 33, November 1993