Robert E. Gilbert in Black and White

By Robert E. Gilbert

By Robert E. Gilbert

In the 1960s and early 1970s Robert E. Gilbert (or REG as he was known) was a prolific fan artist in science fiction fandom–and a popular one. More than once the members of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance voted him Best Fan Artist, and his work appeared on the covers and inside of Hugo Award winning fanzines such as Yandro and Amra, along with scores of other popular SF fanzines.

Details on his personal life are scant, but ten years after his death in 1993, a trove of some four hundred paintings and black and white drawings by REG surfaced. A folk art gallery in Alabama, Folk Artisans, eventually purchased the works at an auction. Although some of the works have sold, pictures of many of the paintings and drawings are still up at the gallery’s website (www.folkartisans.com).

I wrote about REG’s paintings, many of which I think are very good, in a previous post on this blog. But I think that maybe REG’s black and white works are more interesting to me–or at least the contrast between the drawings found after his death and his fan art that appeared during the Sixties and Seventies. I liked REG’s fanzine artwork. They were  usually simple line drawings but well executed.

Yandro #204 cover, circa 1972, Robert E. Gilbert

Yandro #204 cover, circa 1972, Robert E. Gilbert

Their very simplicity made them especially attractive to fanzine editors of the time: Before PCs, most fanzines were published on mimeographs. Illustrations were usually traced by hand onto a stencil with a metal stylus. The process was laborious and if not done  painstakingly, could yield poor results. Artwork like REG’s that used simple lines to good effect were golden to most fan editors of the day.

Sporadic #3 cover, circa 1961, by Robert E. Gilbert

Sporadic #3 cover, circa 1961, by Robert E. Gilbert

As I said I like REG’s fanzine art, in part for their simplicity. So I was surprised by the black and white works among the four hundred pieces found in 2003. They were slightly more complicated than most of REG’s fanzine art and used more solid black and more shading. It seems to me that to some extent REG was tailoring his fanzine art to the medium in which they would appear. I’m going to post some more examples below of both his work from fanzines and the pieces that surfaced in the collection found after his death.

Robert E. Gilbert circa 1977

Robert E. Gilbert
circa 1977

71reg_big

The drawing above and the one to the right were both among the works that were discovered in 2003, ten years after Robert E. Gilbert’s death in Tennessee.  Below, I’d like to insert a fanzine cover from the sixties, which is similar to these drawings: It has the same use of solid black, more details, and more use of shading. It appeared on Iscariot, edited by Al Andrews and Dick Ambrose, and one of the better Southern fanzines of that period. The cover looks like it was reproduced with an electro stencil, rather than having been cut onto a normal mimeo stencil using a stylus. Electro stenciling was available in the Sixties at some office supplies stores and provided much better reproduction than a normal stencil.

I would guess that REG knew ahead of time that this drawing would be reproduced with an electro stencil.

Iscariot cover, circa 1964, by REG, probably printed with electrostencil.

Iscariot cover, circa 1964, by REG, probably printed with electrostencil.

Robert E. Gilbert circa 1978

Robert E. Gilbert
circa 1978

79reg_big

Drawing featured on the cover of Yandro #194, circa 1970, by Robert E. Gilbert

Drawing featured on the cover of Yandro #194, circa 1970, by Robert E. Gilbert

 

And how about one more Sixties fanzine cover by REG?

 

Isc13cov

Iscariot #13 cover, by Robert E. Gilbert, circa 1961.

 

The fanzines covers for this post were graciously provided by Ned Brooks, Official archivist of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. The black & white drawings were downloaded from the website of Folk Artisans (www.folkartisans.com). 

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About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

3 Responses to “Robert E. Gilbert in Black and White”

  1. I’m familiar with a Robert E. Gilbert who was a prolific writer of model railroad related articles in the 1950s. In the July 1959 issue of Model Railroader magazine, the publisher wrote a brief bio about him and it included this paragraph: “His first article in MR appeared in the Apr. ’57 issue, and since then he was written 22 articles for MR and Model Trains. He’s also written a number of science fiction stories, and a detective story, plus how to articles for an art magazine. He’s also sold a number of drawings and paintings. In model railroading, his primary interest is structures – and he has a 5 x 10 ft. layout still in its earliest stages of construction in his family home overlooking the Souther Ry. station in Jonesboro, Tenn.” Do you think the REG you wrote about and this one are the same person?

    • I’m sure he is. REG lived in Tennessee and did publish science-fiction stories in Galaxy and If. They’re available at the Gutenberg Project for free. I’m glad to have the info on Reg. Never knew he was into model trains. Thanks a lot.

  2. Anthony Casamassima Reply June 6, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Yes Robert wrote a great article on making stone walls from balsa wood in the 1964 issue of Model Trains yearbook page 94. The prototype he modeled was a wall along track side in Jonesboro, Tennessee ….Loved that article when i was kid.

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