Cover Art, Journeyman Artist

Normally, when I do a profile like this, I do a short biography and some background of the subject… but there are times when I just want to shut up and let the man’s work do the talking.

This is especially true of Robert McGinnis, whose work is as popular with ordinary people as with book editors and publishing houses. I have to tell you, this is an artist of exceptional talent — yeah, he doesn’t do “fine” art, but I have to tell you, his art is just fine by me.

If like me you’ve read many paperback novels, McGinniss’s work will probably be familiar to you; and even if you haven’t, his style will be instantly recognizable. If you look for “journeyman artist” in a dictionary, it will be his face right there under the entry title.  Here are a few examples:


…and I know, I’m going to hear mutters of “graphic art, not fine art”. Yeah, I know: he’s no Boldini (whom we will be examining later this month). But just because McGinniss has earned his living with the above kind of work, it doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of a different class of art — like this one:

And then there’s this one, in which you can almost taste the dust:

…and this one, full of menace (can you spot it?):

I can hear the cries now: “Oh, Kim! Cowboy art? My smelling salts!”

Honestly, I think McGinnis’s work transcends style and trend: they are simply pictures which tell a story; sometimes you have to look for it, and sometimes it’s quite obvious. One more, for luck:

Yeah, it’s James Bond. Why not James Bond?

McGinnis is still alive, and he’s still painting, I think.  Go ahead and google his name if you want to see more of his work. It will take you a while to get through it all, but hey: it’s Sunday.


  1. Thank you!
    Thank you for the mental connection I needed to be made.
    Since childhood I have LOVED all of these “random” paperback covers and movie posters but had no idea they were done by the same hand. Knowing that a single artist was responsible makes it infinitely easier to find examples and enjoy them!
    If you enjoy Mr. McGinnis’ “product”, I strongly suggest you investigate Frank Frazetta as well.
    While known world-wide for his instantly recognizable fantasy works, he also did many book covers, movie posters, early comics, and still-lifes. He shared the same ability of being able to catch a moment and tell a story with a single frame.
    An excellent and detailed documentary about Frazetta can be found here:

  2. He’s a whole lot better than most of his feted modern artist contemporaries.

  3. Bantam Books, the complete Travis McGee series. These paintings, and more.

    And, no. Not the neutered, “inoffensive” later editions, of course. Those ones offend me. They do great violence to the spirit of the originals.

    Said editors should enjoy some like violence, in return.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  4. full of menace, the menace is at two o’clock at the top of the rocks. Good pics. would love to have some as nose art.

  5. “Yeah, it’s James Bond. Why not James Bond?”

    Why not? He did Derek Flint on the first one.

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