Ruth, Rod

Tagged: Art

(1912-1987) Working name of American artist Rodney Ruth. After growing up in a rustic area near Lake Michigan, which inspired a lifelong devotion to nature, Ruth moved to Chicago to receive artistic training at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Frederick Mizen School of Arts, and the Institute of Design. Some freelance work eventually led to regular employment as a staff artist for the Chicago-based Ziff-Davis magazines, which included the sf magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. Working for those magazines from 1940 to 1951, Ruth produced proficient and sometimes amusing black-and-white interior illustrations, usually using a grease crayon; he was especially noted for his ability to draw some very credible Alien beasts. His rare cover paintings, however, tended to foreground clumsily rendered human figures and generally seem amateurish, although his cover for the December 1941 issue of Amazing Stories, depicting a man holding the steering wheel of a sleek space car, does project a quaint, garish charm, explaining why a version of this image was reused as the cover of the Winter 1970 issue of Space Adventures.

While doing these sf illustrations, Ruth had already begun moving into other areas – advertising, illustrating children's books, and drawing the comic strip The Toodles from 1941 to 1958. When the Ziff-Davis Company relocated to New York in 1950, Ruth abandoned sf art to focus on wildlife illustration, for which he won several awards, and he also continued to illustrate numerous children's books, usually involving animals. His last sf art took the form of covers and interior illustrations for three anthologies for younger readers published by Rand McNally: Roger Elwood's Science Fiction Tales: Invaders, Creatures, and Alien Worlds (anth 1973), Elwood's More Science Fiction Tales: Crab Things, Crystal Creatures, and Other Weirdies (anth 1974), and the anonymously edited Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures (anth 1976) (its editing sometimes credited to introducer Andre Norton, sometimes to Ruth, and sometimes to both, though the attributions to Ruth are almost certainly erroneous). These books' colourful covers are unsurprisingly dominated by the sorts of exotic alien creatures for which he had once been famous. [JG/PN/GW]

Rodney Ruth

born Benton Harbor, Michigan: 21 September 1912

died Park Ridge, Illinois: 27 January 1987

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