(1939- ) American artist. After extensive artistic training, Velez entered the field of commercial art, mostly focusing on advertising though he also did some album covers for Latino musicians. He began working on sf and Fantasy book covers in the late 1970s and quickly showed that he could provide covers with interesting tableaux of distinctively rendered human figures, like the friendly scoundrels drinking at an inn on the cover of Robert Asprin's first Thieves' World Shared-World anthology, Thieves' World (anth 1979). In addition to some work for children's books and gaming companies, Velez also displayed a quirky imagination in paintings like his 1983 cover for Harlan Ellison's collection Shatterday (coll 1980), showing the famous author being entrapped by a phone that is turning into a snake. Indeed, humour emerged as Velez's strong suit, as shown by his covers for the books in Esther M Friesner's Demon series, which amusingly presented ordinary humans in the company of bizarre demons and perfectly captured the playful spirit of Friesner's novels. Another noteworthy cover in this vein is his cover for the 1998 paperback edition of Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996), showing befuddled tourists consulting a guidebook while a dragon looks over their shoulder.
Still, the very industrious Velez could also produce more routine work, and it was unfortunate that he became Asprin's favourite artist, since his increasingly unimpressive covers for various books in Asprin's M.Y.T.H. and Phule's Company series seemingly showed an artist growing more bored than inspired by his assignments. Perhaps tiring of such work, Velez slowed down his pace of production as he approached his seventieth birthday and focused more on works of fine art which generally avoid genre subjects. [GW]
born Harlem, New York: 28 November 1939
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