Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Ron Miller

Mars from Deimos by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is an illustrator and author specializing in science, astronomy, science fiction and fantasy. In addition to providing artwork for many magazine and book publishers, he’s the author, co-author or editor of some 50-odd books (some, he says, odder than others), including several novels. He’s also designed postage stamps and worked on motion pictures (most notably Dune, for which he was the production illustrator), as a production designer and special effects artist.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Ron Miller: Photoshop almost exclusively.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Ron: About ten years ago, I had to meet a really rough series of deadlines: writing and illustrating two books every three months for nearly a year. Each book would have up to 20 illustrations.

After doing the first few traditionally, I realized there was no way I could meet the deadlines and maintain anything at all resembling quality work. A few years earlier a book had turned out badly because I had taken on too many illustrations in too short a period of time — resulting in many of the paintings being much too hurriedly done.

So I swallowed hard and took the advice of several colleagues who had been urging me to try painting digitally. And it worked! I could create a painting that looked as though it took me a week to render… but do it in only a day or two.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Ron: I was born that way.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when you began learning your craft?

Ron: Neither give nor accept unsolicited critiques.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Ron: A zillion! But if I limit myself to my specialty, astronomical art, there are only three: Chesley Bonestell, Ludek Pesek and Lucien Rudaux.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

Ron: One never knows from assignment to assignment what’ll turn up. It’s always a surprise!

Titan by Ron MIller

Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?

Ron: It’s usually the most recent thing I did… until the next one comes along. But I did an illustration a couple of years ago for Scientific American I’m still very proud of. It’s a scene on Titan just after a methane rainfall.

Sci-Fi Art Now: In your career, have you had any bizarre experiences while creating your art?

Ron: Well, it might not be particularly bizarre, but I think I do have the (probably) unique experience of having one of my works slightly more than halfway to Pluto.

Back in 1991, I did a series of postage stamps, one for each planet and the moon. There was a spacecraft associated with each world… except Pluto. It was labeled “Not Yet Explored”. This apparently rankled so many space scientists that a movement was started to launch a Pluto exploration mission. This eventually culminated in the New Horizons probe. As a kind of thank-you for the inspiration, Alan Stern — the mission’s principal investigator — attached one of the stamps to the spacecraft (and invited my wife and me to the launch). That was very cool!

My only fear is that the stamp wasn’t canceled… if not, the spacecraft is going to wind up right back here in 15 years.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Ron: Never doing anything really good enough to suit me.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Ron: Hope springs eternal.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Ron: For God’s sake don’t get into my specialty, I have enough competition as it is!

• Check out more of Ron’s work at To contact Ron email him via

Some of Ron’s recent works include Digital Art: Painting with Pixels (Lerner Publishing, 2007.  For a full bibliography, check out

Categories: Comic Creator Interviews

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