16 March 2010

Arts and Music: Elaine Duillo

By Anna C. Bowling

Elaine Duillo has romance covered!

When illustrator Elaine Duillo first began her career in the 1950s, she often signed her work with male pseudonyms, as paperback illustration was, at the time, not a venue for women. Elaine certainly had a hand in changing that outlook, with over one thousand covers between the start of her career and her retirement in the 1990s. Best known for her romance covers for authors such as Bertrice Small, Johanna Lindsey and Rebecca Brandewyne, Elaine's repertoire includes covers for many genres, including westerns, mysteries, pulp, gothics and even 1960s editions of works by Emile Zola and Jack London.

Born in 1928 and a graduate of the Pratt School of Design, Elaine found her own personal hero in husband John Duillo, known as the king of western illustration. The two never collaborated on illustration, but produced two daughters, Melissa, and Bettina. Both daughters followed artistic paths of their own; Melissa in commercial illustration for a time, and Bettina using art in education. She has produced two art calendars, and is a member of the American Society of Illustrators.

Though many talented graphic artists of today create imaginative and innovative covers via computer technology, Elaine's work was done by hand. Preferring to work with acrylics for the final project, Elaine's dedication to her craft shone through in her attention to detail. The design elements on the back cover illustrations were often her favorite parts of an assignment, and alert readers will be able to spot locations and characters as described within the pages. She is quick to remind those who note the long, flowing hair of her heroines (and some heroes) that each strand was painted by hand. Art directors would sometimes request that Elaine use a particular model depicted with a prodigious mane, only to be told that the hair was all Elaine's creation.

No mention of Elaine Duillo would be complete without mentioning her role in the modeling career of Fabio Lanzoni (blame or thank her as you will.) Elaine spotted the Italian model's picture in a pile of head shots, and used him first on the back cover of Bertrice Small's Enchantress Mine and the front cover of Johanna Lindsey's Hearts Aflame. The rest, as they say, is history, including a national discount chain refusing to carry Bertrice Small's A Love For All Time, due to its supposedly racy cover illustration...which would have been an appropriate pose for a portrait of the period in which the book was set.

Now retired, Elaine is still active in mentoring younger artists and has turned her talents to non-figurative art with "very large brushes" and her enthusiasm for her art, in all its forms, shines through, and she speaks of her romance illustration career with great fondness.