Guest of Honor - Darrell K. Sweet

Darrell K. Sweet (1934-2011) provided cover art for some of the seminal works of the science fiction and fantasy genre. He also produced art for trading cards and calendars. He is most famous for providing the covers of Robert Jordan's fantasy epic saga The Wheel of Time. He also illustrated the Xanth series by Piers Anthony, the Saga of Recluce series by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. and the Runelords series by David Farland as well as being the original cover artist for Stephen R. Donaldson's series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. He produced over 3000 images during his long and successful career, and was the artist Guest of Honor at numerous conventions including the 2007 NASFiC and the 2010 World Fantasy Convention. His talent was recognized with a Hugo Award nomination in 1983.

Darrell K. Sweet died on December 5, 2011, just four months after being announced as one of LoneStarCon 3's Guests of Honor. To quote Tor Art Director Irene Gallo, "His paintings evoked the classic storytelling narration of the Golden Age illustrators. A Sweet cover promised an adventure to be had." LoneStarCon 3 is working closely with Darrell's family and will continue to feature him in memoriam as one of our honored Guests.

Darrell K. Sweet on the web:

Saying Good-bye to Darrell

By Diana Thayer (originally published in Progress Report 4)

My first thought was, "I wish I could go to the funeral," and that night when my husband voiced the same idea, I started looking for ways to make it happen. By the next morning, I had arranged time off from work, booked flights, made hotel and car reservations, and pulled together enough funds to see us through the trip. On such short notice, I could not book round-trip flights from, and back to, either Love Field or DFW. The bottom line was that there was only one flight a day to Cody from Denver during the winter (two a day in summer), so we had to take what was available between Dallas and Denver.

I had been keeping an eye on the weather. It was in the 50's in Dallas, but in Cody the highs were around freezing with lows in the 20's. The Yellowstone live cameras still showed snow on the ground, so, being warm-blooded Southerners, we packed for the Arctic.

Our friend, Brad Foster, graciously drove us to Love Field. We flew up to Cody on Sunday, December 11th, arriving about 9:00 that night. I had a reservation to pick up a car from Hertz, but the counter had closed an hour before our flight - the only one of the day - arrived. Luckily, the Avis counter was open, so they got our business instead.

The Comfort Inn was easy to find, as were most things in Cody. We settled into our room, but I don't think it had really sunk in that we were truly in Cody, Wyoming in the middle of December. And we still had the strange feeling that we were going to see Darrell.

The next morning we woke to find that what had appeared to be a normal town the night before, had been transformed into a surreal landscape of translucent fog that shrouded trees glistening with ice. A soft blanket of snow still covered the ground where there had been no traffic. The permanent population of Cody is less than 10,000, but the infrastructure is built to handle about three times that many in the summer. We drove through the fog to the funeral home past ghostly shops and cottages closed up for the winter, without seeing another living thing.

We were among the first to arrive, and the only strangers. Everyone else seemed to know each other. As we walked up the aisle, we saw that Darrell's son, Darrell R. Sweet, had chosen the best painting possible to stand next to his father's bier. And I had to smile, remembering when I had first seen it in Darrell's house. It was a self-portrait - a wizard in full regalia, marvelously detailed and full of fun.

There was a twinkle in the wizard's eyes that I recognized immediately as Darrell. I said to him, "You did that one just for yourself, didn't you." And his response had been "Damn right."

We introduced ourselves to Darrell and his wife Ricki, and met their charming daughter, Lily, who at two years old was a breath of fresh air in the solemn proceedings. We tried not to intrude on their mourning that day but made arrangements to meet Darrell at his father’s house the next day to say good-bye to the home he had built, the studio where he had worked, and the view that he loved.

Darrell read a wonderfully personal reminiscence of his father, and I could feel not only the close bond between father and son, but the sense of community that surrounded them. I realized that Darrell's artwork had made him part of a larger world that was little known to the people who lived around him. And yet he was more a part of the mountains and the wild country he lived in than of that larger world.

As we drove to the cemetery, toward the mountains mantled with snow, I thought what a perfect place it was for Darrell to rest. It was the place he had dreamed of being back when he lived in New Jersey. He was buried with military honors complete with rifle volleys. As we stood there in silence a lone bird called plaintively in the distance. And as we were getting ready to leave, a family of deer silently passed by a few yards away. All in all, I think Darrell would have approved.