In the 80's I had an art business with a guy named Bob Giadrosich, who also has a page here on DA. We sold originals, prints, and live art at fantasy and sci-fi conventions all over the country for a little over 3 years.
Growing up, my idol in art was a guy named Michael Whelan, who is the artist you are mentioning. I worshiped the guy. In 1985, we (my partner Bob and I) were scheduled to attend the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, and Michael Whelan was one of the special guests for that show. I couldn't stop talking about it for months before the date.
My partner Bob, along with my best friend at the time, approached Mr. Whelan at the show, and arranged for me to spend an hour alone with him. An hour turned into almost 2. Michael was actually working on a painting while he and I spoke. I got to watch him paint, question him about his techniques, his influences, show him my work... not to mention photos of him and me together, and autographs, of course.
To this day, one of the most special memories of my entire life.