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More Hugo Suggestions

Let us continue our discussions of some possible nominees for the 2016 Hugo Awards.

Today I want to look at Best Professional Artist.

This is one of the older Hugo categories... but, if truth be told, one of the more problematic. In theory, the Hugo is supposed to recognize outstanding work from the previous year. In the four fiction categories and the drama categories, where specific books, stories, movies, and TV shows are being nominated, that works admirably. But the system tends to sputter and fail in all the categories where the nominees are people rather than works. In those categories, more oft than not, a "round up the usual suspects" philosophy seems to prevail. The same handful of people seem to get nominated year after year, regardless of what they produced during the specific year in question. Breaking in to the final five is very hard. Having once made the list, however, nominees tend to keep coming back. Often they lose for a few years, then win... and keep on winning. Whether they have had a good year, a bad year, or a long vacation does not always seem to matter. They are thought of as one of the best in their field, thanks to previous nominations, so their names are the ones that come to mind when voters fill out their nominating ballot.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Best Professional Artist category, where long winning streaks have been the rule, not the exception. Science fiction and fantasy have always been blessed with a plethora of talented, imaginative, amazing artists, a tradition that goes back way beyond the Hugos and the worldcon itself to the heydey of the pulp magazines. In fact, the very first worldcon Guest of Honor was not a writer, but an artist, Frank R. Paul.

Unfortunately, come Hugo time, only a handful of those artists have ever received the recognition they deserved, due largely to the aforementioned rules, wherein nominations go to a person rather than to a specific work (to be fair, an effort was made a few years back to add a second Hugo category for professional art, for specific works rather than artists, but it received so few nominations that it was, sadly, abandoned). Popular -- and thus well-known -- artists tended to run up long streaks of nominations and victories. Frank Kelly Freas won the first four rockets in this category from 1955 to 1959, won again in 1970, then collected another five from 1972 to 1976. Michael Whelan started winning in 1980, after being a runner-up for two years, and continued winning throughout the 80s, losing only once in the entire decade (to British artist Jim Burns, when worldcon was in Brighton). Whelan won in 1991 and 1992 as well, but in 1994 Bob Eggleton broke through, after finishing behind Whelan for a number of years, and started a streak of his own, winning in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2004. In between the Eggleton victories Whelan won twice more, in 2000 and 2002, and Jim Burns took another in 2005.

((The whole list of nominees and winners can be examined here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Professional_Artist)).

The point of this is not to take anything away from Freas, Whelan, or Eggleton, all three of whom are magnificent artists, among the most talented ever to work in our field. (I have been fortunate enough to have my own work illustrated by both Freas and Eggleton, though never alas by Whelan, and have originals from all three hanging on my walls). But consider the list of artists active during the same years who NEVER won a Hugo. Virgil Finlay. Chesley Bonestell. Jeff Jones. Steve Fabian. George Barr. Paul Lehr. Tom Kidd. Tom Canty. Barclay Shaw. James Gurney. John Jude Palencar. All Hugo Losers, many of them multiple times (it is a proud thing to be a Hugo Loser, as I have often said). Perhaps even more mind-blowing, Alan Lee and John Howe and Ted Nasmith have never even been nominated.

It is a flawed system, truly. Not at all the fault of the artists, of course. If the Hugo founders had decided, way back when, to give out a "Best Writer" rocket instead of awards for Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, I suspect Robert A Heinlein would have won the first ten or so, maybe losing one or two to Asimov, until the New Wave when Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny and Ursula Le Guin would have taken a few. Then cyberpunk would have arrived and Bill Gibson would have won five in a row, and then... thankfully, though, the writing awards have always gone to stories, not people, so it has always been easier for newcomers to break into the short list.

Flawed or not, though, this is the system we have... which brings me to this year's nominations. I suppose the point of my history lesson here is to urge all those nominating to (1) consider the Usual Suspects by all means, since most of them are terrific, but look BEYOND the Usual Suspects as well, and (2) nominate artists who actually produced great work in 2015, rather than over the entire span of their careers. The award is meant to be for this year's work.

So who do I think produced outstanding art during 2015?

Well, lots of folk, of course, but there are four in particular I had the pleasure of working with this year, and would like to draw to your attention.

First: JOHN PICACIO http://www.johnpicacio.com/ Yes, John is a past winner. Truth be told, he is one of the current crop of Usual Suspects. He was nominated for the first time in 2005, and lost. Thereafter he was nominated every year from 2006 to 2011, losing every year and winning a place of honor in the Hugo Losers party... until he finally broke through and won in 2012. He won again in 2013, lost to Julie Dillon in 2014, and was squeezed off the ballot by the Puppies last year. He's also won the Chesley Award, the Spectrum Award, the World Fantasy Award... and deservedly. Picacio just keeps getting better. A couple of years ago, Picacio embarked on a passion project of his own, creating spectacular original artwork for a loteria deck (an extremely popular Mexican card game). He's still deep in the midst of that, but some of the cards he painted were exhibited last year at worldcon (and probably other cons as well), and during a gallery showing at my Jean Cocteau Cinema. Those of you lucky enough to see them know how amazing they are. Though the loteria deck has been taking most of his time, Picacio also found time during the year to do some cool STARS WARS and WILD CARDS art. You can find samples of that on his website. Meanwhile, here's his most recent loteria card.

Next up: MAGALI VILLENEUVE http://www.magali-villeneuve.com/ Magali is young French artist, immensely talented. I met her for the first time last year during a trip to Paris, but I was already well acquainted with her work. She first came to my attention a few years ago when Fantasy Flight Games hired her to do the art for some of the cards in their GAME OF THRONES collectible card game. Her stuff impressed me so much that I told Random House I wanted her to do the next ICE & FIRE calendar. Magali knocked that one out of the park as well, as all of you who bought the calendar (it debuted last summer at Comicon) can testify. Those of you who have not seen her work... well, the calendar is still widely available, and you can check out her website to see her card art and other work. Magali has never been nominated for a Hugo. She should be.

That brings me to my third suggestion: MICHAEL KOMARCK http://www.komarckart.com/ Komarck's website is a tad outdated, I fear; you won't find much of his recent work there, but I can assure you that he has been active in 2015. I fell in love with his style years ago when he did the cover for the Meisha Merlin edition of TUF VOYAGING, and he's been doing all the covers for the WILD CARDS books, old and new, since Tor re-launched the series. Komarck has been nominated for the Hugo once before, in 2012, losing to Picacio. I think it was about time he was returned to the ballot. Here's his painting for the reissue of DOWN & DIRTY, just a beautiful piece of work.

Lastly, but far far from least, I offer you GARY GIANNI http://www.garygianni.com/ Gianni has never been nominated for a Hugo, which I find truly appalling, since I am convinced that this guy is the living reincarnation of N.C. Wyeth. He blew me away years ago with his artwork for the gorgeous Wandering Star limited editions of Robert E. Howard's SOLOMON KANE and BRAN MAK MORN collections. He followed that up by doing the art for the PRINCE VALIANT comic strip for several years... and it speaks volumes that he'd be tabbed to follow in the footsteps of the immortal Hal Foster. Gianni did the art for the 2014 Ice & Fire calendar, which I know many of you have in your collections. And for the last two years, he has filled his days doing the artwork for the Dunk & Egg collection, A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS. That one came out in October, and it's hit all the bestseller lists so I know that a lot of you have seen it. If you love the artwork as much as I do... and how could you not? ... do remember Gianni when making your Hugo nominations. He's way past due, and I can't think of anyone who has produced a more significant body of fantasy art this past year. Here's a taste:


It should go without saying that the four artists I've mentioned above are by no means the only ones to have done outstanding work this year. Many of you will no doubt have other artists to suggest, and you are welcome to do so in the comments below. I would ask, however, that if you want to recommend an artist, please make certain it is for work published in 2015, and do provide a link (where possible) to the work that impressed you, to give us all a look. With art, seeing is believing, and carries way more weight than just dropping names. (Yes, I know, comments with links will be screened by Live Journal, but that's not a problem. Be patient, and one of my minions will unscreen the comment and the link when we get to it).

Let's make this year's ballot a race between the five artists who actually did the best work in the field during 2015.


( 63 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 30th, 2015 01:43 am (UTC)
The Ditmars - Australia's Hugos - give an award for the art rather than the artists. The prize goes to a book cover, for example, or a magazine cover - the artist is not necessarily the one whose work won last year. Of course, the artist gets to keep the award... :-) This might solve some of the problems you mention. It's just too easy when voting to say, "Oh, yes, Bob Eggleton/Michael Whelan/whoever, he's my favourite!"
Dec. 30th, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)
I remember being very impressed by that Wild Cards cover when I first saw it on this blog. I'm still impressed by it.

And checking, I thought I recognized the style. He's the one responsible for one of my favorite SoIaF images ever: Sansa building the snow castle. Not this year, but still.

Of the above artists, Michael Komarck gets my support.

Edited at 2015-12-30 03:11 am (UTC)
Dec. 30th, 2015 04:03 am (UTC)
I'm going to nominate Jeff Sturgeon this year. I love his paintings on brushed aluminum. His originals for his Last Cities of Earth project are wonderful. Here is a link to some of his recent (this year) work.
Dec. 30th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC)
Dunk & Egg & Gary Gianni
I am going to tell Mr. Gianni this too (thanks for the link), but I am in the middle of The Sworn Sword and I continue to be floored by his work, as well as yours! Just now I was struck by the sadness of Ser Eustace as he asked Dunk on which side Ser Arlan fought. The classic illustrations make it that much more enjoyable. He should WIN a Hugo. Thank you!

Edited at 2015-12-30 05:19 am (UTC)
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:14 am (UTC)
Gawker Article
Speaking of Giants/Hugo awards, I'm sure you've been told about the recent hit piece Gawker just published about you George - apparently you have NO pages written for WOW. The writer/editor/publisher over there obviously missed the many sample chapters.

I'm sure you're quite sick of hearing about the subject, and personally I've gone out of my way to not bring the next book in your most famous series up here, however with such a widely read publication taking such a public, unnecessary, and IMO ridiculous shot over your bow, I'm interested to see what your response to them is.

I could recommend that middle finger response you gave in one video/interview I saw, but I'll bet you'll come up with something all your own.
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:37 am (UTC)
Re: Gawker Article
No pages? Really?? Astonishing, the things you can learn on this interweb.

I have learned to ignore crap like that. I was not even aware of this one until your post.

So let's get back to talking about our favorite SF artists.
Re: Gawker Article - enayan - Dec. 31st, 2015 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Gawker Article - Keith Russell Dulak - Dec. 31st, 2015 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Gawker Article - grrm - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: 2015 artist&Gawker Article - Patrick St.Croix - Dec. 31st, 2015 01:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Gawker Article - salamon2 - Jan. 1st, 2016 01:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:19 am (UTC)
The Usual Suspects...
In my opinion Jon Foster is one of the most under rated artists in the area of fantasy/sci-fi art today. While I admire your work tremendously and always take a look at your recommendations I wish you would choose artists and authors not directly affiliated with your work, it really lowers the credibility of opinion.
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:35 am (UTC)
Re: The Usual Suspects...
Well, the problem is, when I like an artist's work, I tend to reach out to them and hire them, or cause them to be hired, for one or the other of my projects. There are book covers, of course, both domestic and foreign, but I also have limited editions, comic books, graphic novels, illustrated books, calendars, card games, art books... a LOT of projects, which require a lot of artists.

So I work with a lot of artists. (There are some I'm working with that you don't even know about yet, since the projects are still in the pipeline). If I eliminated all of them, I'd be eliminating three-quarters of my favorites. I also collect SF and fantasy art, and I have a small cafe gallery at my theatre. Finding artists with whom I have no connection is not as easy as it sounds.

Appreciate the rec for Foster, but you should provide us a link. Like I said in the post, art has to be seen.

Edited at 2015-12-30 07:41 am (UTC)
Re: The Usual Suspects... - kieran sterling - Dec. 30th, 2015 10:01 am (UTC) - Expand
kieran sterling
Dec. 30th, 2015 10:27 am (UTC)
gianni or komarck
Gianni's work in your book is wonderful. Then again Komarck's cover images are also wonderful. I suppose I should note my gf liked Gianni, and the particular image you gave for Komarck (though it could have been the cats that did it).

If the award is for artist, rather than a specific piece of art I have to go with Gianni over Komarck. While some of Komarck's individual works (and his general subject matter) are of more interest to me, I have to admit that Gianni shows a greater range of styles.

The fact that he can go from Prince Valiant to pure Pulp imagery to what he did for your book and (previous year's) calendar... that's pretty impressive. He can shift to represent his subject.

As a technical question, if they were to adopt single artwork over artist as a category, would one have to take a single image from Gianni's work in your book, or would the collection of images illustrating a single book count as a single artwork?

Dec. 30th, 2015 12:41 pm (UTC)
Ted Nasmith deserves a Hugo nomination!
Ted Nasmith's non-nomination for Hugo Awards is a real shame. His artwork both in JRR Tolkien's world and yours is among the finest in the world. His take on the Eyrie and the Twins has always spoken to me while "The Shadow of Sauron" painting he did evoked the world of LOTR in ways that the film medium couldn't. I would hope that this gets rectified for future Hugo Awards.

Speaking of Mr. Nasmith, I remember reading a long time ago that he would be the artist or THE WINDS OF WINTER. This may be going back 7 or 8 years now, but I wonder if that still holds today? For that matter, Marc Fishman's drawings for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS were wonderful, almost minimalistic expressions of the world of ice and fire, but I certainly hope Ted makes a return for the future of the story!
Dec. 30th, 2015 08:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Ted Nasmith deserves a Hugo nomination!
Ted Nasmith was the artist on the Subterreanean limited edition of A GAME OF THRONES. Yes, we'd talked about him for WINDS at one point, but when Subpress decided to do GAME, we moved him to that one instead.
Dec. 30th, 2015 01:41 pm (UTC)
Gianni's illustrations for AKOTSK are the reason I bought it in dead tree format. Ebooks are great for many things, but they're not there on art yet.

May I blatantly plug the "Hugo Eligible Art 2015" tumblr? (http://2015hugoart.tumblr.com/) I'm not associated with it, but it's showing off some great fan- and pro-artist suggestions.
Dec. 30th, 2015 02:52 pm (UTC)
95% of the cover art I see is as a two inch thumbnail on my phone and most of it isn't designed to look good in that format. One that does because of its simplicity and contrast is Kathleen Jennings cover for the Tremontaine series from Serial Box:

There was one other cover I considered but apparently not all books name the cover artist.
Dec. 30th, 2015 04:16 pm (UTC)
I've been lucky enough to have Stephan Martiniere do the covers for my first two space operas. I particularly adore the second one, the cover for Crossways (http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk/crossways.html) which is wonderfully detailed. I'll be nominating Stephan this year. I have a fantasy book out in February 2016, and the cover has been done by Larry Rostant. A totally different style to the Martiniere covers but I love it. (http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk/winterwood.html)
Dec. 30th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC)
Martiniere is very very good.
(no subject) - brianbrecker - Dec. 30th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - birdsedge - Dec. 31st, 2015 10:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 30th, 2015 05:12 pm (UTC)
Oooh, Gary Gianni will definitely go on my list. I really loved his illustrations in the Hedge Knight book.

Jake Blackwell
Dec. 30th, 2015 05:46 pm (UTC)
I couldn't find an email address or anywhere else to put this so sorry for any misalignment in your databases but thanks so much for Tuf. I'm just now being introduced to him and his litter and can't put it down.

Again, thank you.
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:41 pm (UTC)
re Hugo artist
Totally agree with Magali Villeneuve. I was constantly go back & forth from art on the pages of World of Ice & Fire and artist credit pages at the back. Ted Nasmith has some great works in that beautiful book that blew me away. I miss the art of old that graced the covers of the early editions of A Song of Ice & Fire. How I wish the powers that be release a copy of Feast with the Jaime cover.
Dec. 30th, 2015 07:51 pm (UTC)
Signed Calendar
So this is a touch off topic, but since you have the calendar on here, I have a question about your signed books. \I am about to purchase the signed ASOIAF calendar and wanted to know if you would have any Knight of the Seven Kingdom signed copies available soon for those of us who were hoping to get one for Christmas but Santa didn't deliver
Dec. 30th, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Signed Calendar
Signed calendars and signed copies of A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS are both available via the Jean Cocteau Cinema website.
Re: Signed Calendar - RRMcFreely - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Signed Calendar - grrm - Jan. 1st, 2016 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
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