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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 08:40 pm (UTC)
I like Marc Simonetti. He's done a number of cover's for Michael J. Sullivan including Death of Dulgath which was released this year.

See Marc's website for more examples of his work. Coincidentally he's also done some work for GRRM but I heard of him through Michael.
Dec. 30th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC)
Marc Simonetti is amazing, I agree. He's been doing the Wild Card covers for France, Brazil, and various other countries, and they are spectacular, as was his Ice & Fire calendar a few years back. He did some great work for WORLD OF ICE & FIRE as well.
Dec. 30th, 2015 10:09 pm (UTC)
I'm very impressed by Sana Takeda (website), whose eligible work includes the art for the first two issues of the comic book Monstress.
Reddit CleganeBowl
Dec. 30th, 2015 10:37 pm (UTC)
Art & ASOIAF comics
I've a vivid image of a Gregor and Sandor clash in my mind. I'd love to hear about plans to adapt current and future ASOAIF novels into comics where this could be realised.

Edited at 2015-12-30 10:40 pm (UTC)
Dec. 30th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
I know the Hugos are important
Generally speaking I love reading your blog and the discussions raised by yourself and your readers. That being said you've written a novel over the past 5 months in regards to the Hugos. I don't feel strongly enough about this to do a word count but suffice to say it would be large.

I know everything you blog about is vastly important to what makes your life enjoyable and ultimately that is the only thing that matters.

I just feel a bit like a coworker (this is a loose analogy) that overhears someone tell their boss that they were just too busy to get something done on time when you saw them surfing the internet 7 hours a day for the past 2 weeks.

To be clear you owe nothing to us as fans ...in the same way the Jets don't need to keep you informed of every personnel decision they make or their plan for the upcoming draft. But they do come to the podium and answer questions (outside of your least favorite coach) and release press statements when things go awry.

For better or worse your readers have wrapped themselves up in a westerosi blanket and are extremely invested in the outcome of your story. We buy all the books, toys, maps, calendars, and HBO subscriptions that you push out. It would be nice if you didn't treat "the question that shalt not be asked" with such disdain.

I don't need to tell u this, but you certainly don't owe us an answer to that question. However as a faithful reader/fan/consumer of all things ASOIAF I think it would be really nice of you to give some sort of update.

I know you consider them 2 separate entities, but if there is reasonable hope for the book coming in the near future (2016 sometime) and we can avoid the show until said time then I would absolutely do that. I've obviously never met you but I feel like you would want to do the same if there was a similar situation and you were the fan rather than creator.

I hope you see this isn't a mean spirited entitled brattish off topic post. I'm a procrastinator and my anxieties usually cause me to do the exact opposite of what I need to (eating my feelings so to speak). So on a significantly smaller scale I understand your reluctance to be open about your process on this book. So from one fanboy to another I just ask that you give your loyal bannermen an outline of the battle plans.
Dec. 30th, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
It's not disdain, it's weariness.

I know that each individual who asks that question thinks it is just one question... but the questioning is endless. Every day. From many sources. Blog comments, livejournal messages, emails, sometimes snail mail, interviews. No matter how often I update (I used to, you know, several books back), someone else will be along the next day to ask for another one. It wears me out.

I may do a year's end post tomorrow though, so...
Re: I know the Hugos are important - Jess Dyba - Dec. 30th, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - harleyquinn87 - Dec. 31st, 2015 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - thepainyak - Dec. 31st, 2015 02:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - grrm - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - mariefoxprice - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - thepainyak - Dec. 31st, 2015 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - Mark J. Crandley - Dec. 31st, 2015 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: I know the Hugos are important - Andrew Wright - Dec. 31st, 2015 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - IndelicateFlwrs - Dec. 31st, 2015 05:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - grrm - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:26 am (UTC) - Expand
RE: Re: I know the Hugos are important - caravaggio2012 - Dec. 31st, 2015 04:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - mariefoxprice - Dec. 31st, 2015 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I know the Hugos are important - 4eyedraven - Dec. 31st, 2015 10:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 30th, 2015 11:20 pm (UTC)
More Hugo Suggestions
Thanks so much for the shoutout, George. It's an honor to be be considered in any year, including this one. That said, winning any major award comes with responsibility along with hardware and glory. It's always great to win, but as a past winner, I want the Pro Artist Hugo list to reflect the extraordinary range and evolution of the field. So while I'm not recusing myself, I would like to take this opportunity to shine light on some of sf/f's art stars that have had an outstanding year and deserve Hugo consideration in this category:

In no particular order:

PETER MOHRBACHER: Check out this guy's new crowd-funded art book ANGELARIUM: BOOK OF EMANATIONS. It's an astonishing collection of deities and visions, and I think it's one of the best series of fantasy images I've seen in recent years. Peter is the co-host of an art podcast called "One Fantastic Week" (along with artist Samuel Flegal). I'm fascinated by his successful career model, eschewing corporate client sf/f work in favor of crowd-funded, self-distributed work, and supporting himself full-time on it with a growing legion of fans. Really happy to see him doing well.



JUSTIN SWEET AND VANCE KOVACS: Justin's no stranger to GRRM art fans, but together with his concept art pal Vance Kovacs, he's just released a new art book called ECLIPSE: THE WELL AND THE BLACK SEA (Carbon Canyon Studios). It's a collaborative art book featuring proposal sketches and paintings for a boy's fantastic journey featuring warriors and beasts from an in-progress narrative of their own making. When you consider that these guys have worked as concept art artists on the Narnia, Avengers and Thor films -- there's some world-class imagineering in these pages.


ALLEN WILLIAMS: Allen has produced concept art for films such as Del Toro's Pacific Rim and Aronofsky's Noah, and he's one of the most prolific and personally visionary draughtspeople that I've ever encountered. You've seen his work featured at Tor.com and on several Tor book covers. He produced several amazing pieces in 2015, including works selected for the latest Art Renewal Center Salon catalogue. These are two of his best works of 2015:




TRAN NGUYEN: Check out her cover art featured on the May/June issue of UNCANNY MAGAZINE. If you're a regular reader of Tor.com's short stories, you've seen her stuff, but scan through her "News" section and she's had an amazing year of fantasy work debuting in galleries, annual reports and magazines. Some of these pieces may have eluded the notice of people who judge this Hugo category strictly on book cover work, but the power of her work is definitely worthy of Hugo consideration.



JAMES JEAN: Yes, there was a 2015 reissue of the art book compiling his astonishing covers for the comic book FABLES, but I don't think that's the reason to consider him for a Hugo. Instead, check out the range of vision this guy produced and exhibited this year and try not to let your eyes pop out of your head. See the link below for his 2015 work. Also, if you can get your hands on a limited-edition copy of his art book XENOGRAPH, it collects his work from 2010 to 2014 and released earlier this year. It's one of the most potent collections of fantasy and personal vision that 2015 produced.



And speaking of calendar year -- I heartily second what George said about making sure that your nominees produced published work (as defined by WSFS) in the given calendar year. Wanna nominate a pro artist for a single 2015 work? Go for it. Wanna nominate a pro artist for a terrific body of 2015 work? Go for it. But just make sure it's 2015 work, yeah?

Happy 2016, all!
Dec. 31st, 2015 12:16 am (UTC)
Re: More Hugo Suggestions
Thanks so much for checking in, John. And for your suggestions. I will check them all out. Some striking stuff there from what I've seen already.
RE: More Hugo Suggestions - Nicolas Perez Santoro - Dec. 31st, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Rebecca Dornsife
Dec. 30th, 2015 11:37 pm (UTC)
I second Gary Gianni. I love his style. I met him at NYCC this year and he's just wonderful. He signed and remarqued everything I brought and bought. Even his quick sketches are amazing.

What about Jon McCoy? He did some lovely artwork for Joe Abercrombie's Shattered Sea Trilogy (Subterranean Press limited editions). Half The World was published in 2015.

Dec. 30th, 2015 11:46 pm (UTC)
Alice X. Zhang http://www.alicexz.com

Stellar painter, not as well known as she ought to be. Does frequent video streams where you can watch her work. She's relatively young, but as you said the Hugo shouldn't be a lifetime achievement award, even if it often is.

Edited at 2015-12-30 11:53 pm (UTC)
Dec. 31st, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
Professional Artists
I am curious about the relationship between the artist and the author, specifically who initiates it. Does the author commision the artist or do the artists come to the author expressing interest in wanting to illustrate the characters and settings from the books? I am a big fan of Robin Hobb's "Realm of The Elderlings" series and I've been disappointed that there is not the same quality of art for it that exists for ASOIAF.
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:25 am (UTC)
Re: Professional Artists
It depends very much on the author.

When you are just starting out, it is your editor and your publisher's art director (and to some extent the sales force) who controls your covers. You may offer suggestions, but you have no real power. I got some great covers when I was just beginning, but I also got some real stinkers. I would have killed to have had, say, a Jeff Jones cover on my early novels, but no one was listening.

With success comes clout, however. My publishers listen now... though even then, they don't even do what I would prefer.

On things like the calendars and the limited editions, I have a lot of say, and work very closely with the artists. On stuff like the card games... well, some, but less so. There are so many cards, I can't keep up.

It also depends on how much the writer is interested. I love good fantasy art, and adore illustrated books. Other writers could not care less.
Hampus Eckerman
Dec. 31st, 2015 11:46 am (UTC)
Professional Artists
My recommendation is Simon Stålenhag. His kickstarter projekt was succesfully finished with the book Tales from the Loop with beautiful artwork.


Of course, I'm biased here since all his pictures remind me of my childhood, but there is something special and unique in his art.
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:39 pm (UTC)
It's one of the least consistent and most unfair Hugo categories to me. The fact Yoshitaka Amano doesn't have a Hugo says everything one needs to know.
Dec. 31st, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
A link for some artwork by Yoshitaka Amano, incidentally. Or, as I typically think of him, 'that guy who drew all the Final Fantasy art back in the day.'


Has he done anything in 2015? If he has, and it's as good as the stuff I remember, I'd put him high in the running.
Amy Robillard
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:41 pm (UTC)
Professional Artist Hugo nomination suggestion
I would like to suggest Mark A. Nelson for nomination for the Professional Artist Hugo. He has worked in all areas of the fantasy world (comics, video games, book covers, character design, fine art, you name it!) and his incredible creativity, line work, detail, understanding of composition and storytelling are second to none. He is a unique, absolute stand-out. Here are examples of his latest mind-blowing work:


Dec. 31st, 2015 08:20 pm (UTC)
1) Sara K. Diesel: http://skdiesel.deviantart.com/ and http://www.saradiesel.com She did a particularly beautiful cover for the anthology She Walks in Shadows (http://skdiesel.deviantart.com/art/She-Walks-in-Shadows-501803062).

2) Sam Weber: http://sampaints.com/

Eligible works include his illustrations for the 50th Anniversary Edition of Dune (see http://www.tor.com/2015/04/02/sam-weber-art-illustrated-edition-of-dune/ and http://www.foliosociety.com/book/DFH/dune-frank-herbert for some online examples), as well as his cover art for the U.S. edition of The Traitor Baru Cormorant (http://sampaints.com/2015/07/13/the-traitor-baru-cormorant/)

3) Victo Ngai: http://victo-ngai.com/ and http://victongai.tumblr.com/

She's been on the Hugo longlist in the past, but hasn't yet managed to make the shortlist. A lot of 2015 work, including the cover for Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard (http://victongai.tumblr.com/post/128844973317/barsk-the-elephants-graveyard-victo-ngai-its-a)

Dec. 31st, 2015 08:21 pm (UTC)
My Suggestions for Your Consideration---

Allen Williams-- http://www.allenwilliamsstudio.com/paint
Greg Ruth-- http://www.gregthings.com/
Rebecca Guay-- http://www.rebeccaguay.com/
Micheal Kaluta--- http://www.kaluta.com/
Brom--- http://www.bromart.com/
Laurie Brom--- http://www.laurieleebrom.com/
Eric Velhagen--- (ABQ local!) https://ericvelhagen.carbonmade.com/projects/4040651

Dec. 31st, 2015 08:25 pm (UTC)
Richard Anderson
I really liked the cover art on the Dinosaur Lords. In fact I think I first saw it on this blog:) It got me to read the book (which I thought was only 'ok').

Richard Anderson: http://www.flaptrapsart.com/

Happy 2016.
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