Hugo nominees: professional artists

Last year I didn’t look at artist portfolios, even though I like art and care about cover art, and then I wound up regretting I hadn’t made time for this category. So that was a project for me this morning.

The nominees were:

Vincent Chong.

To me, Chong’s monochromatic palette and somewhat grotesque style is not super appealing. There’s a really distinct horror feel to a lot of his work. That’s perfectly fine, of course, but not really my thing. I don’t mind horror-light or some kinds of dark fantasy, but don’t really care for real horror, and of course you all know that I detest grimdark fantasy. I could definitely see Chong’s work being used for horror — maybe not so much for grimdark. Maybe post-apocalyptic. Definitely zombie stories.

Okay, moving down the list:

Julie Dillon

I liked the colors and the flowing organic lines in Dillon’s pieces. Plus, hey, dragons!


I would be happy to have Dillon do a cover for me.

Dan dos Santos

Now, this artist is the one whose work I immediately recognize! He did those great covers for the Mercy Thompson series, which I think are absolutely perfect for the series. (I don’t like his wolves much, for the Alpha & Omega series; I think his people are better than his animals). He does a lot of more straightforward portrait-style covers, lots of them very good. I really like this one, from his gallery:

Which turns out to be for a book by Jay Lake, actually; I just googled the painting’s name (Kalimpura), and the Amazon link popped right up. Of course I would be more interested in the book if I’d liked Lake’s Hugo-nominated story better. But I do really like this cover. The baby is definitely an unusual element, and I love the woman’s determination, which just radiates from the portrait.

Okay, then there’s Chris McGrath.

I’m not sure what the appeal is for these limited color palettes? This is the second nominee to seem very restricted in his use of color. I think McGrath’s work lacks the grotesque edge of Chong’s work, but it does seem gritty — these are the kinds of images I think you’d see on books with titles like THE EXECUTIONER or whatever — I think of mercenaries and gunslingers and last stands when I look at them. Though some look more fantasy-themed than big-gun themed. They’re portrait style, mostly, like this one:

And the last nominee this year is John Picacio.

Sort of surreal images, a lot of these, and some that are more landscapes than portraits. I often really like art that stretches out for a wider view and offers a view of an interesting landscape; something that gives you more of a view of the world; something evocative. I really like this piece, which was used for endpaper artfor HYPERION by Simmons:

I don’t think I’m ready to sort these artists out and line them up on the ballet. I know I like Dillon, and my first impression is I might put her first, but I don’t know. Anyway, you can check out their galleries if you’re interested, their names should link right over.

Out of curiosity, in general, what appeals to you more on cover art? Portrait-style art or more emphasis on the landscape? And do you like a sort of monochromatic color scheme, or is something brighter more likely to catch your eye and make you pick a book up and look at it?

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4 thoughts on “Hugo nominees: professional artists”

  1. The most surprising thing about this list is how many new names there are. The Artist Hugos are one of those that tend toward the repetitive — but not this year.

    John Picacio has been nominated nine times, and won last year (which for me pushes him down the list, other things being equal). Dan dos Santos has been nominated five times now but never won. The other three have never even been nominated!

    As with last year, I don’t immediately reject any of them as not Hugo-worthy. Of the pieces above I am least impressed with Chris McGrath’s. I like the Dos Santos one best: only on enlarging it did I notice that she has a second infant on her back.

  2. I’ve got to wonder if part of the appeal of limited color palettes is less expensive printing. Back when I was involved in publication purchasing for my then employer, the more colors used, the more expensive the print job. I keep hearing that publishing is in financial trouble.

    Or maybe it’s the zeitgeist, Three of those posted are black and yellow (on my monitor). They do look grim, and would be easy to pass over in a store, if I had any stores near me these days. There’s been a lot of grimness in the news etc. the last few years. (firmly restrains self from elaborating.)

    The full color covers are much more eye-catching, so for marketing purposes I’d think they’d be better. ( Especially if they are surrounded by bi-color covers. _ I’ve always liked flowing lines, so I approve of Dillon’s work – is she related to Leo & Diane Dillon, anyone know? But the dos Santos, of the woman with babies stands out for being very unusual. It also seems to capture the book reasonably well (judging by summaries, as I’ve not read the series it belongs to), which IMO is a plus.

    I’m mildly surprised not to see any Naismith, the guy who did the illustrations for Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY – ok, it was this year, but still, surely he did something last year?

  3. I bet somebody’s done the math for monochromatic = cheaper but also colorful = eyecatching, and decided that the former outweighs the later. But I sure prefer the latter. Most of the time. I really do love that sandstormy-surreal-fortress thing by Picacio.

    I really really loved the cover of A NATURAL HISTORY; it was a great concept, beautifully rendered. But wasn’t it by Todd Lockwood? Every now and then I have a quibble with some detail of a Lockwood cover, but mostly I think he’s pretty fabulous.

  4. aaaargh! yes, it was Todd Lockwood. sorry. I had him crossed with Ted Naismith, who is also an artist.

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