Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist

Welcome back to our ongoing series of Watching the Hugos: 2019 Edition! Today we're doubling up Professional Artist and Fan Artist into one post because how I think about art and artists don't quite line up perfectly well with the format I've used for the read of the Reading the Hugos series. You'll note that I'm using the "Watching the Hugos" title, which isn't quite right but is the closest I could figure out in order to have consistency across the various categories. It'll do. Let's take a look at who the finalists are and then we'll get into a little bit of commentary. For each category, my evaluation is based on the submissions to the Voter's Packet.

Finalists for Professional Artist

Galen Dara
Jaime Jones
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Yuko Shimizu
Charles Vess 

Finalists for Fan Artist
Sara Felix
Grace P. Fong
Meg Frank
Ariela Housman
Likhain (Mia Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth


Like most years, Professional Artist is a brutally difficult category to figure out. The only artist I was not familiar with by name was Jaime Jones, but a quick peek at the Voter Packet tells me that I've seen and loved his work on the covers for the Murderbot novellas, though the cover for The Phoenix Empress is spectacular. Also, and this isn't something I've considered for this category, look at his website. Just look at it. Just incredible.

One of the major publishing events of 2018 is Saga's publication of the Ursula K. Le Guin's The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition collecting all of Le Guin's Earthsea stories with more than 50 illustrations from Charles Vess. The work is beautiful and complements the text nicely.

Victo Ngai first came to my attention for her gorgeous work on the cover for Amberlough, but little did I know that would only be the tip of the iceberg. Likewise, Yuko Shimizu has a stunning selection of work in the packet. The covers to JY Yang's novellas are standouts, but only scratches the surface of the breadth of her work.
I've long been a fan of John Picacio's art, but it seems to me that he has raised his already strong game in recent years. The Loteria cards are masterpieces and his cover work for the Wild Cards stories published on are stunning.

My Ballot for Professional Artist
1. John Picacio
2. Galen Dara
3. Victo Ngai
4. Yuko Shimizu
5. Jaime Jones
6. Charles Vess

There is some controversy regarding Ariela Housman's Voter Packet submission, in that it does not include her fabulous "Lady Astronaut Nouveau" work because the Hugo Committee deemed it ineligible for reasons I don't completely understand. Housman disagreed, as do I. Technically, we shouldn't consider that work when considering Housman for the Hugo Award and in my introduction I said that I would only consider works in the Voter Packet. This is my lone exception because the Committee is flat out wrong and I love that piece.

One of the interesting things about the Fan Artist category is that the perennial inclusion of Spring Schoenhuth represents the possibility of the category and how it can represent a much wider variety of art that simple “cover art” and the style of art we most often see in both the professional and fan artist categories. Schoenhuth does metalwork and the pieces, at least from pictures, are fantastic. That they’re not really my thing does not lessen the high quality of the work.

Sara Felix is similar to Schoenhuth in that her nomination is not tied to illustration style work, but rather for her co-designing last year's Hugo Award base and for other non illustrative work. Her submission of the Robot Rocketship is absolutely charming.

I'm not sure of the medium Meg Frank is working, though I think some of the work contained in the Voter Packet are paintings (which I rather like) and she has also created jewelry, which as I mentioned is not a medium I appreciate when it comes to the Hugo Awards.

The two artists at the top of my Hugo ballot are Grace P. Fong and Likhain (Mia Sereno), both are names I've seen mentioned for several years now and who are producing the exact sort of work I am looking for, both in general and for the Hugo Awards in particular. They are spectacular.

My Ballot for Fan Artist
1. Mia Sereno (Likhain)
2. Grace P. Fong
3. Sara Felix
4. Ariela Housman
5. Meg Frank
6. Spring Schoenhuth

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Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan