Sunday, March 30, 2008


I have spent today, all of today, going over files from 100+ gallery artists. The galleries will display a small portfolio of each artist, their bio, and links to their websites and art books. While it’s fun to be absorbed in images all day, there is something about laptops that make me forget to blink, and, boy, does my wrist hate track pads. Time to quit working and laze about watching hours of Battlestar.

So, how many artists shown here do you think you can name?

Friday, March 28, 2008

TorDot Wallpapers

This week, Dan Dos Santos and Raymond Swanland.


Since I have a school lecture fresh in my head, and since all up and coming
illustrators want to know how to get their work noticed, I thought I relate how these two guys came into my radar.

I met Dan Dos Santos at the Society of Illustrators. He is friends with artist Steve
Stroud, who is friends with rep Richard Solomon, who is friends with rep Gail Thurm, who I know through Shannon Associates. One night, at the Society, Gail invited me to dinner with the lot of them. Dan was keen on sf/f illustration, asked great questions, and later sent me a kick-as portfolio. I've been working with him ever since. (And I've been friends with Steve an Richard ever since.)

Swanland -- I saw his work in Spectrum for two or three years running and always liked it, I kept sorta looking out for a cover to work on. One day I was in the offices of National Geographic and the art director pulled out a new poster that Raymond had done for them -- a depiction of the layers of Rome. I was suddenly good-naturedly jealous. I wanted to work with Raymond. I found a cover for him fairly quickly after that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SVA Talk

SooJin Buzelli invited Wesley Allsbrook and I to speak to her SVA class. SooJin is one of the most respected and illustration-friendly art directors around. It was gratifying to hear our opinions overlap quite a bit. Wesley had great insight on being an illustrator just emerging into the field. She also brought a portfolio full of original drawings for everyone to pass and and see. So much work is finished digitally nowadays, it was a pleasure to see the foundation drawings in the flesh.

Earlier interview with Wesley here.

John Scalzi on cover art here. (Including an interesting comment from Tor's awesome paperback designer Pablo Defendini, daydreaming about future book design.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hugo Congrtas

I am late in saying "congrats" to all the Hugo nominees, but a sincere congrats to ya'll, even if tardy.

Since this is the art department, a special nod to Bob Eggleton, Phil Foglio, John Harris, Stephan Martiniere, John Picacio, and Shaun Tan.

For those following the change in Hugo procedure, Donato Giancola, John Picacio, and I proposed and debated the merits of citing specific artwork done within the year as means of making the voters more aware of the work than the artists' reputations. Donato declined a nomination this year in an attempt to hep expand the pool of artists being recognized for their contributions to the field. And you have to figure a nominee list that includes a children's book writer/illustrator, cartoonist, established greats, and younger guns is a pretty good list. (Last year, I had a clear favorite in mind. This's tough.)

I noticed that publishers are starting to mention the artists n their Hugo press releases --
a happy, if unintended, consequence. Normally they do not mention the artists, since there is no direct connection between them and the books they have worked on, but with no prompting from me, Tor's publicity department included John Harris and Stephan Martiniere for the Tor books cited on the ballots. I believe Pyr has done the same.

The conversation is expanding.

Judging Books By Covers

The sf/f cover debate has started up again. I feel obliged, although slightly reluctant, to jump in. The question is: Is it better to cater to familiar science fiction and fantasy tropes to hit your target audience or embrace a mainstream look in an attempt to branch out. Short answer: Depends. Tor/Forge/Starscape publishes about 400 books a year (last I checked), which leads me to think there is room for all kinds of covers.

A while ago a friend asked if it was still true that dragons "sell". My flippant answer at the time was, "Dunno, but as long as the buyers believe it, it's true." (And by "buyers" I mean the folks that decide which books will be stocked in stores, not readers who buy books.) The reason I'm slightly reluctant to jump in here is, as much as I'd like it to be otherwise, I am not really hired for my personal preferences on cover art, but rather to get books past book buyers. If the books don't make it into the stores in the first place, readers can't buy them in the second place. I'm also a bit shy of the topic since, while my personal preference may lean toward more expressive styles, I can point to dozens of artists with more rendered aesthetics that I truly love. I suppose the only common denominator among my favorites is that they are all good painters. I try to create as much overlap between my tastes and my job as possible, but it is not entirely one and the same.

I believe the breadth of what is recognized as sf/f art today is so much more varied and vibrant than fifteen/twenty years ago. As people often point out, it was a shame that covers evolved from the abstract work of the 60s and 70s into a far more restrictive idea of what sf art could be -- highly realist, literal narrations. I have no problems with that kind of cover, but it's refreshing that in the past decade+ we've been able to embrace more stylistic decisions. Personally, having that diversity allows me to enjoy both points of view without tiring of one over the other.

(Yes, this is all so "middle of the road" boring, isn't it. But it's true.)

Someone in the debate mentioned the trend in bringing movie and video game concept artists to book covers. The internet and annuals like Spectrum and Expose have opened up avenues to see all kinds of work that was typically only seen by industry insiders. I'm proud to say that I am the fist to have hired Martiniere for book covers and I've loved working with Craig Mullins, Daniel Dociu, Shelly Wan, Sparth and others. I'll admit that I haven't played a video game since Pong (ok, maybe it was Asteroids) but I love working with these loose and expressive painters....Just as I love working with artists like Donato, Dos Santos, Julie Bell, and the like, that have mastered a fine craftsmanship.

The question is when do we use which approach. That all gets sorted out within a series of discussions between editors, marketing peoples, and myself. Hopefully we get it right. I would say, we mostly get it right...even if there are a few covers each year that I would love to get a "do over" on. If someone told me they loved Tolkien, my first reaction wouldn't be to give them a Jonathan Carroll packaging them the same seems silly. It doesn't mean that the same reader wouldn't enjoy both, but they would enjoy them for different reasons.

S'all good.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Eggday

Good hunting.

Thank You!

Bought from my Amazon Associates money. Just the thing for sequestering oneself indoors all weekend in an attempt to finally banish a week-long cold.

Thank you to everyone out there reading (there are far, far, more of you than I ever would have thought when I started this thing) and Thank You to those that have bought a few books. I don't know who you are but I know what you are buying.

I've made $62.00 since November. Okay, so it's not the best retirement plan but, it's still fun to see what people are are interested in.

The big seller? Jon Foster's Revolution. Three whole copies!

Whoever is buying pricey software:
Extra thanks.

Most unusual item:
Mr. Beer Premium Edition Home Microbrewery System (Send us a batch.)

Book I was most surprised, but tickled, to see on the list:
nEuROTIC by John Cuneo.

Just to prove that I'm not in it for the money: I believe I accidentally threw out my first Amazon gift certificate thinking it was spam. Man, I suck at finances.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Type To Make You Smile

Richard Solomon Group Blog

Richard Solomon Representative Blog.

Richard Solomon, artist rep for Gary Kelley, Mark Summers, Chris Payne, Greg Manchess, Jim Bennet, and many other illustrators considered the best in the business, has started a blog. Sadly, their first entry is about the NYC crane collapse that destroyed their offices.

There was a tremendous amount of artwork lost in the accident, much more tragically, a number of lives were lost. The only saving grace is that it occurred on Saturday, when very few people were in the building. I’ve known Richard and his group for years...had this happened 24 hours earlier, I shudder to think of the loss it would have been.

Bookmark It

...and then spend a life time studying these guys.

DaniDraws has made a great cheat-sheet on historic and contemporary illustration with his post, 75 Artists You Should Know and Where to Find Them.

Be sure to check out the artists listed in the comments as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2008 Wallpapers

This week’s wallpapers, courtesy of Sam Weber (my latest art-crush) and Shelley Eshkar (my art-crush since we were freshmen together.)


SF Signal is Talking to Artists

Go see how Todd Lockwood, Dave Seeley, Jeremey Geddes, John Picacio, Donato Giancola, Glenn Orbik, and Bob Eggleton answer the question:

As an illustrator, what was it that drew you to science fiction and fantasy to begin with, and what place do you feel illustration has in the science fiction and fantasy field?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thumbnails: Sparth

Thumbnails: 30 Second Interviews

One of the great things about online communities like CGSociety and is that they have made it possible for people outside of the gaming and movie industries to access the imagery that help build those worlds. I love all the freedom and spontaneity seen in concept work -- giving impressions of scenes without relying ion too much detail. One of my favorites is Sparth. I love the sense of scale and depth he can create using value and by juxtaposing sharp edges against looser, more abstract, elements.

Sparth website.
Sparth Construct.
Pre-order (like I have) his upcoming art book, Structura: The Art of Sparth.

Favorite painting you did in the past year?

I think one of the paintings I prefer, and that represent some sort of a milestone for my own progression, is that cover i did for a French novel called Le Monde Enfin by Jean-Pierre Andrevon. [Top image] I often take a look at this cover whenever I need to comfort myself in my ability to produce a balanced image, where details are present but not to the point of drowning the scene into unnecessary complexity.

Dream assignment?

A space opera movie production maybe? Or anything related to the post apocalyptic genre.

How do you balance family and personal time with work?
I tend to prefer doing regular working hours in a company, that allows me to spend time with my kiddos when I get home. In order to fill the rare gaps in my schedule, I sometimes accept "one shot" assignments like book covers, as it's not only fast, but it also gives a lot of pleasure being able to achieve something in just a few days, compared to lengthier projects like games prods or movies.

Do you have a set image in your mind when you first start sketching or do you start out abstractly and let the process of doodling take over?

It is very difficult to give a simple answer on the matter. I'd say that I probably start doodling with a relatively abstract approach in mind, obtain a fine basic sketch very fast, and then stick to it without changing too much of the initial composition. The more you change the initial compo, the riskier it will get, and I still think that the best images are the ones whose composition do not get altered from start to finish. From the moment your initial sketch is strong, that is. Your first intent is often very present in a piece, as much as the rectifications you will eventually make further on.

Things cannot be easily hidden, at least not in my vision.
The paradox is that abstraction can be of a tremendous help when it comes to imagining images, But when things are in place, the best is to escape from it and stick to detailing. It's not as easy as it seems, we artists like playing with meaningless shapes and colors a bit too much.

Advice to a young illustrator?

Whenever somebody is giving you an enlightening artistic advice, write it down in a text file, or in a folder where you'll gather all these thoughts and comments in order to read them again and again. Something simple, no fancy subfolder labyrinth thing you'll never go back into.

That's what I do: whenever I find a theory worth trying, or an advice given by a friend, or even an idea popping into my mind while creating, I write it down in my "must not forget about this" list. A bit like a general and opened set of rules or guidelines. Of course, rules are there to be broken, especially in the art field, but some things never change, and are worth putting down on a paper.

Stephan Martiniere's Four Seasons

Stephan just emailed me "Spring", which ends the four seasonal books of Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet.

I've often wished I could walk into a gallery displaying the series (once completed) projected floor-to-ceiling on each wall -- a giant cube of Martiniere seasonal goodliness.

Thursday, March 13, 2008 More on What We are About + Royo and Foster Wallpapers

Firstly, for an impassioned and eloquent description of what we think Tor.Com will evolve into, and to to sign up as a beta tester, see Patrick Nielsen Hayden's post on Making Light and the 200+ comments that follow. (Houston, we have buzz.)

This week's visual delight.... Wallpapers:

Luis Royo, from The Fantastic Art of Luis Royo.

Jon Foster, from Revolution: The Art of Jon Foster.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thumbnails: Nic Klein

Thumbnails: 30 Second Interviews

Nic Klein, one of many finds for me. I'm killing two birds with one stone here - not only is he someone for my "Thumbnails", he's also on my "Wish List"

Do you have to like the book/comic to be excited about the project?

No. Every Project has potential for something exciting, whether it is the characters, the composition of the piece, or just a technical aspect. In fact being a fan of something and then getting the chance to work on it could even be a bit of bad thing, because you might have such a clear image of the characters or what previous Illustrators might've done with a property that it blocks your own creativity, and thus might turn into a disaster.

What are you working on now?

Right Now I am painting an Comic Issue for Marvel MAX, It is Issue 4 of "Dead of Night:Man-thing". It is the first time for me painting a whole issue so I am excited.

Favorite color?

Pink & Blue (baby blue almost turquoise), I know, weird.

Favorite painting you did in the past year?

It's a tie between the Spectra Pulse cover for Bantam Dell Publishing and the Starlord#1 [third image] cover for Marvel comics. The Spectra piece for all the stuff that is going on in it, and for the freedom I had in making it. The starlord piece because it was the first Marvel cover I did, and it has a great energy to it.

Do you have a set image in your mind when you first start sketching or do you start out abstractly and let the process of doodling take over?
This is a tricky one. I think there are very few artists that I know that can claim to have the ability to capture exactly what is in their head. I am not one of them, sometimes more sometimes less, but making art or an Illustration is always a process for me. I start out with an idea and elements will be added or taken away as I see fit. Obviously this depends on what the illustration is for and how much freedom I have/or what needs to be communicated with a piece. With personal work I have no one to answer to but myself so this is the most spontaneous work, although some jobs where the Art direction is loose this also applies.


I'll be at LunaCon, up in Rye NY, this weekend -- hanging out with a bunch of artists. I'll be at the panels listed below...or at the bar.

(Oy! Typing this in, I'm only just realizing that I am moderating the Business of Writing panel.)


The Art Department: An Interview with Irene Gallo
Donato's revenge on the SI lecture I made him do.

Participants: Irene Gallo, Donato Giancola[M],

1:00 PM

Art in the Information Age

How the digital age is changing the field.

Participants: Irene Gallo, Donato Giancola, Karl Kofoed, Dave Seeley, Diane Weinstein,

4:00 PM


Business of Writing

What happens when you sell your book to a publisher?

Participants: Patricia Bray, Jeanne Cavelos, Sean P. Fodera, Irene Gallo[M], Patrick Thomas,
10:00 AM

Virtual Studios

Online art communities.
12:00 PM

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spectrum 15 Contributors

See the lucky (read: hard working) ones that made it into Spectrum15 here.

(Thanks, Dan Dos, for the heads-up.)

Skeletons at the National Museum of Natural History

Sunday, March 09, 2008

National Museum of Natural History

I adore New York's American Museum of Natural History, but the curse of that is always being slightly disappointed when I go to any other city's natural history museum. Not so in DC. I had to be dragged out of there. Not only was it crammed with well sculpted animals and displays, but it also had the same odd mix of current science with a wonderful 1950s aesthetic to what makes something look scientific and forward thinking -- which basically means lots of hexagons and "cell" shapes in muted tertiary colors, with signage that was clearly hand cut and applied.

I'm inexplicably fasicinated by mounted (wrongly called "stuffed") animal displays. The AMNH cannot be beat on this, but in DC there was a lot of emphasis given to the movement of the animals. The only thing it was laking was some breathing-room between displays.

The Lincoln Memorial

A Weekend in Washington, DC

Todd Lockwood is...


(Thanks for the heads-up, Doogman.)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Friday, March 07, 2008

TorDot Wallpapers

This week, Donato Giancola and John Jude Palencar.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Facelifts vol.8

We just finished up our Fall 2008 catalog. I'll share some of the covers throughout the upcoming months, starting with...

This ominbus edition edition of Ken MacLeod's The Star Faction and The Stone Canal. Design by Peter Lutjen.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ross MacDonald and Liberation

This was a lot of fun to watch come together. Long time AD readers will remember that I couldn’t praise Brian Francis Slattery’s first novel, Spaceman Blues, enough. To be honest, hat made me a little nervous when Brian’s scend novel, Liberation, came up in the schedule. Like Spaceman, Liberation is nearly impossible to describe and defies category, but essentially it is about America after a sudden and catastrophic economic collapse -- from there it gets both scary and trippy.

The author had the idea of referencing 19th Century runaway salve posters. Once I heard that, I immediately remembered a great lecture I saw by letterpress artist, Ross MacDonald, years earlier. I’ve always loved his work but knew it would take a long time to find just the right project. After a couple of emails back and forth, I realized that Ross wasn’t just the right aesthetic for the job, he really seemed to get the essence of the book. Below are a series of photos and excerpts of emails from him throughout the process:

“When I'm giving a talk about letterpress -- 'true' letterpress, with actual wood and metal type -- I like to use the phrase 'ditch typography'. In other words, you could literally do it in a muddy ditch if you needed to. If civilization collapses, letterpress printers would still be able to function, and that's the back story I had in mind when I was working on this cover -- to make it look as if it was printed in the time and setting of the book, by someone working in a burnt-out factory using 19th century technology.”


“Although I love a lot of historic periods of printing and design, I'm really inspired by one of the most reviled periods of design - the early 19th century. All of the fonts used on your cover were designed and manufactured before 1854. The two fonts on the bottom (the sans, which was called gothic and the slab serif, or antique) date to before 1820. Although it was not a perfect time (slavery, manifest destiny, votes for white guys only) it is a period when so much innovation was going on in many fields, including printing and type design.

The technology and the typography were really rugged. Americans were building cylinder 'country' presses that could survive travel in the backs of wagons. they were brought into frontier towns, where there were no roads, and could be easily run, operated, and repaired. If something broke, the local blacksmith could fix it. He had to, because it might take months to get spare parts. The presses could be run by either steam power, water power, mule power, or cranked by hand. Often times the printer would crank the flywheel and his wife would feed the press. I remember seeing an ad from the 1870's that boasted that 'a small boy could print over 2000 copies an hour'. Ah, the good old days!”

It's impossible not to enjoy the day at work when others so clearly display their passion for the job.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Richard Powers: Hall of Fame

I think John Picacio is the first to praise the Science Fiction Hall of Fame for selecting Richard Powers as their next artist Hall of Famer. If I weren't so busy at the moment, I too would be saying how awesome this is.

(Hurray to John, who is always quick to point out the importance of past artists on today’s field.)

Here is David Hartwell -- Tor editor, art collector, and long time friend of Powers, with a personal essay.

And here is the Powers Compendium -- a fantastic collection of Powers covers. (But leave plenty of time for browsing it without any thumbnails to help guide your way.)


Bob Eggleton reminded me of Jane Frank's book, The Art of Richard Powers.

(And hurray to Jane for keeping artists like Powers and John Berkey in the bookstores and in the minds of today's painters and fans.)