SPECTRUM Jurying: The Monday After

John Fleskes locks up Fort Flesk — and this year’s SPECTRUM jurying is now history.

Had the best time this weekend jurying the SPECTRUM 24 Annual with Christian Alzmann, Victo Ngai, Laurie Lee Brom, and Mark Newman. It was mind-blowing, enlightening, and grueling. I miss these people already.

Notes from this weekend:

  1. When submitting digital entries, make sure they’re big enough that jurors can appreciate the love and labor invested in the work. Most entries did. A few good ones didn’t. It was a shame — especially when the work looked so promising.
  2. In the Three-Dimensional Category — photography MATTERS.
  3. WOW. There are SO MANY terrific artists out there right now. Inspiring. Approximately 4700 TOTAL ENTRIES this year from all around the world.
  4. Thanks to Christian, I’ll never look at the acronym “CGI” the same way again.
  5. Most Shocking Moment: Hearing the news that Bill Paxton had suddenly died. The jury was eating Sunday breakfast together, and we proceeded to trade classic Paxton movie lines. Great actors don’t have to win Oscars to be beloved.
  6. Bottom Line: If you’re ever fortunate enough to be a SPECTRUM juror — no matter how many minutes you get with your jury teammates, it won’t be enough.

Thank you, John Fleskes, for making all of this happen. You too, Kathy Chu and Monica Carson. And last but not least — never enough thanks can be given to Arnie and Cathy Fenner for creating the SPECTRUM phenomenon in the first place. I can’t wait to see the finished annual this fall! Onward to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live in Kansas City in two months.

2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo Thoughts

Right now is the 2017 Hugo Awards nomination period and the window to turn in nomination ballots is March 18th. I’ve posted a list of my awards-eligible work, but I want to shine spotlight on five pro artists who all deserve serious Hugo Award consideration. Every year, I hear art fans, authors, and readers asking whether such-and-such art is eligible, or wondering which artists have stood out as cover illustrators.

2016 suggests a different landscape for pro artists than previous Hugo years because I think we’re witnessing the rise of pro illustrators creating major published works where THEY are the storytellers, the brand makers and the IP owners. I find that some of the most invigorating sf/f art is happening within published projects where the illustrators are not answering to someone else’s text or narrative, but their own. These aren’t side projects, but highly-visible releases, capturing large fan followings and critical acclaim. This sea change has not happened overnight, but it’s definitely a wave that’s building as more pro artists push some — or all — of their career efforts in this creator-owned direction.

BROM: LOST GODS, his most recent novel as an author/illustrator, debuted in October to rave reviews. New York Times-bestselling author Richard Kadrey says, “LOST GODS is an adventure tale and a mythic odyssey. It’s like Dante played out in muggy rural graveyards and the depths of Purgatory on the eve of a demonic war.” Sure, Brom’s won the Spectrum Grand Master Award. He’s been revered for three decades for his role-playing game art for TSR and Wizards of the Coast, as well as legendary covers for authors such as Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks and Michael Moorcock, but in 2016, LOST GODS proved once again that he’s one of science fiction/fantasy’s leading lights as an author/illustrator.


PETER MOHRBACHER: Pete has built an art empire all his own with his ANGELARIUM books and limited-edition prints. In 2016, he released a stunning body of new ANGELARIUM work that continues to build a unique character universe, born of his mad imagination. He’s also one of the leading professional artists in his handling of social media and crowd funding platforms, sustaining himself as a pro fantasy artist, exclusively via his creator-owned IP. He’s doing all of this while inspiring creators of all stripes via the weekly webcast “One Fantastic Week”.


WYLIE BECKERT: When you look at the landscape of Kickstarter, it’s littered with playing card decks to such an extent that almost none of them stand out anymore. And then along came Wylie’s WICKED KINGDOM which became a viral sensation in the sf/f art world, mushrooming into a storybook, postcard sets, and more, along with the core playing deck itself. The art is lush and narrative-driven and I think the real star of her output was the storybook, which showed her as a storyteller birthing a personal mythos all her own.


TODD LOCKWOOD: THE SUMMER DRAGON debuted in June and has finished 2016 as one of Amazon.com’s ‘Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of 2016.’ Not bad for a debut effort by an author/illustrator. Todd is beloved worldwide by Dungeons and Dragons fans, and he’s done decades worth of amazing cover work, but when his book went into multiple printings in one year, he showed that the career path of best-selling author and best-selling artist are not mutually exclusive. I think that was one of the most significant developments within fantasy art in 2016.


JEFFREY ALAN LOVE: Jeff has definitely done his fair share of terrific work for venues such as Tor.com, Gollancz, HarperCollins and more, but in 2016, the release of his NOTES FROM THE SHADOWED CITY solidified him as one of the most fascinating graphic storytellers anywhere. Praised by artists such as John Harris, Dave Mckean, Mike Mignola and more — the texts are short, the art is austere, and yet the two together pack a provocative punch, forming one of the coolest and most signature graphic novel debuts of recent years.


Selected 2016 Works

2017 is already flying by so fast. Here are a few of my selected artworks from 2016. For those seeking one-stop summaries of eligible work for the 2017 awards season, I hope this short list is helpful.


‘La Botella’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


‘La Corona’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


‘La Pera’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Cover illustration for A. Lee Martinez’s THE LAST ADVENTURE OF CONSTANCE VERITY
Client: Saga Press
July 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Interior illustration for Carrie Vaughn’s WILD CARDS story, “The Thing About Growing Up In Jokertown”
Client: Tor.com
December 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Cover illustration for George R. R. Martin’s IN THE HOUSE OF THE WORM
Client: Baltimore Science Fiction Society
May 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)

2016 Chesley Award Finalist Times Two!

ARBOLpicacioVery proud to be a 2016 Chesley Award Nominee in two categories! Hooray!! 🙂

My Loteria card art for ‘El Arbol’ is a finalist for Best Product Illustration. I’m elated not just because Loteria is my creator-owned property and ongoing ship of dreams, but because ‘El Arbol’ is a tribute to my friend, the great Jay Lake. Even though his novels and stories would always endure, I asked him before his passing if he wanted to live on as a tree of life. He said ‘let’s do it’ and this drawn art was the final result. This one’s for you, Jay.

SNATCHERSpicacioLRIn the Best Cover Illustration / Paperback category, my art for Jack Finney’s classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a finalist as well. Cherlynne Li was my art director on this 60th anniversary cover for Simon & Schuster / Touchstone. Last year, I shared my thoughts that led to this cover art. Thank you to Cherlynne for allowing me the freedom to visually re-present one of science fiction’s classic stories in a fresh way that hasn’t been done before. (And thank you to Joe Monti, with whom this job would not have happened otherwise.)

Congratulations to all of this year’s Chesley Award finalists. These are the awards given by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) and wow, it’s a WORLD-CLASS ballot, chockful of stunning work. Special shoutout to my fellow artists who are also nominated in the Best Product Illustration category — Linda Adair, Mitchell Bentley, Rovina Cai, Jacob Murray, and Magali Villeneuve — and in the Best Cover Illustration / Paperback category — Julie Dillon, Tyler Jacobson, Jeffrey Alan Love and David Palumbo. Honored to be amongst all of you, and THANK YOU AGAIN, ASFA.

Final voting is open to all ASFA members and begins today, June 6th, concluding on June 26th. The awards will be announced in August at the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City.  Join ASFA today to make your voice heard and your votes count. 

The 2016 Best Professional Artist Hugo Award

book-complete-elmore-2Need help making sense of the Hugo Finalist list in the Best Professional Artist category? Grab yourself an adult beverage. Easy on the ice.

Got it? Good.

After looking over the nominees announced today, I’m seeing an absence of many talents that represent the best of the contemporary sf/f art world. Off the top of my head, names like David Palumbo, Greg Ruth, Rebecca Guay, Gerald Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, Jeffrey Alan Love, Wylie Beckert, Sam Weber, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, and more. They all had Hugo-eligible bodies of work this year.

It’s rare that I share my personal views on any award publicly. Exceptions include speaking up on behalf of working 3D artists and their professional value regarding the new World Fantasy Award design. Earlier this year, George R. R. Martin asked me to contribute a few Hugo recommendations on his blog, and since he’s a friend, I gave it a go. I’m making another exception here. The reason I’m writing this post is there will be a group of people awarding a Hugo to a pro artist this year, and some of those voters might look at the finalist list and think all of the Pro Artist finalists share equal value. In this case, that would be a poor assumption. 

First, when reviewing the finalists’ work, check eligibility. Don’t cast a vote for a Pro Artist Hugo nominee unless you’re certain they have eligible work published in 2015. Check it yourself. Don’t assume.

And here’s an assist:

Larry Elmore is a legendary and deeply influential fantasy illustration icon, who has had a huge impact on generations of Dungeons & Dragons fans — game players, writers, artists, editors, publishers, designers, filmmakers, convention organizers — and beyond. More to the point, he has a major body of published eligible work in 2015 and that work doesn’t take extensive sleuthing to discern whether it’s eligible. His book The Complete Elmore Volume II contains over 700 drawings from a career dating back to 1981, and was produced and first published in the fall of 2015.

Was Larry Elmore amongst my nomination selections? No. He wasn’t.

Do I believe that ‘No Award’ is an option this year? It’s the Hugos. It’s always an option.

No disrespect to the other finalists, but Larry Elmore winning a Hugo would not be a lifetime achievement award but it would recognize a lifetime of professional art achievement by someone who is legitimately eligible this year.

The history of that winners list would be shinier with his name on it.

If you’re feeling disoriented as a voter — don’t get twisted. This is an easy one.

Given this year’s five choices, it’s Larry Elmore.

Good luck, Larry.

**********

BONUS HUGO THOUGHTS:

Posts like this one should not need to exist, but if you’re waiting for me to publicly say negative things about this year’s Hugo art finalists, it’s not happening. I do think this last two years of Hugo nomination results in the Pro Artist category represents a tidal shift in who is nominating the Hugos. I think it’s a missed opportunity for pro artists to let this moment slip past. Many sf/f artists deservedly care about the Spectrum Awards, the Chesleys, or Infected By Art because they promote artists and celebrate what we do. I think the only thing that stops the Hugos from being more included in that conversation is ourselves as pro artists. I often hear artists say that only writers and literary fans vote on the Hugo, and that’s why they don’t vote. I always felt like that was self-fulfilling prophecy. Why shouldn’t we as pro artists expect the best from the Hugos as much as we do any other art award, if it has a Pro Artist category? I would encourage us as pro artists to better shape the Hugo discussion as we see fit next year. Be vocal about it. I’m not saying to campaign for yourself, but I am saying to make your 2016 body of published work accessible where people can see that it’s eligible for consideration. Promote your favorite works by others for Hugo voter consideration. Nominate and vote in the Hugos, even if the Pro Artist category is the only one you vote on. Pro Tip: Your single category ballot is counted as equally valid alongside ballots filled out across their entirety.

Weirdly, because of this recent flux, it feels to me like there’s a real opportunity for more of the names listed at the top to be recognized. The writers and literary tribes aren’t going to do this for us. We have to do it. I’ve often heard artists say they have no nomination chance unless they attend Worldcon. Stephan Martiniere has won without attending a Worldcon. Julie Dillon was nominated before attending her first Worldcon. Dan Dos Santos has been nominated multiple times with 2009 being his lone Worldcon appearance (if memory serves). The point is — these people were Hugo finalists and/or winners because of enormous professional art talent and visibility, not because of convention campaign skills. That Worldcon-or-bust myth doesn’t fly.

My advice: If artists feel that the award’s voting control is a monopoly beyond reach, the current chaos has proven that view is obsolete at best. Part of the joy of being an artist is being a change agent. There’s a window of opportunity right now where major contemporary pro sf/f artists can shape Hugo nominations toward a view more reflective of the sf/f field’s rich professional excellence. 2017 will be here before we know it. I don’t know how long that window stays open, but I hope the best sf/f artists notice. It’s not about campaigning. It’s about visibility.

For as long as I’ve had a career, pro artists have told me the Hugos are uncool. Eleven years ago, a respected and popular pro told me one of the worst things that could happen to my career would be a Hugo nomination. I thought he was joking. His reply, “Seriously, man. You don’t want that. I’m not kidding.” Maybe I’m a dork, but hearing that it was so uncool to him made it cooler to me. It didn’t hurt that Whelan, Frazetta, Di Fate, the Dillons, and more must have been even more ‘uncool’ for winning it. I wanted to be uncool like them. Awards are what we make of them, and I think the current disarray means this award’s voting base is being remade across all categories. Ignore all of the histrionics, and if it makes you feel better, you can even ignore the literary categories. What’s stopping the remaking in the Pro Artist category from belonging to the pro artists?

Selected 2015 Works

Here are a few of my selected artworks from 2015. For those who are seeking one-stop summaries of eligible work for the 2016 awards season as they consider their ballots, I hope this short list is helpful. Usually, I post this kind of info at the beginning of the year, but 2016 has been hella-busy. 🙂 Wishing all artists and creators the very best of luck out there!

SNATCHERSpicacioLR
Cover illustration for Jack Finney’s classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Client: Simon and Schuster / Touchstone
October 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

ARBOLpicacioLR
‘El Arbol’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
December 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

TROEpicacioLR
Cover illustration for the limited edition of Dan Simmons’ THE RISE OF ENDYMION
Client: Subterranean Press
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

NOPALpicacioLR
‘El Nopal’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
December 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

SPECTRUM 23!

ARBOLpicacioJust heard that “El Arbol” from my ongoing Loteria series has been selected for inclusion in the 23rd edition of SPECTRUM: THE BEST IN CONTEMPORARY FANTASTIC ART, which will release this fall. Thanks very much to this year’s jurors for the honor. 🙂 It bears mentioning again that this work is dedicated to the late, great Jay Lake who modeled for this before his passing. Salud, Jay, and a big hug and shoutout to his family and loved ones. Back to work here making new Loteria artwork!

Infected By Art Vol. 4!

Loteria Grande card artworks for "El Venado" and "El Arbol" by John Picacio.

Loteria Grande card artworks for “El Venado” and “El Arbol” by John Picacio.

Great news — two of my recent artworks, “El Venado” and “El Arbol”, have been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming art annual Infected By Art / Volume 4 (published by Hermes Press). Lauren Panepinto, Allen Williams, Erica Berkowitz, and Patrick Jones were the jurors for this year’s annual. Both pieces were created for my ongoing Loteria series, and that makes their inclusion even more gratifying.

“El Venado” is an homage to the Grisha Trilogy written by my friend Leigh Bardugo, while “El Arbol” is a tribute to the late, great Jay Lake. Shoutout to both of them, and to Jay’s family.

In Loteria We Trust. 🙂

Volume 4 will be available in bookstores everywhere during the last quarter of 2016. Congratulations to all of the artists selected for this amazing book!

Artists Beware!

 

picacioDARKAGE3

Artists — how do you feel about someone who says, “Give us your ideas for free. If we decide we like one of them, we’ll use it for our own personal branding and for our own prestige. We will hire someone to make multiple images of it and that person will not receive compensation either. We have zero respect for any of you as working professionals.”

As of today, that’s the official message that the World Fantasy Convention just transmitted to all professional artists as the WFC searches for a new image for their World Fantasy Award. See their new “World Fantasy Award Call for Submissions”.

That’s right. Your ideas and your work — for nothing.

It’s an extremely unprofessional message, and it’s not one that befits experienced professionals. It says to all of its members — writers, editors, agents, publishers — that the organization doesn’t value its own branding enough to properly invest in it. That’s very sad to see.

Throughout my career, I’ve had fellow professional artists such as Michael Whelan, Bob Eggleton, and Greg Manchess take the time to point me in the right direction, whether it was toward a worthy opportunity, or away from a predatory situation. I try to do the same for others. Pay it forward.

This is one of those moments.

If you’re an artist who wishes to submit free ideas and free work to this process — don’t do it. Save your energy. Take your ideas and your hard work and channel them into conduits and clients where your work is valued.

Recently, the writer Wil Wheaton eloquently refused to trade his writing for ‘exposure’ from the Huffington Post. He’s a major celebrity. He’s presumably doing well financially. The compensation amount probably wasn’t a big deal to him one way or the other, but he knew better than to accept nothing for his work. It wasn’t just the wrong thing for himself, but it set a bad precedent for writers who are less advantaged than him, who are much more easily preyed upon, and who depend on fair compensation for their work in order to make a living wage. He took a stand. These acts matter.

I’m not Wil Wheaton. I don’t have his celebrity power. It’s important to say this though, and I hope it helps my fellow artists and the creative community at-large:

As a past World Fantasy Award winner and frequent attendee of the World Fantasy Convention, I encourage all artists to boycott this process and do not give your work or ideas to this convention for free. ‘Exposure’ and ‘prestige’ are not enough.

Expect better.

In fact, expect the best.

Keep working towards it every day. Don’t fall prey to an unprofessional overture such as this one. And if you see artists who are more established than you falling prey, ask yourself why and how you might approach the situation better. Don’t follow someone else’s example blindly.

As for the WFC, I’m sorry to see it inflict itself with this black eye.

It’s a convention with assets, even if it doesn’t want to compensate artists with money. It could have compensated all professional 3D artists who submitted ideas with a membership to a future WFC. It could have compensated the winning sculptor with a lifetime WFC membership. It could have found any number of creative solutions.

Instead, it chooses to send the message that artists’ work and ideas for a new World Fantasy Award are worth nothing, and in turn that the convention’s new image is worth the same.

Onward to better expectations and better days.

The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next?

PICACIOworldfantasy

The World Fantasy Convention’s board of trustees has decided to evolve their award from a bust of H.P. Lovecraft (crafted by Gahan Wilson) to a brand-new, yet-undecided design. There’s been a ton of debate and reaction to this topic.

Bottom line: I applaud the WF board on their decision and I’m looking forward to what’s next for this award. So yeah — what IS next? Decisions, decisions…..

Here’s the thing — often, the key to making a good decision is first asking the right question.

We can all watch random people lobbing ideas and concepts, seeking answers for the award’s new design that best endorse their pet interests. You’ve probably already seen some. Not surprisingly, many of these ideas spring from a very Eurocentric view of fantasy that seems a bit tone-deaf to a shifting ethnic and cultural spectrum amongst audience and creators alike. Some advocate for a favorite fantasy form that makes them feel nostalgic — a dragon, an elf, a green man, for instance. Others advocate that the award should resemble a person that perhaps makes them feel comfortable, or reflects themselves.

These responses seem myopic and panicked, borne of an unspoken open question: “What should the award look like?”

If I were a decision maker in this process (and THANK GHOD, I’m not), I would offer that’s NOT the right question to ask right now, and thus, it’s no surprise that the answers so far are less than optimal. In fact, unless you’re a professional sculptor, you’re probably not the most qualified to find the ‘answer’. I’m not either. I’m a working professional illustrator and a storyteller who keeps trying to be a better artist every day, but I’m not a professional sculptor. And thus, I’m probably not as qualified to conceive and create this sculpture as an artist who does sculpt for a living. However, my job as an illustrator does require me to be a strong problem-solver, and that means knowing how to ask good questions.

Thus, here’s some brief advice I can offer the decision makers, and to all who share my interest in the future of this award:

1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

The making of this icon is the kind of job that visual artists are uniquely qualified to do. I most trust an artist to do this job of researching, idea-making, conceiving and creating a new visual icon — just as I most trust a surgeon to operate on me, or an architect to design a house, rather than the other way around.  This is a job for a visual artist who professionally sculpts, not a committee, not a straw poll of writers, readers, and historians. In short — the sculptor making the award should decide what the best idea is, what it looks like, and then present that form to the decision makers for them to decide if it’s ‘the one’.

The single most important question facing this award right now: “Who is that sculptor?”

In my opinion — asking this question, and doing the requisite selection work, is the key mission for the award’s decision makers.

2) CHOOSING THE SCULPTOR. Creating this award is a job –and wow, THAT’S an understatement! 😉 It should be a paid gig — probably a well-paid one considering the stakes, the importance of the result, and the rights involved. In contrast, an ‘open call for ideas’ that preys upon artists to generate work for free, even if they’re just sketches, would be ill-advised and bad PR, and I would advocate that no professional artist should answer that call and undercut their own livelihood. The ideas are the job, just as much as the final sculpt. I would caution against giving those ideas away publicly, even if it’s to drum up popular momentum. This isn’t a popular election, after all. It’s a job, and most of us are not official components of the job’s process.  Instead, I think the best thing that we can all do (decision makers, creators, and readers alike) is educate ourselves on the pool of working sculptors that are out there — and promote them.

a) If I was a decision maker, I would scour the last few years of SPECTRUM: THE BEST IN CONTEMPORARY FANTASTIC ART and the INFECTED BY ART annuals. I would research the last six or seven years of Chesley Award nominees in the Three-Dimensional category.

In fact, to all who are commenting via social media and campaigning for ideas — the best thing we can do to further this process is advocate for sculptor(s) that we think are best suited for the job — and try to articulate why. Shift your energy from firing shots in the dark about pet concepts, and instead boost the visibility of worthy sculptors. Link to their websites and their social media. Share some of your favorite images of their work.

b) Again, putting myself in a decision maker’s shoes — I would ask myself, “What are the questions that best lead me to the right sculptor for this job?” Here are a few questions that might help along the way:

• Does the sculptor’s work largely represent their own imagination or does it represent someone else’s?

• Does the sculptor’s work surprise? Does it invent? Does the sculptor’s work have a history of making forms and icons that haven’t quite been seen like that before?

• Does the sculptor’s work have the ability to be universal, or does it seem to reflect a limited cultural and ethnic viewpoint? Can this sculptor create an icon with a large enough ideological umbrella to not just include the world, but embrace it and elevate it?

• Does the sculptor’s work show the ability to problem-solve a variety of contexts? Is their work all literal? Is it all abstract? Is that artist capable of expressing within both realms? Does the sculptor’s approach to the job propagate his or her own brand more than it creates a unique brand for the award?

• Does the sculptor design their own work and then have someone ELSE cast it? Or does the sculptor design AND cast their own work from start to finish? This may be a very important production question for the board as they narrow down their sculptor choices.

3) BUILDING THE BEAST. I think once the decision makers have chosen their sculptor, I suggest that the next most important mission is shaping an environment where the artist is free to propose original ideas, problem-solve, and sculpt the final award, shielded from preordained ideas and agendas. This isn’t just what’s good for the sculptor. It’s about getting the most value from the artist during the course of the process. What comes out of the sculptor’s head is as important as what comes out of his or her hands. The sculptor will probably want to dialogue with the board as the process evolves, and that will likely be one of the most crucial parts of the whole endeavor.

This is brave new frontier. This is what artists live for. My sincere best wishes to the sculptor selected for this job and to the decision makers involved, and in closing, I’ll offer a few sculptor suggestions for consideration for this job. What are yours?

VINCENT VILLAFRANCA:

VINCENTVILLAFRANCA

If this decision were in my hands, this would be the sculptor I would choose. His work consistently innovates. It invents. It can be literal. It can be abstract. It can be both. He has the restless imagination that searches for new ideas and forms that elevate. He has experience dealing with the pressure of awards-making, having designed one of the most celebrated trophy bases in Hugo Awards history. He creates his own work from start to finish — from birthing the idea to final bronze, casting everything himself.

VIRGINIE ROPARS:

VIRGINIEHer ethereal and haunting work seems to own the Spectrum annual’s 3D category every year.

THE SHIFLETT BROTHERS:

SHIFLETTSThese guys do stunning work. Master creature makers.

CHARLES VESS:

The Barter Green in Abingdon, VA

He’s a four-time World Fantasy Award winner. He’s designed small sculptures and big ones. If he’s selected to sculpt the new one, and wins a fifth World Fantasy Award, would he get to award himself with his own sculpture? 🙂

Those are a few thoughts. Please share your own. Brainstorm. Explore. Discover. Share. Who would you like to see sculpt the new World Fantasy Award?

2015 Locus Award Winner!

LOCUSAWARD2015I’m back home from Seattle, and I brought back the 2015 Locus Award in the Best Artist category. Wow. 🙂 I was nominated this year along with Michael Whelan, Jim Burns, Charles Vess, and Shaun Tan. That’s a helluva lineup and I have huge respect for all four of those artists. Winning the award is doubly gratifying because it’s an acknowledgement of the ongoing Loteria artwork that constituted a large part of my 2014 output. So THANK YOU, Locus Magazine Readers!! This is hugely appreciated.

Going forward, I’m excited to see where Michael is headed as a visual storyteller. I’m stoked to see where Charles is headed with his next illustrated book. Ditto Shaun. And note to self: I need to buy Jim’s 2014 art book from Titan.

Congrats to all of the winners and finalists in all of the categories!

* What a great moment to see Jay Lake’s daughter Bronwyn, as she accepted his Locus Award for Last Plane to Heaven winning Best Collection.

JAYLAKEFTW

* Congrats to Irene Gallo as Tor.com scored the award for Best Magazine. Well earned, Irene.

* Was great visiting with Brom as he accepted the award for Spectrum 21 (winner, Best Art Book).

* In fact, our Locus Awards banquet table racked up a fair share of hardware as Brom, Del Rey editor Michael Braff, and me were all seated with each other (as luck would have it). Michael ended up accepting for Joe Abercrombie’s TWO Locus Awards wins, as well as George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’ win for Rogues, as Best Anthology.

* Really enjoyed visiting with Patty Garcia, Tor’s Director of Publicity (#Mexican@sFTW!!), Liz Gorinsky, Brooks Peck of the EMP, Jack Skillingstead, Daryl Gregory, Francesca Myman, Arley Sorg, Eileen Gunn, Leslie Howle, Adam Christopher, Ramez Naam, Duane Wilkins, and of course, Liza Groen Trombi, who made this whole endeavor come together (with Connie Willis emceeing the awards ceremony). I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of people, but I want to say a huge thanks to all of the new friends made, and all who visited my table of Loteria merchandise. Special shoutout to Wilde Rover in Kirkland for hosting Loteria Fest on Thursday night and all who came and played (thanks to Brenda Cooper, Jan Greylorn, and of course, Teeny Ayento)!

In a year when we’ve seen science fiction/fantasy awards suffer tremendous abuse, both from without and within, there’s something extra-special about winning the Locus Award this year. It’s because the ballot of nominees felt more like an artful snapshot of excellent works and creators from the most recent calendar year, rather than a collage of vandalisms. This ballot and the winners are decided by science fiction / fantasy readers and art lovers. It’s a people’s award, open to all. I’m grateful and honored to be recognized within such a diverse, world-class gallery of talent, and it only inspires me to be better with my next works.

The 2015 Chesley Award Finalists!

The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists has announced this year’s Chesley Award finalists, and wow — I’m grateful and honored to be nominated for FOUR Chesleys! It’s a stellar list of art and amazing illustrators across all categories, and my thanks to ASFA voters for recognizing my work amongst such great company.

My nominated works are:

ENDYMIONpicacio800
Best Cover Illustration / Hardcover
John Picacio • ENDYMION by Dan Simmons
(for the Subterranean Press limited edition, December 2014)
Art Director: William K. Schafer

NUESTRApicacio800
Best Interior Illustration
John Picacio • Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza
(for the Tor.com story by Carrie Vaughn)
Art Director: Irene Gallo

CALAVERApicacio800
Best Product Illustration
John Picacio • ‘La Calavera’ Loteria Card
(for Lone Boy)

VENADOpicacio800
Best Monochrome Work • Unpublished
John Picacio • ‘El Venado’
Medium: Graphite

Thank you to Irene and Bill for making two of these nominations possible. I’m also gratified to see that two artworks from my ongoing, creator-owned Loteria efforts — ‘La Calavera’ and ‘El Venado’ — are recognized this year. ‘Means the world to me. Thank you to Carrie Vaughn for writing a terrific Wild Cards story that inspired the art for Nuestra, and to George R. R. Martin for editing Wildcards, one of my favorite of all fiction universes. A mighty blast of Loteria karma to Leigh Bardugo — her Grisha Trilogy (and especially Shadow and Bone) is the waking dream that helped birth ‘El Venado’. I can’t wait for her new book, Six of Crows, releasing in late September.

The complete list of 2015 Chesley Award Finalists. Congrats, all!

Best Cover Illustration / Hardcover
Julie Dillon, Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology edited by Brandon Sanderson; Dragonsteel Entertainment, June 2014
Jon Foster, Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi; Subterranean Press, 2014
Todd Lockwood, The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan; Tor, March 2014
John Picacio, Endymion by Dan Simmons; Limited Edition, Subterranean Press, December 2014
Michael Whelan, Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson; Tor, March 2014

Best Cover Illustration – Paperback
John Harris, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie; Orbit October 2014
Jon Sullivan, The Return of the Discounted Man by Mark Hodder; Pyr, July 2014
Raymond Swanland, The Lady by K.V. Johansen; Pyr, December 2014
Danielle Tunstall, Unseaming by Mike Allen; Antimatter Press, October 2014
Raoul Vitale, Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 edited by Kij Johnson; Prometheus/Pyr

Best Cover Illustration – Magazine
Julie Dillon Analog April 2014
Matt Dixon, Clarkesworld #90 March 2014
Wayne Haag, Interzone #253 July/August 2014
Patrick Jones, Analog March 2014
Jae Lee, Batman/Superman #14 DC Comics October 2014
Peter Mohrbacher, Lightspeed #48 May 2014
Dan Dos Santos, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 Dark Horse, March 2014

Best Interior Illustration
Anna Balbusso and Elena Balbusso, “Ekaterina and the Firebird” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe; Tor.com, January 2014
Galen Dara, “A City of Its Tentacles” by Rose Lemberg; Lackinton’s #1 February 2014
Julie Dillon, Imagined Realms: Book 1 July/August; Kickstarter December 2014
Scott Gustafson, Classic Bedtime Stories; Artisan, September 2014
Karla Ortiz, “The Walking Stick Forest” by Anna Tambour; Tor.com May 2014
John Picacio, Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza; Tor.com October 2014

Best Gaming Related Illustration
Noah Bradley, Drown in Sorrow Magic card, Born of the Gods; WotC, Feb. 2014
Eric Deschamps, Ephara, God of Polis Magic card, Born of the Gods; WotC, Feb. 2014
Michael Komarck, D&D The Rise of Tiamat; WotC, Oct. 2014
Peter Mohrbacher, Pharika, God of Affliction Magic card, Journey into Nyx; WotC, May 2014
Karla Ortiz, Ghoulcaller Gisa Magic card, Commander 2014; WotC, Nov. 2014
Chris Rahn, Ajani the Steadfast Magic card, 2015 Core Set; WotC, July 2014

Best Product Illustration
Frank Cho & Brandon Peterson, Fast Food New York ComicCon 2014 art print
Donato Giancola, George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire 2015 calendar Bantam, 2014
Patrick Jones, Conan The Conquered Illuxcon promotional art
John Picacio, La Calavera Loteria card Lone Boy
Raymond Swanland, One with the Light Limited Edition Giclee on canvas Acme Archives 2014

Best Color Work – Unpublished
Linda Adair, Dragonsbride oil
Michael C. Hayes, Alegretto oils
Reiko Murakami, Giving Name Photoshop
Mark Poole, Omens oils
Dorian Vallejo, Crossing oil on canvas
Annie Stegg Gerard, The Lady of Lorien oil on linen

Best Monochrome Work – Unpublished
Kristina Carroll, “Dragonslayer” charcoal
Sean Murray, “Gateway: The Storkfriars” graphite
John Picacio, El Venado, graphite
Olivier Villoingt, “The Soul of War” graphite & acrylic
Allen Williams, “Sphynx” graphite
Rebecca Yanovskaya, “Wisdom” ink & mixed media

Best Three-Dimensional Art
Dan Chudzinski, The Mudpuppy, resin & mixed media
David Meng, Sun Wukong, the Monkey King
Michael Parkes, Meditation, bronze
Forest Rogers, A Fish from Versailles, Kato polyclay
Virginie Ropars, Morrigan, polymer clay & mixed media
Vincent Villafranca, Modernity’s Squeaky Child, bronze & steel

Best Art Director
Lou Anders, Pyr
Shelly Bond, DC/Vertigo Comics
Irene Gallo, Tor & Tor.com
Jeremy Jarvis, Wizards of the Coast
Lauren Panepinto, Orbit Books

Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award
Kinuko Craft
John Harris
Gregory Manchess
Iain McCaig

The awards ceremony will be held at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, WA on August 19-23, 2015.  If you’re an ASFA member, make sure your dues are up-to-date! You have until June 30th at 11:45pm (East Coast time) to submit your final ballot. (NOTE: The final ballot is accessed with the “VOTING” tab in the red toolbar at the top.) If you’re not currently an ASFA member, join! It only costs a measly $35 and you gain full voting privileges.

I’ll be in Spokane for Worldcon. Congrats again to all of the nominees!

2015 LOCUS AWARD FINALIST!

2015 LOCUS AWARD FINALISTS (Artist). Clockwise from top left: Charles Vess, Shaun Tan, Jim Burns, John Picacio, Michael Whelan.

2015 LOCUS AWARD FINALISTS. Clockwise, top left: Charles Vess, Shaun Tan, Jim Burns, John Picacio, Michael Whelan.

Congratulations to this year’s Locus Award Finalists! And wow, what an amazing list it is, across all categories. In a year marked by heated controversy for sf/f awards, this nominations list is especially notable and remarkable.

Hugely grateful and honored to be amongst the five finalists in the Artist category, along with the stellar talents of Jim Burns, Shaun Tan, Charles Vess, and Michael Whelan. I admire all four of these artists and where they’ve taken their careers lately, so thank you, Locus Magazine voters. Very appreciated.

Good luck to all! 🙂

Here’s the rundown:

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top five finalists in each category of the 2015 Locus Awards.

Winners will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle WA, June 26-28, 2015; Connie Willis will MC the awards ceremony. Additional weekend events include author readings with Willis and Daryl Gregory; a kickoff Clarion West party honoring first week instructor Andy Duncan, Clarion West supporters, awards weekend ticket holders, and special guests; panels with leading authors; an autograph session with books available for sale thanks to University Book Store; and a lunch banquet with the annual Hawai’ian shirt contest, all followed by a Locus party on Saturday night.

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

FANTASY NOVEL

YOUNG ADULT BOOK

FIRST NOVEL

NOVELLA

NOVELETTE

  • “Tough Times All Over”, Joe Abercrombie (Rogues)
  • “The Hand Is Quicker”, Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
  • “Memorials”, Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s 1/14)
  • “The Jar of Water”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Tin House #62)
  • “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane”, Scott Lynch (Rogues)

SHORT STORY

ANTHOLOGY

COLLECTION

MAGAZINE

  • Asimov’s
  • Clarkesworld
  • F&SF
  • Lightspeed
  • Tor.com

PUBLISHER

  • Angry Robot
  • Orbit
  • Small Beer
  • Subterranean
  • Tor

EDITOR

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

ARTIST

  • Jim Burns
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan
  • Charles Vess
  • Michael Whelan

NON-FICTION

ART BOOK

For more information about the Seattle event and for Locus Awards and Locus Workshop ticketing, please visit the 2015 Locus Awards Information Page.

‘El Mundo’: SPECTRUM 22 Selection!

ELMUNDOgrandeFRONT

Hooray — my Loteria Grande card art for “El Mundo” has been selected for the Institutional category for Spectrum 22: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art!

I’m especially pleased to see this piece make the annual because “El Mundo” is my first official artwork featuring my daughter. Every time she spots the piece, she says, “There I am!”

She was thrilled when she heard the news last night, and I was too. Thanks, Spectrum jurors!

Hugo Nomination Time: Pro Tips For Artists

Artwork for Loteria Grande Cards by John Picacio. (Lone Boy / 2014)

Artwork for Loteria Grande Cards by John Picacio. (Lone Boy / 2014)

The Hugo nomination voting period ends this Tuesday, March 10th at 23:59 Pacific Time. So if you’re like me, and you haven’t voted yet — get those nomination ballots in!

For all of my fellow illustrators and artists out there, I want to offer a few suggestions for being considered in the Professional and Fan Artist Hugo categories.

1) DATES!

I’m not talking about hooking up. I’m talking about making it known when your artwork was published. For Hugo Award consideration, this is a tiny thing that’s really big. Why? Because only work that was first published or appeared in the calendar year of 2014 is eligible. So, for instance, right now, I’m trying to figure out my nominations in the Artist categories and if I don’t know when an artist’s work was published or first appeared, it makes it very hard to nominate them. The solution: Make these dates readily available on your websites and your blogs along with your posted works. For example, I solved that one by grouping the illustrations on my website by year published. Like this: Here are some of my selected eligible works for 2014 awards consideration. It keeps it simple, ya know?

If you have questions about dates, here’s the Hugo rules language pertaining to this:

“In general, works first published or appearing in calendar year 2014 are eligible for the Hugo Award. Works previously published in languages other than English but first published in English in 2014 are eligible. Works previously published outside of the USA but first published in the USA in 2014 are eligible. Medium of publication is irrelevant: works published or appearing online are considered the same as if published in hard-copy form or shown on television or in theaters, including film festivals. Works published in multiple parts, such as serialized stories including graphic works, are eligible if their final part appeared in 2014. Detailed rules for the Hugo Award are contained in Article 3 of the World Science Fiction Society’s constitution.”

You don’t need anything more than the publication year. If you include the publication month that’s even shinier, but not necessary unless you’re talking about a venue that appears in periodical form.

If your work is sitting out there right now with no publication data, and you don’t have time to overhaul your website, don’t panic. Do a Tumblr post, blog post or some sort of consolidated online summary somewhere (more on that in minute) where you can point and say, “Here’s all of my eligible stuff!”

2) VISIBILITY

Ah, yes. How do you get the word out about your work? I might as well be trying to answer the meaning of life. Simple question. Tough one to answer, or at the very least, a tough one to do well even when you know the answer.

In general, letting your audience know that your work is eligible at the beginning of the Hugo nomination voting period (sometime back in January) and at the end of it (which is right now!) is a very good idea. Maybe a sporadic reminder or two within the voting period but that’s about it. I think we all have varying channels of media that we operate upon (blogs, DeviantArt, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Ello, carrier pigeons) and my advice is to spread out your reminders over those channels across different time intervals, during the course of a voting period. I think it’s OK to hit all of them with reminders at the beginning and end, but in general, distribute the word evenly so that your people in one media pocket don’t get spammed and feel like you’re hammering them like a nail.

3) DON’T CAMPAIGN

I know. Considering what I said in #2, this is a toughie. You’ll see other industry figures saying “vote for me” but don’t take the bait. It’s not the way to do this.

Pro Tip: Don’t use the phrase “vote for me”. Wash that one out of your system. Flush it. Gone.

Try using a phrase like, “Here are some of my eligible works for your Hugo Awards consideration.” It’s a better way. You’re making your work visible but you’re not panhandling. Voters don’t look kindly on overt public campaigning, and even though I see some industry folks becoming more aggressive with overtures for votes, you win by letting your art do the talking. That’s the advantage that visual creators have over word creators when awards season arrives. Our art can do the talking in one soul-moving glance, whereas people have to read a writer’s work to vote for them, and that takes more time investment.

Remember — you’re a Jedi.

Use the Force.

In your pictures you must trust. <Insert your Yoda voice here.>

FINAL WORDS

Go forth. Let the world know your work is eligible. Let ME know your work is eligible! I want to know!

And speaking of that — I have a nomination ballot to fill out. Pronto. So do a lot of other voters too! Artists — please feel free to post links to your work in the comments section below. Don’t look around, waiting for someone else to do it first. JUST DO IT. And if you’re a fan of an artist who has eligible work for Hugo Awards consideration, then feel free to post links to that artist’s eligible work.

Good luck, everyone!

THREE IBA3 Jury Selections!

Great start to 2015! Three of my 2014 artworks have been jury-selected for the forthcoming Infected By Art 3 Annual, including two that were “Unanimous Selections”! Very grateful to be included in this book with some AMAZING artists!

Wanna see all of the art that was jury-selected for the book? Here you go. Congrats to all of these creators — some truly inspiring work here!

Special shoutout to all of the Grand Prize Winners! Way to go, all!

My three selected works are:

"El Mundo" / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

“El Mundo” / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

"La Calavera" / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

“La Calavera” / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

"El Corazon" / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

“El Corazon” / Loteria artwork © John Picacio.

All three of these are from my Loteria series, and that makes the news even more gratifying. “El Mundo” and “La Calavera” were voted “Unanimous Selection”.

Thank you to the jurors: Donato Giancola, Rebecca Guay, Greg Hildebrandt, and Jon Schindehette! And thank you, IBA — grateful and honored to be included.