2016 Best Professional Artist

And finishing off Art Week, we have the 2016 Best Professional Artists finalists:

  • Lars Braad Andersen
  • Larry Elmore
  • Abigail Larson
  • Michal Karcz
  • Larry Rostant

So, who is at the top of your list?

As always, keep in mind the Comment Rules, and let’s discuss the Hugo finalists!

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2 thoughts on “2016 Best Professional Artist”

  1. My impressions, for whatever they might be worth….

    Larry Elmore is not represented in the voters’ packet. The only thing of his I’ve found, that I’m certain is qualifying work, is a cover for a Larry Correia book. Elmore is an accomplished professional illustrator with a background in fantasy illustrations going back decades (he’s done a lot of work for Dungeons and Dragons stuff, and I recognize his style).

    Lars Braad Andersen is represented in the packet by three covers from the “There Will Be War” anthology series (all featuring spaceships, explosions, and cityscapes, and… umm… a bit perfunctory, it seems to me) and a much more elaborate and detailed picture of an ice-bound mediaeval water mill.

    Larry Rostant has submitted a number of book covers, most of them featuring a single person in combat gear, looking tough. They’re very well done, technically, with lots of painstaking detail work. The overall effect of seeing a whole bunch of them, one after another, like this… makes them feel a bit same-y, in my opinion. There’s nothing exactly wrong with them, they just fail to excite me.

    The same might be said of Michal Karcz, who has sent us a whole lot of incredibly detailed depictions of bleak landscapes, sometimes with a toiling human figure in them to give us perspective. I’m not sure how some of them actually work… there’s a lot of elaborate ray-tracing and lighting effects going on, but sometimes the individual elements in the picture fail to gel into a coherent whole, for me. Maybe it’s just me…. Again, though, the presence of so many images with similar themes makes them look rather repetitive.

    The joker in the pack seems to be Abigail Larson, whose spiky gothic illustrations are very different from anything else in the packet, and have a lot of quirky personality about them. They’re much more cartoonish than the near-photo-realism of Rostant or Karcz, and – while you can clearly see some artistic influences at work – Larson definitely has her own style, and a certain darkly humorous tone to her. I… actually quite like these pictures. Even when they’re on related themes (e.g. the pictures of Lovecraft and of Edgar Allan Poe), they’ve still got a distinct individuality about them. I’ll be mulling over this category carefully, but I think Larson edges it from the others, for me.

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  2. Wow, this is a tough category for me which is a great thing! I don’t think I would be disappointed in any of these artists winning the Hugo. But to work through the list in no particular order:

    First off, Larry Elmore. On the one hand, it’s Larry Freaking Elmore. He deserves all the Lifetime Achievement Awards if he doesn’t already have them. On the other hand, this isn’t the 80’s anymore. 1980’s Larry Elmore defined fantasy RPGs and painted some of my all-time favorite D&D works that I still hold up as what fantasy art should be (RPG or otherwise). Unfortunately, I’m not sure what 2000’s Larry Elmore has done other than a lot of bikini babe pin ups. Does anyone know what his professional works were last year that we should be judging on? Most of his website is unfortunately just classic 1980’s stuff and bikini-babe pin up stuff. Unless last year he has something on par with his earlier work, unfortunately, he is likely to go last on my list. 30 years ago, I might not have even bothered to look at the other artists. But this isn’t a lifetime achievement award, and unless I see something amazing of his from last year, I can’t see giving him the Hugo especially given the great work by other artists in this category.

    Lars Braad Andersen might have to go fourth on my list. However, honestly, these top 4 for me are splitting hairs in trying to rank them, and I can see my opinion shifting between now and the close of voting. When trying to find some way to differentiate them, Andersen did poke out just a little for me, primarily because although I really like that style I have seen it done marginally better. Marginally only – a bit more dynamic angles than vol 2 & 4 (you know the “primary focal point spaceship right in the middle with another further away one below it”) but vol 10 is definitely an improvement. Andersen winning the Hugo would be well-deserved, and even if not, he is already showing improvement in his style between these volumes. Also, looking at some of the other covers in that series, I actually found his cover to vol 3 – despite a couple of odd perspective angles – to be better than 2 & 4 included in the packet.

    Abigail Larson and Larry Rostant both have, shall we say, very distinct shticks going on. At first, Rostant’s seemed a bit repetitive, but what keeps him from dropping lower for me is the simple fact that his covers have sold me books. I have a hard time denying that several of his covers have spoken to my wallet – which is the art’s primary purpose. Even if there are largely the repetitive “central figure in action pose”, there still is variation in both the theme as well as the emotion of the covers, that they work for me. For Larson and Rostant both, they may have a narrow style, but they are great at it.

    Michal Kracz is probably my current top pick. Whereas the others had a much narrower range of work, Karcz has a much broader variety. A few works feel a bit too “CGI-ey”, but that’s a personal nitpick I have with a lot of current sci fi and fantasy art. Here, it’s only a little tinge on some excellent work.

    But since I started typing this earlier this week and was working on finishing it now… I don’t know. I can see the good points Steve makes above and I could see Larson slipping above Karcz for me. This is one where I really am unsure, and in a good way.

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