Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bookpeople's December Top Shelf Pick

Nice way to kick off December! (Or technically, finish November.) COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO is Bookpeople's Top Shelf Pick for the month of December. BookPeople is three stories of literary retail goodness located in the heart of Austin, Texas, and it's the state's largest independent bookstore. All of their copies of the book are signed, so if you're making holiday shopping decisions for literary or art lovers in your life, you might keep that in mind. :)

In-store, they've got the book displayed on an endcap in the sf/f section, ground level. The majority of stores stock the book in this section, which makes perfect sense. However, BookPeople's smart. They ALSO stock the book upstairs in their general art book section. Hey, it's a real kick to see my art book displayed next to Picasso's books. OK, it's more good fortune than anything since the store alphabetizes all of their artist monographs by last name, but nevertheless, I enjoyed that. The store prints up a nice newsletter booklet every month and the following review by Revolution SF Books Editor Peggy Hailey will be included in their December issue. I don't think this review will be on the store's website, so I'm taking the liberty to run it here, for the benefit of online readers and shoppers.

From Peggy Hailey: "John Picacio is one of my favorite cover artist/book designers working today. In fact, if you know me at all, I'm sure I've pointed out my many favorites to you a time or two. He's creative, talented, a real stand-up guy, and, as it happens, a darned good-looking man to boot. But even if he weren't all those things, it wouldn't matter, because John's work speaks for itself.

On a purely aesthetic level, COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO is a beautiful book. The cover is gorgeous, featuring a triptych of book covers wildly divergent in style but connected by Picacio's rich palette of colors. Everything comes together with a feel that's both functional and artistic, from the typeface to the richly colored endpapers to the glossy pages. You can literally feel the quality.

But let's be honest -- pretty covers and a smart layout will only take you so far. What really counts is the content, right?

Luckily the content is top-notch, too. Along with full-page, full-color reproductions of the covers we get sketches and background info about the creation of each cover. This insight into the creative process sets the book apart for me. Knowing that, say, the wings from John's cover to DANGEROUS VISIONS were actually built and existed in the real world adds to my appreciation of the picture. But the book would be well worth the cover price for the pictures alone. Just pick up the book and thumb through it for a while.

Go on; I'll wait.

Now I ask you, how can you possibly resist? I love that trenchcoated gorilla on GEEK CONFIDENTIAL. I adore those fantastic tripods hiding out on the back cover of A BLAZING WORLD. I can't stop looking at the flaming monk on A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. I am fascinated by the man in homemade wings about to take flight on DANGEROUS VISIONS. And I am transfixed by the sleeping face on GHOSTS OF COLUMBIA.

Each of the covers is an evocative piece of art in and of itself, but once you've read the book in question you discover just how well the cover complements the content. It's clear that John actually reads the books he's working on, God bless him, and if you ask me, that's why the covers work so well.

Still unconvinced? Really? Well how about this: every single copy we have of COVER STORY is signed by the artist. Surely you know someone who would appreciate a beautiful book full of gorgeous pictures signed by an up-and-coming Texas artist. MonkeyBrain Books has put together a fabulous package to show off Picacio's talent that has substance (including an introduction by Michael Moorcock and a lengthy interview with the artist) as well as style. John Picacio is a rising talent in his chosen field, and he's only going to get better. COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO lays a beautiful foundation for the amazing work I know is still to come."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Antick Musings reviews COVER STORY

Andrew Wheeler just reviewed COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO over at his blog, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. He's the Senior Editor of the (US) Science Fiction Book Club, and I marvel at his efficient, daily consumption of massive amounts of genre reading.

The COVER STORY review is thoughtful and well-considered, and the kind of insight his constant readers are used to. I'm one of them, so it was a nice surprise to see my book reviewed there. If you don't already have his blog bookmarked, you should. And if you don't believe me that this guy is one of the most efficient readers anywhere, check out his Fabulous Book-A-Day Index. Staggering!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanks, Jack

I've been meaning to post a little something in memory of the great Jack Williamson. According to Locus Online, memorial services will be held Thursday in New Mexico.

I recounted this anecdote in my art book, but here's the short version. A couple of years ago, Amazing Stories Magazine approached me for a feature called "Pictures That Paint 1000 Words." They paid me to choose an illustration I had already completed and they would then give it to an unknown author to write a story inspired by the piece. I chose the illustration you see here, an oil painting/shadowbox assemblage that I did for the cover of an unpublished graphic novel back in the late '90s. I was hesitant at first because I didn't know who the author might be. Weeks later, imagine my surprise when I found out that the author who ended up writing an original story based on my illustration was none other than the legendary Jack Williamson! The story was called "Dream of Earth" and it appeared alongside my illustration in Amazing Stories #605. Thanks again, Jack. Count me as just one more amongst the millions of folks who will never forget you, and were fortunate to be touched by your greatness.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

PW's 100 Best Books of 2006

As many of you know, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY has released its list of the 100 Best Books of 2006. Congrats to all, but especially to the five selections in the SF/Fantasy/Horror category. Amongst those elite five, I'm thrilled to see Jeffrey Ford's THE EMPIRE OF ICE CREAM (Golden Gryphon, wraparound art pictured above) and Norman Partridge's DARK HARVEST (Cemetery Dance, see front cover art below). So if you're scoring at home, of the five superlative sf/f/horror works chosen by PW, I illustrated the covers for two of them, which ain't a bad ratio, if you know what I'm saying.

Back in the spring, I made no secret that I thought Ford's collection would be the best of 2006. A few collections may be in its league, but I couldn't see how any collection could top its embarrassment of storytelling riches. PW must've thought the same. DARK HARVEST is a bonafide, dark-horse winner and kudos to Rich Chizmar and all at CD for cracking this list. And of course, huge congrats to Mr. Barbed-Wire Fists himself!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WFC 2006 / Austin, TX

(Above: me, Jo Fletcher, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones)

World Fantasy Con 2006 was epic. It's probably my favorite con every year, and the Austin event was certainly no different. All the action happened about 2 hours driving distance from my house, so no airplanes for me this time. Despite that, I still felt like I had been slammed by a 2x4 when it was all over. It was five-plus days of sheer pleasure with old and new friends, and seeing everyone there is one of my favorite times of the year. I displayed several works in the Art Show and sold almost half of it, which was very nice. Happily signed a LOT of copies of my art book, COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO. Signed a lot of other books as well, including copies of Mark Finn's fabulous new Robert E. Howard biography, BLOOD & THUNDER (MonkeyBrain Books), for which I did the cover illustration and design.

I was the Master of Ceremonies for this year's International Horror Guild Awards on Thursday night of the convention. It was quite an honor, and I'd like to again extend my congrats to all of the nominees and winners in all of the categories. Clive Barker won this year's IHG Award in the Artist category. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was honored as the Living Legend. It was a fun evening.

The great thing was that Austin's WFC Art Show was full of A-list talent. Gary Gianni and John Jude Palencar were the Artist GOHs and they both hung phenomenal displays of their work. Both consummate gentlemen. Gregory Manchess has long been one of my favorite painters and he displayed at a WFC Art Show for the first time, with some of his Conan paintings from Robert E. Howard's THE CONQUERING SWORD OF CONAN. Greg's an amazing human being, and I was especially gratified to see his presence at this year's show. I think his participation this weekend gained him a lot of new fans who will follow his work from here forth. He's quite simply one of The Great American Artists. Mike Dringenberg hung another great set of works and he had a piece he kept working on and re-hanging every day. We shared some time on a panel together, and every time I see him in that situation, he always offers solid insights. Charles Vess, Gary Lippincott, Lisa Snellings-Clark, and Vincent Villafranca were amongst the many with world-class displays of their work. 15-year-old Derek Ford had an amazing weekend. He sold several of his Dali-esque ballpoint pen masterpieces and stunned congoers all weekend with his invention of free-flowing form. The whole show was rock-solid across the board, and I heard many veteran congoers say they thought its overall content quality ranked amongst the best WFC Art Shows ever.

Unfortunately, the layout and spatial design for the Art Show were very disappointing. The layout seemed like a bit of a dark rat tunnel, and relative to the other con function spaces, it seemed (on the surface) that the Art Show got the shaft in that regard. Hopefully future con committees will give more careful consideration to the spatial needs of the Art Show and especially its lighting needs. It's not cool for it to be given a left-over space, as it appeared to many who walked through the show. It's a shame that such a world-class array of art wasn't celebrated better by the layout, especially when you consider the considerable cost and effort many artists undertake to participate in this show. Fortunately, the Art Show was in the same function space as the Dealers' Room, so that helped gain the show its traffic. It's a credit to the con committee though that despite this critical letdown, it was still a very successful convention. Kudos to Renee Babcock, Scott Zrubek, Kimm Antell, Fred Duarte, Kim Kofmel, Willie and Charles Siros, and all of the hard-working committee folks who made the entire con happen. I heard rave reviews all weekend for hospitality and overall fabulousness by congoers left and right. I can't imagine how much work it is to put a con like this together. Thanks to all, and congrats to the entire committee on the overall success.

I'm sure many blogs will discuss the results of this year's World Fantasy Awards in great detail, so I'll leave that fun to them. However, I'd like to offer congrats to James Jean, who won the World Fantasy Award in the Artist category. It surprised many that he won (admittedly, including me), but the sheer excellence of this guy's past 12 months' worth of work speaks for itself. I was honored to win the World Fantasy Award in this category last year, so congratulations and welcome to the club, as it were, James. I love the diversity of the World Fantasy Artist winners list over the years (Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, Edward Gorey, Moebius, Alan Lee, Dave McKean, Donato Giancola, just to name a few), and that diversity of excellence is part of why the award is so significant to me.

So on to Saratoga Springs for next year's WFC.

One final note -- to any World Fantasy board members, or members of next year's con committee -- if by chance, the committee hasn't yet resolved who will be the Artist Guest of Honor, I offer a recommendation.

Jeffrey Jones. He's a past winner of the World Fantasy Award and one of the all-time legends of the field. He continues to be an inspiration to artists worldwide. I think he's had some tough recent years, but he's located in that part of the country and I think collectors of his work could potentially rally a beautiful Art Show celebration of his oeuvre. Offering him an Artist Guest of Honor/Special Guest position would be a tremendous tribute and a real drawing card for pros and fans to attend. Taking a cue from this year's show, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have another prominent artist from the area as Artist Guest of Honor as well, especially in case Jeff's situation potentially prohibits him from attending at the last minute. Just a thought....

Back to work over here.

Thanks to Max Smolev for the usage of the photo above! Here's his gallery of IHG photos from this year. Here's John Klima's gallery of WFC photos. Irene Gallo has a terrific report over at The Art Department.