Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Today's my tenth anniversary. April 26, 2001 was the day that I began life as a fulltime freelance illustrator in the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and horror publishing. That was my last day of what many would call a promising and safe professional career in architecture, and pursued what many would call an extremely risky career as a fulltime freelancer. Why do something so boneheaded? Pure and simple, I wanted to be a fulltime professional artist more than anything in the whole world. That simple. Still do.

I always say that I'm an illustrator trying his best every day to be an artist. I don't think you get to be an artist just because you can paint or draw well. It also takes years of seeing and shaping a fresh vision of the world that others can share too. It's more than just mechanical skill. And I never believed the stereotype that all artists are flakes. Some of the savviest, strongest people I know are pro artists. It takes guts to take chances, which is what the best ones do. And it takes time and experience to build a life like that.

Being a fulltime pro artist is my world. Back on April 26, 2001, I had a mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, and the needs of adult survival. The chances of living in a town like San Antonio, Texas while all of my clients were in New York City, and trying to build a client list, on the fly, while not losing my livelihood was...daunting. Understatement of a decade. Advice for those trying to emulate the same? Have a strong stomach, and if not, get one fast. :)

I'm not interested in reminiscing here about these past ten years. I'd prefer my last ten years of work to do the talking. Hopefully it's done some already. I could list the trusted friends and associates I've grown up with in this field, but they know who they are. And yup, I've been fortunate to win a few awards and recognitions along the way. Grateful for all, and actually THAT might be the understatement of the decade. :)

But here's a hard truth I can proudly say today that I couldn't until now -- at last count, over this last ten years, I've produced over 120 cover illustrations for major science fiction, fantasy and horror books. In other words, I've averaged one major published piece of cover art in sf/f/h for every single month of the last ten years. I don't know how many pro artists can match that book cover ratio in that span, but I suspect the number is....tiny. And by the way, that's not counting the piles of magazine covers and interior artworks and dozens of book interior illos that I did while producing those 120+ covers in ten years.

What that number means to me is I came to work every single day, blue-collar all the way, and never quit for even a day. Nothing more, nothing less. And yeah, that may be the thing I'm most proud of.

What happens in the next ten years? No idea. I didn't go into the previous ten with 120+ sf/f/h covers as a goal. I hope I can continue to make art, and continue to get better at it. I want to be a great artist. That's what I wanted more than anything in the world on April 26, 2001. That's what I want today.

Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 Hugo Award Finalist!

Great news announced yesterday: I'm a 2011 Hugo Award finalist in the Best Professional Artist category. Huge thanks to all who nominated me. Deeply appreciated! :) Heard a few questions yesterday from people who couldn't remember if I'd won one of these already, and in one case, believed that I already had. LOL

For the record, this is my seventh consecutive Hugo nomination for Best Pro Artist, but no, I have not previously won a Hugo. I've finished in second place the last three years. Will this be the magic year? I have no idea, and no say in the matter. That's up to you, the voters.

My 2010 published work can be found here and includes cover art and over 20 interior illustrations for ELRIC: SWORDS AND ROSES (pictured here, pub. by Ballantine/Del Rey); cover art for Lauren Beukes' Clarke Award-finalist ZOO CITY (Angry Robot); and covers for Mark Chadbourn's DARK AGE trilogy (such as THE DEVIL IN GREEN), amongst several more.

Very grateful and honored to be in the esteemed company of fellow Pro Artist nominees Daniel Dos Santos, Bob Eggleton, Stephan Martiniere, and Shaun Tan.

The full list of 2011 Hugo nominees is here. Congrats to all! I'll be in Reno for Renovation: the 2011 World Science Fiction Convention this August. Will be a great time and hope to see many of you out there.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worldcon 2011: Good Year For The Artists?

Wow, it's been a while since I touched base here (smooths off the blog dust). Good news: I'll soon be able to start showing all of the art I've recently made while not blogging. Been quite a push these last few months, but I've got a lot to show for it, so I'm happy.

Today, I've got a few words to share rather than pictures.

Wanted to give a shoutout to several people who are working very hard to make this year's World Science Fiction Convention a potentially great convention for sf/f artists. For those that haven't been to Worldcon (same show, shorter moniker), you're probably asking, "Isn't Worldcon always potentially great for sf/f artists?" Answer = some Worldcons more than others for the art crowd.

I'm especially excited about this year's show in Reno in August, from an art standpoint.

Five reasons:

1. Art Night: for the first time, Worldcon is designating the second evening of the convention as 'Art Night' to celebrate the visual arts in sf/f. They're featuring events and activities spread across the exhibit hall and program rooms. Activities will range from extended hours in the Art Show to featured artist demonstrations and interactive maker activities. For artists, every night is 'Art Night' but I think it's exciting that the con has realized that if it wants to attract the best pro sf/f talent, then it should celebrate the sf/f arts in a concerted way. Will be very fun and hopefully they've created a new Worldcon tradition.

2. Meet The Artist: Kaffeeklatches are a long-standing tradition at Worldcons and better sf/f cons. They're little gatherings between a single author and/or artist and a small gathering of his/her fans. There's usually a signup sheet involved and they're scheduled programming items. I don't think this year's Worldcon intends these 'Meet The Artist' hours as kaffeeklatches in the usual sense, but perhaps in similar spirit. It sounds like it'll be designated hours when artists are encouraged to visit with art fans and collectors in the Art Show which I think is good for driving traffic and energy there. I've seen conventions where the Art Show becomes a forgotten zone because Worldcons tend to place all of their heavy emphasis on literary functions. It's good to see this year's Worldcon making sure that the Art Show will be vital and vibrant.

3. Artist Showcase Book: A very cool idea. I believe Worldcon is adopting this idea from the success seen at IlluXCon with their artist souvenir book. This will be a full-color book available to Worldcon members featuring bios and art from all of the artists exhibiting in the Art Show. This is separate from the usual Program Book seen at most Worldcons, and gives featured exposure to the Art Show's artists.

Worldcons cost significant money in order to attend: registration fees, hotel, airfare and spending money, whether they be authors, agents, editors, publishers, retailers, fans, or yes, artists. On top of all of that, no one spends more to attend a Worldcon than an Art Show artist (except for possibly retailers in the dealers room). Think about the very expensive framing and shipping costs for the art, and in some cases, insurance for same. And that prep time is valuable time spent away from professional gigs for the pro artists. And then they have to ship and insure the art to get it home again as well. This makes it tough for us professional artists to justify the cost of a Worldcon every year.

Considering that, I'm surprised an Artist Showcase Book hasn't been ventured sooner to draw attention to the artists that make an Art Show viable and vital, but kudos to this year's Worldcon for doing so. It's a great move in the right direction.

4. All-Star team of showrunners: No successful convention happens without people behind the scenes doing the heavy lifting to carry it off. Every year Worldcon changes cities. Different organizing committees run it each time -- a new animal from year to year. That said, this year's organizing committee is like the NBA All-Star team of conrunners. Only they know the strange brew of circumstance that brought them together but if you've attended successful sf/f cons, the sharp-eyed will recognize common denominators like Ian Stockdale, Vincent Docherty, Laurie and Jim Mann, Patty Wells, Ben Yalow, John Lorentz, Deb Geisler, Geri Sullivan, Karen Meschke, and several other bright lights in the committee listings over the years. They're people who come from different parts of the US, and even different parts of the globe, and work hard on these cons for nothing more than the love of the game. This year's Worldcon features a group of the very best of the best conrunners in fandom, working behind-the-scenes. That's not normal. I'm not gonna jinx these people by saying this year's Worldcon will be a perfectly-tuned, flawless con, but we can all expect it will be as expertly produced as there's been in recent memory. If you're a professional artist sitting on the fence wondering when is a good year to do Worldcon, this would be one of those years where the stars align in your favor because the talent behind-the-scenes is as good as the talent in the limelight (art stars such as Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Bob Eggleton, Richard Hescox, Dave Palumbo, along with leading art directors such as Lou Anders, Irene Gallo and more).

5. Anne Gray and Colin Harris: If you're a pro artist, these are two names you should remember. When you get to Worldcon, give 'em thanks if you see them. Along with Jannie Shea, they're the ones that have really spearheaded the effort to make this year's Worldcon an attractive and compelling event for the visual arts. They've developed the ideas above and have consulted artists and art directors such as Lou Anders, Bob Eggleton (and even me) in order to raise Worldcon's game for artists. I think they're gonna be successful. All they want now is for the pro artists to attend and bring their art and talent to this year's show. I'll be there, and I can't wait to see how this turns out. If you're a pro artist, have a look at the show's website. This could be a very good year for us artists. Let's make this year's Worldcon a memorable one for sf/f art.