the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘artwork

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer

published in 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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While whining about the books I’ve read recently and not reviewed (dear Andrea: is it OK to read something and not review it right away!), I got thinking about a book I’ve been reading and re-reading, and touching and oohing and aahing over the artwork of.  I’ve had this book in my possession for over a year, and it’s become less traditional anthology and more touchstone. The themes of the stories are all over the place – sad, creepy, hopeful, full of release, full of tension, seeking closure. The only thing these stories have in common is the artwork. If you’ve got a friend who loves the intersection of art and storytelling, this would make a great gift.

 

The Weight of Words, edited by Dave McKean and William Shafer came out around this time last year, but it’s a book I needed months and months to think about.  Dave McKean’s multi layered artwork draws you in, and then like a fractal, keeps drawing you in. This surreal artwork is the perfect match for speculative fiction stories that speak of places that never were.    These images tell a thousand stories, I almost feel bad for the authors who had to decide on just one plot line and write a short story!

Something incredible happens when artwork and storytelling intersect, something that feels like a chemical reaction.   The Weight of Words includes fiction by Joe Hill, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Catherynne Valente, Maria Dahvana Headley, Joe R. Lansdale, Alastair Reynolds, and more.

 

Here are my thoughts on some of my favorite stories in the collection:

 

Belladonna Nights by Alastair Reynolds –  McKean’s artwork prompt is a strange image of a clocktower, and violins growing out of the tops of the tower.  Reynolds took this fantastically surreal image and wrote a far future space opera about a reunion. Campion can continue to protect Shaula, or he can tell her the truth about her past.  If he tells her the truth, nothing will ever be the same again, and keeping up the lie is killing him. Just so you know, this story made me cry. I learned after I read the story that this story takes place in Reynold’s “House of Suns” world.

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The next book in Julie Czerneda’s Reunification trilogy, The Gate to Future’s Past, is coming out in September, and I’m super excited to reveal the cover art and talk more about the series all day today.  What’s the gist of the Clan Chronicles, and the newest trilogy in this career spanning series?  I’m glad you asked!

 

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #WhoAreTheClan.

And what will be the fate of all.

 

With stunning cover art by Matt Stawicki, the artwork brings together an epic story told over the course of nearly twenty years.

Julie chatted with Matt Stawicki about incorporating earlier artwork, capturing Sira’s emotions, and more.    Let’s see what they said!

scroll artwork

Ta da! Here it is. The wonderful work of Matthew Stawicki, revealed at last. I’ve been waiting to share this cover with you for the better part of a year, for it was complete well before the book.

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Pardon? you say. How can that be?

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Remember the bricks? This image was one of them, firmly in my mind since I started writing This Gulf of Time and Stars.

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Book #2, Sira, meeting her destiny. Triumphant!
Or is she?

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That’s the magic of an image like this. Knowledge morphs impact, grants new meaning and alters perspective. What you think you see now, before reading The Gate to Futures Past, will change once you have.

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julie dillon taking flight cropped

“Taking Flight”

Wanna hear this month’s best news? Of course you do!

One of my favorite artists, Julie Dillon, is making an artbook! Her Kickstarter for Imagined Realms: Book 1 was fully funded during it’s first week! It contains 10 all new pieces of fantasy artwork!

ok, that’s three really good pieces of news.  Also, you should totally head over to her Kickstarter page, and if you like what you see, put your  money where your mouth is and get yourself a copy of her book (and one of the print packs!).  If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about this.  I’ve been seeing Julie’s artwork here and there for a few years now, and it was always her images that pulled me in, asked me to trace the outlines, to triangulate where the person would be next so I could meet them there, to find something new in the piece every time I looked at it. Her artwork is full of movement and colors that stretch the spectrum, and characters that are yearning, reaching, and guiding. An opportunity to have some of her artwork in my home? To financially support her venture to create more of these visual anthems? Shut up and take my money.

Julie was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Imagined Realms Book 1, and that there is so much more going on here than just a kickstarter about selling some artbooks.  Artwork can be and is so much more than just a cover on your book, frame on your wall, or a desktop background on your computer.  Let’s get to the discussion, shall we?

"Sun Shepherdess"

“Sun Shepherdess”

LRR: As I’m writing these interview questions, your Kickstarter has crashed through it’s first stretch goal of $20,000.  What made you decide to go the Kickstarter route for Imagined Realms, and do you have any advice for people looking to Kickstart a project?
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J.D.: Originally I was going to attempt to do it without the Kickstarter, and just take a chance with printing up a bunch of books and putting them up for sale. But that got progressively more cost prohibitive and risky, since I didn’t know how many books to get or how many people would want them. A kickstarter started to make more sense in terms of getting funding together. Plus, a Kickstarter campaign would let me gauge how much actual interest there was. I could print as many books as were ordered, rather than making a guess and hoping I didn’t print too many or too few. That said, setting up and running a Kickstarter has been a lot of work in itself, more than I’d even anticipated. I find myself just wishing it was done already so I could get on with things.

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My main piece of advice is that you really need to have a marketing and publicity plan. In my case, I have a modest following, and friends and industry connections who were able to help me out by spreading the word. I also got lucky getting features on major websites like Tor.com, TheMarySue.com, and io9.com. Some people have even bigger followings and do exceedingly well, and others don’t have enough of a reach yet and have a hard time gaining traction. Make sure you have a product people actually want, and a way to reach people who might want to buy it.

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"Scholars' Tower"

“Scholars’ Tower”

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the-broken-kingdoms-by-nk-jemisinThe Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance trilogy, book 2) by N.K. Jemisin

published 2010

where I got it: purchased new

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A quick warning: this review contains unavoidable spoilers for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first book in the series.

 

It’s been about a week since I finished reading The Broken Kingdoms, and it’s taken me this long to put into words what I experienced. Put shortly, I loved every word of it, and I know no review I write will come close to doing this book justice.  As I neared the halfway point of the book, I began avoiding picking it up, because I didn’t want to face that moment where I’d have to turn the final page and have it be over forever.  I knew the end was going to be heavy, and I wasn’t wrong.

 

The Broken Kingdoms picks up about ten years after the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Sky is now colloquially referred to as Shadow, due to the shadows caused by the huge tree that now dominates the city.  When once only three enslaved gods roamed the palace, now the city is full of godlings who have returned from the realm of the gods, some of them living rather normal lives, while others still aren’t used to be being around mortals.

 

At the beginning of this second installment, we meet Oree, who moved to the city ten years ago, after her father died. At first blush, this sounds a little familiar – country girl moves to the city, gets very surprised by what she finds there.  And that’s where the similarity ends. Oree isn’t interested in learning about the royal family, and she could care less about the differences between the gods and the mortals for the most part. Her first priority is selling her artwork and paying her rent.

 

Oree is an artist, and she’s blind. Well, mostly blind. She can’t see me, or you, or her mother, or the house she grew up in.What she can see, is magic, and Shadow is lush with godlings, so she can get around halfway decently most of the time. One night, she finds a dead guy outside her house. It’s a little more complicated than that, and he’s not quite dead. She takes him in, cleans him up, and lets the strange, silent man crash at her place until she figures out what to do with him.  At sunrise he glows with a godling hue, and he seems to be invulnerable to pain and injury. No one knows his name or where he came from, and in an attempt to elicit a reaction from him, she starts calling him Shiny. To his face.

 

If you’ve read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, you know who Shiny is, and that he’s probably not all that offended by the nickname. But Oree has absolutely no idea who he is, and in all honestly she just wishes he’d stop being such a pain in the ass.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]Ok blog tour participants and anyone else who has a  copy of The Book of Apex Vol 4, raise your hand if you have a print copy.  it looks wet, doesn’t it? I left the book on the kitchen table a few times, and even my husband wondered why I’d let water get on a book. The magical cover of this book, my friends, is the work of the unbelievably talented Julie Dillon.

(in fact, all of the artwork you see in this post is by Julie Dillon)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

That names rings a bell, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, she also did the cover art of the very first Subterranean Press special edition I bought for myself, Silently And Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente.

silenty and fast

So it goes without saying that I was over the moon when Julie agreed to do an interview for this blog tour.  When you’re just browsing through the bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, what do you gravitate towards? Interesting cover art, of course. Julie Dillon makes that cover art. She’s the reason you touch a book.  She’s the reason I expected my finger to come away wet every time I picked up The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.

So let’s get to the interview!

LRR: You’ve won the Chelsea award twice, been nominated for the World Fantasy award and you were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2013. What was it like to learn you had made the Hugo ballot? And speaking of, we’re right in the middle of nomination season. Are you eligible again this year?

J.D.: It was very validating to make the Hugo ballot. I didn’t think I’d be ready for that kind of recognition for another 5 years or so, and I was blown away that I was nominated. I was very honored and flattered that people saw anything of value in what I do. That said, I try not to let awards or nominations affect me too much, and I try to keep learning and working hard regardless of whether or not I am recognized. The recognition definitely helps, though, and goes a long way for helping me to reaffirm my decision to purse art fulltime. Getting awards and nominations encourages me to keep trying even harder.

I do have several pieces that are eligible for the Hugos this year. Andrea Höst was kind enough to put together a tumblr of various artists’ eligible work. My posts are available here and here.

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

LRR: Did you always want to be an artist? Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional artist?

J.D.: That’s a tricky question. I was always interested in drawing and creating, but it never really occurred to me that I could pursue art as my profession until my mid twenties. From all I had heard from other people, art was just something you do as a hobby in between your real work and real jobs. I spent much of my college life prepping for other careers, but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had free time. Eventually, thanks to the internet, I started noticing that there were such things as art schools, and professional artists, and people making a living doing a variety of types of art. I started wondering if maybe that was something I could do, too, and slowly I began taking actual art classes and investigating local art schools, and eventually started seeking out more freelance jobs. It took many long years before I got my portfolio up to a level where I was able to have fulltime freelance work, and I probably would have progressed faster if I had believed in myself more earlier on, but all things considered I think I’m doing an okay job of it.

"Breaking Through"

“Breaking Through”

LRR:  What are your thoughts on traditional media (oil, acrylic, etc) vs digital?

J.D.: I think traditional media is vitally important, I think there are a lot of benefits to working in traditional media, and I enjoy doing working with real paint when I get the chance. But I think digital media is a valid tool, one that has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So often I see people dismissing digital art as somehow cheating or not as valid or important as traditional art, but the computer is just another tool. It doesn’t do the work for you, you still need to have foundational drawing and painting skills to make a good digital piece. I personally prefer working digitally because it allows me to work quickly and cleanly. I don’t have to buy paint or brushes or canvases, I don’t have to wait for paintings to dry before sending them to clients, I don’t have to photograph or scan my final work, and I can make edits immediately and easily. But, I also do not have a physical original painting that I can hang up or sell, and I do miss out on the fun and satisfaction of working with real paint.

"Launch Point"

“Launch Point”

LRR: How long, on average, does it take you to complete a piece of art?

J.D.: It’s hard to tell, since I’m usually working on multiple illustrations that I rotate through, but I’ll usually spend at lease several days or weeks working on something. The actual time spent on any given piece are probably something like 8-20 hours, depending on the complexity.

LRR:  Do you do commissioned pieces as well? How does that creative process differ from when you are creating a piece out of your mind?

J.D.: Most of my work is commissioned, although I don’t post all of it online. The main difference between commissioned work and work I do for myself is that if I’m doing for myself, I don’t have to worry about sticking to an art description or working for a specific audience or project. On the one hand, with commissioned work it’s sometimes nice having an art director to bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s difficult narrowing down concepts or compositions. But it’s also nice to be answerable only to myself and to work on projects where I have full control over how the piece progresses.

"Ancient Discovery"

“Ancient Discovery”

LRR: I really enjoyed the Digital Illustration Tutorial you have on your website, it really opened my eyes to all of the behind the scenes work that goes into art creation. do you think you’d do more tutorials like this?

J.D.: Thank you! I’m glad it made at least a little sense; I worry if I’m being coherent or helpful at all when I make those things. I might do more tutorials in the future, although I’m not sure what my focus would be. For the most part, my actual method of painting has remained the same. Any improvements I’ve been making have been because I’ve been going back and trying to work on my art foundation skills more with figure drawing and anatomy studies.

"Nautili"

“Nautili”

Want more of Julie’s artwork? Of course you do! Check out her website, and her deviant art site.

Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation.  Please welcome Carl!

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(Image Credit)

The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.

Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That  being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:

“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”

My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.

And perhaps more to the point, do you care?

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Mondays suck, don’t they?  Let’s have some fun stuff instead!

If you’ve been following Angry Robot on twitter, or the feeds of plenty of folks in the blogosphere, you know Angry Robot Books has recently made two huge, massive, wonderful announcements: First, they’re starting a YA imprint called  Strange Chemistry. Great news for all you YA fans looking for what Angry Robot tends to specialize in: SF, F, and WTF.  And the second announcement? Even better than the first!  Guess whose heading up the new YA imprint? Again, if you’re active in the SF twittersphere or on heavily trafficked SF blogs, I’ll be you already know her. In fact, you may have already congratulated her. If you haven’t, get your butt over to Floor to Ceiling Books and congratulate the blogosphere’s own Amanda Rutter. She’s shutting her blog down, but you can still catch her on twitter.

Huh, maybe I should have left that for last, since the rest of this post is just random inconsequential fun stuff? ehh, whatevs.

Teh random fun stuff:

I recently picked up Cory Doctorow’s Context from the library. This is a collection of essays he’ written over the last few years on everything from kids and the internet to copyfighting to politics and parenting. Some have appeared on BoingBoing, others in Locus, others in The Guardian, and yet others were articles published on Publishers Weekly while he was self publishing With a Little Help.  There’s a lot of good stuff in this little volume, I’ve been flipping through the pages and reading essays here and there, and all have been informative, well written, and entertaining. If you’re a fan of Doctorow, this is definitely a little book that’s well worth seeking out.

Random item number two, is what should you do if you’re the first human to have contact with aliens?  Appropriate to think about, since I’m slogging through the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle epic space opera first contact story The Mote in God’s Eye (ok, I should say slogging, but it’s not a fast read. Imagine if 2 seasons of Battlestar Galactica were mashed up with 3 seasons of Deep Space Nine, take out all the romance, and then cram everything that’s left into 500 pages. It’s a lot!).  I think I’ll take this guy’s hilarious and helpful advice.

wanna see some fun artwork?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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