Time for another guest at this party! I’m pleased to be welcoming back a previous guest to Over The Effing Rainbow – today Lesley Conner returns to talk not about stories, but about art!
The Rich World of SciFi Art
By Lesley Conner
As the managing editor of Apex Magazine, I get to read a lot of wonderful science fiction short stories by authors such as Ursula Vernon, Rich Larson, Sarah Pinsker, and Damien Angelica Walters before they’re published. It’s amazing and wonderful and one of the reasons I think I have the best job ever, but I’ve decided not to talk about science fiction authors or stories today.
Today I want to talk about art!
One of my responsibilities for Apex Magazine is selecting cover art. When I first started, I had no idea how rich the world of sci-fi and fantasy artwork was. If you’d asked me to name specific artists, I could have come up with Galen Dara and Julie Dillon, both of whom have done beautiful covers for Apex and several other publishers, but beyond that I was a little lost. So my first step was to go beyond my limited knowledge. I began searching DeviantArt and was stunned!
There is so much out there! Alien landscapes, spaceships, mythic beasts, fairy tales brought to life! Whatever I could image as a cover for Apex Magazine, I could find. And not only could I find it, but I could find amazing pieces that left me breathless!
I quickly lined up several months’ worth of covers and could feel the excitement building inside of me. I’d found treasures! I wanted to run to Twitter and show them off – “Look what I found! This beauty will be the cover of Apex in a couple months!” – but of course I couldn’t do that. Each month when we do our cover reveals, I get a little thrill at being able to finally share something that I think is beautiful and wonderful and worth getting excited over. And when the Apex readers respond favorably that is a really good day for me.
But finding the perfect pieces to use is more than looking for something pretty. When I’m searching for cover art, I’m looking for several things: stunning images, a distinct style, color. It’s easy to look at a piece of art and imagine it as a standalone cover (Does it have the right proportions? Would the Apex Magazine title cut into an important feature of the art, lessening its impact?), but I also need to visualize them as a cohesive group. I’m looking for styles that flow together, but that aren’t too similar. While choosing which artists to query about artwork, I have a habit of flipping between the pieces I’ve already scheduled and those I’m considering, looking at color schemes and for any unintentional themes. If I notice too many dark tones, I may select a piece that is lighter or one that uses brighter colors. Too many pieces focusing on figures? Then maybe it’s time to search for landscapes. It’s all about balance.
The first piece of artwork I selected was the March, 2015 cover, “Your Touch (or Die Ungeziefer)” by Lucas de Alcântara. Lucas does beautiful ink work with incredible detail. I’ve been keeping up with some of his Inktober sketches and they are wonderful.
Adrian Borda is another fantastic artist that I think everyone should know about. His piece “Life is Dancing in the Rain III” is the cover for Apex Magazine Issue 71 and for the upcoming Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1. If you look through his gallery, you will see a mix of whimsical painting, beautiful photography, images that are both startling and grim.
Blending photography with digital illustration, Beth Spencer creates absolutely stunning images that are deeply steeped in fantasy and fairy tales. My personal favorite is “The Bronte Project,” though there are so, so many that are fantastic. Choosing just one of her pieces to use for Apex Magazine was very difficult.
Heavy with atmosphere, Matt Davis is another wonderful artist. Many of his pieces have a dark, sci-fi slant. His use of color and shading is striking, and is one of the main reasons that I asked him to do the cover art for my debut novel The Weight of Chains. Lucky for me, he was willing and did a wonderful job. He’s also one of our Apex Magazine cover artists for 2016.
Other wonderful artists I think you should take the time to check out are Billy Norby, David Demaret, Carly Sorge, and Joshua Hutchinson.
So how can you help out your favorite artists? If you see a cover on a magazine that you really connect with, find out who the artist is, go to their website or DeviantArt page and see what else they have to offer. Tell your friends about them, not just about the one piece in particular. I think it’s very easy in this world of a thousand images, to share a beautiful piece of art on social media and to not think about the person behind it, but by including the artist’s name when you share that image, not only are you helping your friends discover a new artist, but your helping to build a consciousness where not only do we admire the beautiful images, but we recognize the creators.
Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy artists? I’m always looking for new talent, so leave a comment and I will search them out.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
Thanks to Lesley for a fantastic post! SF artwork is something I haven’t particularly looked at here before, but I may have to make more effort in future!
As Lesley says, feel free to comment below and share some of your favourite SF artists – art needs love too!
Now for a bit of prize-giving! On Monday I celebrated this blog’s third anniversary as part of Sci-Fi Month, and while I was at it I announced a giveaway as part of Apex Magazine’s subscription drive, offering a free 1-year subscription to a commenter (selected at random) on Monday’s post. That giveaway has now closed, and I can announce that the lucky subscription winner is…
HUZZAH! *Throws confetti, starts a party*
Sharry, please get in touch with me as soon as you can with a name and email to which I can direct your subscription. Congrats to you, and thanks to everybody who entered!