Best Professional Artist
- Daniel Dos Santos
- Bob Eggleton
- Stephan Martiniere
- John Picacio
- Shaun Tan
Bob Eggleton, on the other hand, has been nominated in this category twenty-two times before, and has won nine times. (He was what I think of as the default winner -- this is one of the categories, like Semiprozine, Fan Writer, and the old Professional Editor, that tend to stick to one person for decades at a time -- for much of the '90s.) He also sometimes does work more loosely, and I like his stuff best when he's smearing paint around, seemingly without thought, and really going to town. But his most popular work, inevitably, is the carefully-detailed retro space rockets and equally detailed dragons; the work in the packet is mostly in that vein.
Stephan Martiniere is something like the default "digital artist" for Hugo voters -- well, nearly all artists do some work digitally, but his work looks digital, slick, and utterly modern in a very influential way, and he's become quite popular as a SF artist along the way. He's been nominated in this category four times before in the past decade, winning once. Even his most representational scenes have a slight shimmer, as if of unreality, that I find deeply appealing and utterly science fictional.
John Picacio has been nominated six times before in this category without winning, but I'm sure he'll have a rocket before long; he's definitely qualified, and I think he's got the "fan-favorite" thing coming along as well. (The dirty secret of all popular-vote awards is that they're, in large part, about popularity rather than the best work, but John is a great guy and often seen at conventions, which I'm sure will put him over the top one of these years.) He's also got a great, distinctive, instantly recognizable style, which hearkens back much more to Paul Lehr, Richard Powers, and other artists of that era rather than the ultra-realistic School of Whelan. His Elric work, one painting of which was in the packet, particularly shows his strengths -- he's great with dynamics and stark, limited palettes.
And Shaun Tan is the most interesting nominee, since -- unlike the other four nominees, and unlike the vast majority of nominees in the history of the award -- he doesn't do covers for other people's books. Instead, he's a graphic novelist (or the writer/artist of books for readers of many ages, depending on how you look at it), who produced such excellent books as The Arrival (my review) and the omnibus Lost & Found (my review). I'm definitely in favor of having this category consider other "professional artists" outside the very narrow field of SFF cover art, as long as their work is clearly fantastic, and Tan's work clearly qualifies. Unfortunately, the only major work that would qualify him for this award that actually came out in 2010 -- the year in question -- is, as far as I can tell, the short film The Lost Thing (based on his book of the same name). And that movie may be totally awesome -- I assume so, but I haven't seen it yet -- but it's also already nominated itself in Short Dramatic Presentation. So I feel a little odd considering it as the reason Tan is nominated in this category. Still, I'd like to see Tan, or someone like him, win this category at some point.
All the nominees are clearly worthy, though my rooting instinct in this category is always to pull for someone who doesn't already have a Hugo rocket on the mantelpiece. If you are voting for the Hugos this year, please take a look at the actual works these five artists produced last year, and compare their actual eligible work rather than your default mental image of good skiffy art. (I'm particularly talking to you, the people who keep nominating Michael Whelan in this category a good decade after he retired from illustration.)
 And I'm still very willing to talk to anyone who wants to drag me back in.