Monday, November 27, 2006

Book-A-Day #133 (11/26): Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio

A very nice collection of the artwork of a really interesting artist (who seemed to explode over the last two or three years -- though this book shows that was just because I wasn't paying attention before that), who is also a great guy. (And I know he reads this blog! Ah, the perils of being in a small, friendly community.)

It may seem a bit pricey compared to other SFF art books, but the $39.95 cover price buys you a 200-page hardcover (as opposed to the 128 pages of most art books). And that's the same price, for roughly the same page count, as the last two Spectrum books, so it's not out of line. (I'll also mention that the paper stock in Cover Story is great; it's very white, not too slick, and manages to be thinner and lighter than many similar books -- like Spectrum -- without any show-through problems.)

The layout and design is notably good; I hope it doesn't sound condescending when I say I didn't expect this level of design from MonkeyBrain (this is their first full-4C book, right?) This looks as professional and eye-catching as anybody's art book, and better than many.

I don't know if I have anything coherent to say about Picacio's art: I generally like it, and, even more than that, I nearly always think it's great art for the project (which is not the same thing). I'm hoping that all the praise he's getting -- and the great work he's doing -- will help open up SFF art to less slavishly realistic painting styles. I mean, Michael Whelan is wonderful, but we've gone through nearly thirty years of everybody trying to paint as much like Whelan as possible, which isn't good for anyone. (I like going to an artshow, getting up close, and looking at brushstrokes; I'm weird that way.) There are other people working in similar artistic areas -- John Harris's brooding spacescapes come to mind, and of course Rick Berry and Bruce Jensen have been doing highly symbolic work for a long time -- but Picacio seems to be breaking out in a larger way than anyone since Bob Eggleton has, and I'm hoping he drags at least part of the field along with him. (If Richard Powers or Paul Lehr turned up today as young men, they wouldn't get any work; I'd like to see that change.)

This book is chock-full of images that I hadn't realized were by Picacio; they were excellent covers for their particular books, and I hadn't thought about them any more than that. That's a good thing for an illustrator -- some works do pop out at you and demand attention, but the quieter covers that just do their job consistently are even more important.

If you have any interest at all in SFF art, you should own this book; Picacio is going to be one of our major illustrators of the 21st century, and this is a thoughtful retrospective of his career so far.

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1 comment:

Lou Anders said...

Hi Andy:
It was MonkeyBrain's first official 4C book, yes, but they did the Making of Sin City under another banner - a lavish book that was a hell of a lot better than the material it drew from!

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