Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hugo Ballot 2014: Fan Artists

Nominees: Brad W. Foster / Mandie Manzano / Spring Schoenhuth / Steve Stiles / Sarah Webb

My art preferences and thoughts on the Hugo art ballot in general are here.

Of these, Foster, Stiles and Webb had art in the packet. (Stiles was added late, but was up by a week after the download went live.)  Manzano’s work can be seen here:.  Her work appears to be flat/digital, so I am not clear on why it has not made the packet (yet).  Given the subject matter, I suspect interference from the House of the Mouse, but that is merely libelous rumor mongering.

Schoenhuth’s is best seen on her Springtime Creations facebook page (select 2013 from the timeline to see works created last year.) She is an artist in the round, specializing in jewelry and other wearables. 

My thoughts on each:

Brad W. Foster’s work  was technically high quality, of lively color and upbeat theme.  His work presented on his website is quite different, in general, from the work in the packet, which is not as appealing to me. I’m not sure if this, like the Orbit snafu, is a publisher/rights holder issue. His work in the packet had a strong SF (vs fantasy) vibe (the work on his website varies a bit more.)The packet work of his I enjoyed most (a “Monsters take London” sort of theme) had really detailed and interesting perspective work, enough to make me look past its unfinished appearance.

Mandie Manzano  produces media related (which she designates as ‘pop art’) and fine art (not genre related) work.  Her work is heavily stylized – images in jewel-like tones in a “stained glass effect” that I find both very easy on the eyes and superior in many ways to the original animated works that many are drawn from. The subject matter of her pop art (mostly ‘illustration’ style Disney character portraits) is not my cuppa – I actually preferred her New Orleans & Cuba themed works, one of which (the swamp scene) I am considering purchasing.  For a time, I thought I would have to leave her off the ballot entirely, because the Hugo packet lacked a sample and I could not figure out what work was eligible.  Then I found this Hugo Art Tumblr for Manzano.  Of that page, I greatly liked ‘Love goes on and on’ and the Cheshire Cat.  (I could see that last one on my wall.)  Most of the rest were not my cuppa.

Spring Schoenhuth does work in-the-round, which I am given to understand is not typical for Hugo nominees.  Like Manzano, her work was not sampled in the Hugo packet. 

In-the-round and other non-flat art is difficult to judge alongside flat art.  Many art contests won’t put them against each other.  I am very glad to see in-the-round art represented at the Hugos, and I do appreciate the extra effort it takes to get adequate photos of sculpture included in the packet. The work displayed on the FB page ranges from the whimisical to the macabe, with a strong side step into Tom Corbett rockets and Flash Gordon blasters. She also does soft sculpture/cloth painting, making her work the most diverse of any on the ballot. Of her work which appeared in 2013 (her FB page makes it clear that what gets photographed is something of a crapshoot, depending heavily on her schedule) I most preferred her Metropolis themed necklace.  (Not a thing I would wear, but would display.)

Significant chunks of her work seems to be based on found/upcycled elements, which I quite liked.  (I like discards that are re-worked into art more than I like random paint flinging, if that makes sense.) I’m interested in seeing more of her work – esp the fossil related finery – when her website finishes revisions.

Steve Stiles had a collection in the packet as well – like Foster, a limited range (three works).  His work has strong elements of callback to the ‘four tone” era of comic, when inks came in one weight, colors in limited range, and panels in pre-cut shapes.  Work in that media – like all restricted media – requires quite a bit of talent, imo, to effectively portray a range of emotions and subjects.  To my eye, Stiles clearly has that talent. However, this selection was the grouping I liked the least – subject matter, color, and style all did not work for me. Looking at his page, Stiles acknowledges his preference for non-realistic art in both fan and pro work, and has a strong horror element to his work, so I’m not surprised that his work didn’t appeal to me as much as it likely does to others.  Having said that, there was a touch of humor in each of the submitted works that I liked.

Sarah Webb was the third and final artist to have a selection in the Hugo packet, with nine examples. She works in digital art, nearly all original and fantasy works (as far as I could tell.) Many pieces had an Asian (South, Mideast or East) theme, with only one that I thought visibly drew on primarily European settings. In terms of style, she tends more toward stylized illustration than realistic or highly interpretive work. 

I was very annoyed at the number of works presented, as I feel that an artist who presents many works has a higher chance of hitting me in the heart with one that I can’t forget. IMO, an imbalance in number of works (and 3X is an imbalance, imo) impedes a fair comparison. On purpose, I looked at her works last, to help reduce this issue.

In the end it didn’t matter, because I was snagged by the first work.  And the second.  And the third.  And the fourth. And the…

You get the picture.  Each picture promised a complex story behind it. I wanted to hear those stories.

Webb is my choice for the best portfolio in the fan artist category.  Going by her website, she’s 19, still in school, and I hope to see far more work of hers in the future.

I will not be putting “No Award” ahead of any of the other selections for this category.

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