Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Fan Artist

Ninni Aalto
Brad Foster
Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Please see my Hugo disclaimer at the conclusion of this article.  Let us instead jump right into my thoughts on the nominees.

Elizabeth Leggett: Leggett was on my final Hugo nominating ballot and I very much stand behind that nomination and I am quite glad she was able to pick up a Hugo nomination this year.  Check out the link of her work at the top of this article, it's fantastic stuff.

Spring Schoenhuth: Schoenhuth's art is not the same sort of drawing / painting / art that we think about when we think of Hugo art. Schoenhuth does much more of the metal sculpture / jewelry style of art. What she does is excellent, though it isn't completely to my taste for genre art. It's not that I'm a traditionalist, it is more that I more appreciate cover art as science fiction and fantasy art.

No Award: While Foster and Stiles have been perennial nominees, and I had a very nice e-mail exchange with Foster last year when I was looking to highlight the art of all of the nominees (something I do not plan to do this year), I don't feel this art is truly among the best. It is art of a particular style, and I think it has fit the fanzines they have often been published in, but when you compare to Elizabeth Leggett, well, there is no comparison. I appreciated Ninni Aalto's work more than those of Foster and Stiles, but it still doesn't quite rise above and meet the levels of Leggett and Schoenhuth.

My Vote:
1. Elizabeth Leggett
2. Spring Schoenhuth
3. No Award

Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and letting my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

I may re-post this message on each article I write about the nominees, just so that we're clear in such a contentious year.


RAH said...

I just looked at the art last night and I thought Legget was so far above the other nominations.I ranked that # . I do not care whether a work was on a slate or not. That whole business seems to be sour grapes because another group out voted the normal group on nominations. Big Whoop

Joe said...

Leggett's work is just outstanding. I believe she also does some professional work, but I'm with you - her fan work here was just far and away better than anyone else. If she doesn't win, I just don't know.

Doctor Science said...

I agree about Leggett being in a whole 'nother league than the others in this category, and I trust she'll be the runaway winner.

I'm frustrated by a bunch of the Artist noms, because the material in their packets appears to be from a number of years, not just 2014. What do you, as someone who obviously cares about the Artist categories, think about making them Best Pro/Fan Artwork in the target year?

Joe said...

As a general rule, I would not mind seeing Best Artwork as a category rather than Artist.

Of course, the Best Artist award as it stands is supposed to be for a body of work over the course of the year. I had a conversation back in 2010 with both an artist and an editor because I had written about how I was considering nominating Richard Powers (who died in 1996) for Best Professional Artist on the strength of the cover of Eclipse Three, cover art which had never been previously used before - so it was "new", but as I was told, it also wasn't reflective of the body of work being produced in the genre for that year. As great as that cover was (and it is glorious). A single work is harder to vote for anyway, because it is a body of work award.

Best Artist is a bit of a popularity contest, as those two individuals also admitted, and I think Best Artwork would be a potential way around that.

If we don't vote for Best Professional Writer, why do we vote for Best Professional Artist?

Some artists who are plugged into the fan community as well as simply being a pro working in the field do post on their websites a gallery from each particular year. John Picacio comes to mind as a more prominent example of this. He's not fishing for a nomination, but he wants folks to know what he published during the previous eligibility year. If it's tough sometimes to figure out what writers put out during a year, it's damn near impossible to figure that out with artists unless they give you a helping hand.

I'm a bit scattered this morning, but I do like the idea of Artwork replacing Artist. I would definitely be open to more conversation about it.

PresN said...

Looking through these nominees, I'm leaving myself a reminder to nominate for this category next year. I could name a dozen artists on deviantart/tumblr who are better than most of the nominees this year, and given that Brad Foster's work has been nominated for decades I can only assume that most voters just nominate whoever scribbles cartoons in their fanzines. I wondered, last year, how an 18-year-old art student won the category. I don't wonder any more- Sarah Webb was miles above all of these artists, with only Leggett coming anywhere near.

Joe said...

I think that most people who nominate don't know what is happening over at deviantart and tumblr. I don't. I'm not part of those communities.

But Fan Artist came out of a very different tradition, so it often was those artists who worked in the fannish communities who attended Worldcon and produced the older style fanzines - and for a long time, that was also a significant part of who participated in the Hugo Awards.

Sarah Webb's work was excellent I hope to see more from her.