By way of light relief after all those novel reviews, I powered through the visual arts categories in the Hugo's over the weekend. They don't seem to have been in the literary and political crossfire quite as much as the rest of the shortlist, so here is the first part of a quick look before heading back to the books.
Best Professional Artist
Big thanks to Geeky Library, who have kindly provided links to all the nominated artists and their portfolios here.
A confession: I am not the world's biggest fan of realistic figurative art in fantasy and SF. Too much of it tends towards the technically proficient but otherwise uninteresting. I prefer my genre art to have something of the surreal or the sublime about it.
There's a longer piece buried in that statement taking in early twentieth century modern art and the awesomeness of paperback SF covers from the 60's and 70's, with a side order of the male gaze problem. But it would be long, intermittently grumpy, and probably besides the point for now.
At any rate, the artist nominated who best approximated my preferences on the shortlist (especially with her wonderful Beneath The Surface) was last year's winner Julie Dillon. The other nominees - with one exception - were all the right side of competent but personally didn't do anything for me.
The exception - Carter Reid's Zombie Nation webcomic - presented an apples and oranges problem. Its art was acceptable for the format, but just wasn't on the same level as the other contenders in this category who, after all, do book and magazine illustrations for a living. So I'm going to chalk this one up to a category error by the voting slate campaigns and move on.
Speaking of the slates - it's worth noting in passing here that Julie Dillon was the only non-slate nominee in this category. As it happens, I also felt that she was the best. I have some thoughts on this, but not enough data, so I'll hold off on the pontification until I've gone back to the books.
Best Fan Artist
Again, examples of all artists' work at Geeky Library.
This category was something of an anomaly, as it was completely untouched by the voting slates. I liked best Spring Schoenhuth's steampunk and SF-nal jewelry. But an honourable mention goes to Ninni Aalto's rabbits.