by Doctor Science
WHOOPS it's almost Hugo Awards voting deadline time! I've been so caught up in politics (and twitter @doctorscience) I completely lost track - the deadline is Sunday July 31!!
I'm going to talk about Best Professional Artist first, Best Fan Artist tomorrow. Each name is linked to their entry on my blog, 2015 Hugo Art.
All the Best Pro Artist nominees are from the Rabid Puppy slate.
Lars Braad Andersen is a Danish digital artist who does the covers for the Castalia House versions of the There Will Be War anthologies. The other works on his site (including Watermill in Winter Mood, which is in the Hugo Packet) appear to be "Fan Art" for Hugo purposes -- no professional sales. Much of it is soft-core or gamer porn.
Andersen's images are created using rendering or imaging packages (Vue, Renderosity, Poser, etc.), tweaked in Photoshop: he does not personally create most of the elements in the images, nor does he modify them so much that you can't tell where they came from. If you compare them to, for instance, the paintings of Hugo-nominated John Harris, they aren't comparable. Andersen's work takes a trivial amount of skill, creativity, and thought compared to Harris', and I don't think he deserves to be on the Hugo ballot at all -- aside from the question of whether slated works should be there.
Larry Elmore is a long-time fantasy artist who I wanted to put on 2015 Hugo Art, but I could only find one work published in 2015: the cover for Larry Correia's Son of the Black Sword, published by Castalia House (it isn't even on his site). That explains his connection to the Rabid Puppies and why he was nominated. He submitted no works to the Hugo Packet, so I won't put him on my ballot.
Michal Karcz aka Karezoid is a Polish digital artist. He appears to combine stock photos and his own photography with other digital effects to create his images, which are exceptionally smooth. Most of the images he submitted for the packet aren't "Pro", as far as I can tell, and those that are (e.g. "Unicorn Dreams of Electric People") are for music, not books. I see no reason for him to be on the Hugo ballot, and he won't be on mine. He's still much better than Andersen, though.
Abigail Larson is the only one of the Rabid Puppy nominees I had already included in 2015 Hugo Art. I have no idea what moved them to put her on the ballot.
Larry Rostant is another digital artist, by far the most professional of the digital-art nominees. He takes top-flight photographs of athletes and models, and combines them with digital imagery: heavy on equipment, light on landscape and setting. If you consider this a legitimate form of SFF art, and if you don't mind the fact that he got on the ballot from a slate, I could see putting him above No Award. I won't, but I'll probably still have him on my ballot lower down.
Overall, this is a very poor set of choices. Three are digital artists, none so skilled or creative that I'd call them Artists of the first rank. Elmore is a very good artist who's almost entirely retired (possibly ill), and Larson is what I'd call an Artist of the second rank: skilled and professional, but not transcendent.
My ballot will be No Award, Larson, Rostant.