The Best SF Book Art Advice You’ll Probably Ever Get

First off, cool news: Irene Gallo, the magnificently awesome art director for Tor Books, has started a blog, appropriately called The Art Department. If you have a brain cell in your head, you’ll add it to your favorite links right this very second.

Second off, Irene has done every aspiring SF book cover artist an immense favor by making her very first entry an exploration of how to impress an SF art director with your portfolio. Simply and plainly put, if you ever want to get work doing SF book covers, and you don’t read this, you’ve just put yourself at a severe disadvantage. I am so not kidding. You need to read this.

Myself, I’m just basking in the glow of this observation, about painting women on SF book covers:

Yes, we constantly show sexy, big-breasted babes on our covers. But, there is a fine line between sexy and freakish. If you are using Hustler for your reference, you’re on the wrong side of that line. Along with sexy, they usually need to look like they can kick-ass. Slave girls don’t impress art directors. Book publishing does not use pin-up. And breasts are NOT perfectly spherical.

Bless you, Irene Gallo. For the rest of you, stop reading this entry and go read Irene’s. Even if you’re not an artist, you’ll benefit getting a look from her point of view.

12 Comments on “The Best SF Book Art Advice You’ll Probably Ever Get”

  1. I cannot comment.

    I think that most “Art” that covers the covers of Sci-fi books is weak ass depictions.

    To tell the truth, most Sci-fi guys, would be best off having a competition of second year art major wannabe’s.

    There is a fair few FORCED perspective artists, who manipulate PHOTOS, rather than using independant art to serve Sci-fi, and it works well. I would rather see the guy who did bujolds covers, than the computer manipulations that CLEARLY exist in OMW.

    Or are “artists” so derivative, that they recreate something that is a clearly a photograph?

  2. That’s a lot of commenting for “I cannot comment.”


    This does make me think alot of Frank Frazzetta’s artwork, specifically his bodacious babes. While not particularly realistic, when you see pictures of his wife at a younger age, you can see where he got some of his inspiraiton (I believe she modeled for him). There’s a great documentary about him called “Frazetta: Painting With Fire” which is quite illuminating if a bit hagiographic.

    And FWIW, I used to buy alot of SAF books as kid for the artwork. Needless to say, quality did not match titillation factor.

  3. While I kinda agree with Irene, and I get her ultimate point, what she seems to be saying in that quote is ‘By all means, put cheesecake on the cover, as long as it’s ass-kicking, competent cheesecake.’ I mean, nobody says that it’s fine to put a half-naked guy with a big basket on the cover of an SF novel, but be sure to make him look like a Falcon model who can also kick ass.

  4. Buck Rogers rocket ships, leather-clad cheesecake, aliens with tentacles and robots with see-through heads: you just gotta have an imagination.

    And sure breasts can be perfectly spherical – if you buy them that way…

  5. Since I can’t judge the book by it, I tend to not choose a book for it’s cover.

    I don’t see what’s wrong with the OMW cover either, but I’m not so much artsy as I am, well, nevermind.

  6. Yes, it is a good blog. But she used the phrase “amuck in mullets”, and now that’s gonna be stuck in my head all day. Aaaargh!

  7. Great link. Thanks. Even though I’m not a print illustrator, it was still interesting to read why what gets put on covers is put on covers.

    It’s interesting how a lot of the advice is applicable to animators, too (figure drawing and drawing from life, for e.g.).

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