Spectrum 23: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
Best in show The prestigious annual round-up of the best in fantasy art is here once more and, as usual, it doesn’t disappoint
Each artist has passed a high bar to be included. There’s absolutely no filler
For more than two decades, the Spectrum annual has been a showcase for the world’s best creators of fantasy art. Established in 1993 by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, each volume’s release is a big event, both for fans and as a resource for art directors, buyers and artists.
It’s not exactly cheap. But you get a lot of hardback book for your money, in terms of its size, weight and number of pages (308). Plus it’s lavishly produced, with thick, super-glossy paper that makes the images sing.
But what about the work itself? In a word: breathtaking. As usual, the Spectrum jury has selected 300 artists, both upcoming and established, from the US, Europe, China, Australia, South America and beyond. Their contributions, which include artworks created for books, graphic novels, video games, films, galleries and advertising, are infused with wit, inventiveness, passion, imagination and sheer talent. Proof the world of fantasy, sci-fi and horror art is alive and well.
Work that particularly resonated included Android Jones’s exquisitely intricate cover image (The Year of the Ram); Annie Stegg Gerard’s evocative fairytale scenes (Renard and the Strawberries, and Moonlight Parade); Guangjian Huang’s mythical male and female warriors (Narcissu, and Silver Knight); David Palumbo’s arresting vision of a woman in warpaint (Binti); Travis Louie’s enthralling alien (Invader Mitch and his Dog); Audrey Benjaminsen’s charcoal witches (The Moirari) and Michael Whelan’s girl in a floating globe (Her Own World). But everyone will have their favourites, and that’s the idea. Because each artist has passed a high bar to be included here, there’s absolutely no filler.
While most of the book is taken up with the art itself, there’s a fair bit to read too, particularly across the opening 30 pages. These include a Meet the Jury section, a profile of rising star Victor Maury and a greeting from Spectrum Grand Master Mike Mignola. There’s also an insightful 11-page Year in Review by John Fleskes (though the year in question is 2015, not 2016).
All in all, whether you’re looking to check out the competition, keep abreast of fantasy art trends, or just enjoy a lot of amazing work, Spectrum 23 is a desirable purchase.
Tran Nguyen’s Traveling to a Distant Day (acrylic and pencils) earned the Editorial Gold Award.
Donato Giancola’s Vesuvius was painted in oils for Tor Books.