Sep 11 2012 6:00pm

A Visual History of the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award Winners

A Visual History of the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award Winners

The Hugo Awards started in 1953, however, the Best Professional Artist category wasn’t created until 1955. Since then, seventeen pro artists have been recognized with the award in that category (eighteen if you count Leo and Diane Dillon as individuals—debatable because they considered themselves inseparable—even though each was/is a powerhouse individual artist). It’s a helluva list.

Two Sundays ago, I became a part of it, prompting me to put together this visual history of the winners of the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. After assembling this set of images, the first thought I have is “get back to work....go get better.” And the next—“this still feels like a dream.”


Click any image to enlarge.


Frank Kelly Freas: Much of his work had a whimsy that resonated with legions of fans. However, that’s largely absent in this one. This is his artwork for Robert Heinlein’s The Green Hills of Earth and it’s always been my favorite Freas. He won the Hugo in the Pro Artist category ten times (1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1976).


Ed Emshwiller: This is the cover art for F&SF, June 1960. Emsh was a master of the strange, and this one speaks to its time, but yet still holds up today for sheer strangeness. I had the honor of inducting him into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007. He won the Hugo in this category four times (1960, 1961, 1962, and 1964), as well as a fifth Hugo as “Best Cover Artist” (tied with Hannes Bok) back in 1953 before the Pro Artist category was created.


Roy Krenkel: He painted several classic Tarzan covers that are much beloved by many sf/f fans, but for my money, it’s his pen-and-ink work that pops in my mind. I’ve never met an artist that didn’t love what he could do with that medium. He won the Hugo Award in 1963.


John Schoenherr: This painting evokes the same feeling I get when I see photos of F5 tornadoes. There’s an iconic majesty and terror in this image and I think it’s still one of the definitive Dune artworks. Schoenherr won the Hugo Award in 1965.


Frank Frazetta: The only thing that shocks me about Frazetta and the Hugo Award is that he didn’t win more than one. He’s one of those seminal master artists that influences almost all genre artists, whether they realize it or not. He won his Hugo Award in 1966.


Jack Gaughan: There’s always something quintessentially funky and exotic about his work that I greatly admire. I look at a picture like this, and it’s both dated and timeless all at once. That’s a tough trick. Gaughan won the Hugo Award three times—1967, 1968, and 1969.


Leo and Diane Dillon: I love this one—the wraparound cover art for Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories. The Dillons are the only art team to be recognized with a pro artist Hugo thus far. I like this quote from Diane: “We could look at ourselves as one artist rather than two individuals, and that third artist was doing something neither one of us would do. We let it flow the way it flows when an artist is working by themselves and a color goes down that they didn’t quite expect and that affects the next colors they use, and it seems to have a life of its own.” They won the Hugo in this category in 1971.


Rick Sternbach: He did production work for the first Star Trek motion picture back in the ’70s, and that’s where I’m most familiar with his work. However, he also did a range of sci-fi book art. ”Moonbow“ (above) is my favorite. He won two Hugo Awards, in 1977 and 1978.


Vincent Di Fate: There’s something unmistakable about the way Di Fate lays down his hard edges against softer textures. I love his ships and spacescapes. This one is from later in his career (2002?), but he won the Hugo Award back in 1979.


Michael Whelan: He’s one of the ultimate artist’s artists. And this is one of my favorites of his—the cover art for Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen. A couple of years ago, he brought this original to Boskone. I stared at the lace on that arm for a solid five minutes—without blinking. When I think of the ambassadors of the SFF field, Michael will always be one of the greatest—as an artist and as a person—and that includes all authors and creators, bar none. He’s won the most pro artist Hugos—thirteen—1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 2000, and 2002.


Jim Burns: I fell in love with this image the moment I first saw it a couple of decades ago—Burns’ classic cover for Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. If I had to make a list of top-20 favorite sf artworks of all-time, this would be in there. Jim has won three Hugos in this category—1987, 1995, and 2005.


Don Maitz: Whenever rum drinkers chug a bottle of Captain Morgan, they get up-close and personal with Don’s art. However, works like ”Death of the Last Dragon" are where he shines brightest, in my opinion. This is one of my favorites of his. He’s won two Hugo Awards in this category—1990 and 1993.


Bob Eggleton: And here’s a dragon of a completely different mode. Yes, Bob’s known for these as well as his Lumley covers, his Godzillas, his Cthulhu art, and his love of pulp, amongst other things. But when I look at an Eggleton, I see the craft of brushstrokes and accretions that are dripping with emotion, and with the pure love of someone who’s never stopped being a fan. And that’s why he’s a master pro. Bob has eight Hugos in this category—1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2004.


Donato Giancola: Along with Whelan, I consider Donato one of the great artist’s artists, and one of the best of all pro artists I’ve ever met. I love how he handles himself as an artist and as a pro, and this cover artwork for Kathleen Bryan’s The Golden Rose is one of my favorites of his. I was flabbergasted when Donato lost seven consecutive years for the Hugo from 1999 to 2005, until he finally won his first Hugo, on his eighth nomination in 2006. (And yes, now I know a bit of how he felt—that math does sound eerily familiar, come to think of it!) He now has three in this category—along with the 2007 and 2009 rockets.


Stephan Martiniere: As far as I’m concerned, he’s the master of the futuristic cityscape. This is his cover art for Ian McDonald’s River of Gods. There are many artists that do this type of imagery so well, but I can’t think of any more transcendent than Stephan. Even as some traditionalists and collectors decry the evolution and impact of digital art, Stephan has done what the great artists do in all media throughout history—he has pushed the vocabulary of art forward, and that achievement goes beyond arguments over pencils, paints or pixels. He won the Hugo Award in 2008.


Shaun Tan: What I love about Shaun Tan is that he made himself. His visions and narratives are uniquely his own. He didn’t come out of a vacuum, but when I look at the evolution of his work from The Viewer through The Rabbits (above) through The Arrival to the present, he re-shaped the world on his own terms and brought it to him, rather than vice versa. He has two Hugo Awards—2010 and 2011.


John Picacio: And it’s 2012. And here I am. Hello, world. And it’s time to get back to work, to make new art, and to make better art. Don’t look now—I think my best is still yet to come.

This article originally appeared on John Picacio's blog. Check out a gallery of his work here on Tor.com.

Ian Johnson
1. IanPJohnson
I can't decide whether the Bob Eggleton, Stephan Martiniere, or John Schoenherr art is my favorite. I guess I'll have to choose all of them.

(Congratulations on the Hugo, by the way, John. It was an honor richly deserved.)
John Picacio
2. JohnPicacio
Ian -- I don't think you can go wrong with any of those guys. :) And thanks very much -- 'appreciated!
Rich Bennett
3. Neuralnet
I have had the good fortune to be able to vote for the Hugos the last two years, and I found the artist categories to be the hardest choice... they were all so good. Congrats John and thanks for the summary above. Wow! what great images.
Irene Gallo
4. Irene
Congrats, John! Well deserved.

It’s great to see the field open up more in recent years. You were such a class-act during your acceptance speech, to mention Richard Powers and John Berkey.
Bob Blough
5. Bob
These are all great. I always love Freas, Giancola, Whelen. The others are great and worthy - but these three can really take my breath away.

I am so glad you won this year, John. You deserve to be with this pantheon of artists.
William R Warren Jr
6. William R Warren Jr
Some of you are my mentors, cohorts, been-there-done-thats, s0me of them were my masters, all of us are students. The object of the exercise is this: our kids are better than we. Congratulations and not only keep up the good work -- pass it forward! If our kids teach us tuff stuff, we've done our part! (almost ...)
Alan Brown
7. AlanBrown
Good stuff, love it when Tor shares artwork with us!
John Picacio
8. JohnPicacio
Neuralnet, Irene and Bob -- Thanks very much. Hugely appreciated. :) / William -- Agreed, especially the part about 'all of us are students'. / Alan -- Glad you dug it!
William R Warren Jr
9. MathewSugden
Hey John,
Missed seeing you at Worldcon - Congratulations on both the Hugo and the Chesley! Thanks for a great visual tour of Hugo artists. It is good to know you have a great knowledge and appreciation of the artists that blazed the trail in SF and Fantasy illustration.
William R Warren Jr
10. James Davis Nicoll
Did Berkey never win? Now I am sad.
William R Warren Jr
11. Doug M.
Darrell K. Sweet never won either. I half suspect that the voters were reluctant to reward the guy who'd done thirty-some Xanth covers, but still: dude had chops.

Doug M.
John Picacio
13. JohnPicacio
Mathew -- Hugely appreciated. Thank you. Sorry I missed you too. Hopefully we'll cross paths either later this year or next.

James -- No, Berkey never won a Hugo. He's still one of the unquestionable giants of the field though, bar none. That's why I gave him and Richard Powers a shoutout when I was on stage two Sundays ago.

Doug -- Agreed. Sweet had mad game.

Kate -- You're welcome. :)
David Levinson
14. DemetriosX
It's kind of astonishing how few people have won this award. Only 17 in almost 60 years. I don't think any other category has shown this level of stability. I first noticed this when Jo Walton did her year-by-year look at the Hugos here. It's an awfully static category. There was even one stretch of like 10 years in the 80s/90s where the exact same five people were nominated every time. I think it was Donato who broke that streak.

It's good to see some fresh blood. I only hope it can continue, since the market would seem to be contracting. With so few magazines (and another contraction to fewer issues per year would not be unexpected in the next couple of years) and e-books putting negative pressure on cover art, there would seem to be a lot fewer opportunities. I hope I'm wrong, because good SFF art has been an important part of the genre from the beginning.
William R Warren Jr
15. dwndrgn
I love that you've put it all together for us to enjoy, thank you.

@DemetriosX - I actually thing that ebook art is even MORE important. When you are choosing books and reading blurbs, the cover art sets it apart. In fact, when I'm on GoodReads (which is, admittedly, at least five times a day) and my friends and people I follow are 'liking' this review and 'reading' that book...in the melee the main thing that makes me take interest is beautiful cover art. It is the key to whether I click on that cover and learn more.

Please let us hope that publishers never stop having beautiful art crafted for the books they publish!
Irene Gallo
16. Irene
@15 Dwndrgn,

To borrow a phrase, I “like” your comment.

— Irene with her AD hat on.
John Picacio
17. JohnPicacio
@DemetriosX -- Yeah, if you look at the history of this category, there was a run from 1980 to 2005, where only four artists won -- Michael Whelan, Bob Eggleton, Don Maitz, and Jim Burns. I wasn't around for most of that. I'm not sure why that occurred. But I *do* know all four of those guys are amazing, world-class artists, and remain so. It is true that there were lots of other world-class sf/f artists working at that time too, so as I've said elsewhere, that's for other people to analyze why those four dominated the way they did. Not for me. Fast forward to now and this category has seen four different winners in five years. This is an incredibly talent-rich, competitive, and dynamic time for sf/f art. It's also a very unstable period in sf/f publishing. It'll be very interesting to see how things evolve for full-time pro artists. :)

@dwndrgn -- +100 likes for your last sentence.

Back to work here...
John Picacio
18. JohnPicacio
And lemme just clarify that when I said "I'm not sure why that occurred", 'that' is referring to why only four individuals won in 25 years -- not why those four particular individuals won. Proof's in the pudding as far as those four artists -- they're all legends. They were doing amazing work at that time (and thus, their Hugos) and they continue to produce amazing work today. They're far from done. Just wanted to make sure that wasn't misunderstood. :)
Heidi Breton
19. AnemoneFlynn
These are so impressive, thank you for collecting them here for us! And congrats on the Hugo!
William R Warren Jr
20. James Davis Nicoll
Berkey had a proven track record of doing covers for books I enjoyed. I don't know if that was due to his choice in contracts to take, dumb luck or confirmation bias but for me a Berkey cover meant must buy.

Could it be the subset of readers who vote in the Hugo don't pay attention to the identity of the cover artists? This is like the people who don't track publishers, editors or even authors, isn't it? I celebrate people's right to enjoy SF&F in their own ways and in return they should have the basic decency to do it the way I do.

Which Hugo-quality artists are being overlooked today, I wonder?
William R Warren Jr
21. James Davis Nicoll
If I recall correctly, the Gaughan was used on a Poul Anderson collection DAW published. The Book of Poul Anderson, maybe?
Chuk Goodin
22. Chuk
Looking at all that amazing art at once was almost overwhelming. Thanks for putting this together, great stuff.
William R Warren Jr
23. Eugene R.
Congratulations, Mr. Picacio, on your Hugo! A well-deserved win, assuredly.

For me, before Michael Whelan colonized the sf/f portions of my brain, it was Chris Foss whose airbrushed future tech ruled my galaxy.
Pamela Adams
24. PamAdams
'that' is referring to why only four individuals won in 25 years

My opinion is that it had to do with familiarity- a Hugo ballot arrives, and we, if not knowledgeable in a field, chose the familiar name. (Best Artist- uhhhhh- Oh, look, Whelan- I've heard of him!)

The electronic Hugo Voters' Packet gives us a chance to become, if not knowledgeable, at least aware of the various nominees, and able to make an at least minimally informed choice.
Clay Scott Brown
25. claybrown
Nice! I've added them to my Sci Fi file! Well deserved!
William R Warren Jr
26. Muccamukk
Some really gorgeous art in here, and big congrats to John Picacio on his win this year (I had such a difficult time deciding that I don't remember if I voted for you or not, sorry).

It does seem that this more than any other category is a bit of a boys club (are women ever even nominated?) Women seem to win fan artist quite a bit, but the only female pro artist here is considered part of her husband (and he part of her, it does sound like a cool working relationship).

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