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REVIEW: Spectrum 14 edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner

REVIEW SUMMARY: An eye candy extravaganza.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A showcase of contemporary sf/fantasy art.


PROS: Every page is stuffed with sense of wonder; a variety of styles to suit any taste; excellent book production.

CONS: Some styles might not appeal to some tastes.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended to anyone who has a love for sf/fantasy art.

I confess. I’m a science fiction and fantasy art junkie. Yes, I have bought books based solely on book cover art. Some book covers stoke my fire as much as the books they illustrate; sometimes more so. Therefore, an art book like Spectrum 14, the 2007 edition of the annual showcase of contemporary sf/fantasy art, is like a drug for someone like me. Every single page is brimming with the fantastic and imaginative by a variety of artists producing work in various sectors: advertising, books, comics, concept art, three-dimensional, editorial, and institutional. Even the previously unpublished works show outstanding talent.

Excerpted artwork from Brom, Shaun Tan, Robert Carter, and Glen Orbik.

I’m not sure if it was art junkie euphoria or an alignment between the Spectrum judges and my own personal tastes, but there was an incredibly high number of works showcased that simply blew me away. This was somewhat surprising since so many different artistic styles are on display; you’d think that the selection would be hit and miss. Sure, some of the images didn’t appeal as much as others – usually the ones that relied on photography – but they were very few and far between.

Excerpted artwork from Dan dos Santos, Aleksi Briclot, Adam Rex, and Matt Hughes.

The work overall offers much in variety of content, style, vision, and choice of palettes. Some of the images tell a story (something I find to be quite an accomplishment with a single panel) while others simply display wondrous scenery in which to wander. Some are grand in scale, others are more personal. Some offer a unique view on some recognizable tropes and characters, other present a brand new vision. What they all have in common is creativity and imagination – the stuff of wonder.

The production value of the book itself is high, with a thick page stock that prevents images on opposite-facing pages from showing through. At the back of the book, there’s a handy index of the presented artists. In the front of the book, Arnie Fenner’s extensive introduction gives a review of the previous year. Perhaps too much space was spent here on non-art-related items, but it does support the point that current events shape the artists’ work. Fenner’s passion for the field shines through and offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the art community. (For example, did you know there was elitism in the art world? I didn’t. Apparently some people make a class distinction between artists and illustrators. Go figure.) That said, one does not open the cover of such a book looking for commentary so much as eye candy – and this book has it in spades.

Excerpted artwork from Tae young Choi, Arthur Suydam, Jeff Haynie, and Allen Douglas.

Spectrum is a great way to discover new artists and reconnect with familiar ones – or it simply serves as a means to get a quick fix of that sense of wonder that lures fans to genre. I’ve garnered a whole new respect for the talent that’s currently out there. If fantastic art appeals to you in any way, check out some of the artist links in this review and see for yourself.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

1 Comment on REVIEW: Spectrum 14 edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner

  1. Dennis S. // March 31, 2008 at 11:10 am //

    Thanks for the review.

    I have been looking at Spectrum 14 for the past week or so and couldn’t decide whether I should buy it or not. Now I definitely will.

    SF/F Artbooks are often really cool but I have been burned a few times.

    Does anybody else have recommendations for SF art books? Either from this series, another series or from a single artist?

    I know a lot of it comes down to personel preference but I’d like some recommendations anyway.

    – Dennis

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