Stephen Hickman has been a well known artist in the Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds for a number of years now, having created covers for authors such as Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, and Larry Niven. His paintings are vibrant, kinetic, sometimes scary, often sensual, traditional, and yet modern. The Art of Stephen Hickman collects hundreds of these paintings, and the artist himself provides an intriguing commentary alongside which offers a fascinating glimpse into the artistic process.
Given the ridiculous amount of books I read, I’ve never given much thought to the work of a cover artist. It’s a shame, as whilst there’s must often be rather a thankless task, they have a hugely important job – I can’t deny that I’ll often buy a book solely on whether I find the cover appealing or not, and if a book has illustrations of a character, setting or object that take place in the book, they can shape a readers view from the moment they pick up the book, before even the author has chance.
A whole book featuring mainly cover art may not seem immediately appealing or indeed interesting, but Stephen Hickman has such a varied and rich body of work that this is a fascinating tome – perfect coffee table reading. I can’t deny that I would have liked slightly more commentary – that which is provided is immensely interesting and very readable, but I understand that it must have been rather hard to strike an easy balance between text and image. The book covers a wide range of work – astronauts to elves, spaceships to dragons etc. I can’t deny that there is something very traditional about Hickman’s work – despite the immensely high quality, there is still a fun and pulpy quality to the images that brings to mind some of my favourite Sci Fi and Fantasy books from the 70s and 80s. As a result, Hickman’s work does tend to feature naked fantasy ladies rather a lot – but as long as you’re not too offended by repeated occurrences of elf breasts, you should be fine.
A hugely talented artist, this is a worthwhile and timely celebration of a large and very impressive body of work. Anyone who has dipped their toe into the pool of Science Fiction or Fantasy should enjoy this beautiful book, and those who haven’t should enjoy it nonetheless – the art really is beautifully detailed and well worth celebrating – many thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy of this stunning book.
(This Review was first posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Art_of_Stephen_Hickman_by_Stephen_Hickman)