The Art Of Stephen Hickman (book review).

February 26, 2016 | By | Reply More

For us in the UK, it’s unlikely that we have seen much of cover artist Stephen Hickman’s art, mostly because his biggest client is Baen and unless you order specifically or go to custom genre bookshops might not have seen his work. ‘The Art Of Stephen Hickman’ covers his work from fantasy, where he has a love of dragons and Tolkien, to Science Fiction. You get a commentary for most of the paintings, the odd artistic note for those who want to know what he used. Hickman paints in oils and, only a few times illustrated here, relied on Photoshop to modify a painting.


Interestingly, when he comes to his Science Fiction section, he relied on acrylics or uses them as the preliminary painting before working over it with oils. The selection of covers here are for stories by Larry Niven (or rather his shared ‘Man-Kzin Wars’ series), David Drake, Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein. It’s only at the end of the book that Hickman discloses he wasn’t keen on acrylics which neatly places this section earlier in his career.

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

There are also paintings from a fantasy book he wrote called ‘The Lemurian Stone’ in 1989. When you combine this with his drawings and some sculptures further in, Hickman shows an interesting amount of versatility. As he occasionally points out, many of his art pieces literally fall into place which does tend to suggest to me he has a very active unconscious mind using his skills. He also has a taste for yellow tones which is explained again at the end of the book where yellow ochre was added to his colour choices at a late stage when at school and became eager to use the shade. As he points out, learning from a limited palate first of all means you learn how to blend your colours.

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

 (c) Stephen Hickman 2016

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

Oddly, when I put my artistic eye on, I do wonder about some of the poses but when he hits them right they are truly right. Considering the tight deadlines imposed on doing book covers sometimes, this can hardly be surprising. His use of colour and getting the best out of it is impressive. I’ve tended to shy away from oils, mostly for the length of time they take to dry and the spirits needed to clean the brushes but this book has given me some serious thought on the subject.

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

(c) Stephen Hickman 2016

Having said all that, this book certainly has a lot to offer covering a range of our genres. Did I mention Lovecraft? He says horror fans get spooked by his Cthulhu and their creator. Good thing I don’t spook easily but Cthulhu says I spook him. This is the kind of book you want to curl up and regularly look over, just be careful of the shadows.

GF Willmetts

February 2016

(pub: Titan Books. 143 page large hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $50.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-845-7)

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Category: Books, Illustration

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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