Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Donato Giancola

Highrises by Donato GiancolaIn this spotlight, we asked artist Donato Giancola to tell us a bit about the background of his cover for this issue of Lightspeed, “Highrises.”

Will you share with us the origins of this piece?

“Highrises” was created as an illustration to accompany a Ray Bradbury article regarding the future of Space Exploration and appeared in a seemingly uncanny place for science fiction in 2000, Playboy Magazine. Yet it was not so out of place, as I have created half a dozen “hard” science fiction illustrations for Playboy over the years, and none of them featuring a nude! Actually some of my best paintings of SF have been for Playboy, “Highrises” included.

I wanted to portray a construction laborer on the moon and turned to my close friend Tony Rossetti, a burly, tough looking guy to pose as the model. Tony was perfect and has now adding “Playboy Model” to his resume!

Your website includes a gallery of your work ranging from science fiction and fantasy to concept art and portraits, answers to frequently asked questions, and your own personal technique. You also discuss the inspiration you’ve found in Tolkien. Are there any SF authors who have influenced you in a similar fashion?

I wish I could say someone touched me as deeply as Tolkien, but I did not find that special author in science fiction. Rather than a critique on the touching and beautiful works that have been written in SF, it is more a commentary on when I read Tolkien (age fourteen) and started reading science fiction (age twenty). Tolkien had a lasting, deep, and unique impression on me which resonates to this day. I am far too cynical these days to suspend a proper level of disbelief and thoroughly enjoy the works of art created by contemporary writers on a similar level. I am just too damn old! With that said, I did revisit Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and was so re-enthralled, I have begun an entirely new series of paintings based upon it!

You mention on your website that you seek out challenges in your art. What do you find the most challenging about painting science fiction?

I look at every painting as a chance to throw up new challenges for me creatively and conceptually. The unifying challenges presented in science fiction are that everything needs to be created, from the costumes, environments, architecture to people/aliens. You have very little footing to pull from to say, this is real. Thus, this challenge is what makes it so exciting! You are truly a world builder, drawing creations from the mud of the imagination.

You’ve illustrated the covers of dozens of science fiction books for many years, including books published by Tor, Daw, Ace, Bantam Spectra, and many others. How does that process work? Do you read the book firsthand, or is an already completed piece commissioned to be that particular cover?

Every publisher has a different approach—some will send you the manuscript while others will forward a paragraph. I prefer the former. In all cases I will have some part of the book to interpret when creating the art. With a chance to read the entire novel, I acquire an understanding of the characters motivations and situations involved which form their identity. I use this knowledge to illustrate these personal character qualities, rather than imagining a climatic narrative moment in the books. While climatic moments look “cool,” many times they do little for me as a storyteller focused on character.

What are you working on now?

I have numerous private commissions on the table as well as an ongoing series of paintings for a fine arts gallery, focusing on the emotion of “loss” in narrative story.  In addition, I am filling the pages of my limited edition Middle-Earth art book with drawings as well as pursuing my Phillip K. Dick series!

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Erin Stocks

Erin Stocks Lightspeed Assistant Editor Erin Stocks’ fiction can be found in the Coeur de Lion anthology Anywhere but EarthFlash Fiction Online, the Hadley Rille anthology Destination: Future, The Colored Lens, and most recently in Polluto Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ErinStocks or at