As in almost any field of endeavor, the quality and character of art directors runs the gamut. At their worst, they fulfill the cliché as a source of headaches and the butt of jokes for designers and illustrators.
At their best, however, art directors play a significant role in the course of design and illustration, seeking out the finest artists, finding and nurturing upcoming talent, going to bat for illustrators in conflicts with their own employers and forging new directions in the types and styles of art presented to the public. As a whole, the contributions of art directors to the field of illustration are seldom acknowledged.
Irene Gallo is one of the best. She has been the art director at Tor/Forge Books since 1992 and Starscape Books since its launch in 2002. This has placed her directly in the center of contemporary science fiction illustration.
Books under her auspices have garnered numerous awards for art and design. Gallo has received the prestigious Chesley Award (named for renowned space artist Chesley Bonestell) for Best Art Director three times, most recently this year.
Gallo has recently started a terrific blog called The Art Department in which she talks about illustration and art direction, posts images of work in various stages by illustrators of many backgrounds, gives convention reports and comments on the state of the art from a point of view we don’t often hear, that of an experienced art director.
She also gives insights from that point of view that would be of interest to any beginning illustrator or illustration student, like: “How do I get my work in front of an art director?” and “What do I put in my portfolio?“.
Last year, Gallo teamed up with Arnie and Cathy Fenner, authors of the Spectrum collections of contemporary fantastic art, and the Society of Illustrators to mount an exhibition of some of the best modern fantasy and science fiction illustration. There is an interview with Gallo on that topic on Sequential Tart.
Gallo is on the board of the Society of Illustrators and, along with Daniel Dos Santos, has created a series of illustration technique and painting demos called “Art Out Loud” that take place at the Society’s offices in New York. The next one is on October 7, 2006 and features Donato Giancola and Todd Lockwood. (I’ll post more details in a subsequent post.)
Link courtesy of Greg Manchess.