Artist: Donato Giancola
by Wendy Mitchell
Review by Gayle Surrette
Date: 01 Aug 2007
I enjoyed the art of Donato Giancola for quite a while before I could name to the work I liked. It's harder to peg his work as his when you look at it since it changes in style from painting to painting, cover to cover -- which is required for a popular illustrator/artist. But, there is sort of a grandeur as if your looking at one of those huge-fill-the-wall-paintings of an old master in a museum even when it's a book cover.
Once again, Donato has been nominated for a Hugo in the Best Professional Artist category and we're hoping to interview him before voting ends. However, having been to his website and looking at his FAQ, the real challenge will be not to bore him with my questions.
UPDATE NOTE: Okay, confession time -- I'm on the last day of the month and I never did get the courage to contact Donato since just about everything is covered by his FAQ. So here's an interview that SFRevu correspondent Wendy Mitchell did with him in 1999. I've added his recent cover for The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald. Enjoy. - Gayle
SFR) Does your engineering background affect your painting, either in technique or subject matter?
DG) I have always enjoyed detailed renderings. The objective nature of Scientific study with examination of all elements of a problem with equal light is reflected in my treatment of the surface of the paintings as a unified graphic field. The bolts of a doorway in a corner carry as much weight as the eyes of the main figure (well, almost).
SFR) You have won many awards, including a Chesley. How do you find that this has helped your career?
DG) Awards are a great by-product of creating paintings that have an integrity all their own. I will never create a work solely for the merit of an award. I am pleased that so many other artists and people have enjoyed my work over these few short years, but I would be creating the same paintings even without the praise of my peers. Awards bestow recognition upon work that has already achieved a high degree of quality, but in the same breath, these awards pass over many other great paintings/images by other artists. I am always flattered to receive the honor of an award like the Chesleys.
SFR) What are your current Chesley nominations for?
DG) I have two Chesley nominations. One for a packaging art painting of an archangel for Wizards of the Coast and the second of a hard cover wrap around for Barbara Hambly's IceFalcon's Quest.
SFR) Who do you like to work for, and why?
DG) I prefer to create paintings for clients who allow me total creative freedom with characters, costumes and environments. I am currently developing my own Science Fiction universe of imagery and am attempting to keep all rights to these images for future use. Tor books has been wonderful to work with these past two years and by bestowing this level of freedom, they are receiving the absolute best of my abilities. I will devote extra long hours to their projects because of this.
SFR) What is your favorite piece you have done, and why?
DG) I have no favorite painting that stands above the rest. Each image is like working through a problem, with little steps of enlightenment along the way. I can find elements of high merit for myself in over 50% of my work. I'll let you decide which is your favorite, but you can see twelve of mine on my website (www.donatoart.com).
SFR) Do you only paint for assignments, or do you paint for yourself as well?
DG) The constraints of being a successful professional has greatly limited my production of non-commissioned work since my graduation in 1992. When and if I do find a free hour, my love of Science, early hominids, and space exploration draw me into their worlds.
SFR) Who are your favorite artists, in SF as well as the "real world?"
DG) I couldn't possibly list all the influences I have been exposed to over the years as a developing and evolving artist. To make a list of contemporary Science Fiction artists would be treacherous as I would probably omit someone of great importance and forever place my name on their punching bag! It doesn't matter anyway, because my true love lies outside the art of commercial illustration and in the world of the museums: Carravaggio, Hans Membling, Van Eyck, the Limbourg Brothers, Velazquez, Modrian, Titian, Rubens, Vermeer, Ingres, Rembrandt, Correggio, Botticelli, Bellini, Desiderio, Goya, Van der Weyden, and Bosch.
SFR) Are you interested in Science Fiction beyond the art?
DG) Outside of the fantastical nature of the art I create, I am drawn to the aspects of Science Fiction that pertain to extrapolated real science: Jupiter moon probes, search and speculation of other planetary systems, early human social organization, etc… This is where I focus my leisure reading and research.
SFR) What books, movies, TV, magazines, games, etc. do you like?
DG) I watch little TV and when I do it is usually Science or English mystery programming on PBS or soccer on Sunday afternoon. I am brushing up on reading the classics that I was never exposed to as an art educated painter. Currently my favorite writer is Dostoyevsky. The same is true on my musical tastes, but they tend to the more modern with minimalists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. I prefer to attend performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and watch art house films.
This may sound like an elitist cultural menu, but rather, I like to engage in any activity that will spark my imagination in a way that is divergent from the norm. As a Science Fiction artist it is my responsibility to provide my viewers with new and outlandish solutions to centuries old human problems. I find that by studying only the genre will lead to incestuous use of imagery. By searching and exposing my senses to foreign and unfamiliar material I hope to inject something new and creative into Science Fiction art.
SFR) Do you collect art, or anything else?
I am working on some trades with other artists now, but I still haven't gotten rich enough to afford many of my friends' paintings yet.
SFR) Is your art collectible?
DG) I put as much integrity into my work as humanly possible for an illustrator. I value my original paintings well above their use as a commercial illustration commission, for this reason I place hours of professional craftsmanship in each piece. If you love original paintings, I hope you might appreciate what I do with mine.