Genre escapes one unanimous definition as all big and rich things should and have. I often seek a definitive concept when it comes to genre, but that’s not really how it goes now, does it? Genre has the ultimate power to include, though it seems we devote time and resources to draw lines in the sand. When I set out to write Women in Genre, I considered whether or not to limit myself to fiction, because the initial discussion concerns the gender biases within publishing. A discussion locked between authors, reviewers and fans.
What about cover artists, though? Where do they fit in?
The publishing business has evolved to a stage where novels and short stories achieve success through the symbiotic relationship with mind-blowing art. You see this in Tor.com, where each short story receives beautiful art. You see it in various cover battles, where fans rate books by the cover art. You see it in how genre reviewers often open topics pertaining to the quality, message and gender bias of book covers. The book cover has never been quite as important and to an art aficionado with gigabytes worth of images for inspiration, I can’t not talk about one of the most prolific illustrators in genre – Galen Dara.
If you pay attention to Apex, Lightspeed, Dagan Books and Fireside magazine, you have already noticed her work and the frequency with which she creates. She has illustrated for Cthuhlurotica, Oz Reimagined, Glitter and Mayhem and Geek Love. It’s safe to say she has done quite well for herself and I include her in cover art royalty along with Joey Hi-Fi, who has consistently created memorable covers that capture a book’s essence and at the same time stay true to the artist’s own personal aesthetic. I can best describe her work with the words stylized melancholy, because her illustrations carry an air of sadness and possess a wilting beauty with gothic undertones.
It’s easy to see why I’ve been fascinated with her approach to illustration for the past two, maybe three years. What will she do next? You never know as she tends to experiment with color, body shape and subject matter in every illustration. Dara can sketch voluptuous women and thin waifs of girls with equal skill. She can bring forth washed, faceless phantoms or highly detailed figures in warm, rich hues. An artist’s true success lies within his or her capability to bend skill and taste level to match the customer’s wishes, something Galen Dara has no problem with whatsoever.
To a point, I can’t help but be reminded of Stephanie Piu-Mun Law. Both artists share the ability to create thinned-out, wispy imagery ready to dissolve into thin air, if you don’t pay attention for long enough. Naturally, where Piu-Mun Law draws from nature and light, Dara seeks out the less savory and wholesome in her work, which results in captivating scenes where the outlandish and the bizarre intermingle to breed absurd worlds with wicked inhabitants.
Easy to see why I would find Galen Dara and incredible source of inspiration.