Unlike ‘best of the year’ competitors Exposé and Exotique that look at digital and CG character art, the Spectrum books have always exclusively focused on fantasy art. While this has concentrated their scope in one respect, it’s also opened up their pages to traditional art and sculpture, and so produced a totally different prospect to Ballistic’s releases.
Spectrum 17 offers a spectacular collection, with an array of the finest known and upcoming fantasy artists working today - you’ll find established greats like Donato Giancola sharing pages with the prodigious talent of 22-year-old Irvin Rodriguez.
The unsung star of this book, however, is the editor. The order of the images – placed either to create harmony or discordance but always emphasising the art’s unique qualities – is faultless. The structure of the book is broken down into chapters on advertising, book art, comics, concept, dimensional (sculpture), editorial, institutional and unpublished, but these distinctions are kept in the background, never taking focus away from the images. As such, there’s a democracy to what’s on show, and although there’s gold and silver awards given in each category, they’re not given at the expense of other pieces.
The book opens with an opinionated ‘2009 in review’ from Spectrum director Arnie Fenner, and a slightly ranting message that eventually finds its target by chairman Cathy Fenner, followed by a tribute to deceased master artist Al Williamson. The opening section of the book also sets the socio-economic climate that this art was created in, but for those uninterested in this dressing there’s no superfluous comment or text in the rest of the book, making this the best fantasy art compendium out there.