If you are a fan of science fiction (scifi) or fantasy (the adventure fiction in a fantastical setting as opposed to the leather and whips variety with poor plotting and horrendous dialogue), then you may reminisce about whether cover art for novels and particularly paperback novels will go the way of album art but I doubt it.
Back in the days of Hugo Gernsback (whom the industry honor, the Hugo Award, is named after) through the Ace Science Fiction days, cover art could be directly (and indirectly) linked to sales of novels in these two genres.
Take the modern godfather of cover art, Frank Frazetta. The intro graphic is his “The disagreement”. Fantastic stuff. From the late 60’s, through a hugely productive decade in the 70’s, and diminishing in the 80’s, Frazetta had set the standard for cover art on paperbacks.
Seeing Frazetta’s cover art one a novel was enough to buy it in this fan’s opinion. Seeing Frazetta art on a novel (such as on one of the reissued Edgar Rice Burroughs novels in the 70’s) was enough of a reason to buy the book and if the writing was even decent inside it was a nice bonus.
I still have a print of his ‘John Carter of Mars’ artwork on my wall in my office. The copyright indicates the work was completed in 1970. Here is a thumbnail of that great work:
The pretender to the Frazetta throne was Boris (Vallejo). The biggest difference between these two artists wasn’t so much style as they are both accomplished artists. What set these two so far apart in my opinion was their choice of setting. In almost every Boris artwork, the snapshot of the artists eye laid on canvas portrays events just before they are about to happen.
With Frazetta, you are smack dab in the middle or even at the end of, often, violent action. A key tenet of scriptwriting is to get into scenes late and leave early so that viewers can get more involved in the story by being given room for their own creative minds to fill in the blanks.
Here is a thumbnail of some Boris artwork:
As you can see for yourself, while the technical ability is solid the characters come of poised and less vibrantly real. Take another look at the top Frazetta graphic and I think you’ll agree.
And the genre is no longer a boys only club either. For example, there is the work of Rowena Morill. Here is a nice thumbnail of her portrait of scifi iconic author Issac Asimov:
This list could get incredibly long, incredibly fast so I will stick to those that I personally enjoy and feel meet the criteria of solid composition, technique, and subject matter selected. Those artists that come to mind are:
This is a subject that is worthy of much further exposition and exploration and I highly encourage you, dear reader, to visit the links provided and consider purchasing some of this fantastic artwork.