Alright people. We’re not going to go over this again, so listen up and pay attention!
This is Donato Giancola:
That is Michael Whelan.
There will be a quiz.
Michael Whelan is a name you’ve heard, if you’ve read more than, say, two science fiction or fantasy books in your lifetime. He’s way old-school, and if you own more than, say, two science fiction or fantasy old-school paper books, it’s likely that some of them feature Michael Whelan covers.
Donato Giancola is less well known by name but it’s likely you have his covers on your bookshelves if you’ve read, oh, Elizabeth Bear, Martha Wells, S. L. Viehl, Jacqueline Carey, Patrick Rothfuss, L. E. Modesitt…
Both are prolific artists, both have worked for DAW and TOR and many other SF/F publishers, both feature a central character against a sweeping background, but! Michael Whelan is not Donato Giancola, so let’s make sure you people don’t make that mistake again.
Much of Whelan’s work has been for DAW, so his cover art is on just about everything that C. J. Cherryh wrote, much of Tad Williams’ work, and almost all of C.S. Friedman. He’s well known for his dragons (don’t click if you have something to do in the next three hours), so count in Melanie Rawn and quite a few Anne McCaffreys, too.
Donato Giancola pops up in surprising places. When I scour his gallery (don’t click if you have something to do in the next three hours) I click through saying “Oh, I’ve read that! That too! And that one!” One of his more recent that you’ll be familiar with is Range of Ghosts, but he’s done Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses pentology, several, several for Barbara Hambly, at least two of Sarah Zettel, and the Patrick Rothfuss-es.
If Whelan’s “thing” is dragons, Donato’s schtick is life aboard spaceships.
Now, I can understand why an aspiring fan might get these two artists mixed up. On the one hand, we have Donato doing original cover art for books four and five in Barbara Hambly’s Darwath series: I mean, holy moly look at those intense frozy-magic lines, you know? Then, out of the blue, we’ve got a Michael Whelan dragon cover of awesomeness sweeping in for Hambly’s Dragonbane.
How are we going to be able to show off our ultimate fandom and identify a Donato vs a Whelan at a glance?
Here are some tips.
Michael Whelan tends towards sweeping vistas of fantastical lands, cue Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
From the detail in a Whelan cover, it is evident that he’s read the book, such as for This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman:
Donato obviously reads the books for which he’s asked to depict covers, as can be seen in the detail in Blackveil by Kristen Britain:
Whelan employs a narrative format to his compositions, making the viewer want to know more about the characters, as for the cover for Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams:
Donato tells a story with his paintings, leaving the viewer wanting to know more about the story, as for The Truthsayer’s Apprentice by Deborah Christian:
Those tips should help.
Now for your quiz. Publishers are getting better about crediting cover artists, but this hasn’t always been the case. With artists who have a history as long as Donato Giancola and Michael Whelan, we can still find used paper copies of books that are suspiciously Whelan-esque or Donato-ish, but alas! no credit.
Who did the cover for The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells?
Remember our ID tips, fans! Sweeping energetic backgrounds, anatomically correct body forms, attention to accuracy and detail, composition that leaves the viewer wanting more…