Why do I love artist Janet Aulisio? There are really too many reasons to count, but it is safe to say her artwork has been a driving inspiration for me since I first saw it in 1990. Now granted, Janet’s work in the genre of fantasy and science fiction goes back well before that to novels and work on periodicals like Asimov’s, but to me it was her work on Shadowrun that captured my heart.
Having had the opportunity to work with Janet over the years has always been a blessing, and she’s never disappointed in the way she takes on every project with a care and understanding that is rarely found in the workforce today. That isn’t to say it is unheard of, but there is a kind of professionalism that the top tier artists have, and Janet carries herself in that honored and lofty company.
Her work comes in both color and black and white, both of which capture the imagination and it is often hard for me to decide which I enjoy more. Certainly her gaming screen work for both Shadowrun 2nd Edition and Dangerous Journeys produced some of the most memorable scenes from those games. She is also rarely given her due for the two-page color paintings in the Earthdawn 1st Edition Core book that were so incredible some were even taken by FASA and never returned to her.
However, as much as I enjoy her color work, the pen illustration images she creates are some of the most inspiring the genre has ever seen. There is a depth to each image, layer upon layer of ink that provides a kind of three dimensional sensation to the piece when held in hand. Scans cannot fully translate this, and if you ever have a chance to see an Aulisio illustration in person I highly suggest taking the time to do so.
I once had an in depth conversation with Janet concerning her illustration and the fact that work in that medium is disappearing with the advent of digital. She insisted that there is a soulful connection between the hand, the heart, and the mind that only working traditionally can fully realize. That the pressure of pen to page is untranslatable in digital, and that once the ability to teach that is gone it will never be recaptured.
I am of a mind to believe her in this, especially each time I see a new piece of hers come to me or go back and look at the works of illustrators in the past like Virgil Finlay, Frank Kelly Freas or even the venerable Stephen Fabian. It is a changing world, but as long as Janet remains then we have a chance to continue the solid foundations of traditional artwork in this marketplace.