Youll, Stephen

Tagged: Art

(1965-    ) British artist, identical twin brother of artist Paul Youll, who is sometimes credited as Steve Youll. The older twin, Stephen studied art with his brother at Durham's New College and Sunderland University, and they initially worked together as cover artists, beginning with a cover for Daniel Keys Moran's Emerald Eyes (1988). Their collaborative works included colourfully busy covers for the 1989 republication of Sheila Finch's The Garden of the Shaped (1987) and the other two volumes of her Shaper Exile series, as well as intriguing depictions of a sleazy city for George Alex Effinger's A Fire in the Sun (1989) and The Exile Kiss (1991). But Stephen's marriage to Bantam Books' Art Director Jamie Warren led him to move to New York City in 1989, ending the partnership.

Working on his own, Stephen quickly garnered a prestigious assignment to paint covers for republications of several books by Isaac Asimov, and while most of these were unadventurous exercises in portraiture, he crafted more impressive images for a 1991 edition of I, Robot (coll of linked stories 1950) – a robot gesturing in front of two immense pillars – and 1992 editions of Foundation and Empire (fixup 1952) – two flying cars passing by towering, irregular buildings – and Second Foundation (fixup 1953) – a flying saucer beaming spotlights on a solitary figure in a futuristic city. While his style was not dissimilar to that of his brother Paul, Stephen's covers consistently seemed bolder and more imaginatively designed, and he was soon earning regular nominations for Chesley Awards, the first for the sedately bizarre cover of Ian McDonald's Speaking in Tongues (coll 1992) showing a thoughtful man (resembling Youll) staring at a garishly coloured, reptilian Alien. (This cover was reused as the cover for a collection of his artwork, Paradox: The Art of Stephen Youll [2001].) Other covers that received nominations were his 1993 cover for Mark Jacobson's Gojiro (1991), showing a man looking into the enormous eye of a gigantic lizard, and his cover for Tricia Sullivan's The Way of the Rose (2001 as by Valery Leith), featuring a naked winged man perched like a bird behind a woman warrior. Stephen also delightfully recreated the style of 1960s psychedelic art for the cover of Lisa Mason's Summer of Love (1994). Although he has oddly never been nominated for the Hugo as Best Artist, he was invited to serve as Guest of Honour at the 2001 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia. Some of Stephen's recent works seem less imaginative than earlier efforts, perhaps due to heavy-handed guidance from market-minded art directors, and he has accepted assignments that offer little opportunity for genuine artistry, like Alien tie-ins and novels based on Universal Studios Monsters. Still, his cover for Brian Herbert's and Kevin J Anderson's Hellhole (2011), featuring a stormy, surreal landscape reflected in a stagnant pool, demonstrates that he has not lost the abilities that earned him renown. [GW]

Stephen Youll

born Hartlepool, County Durham: 8 June 1965

died

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