Thursday, January 6, 2011

Art Competitions - SPECTRUM

-by Donato
With the deadline for Spectrum fast approaching, I thought I'd touch on some reasons why I thing Spectrum is such a wonderful thing for the genre of Fantasy and Science Fiction Art.
That initial, overwhelming response after seeing the premiere issue of Spectrum back in 1994 still rings clear: 'I've gotta be a part of this!' And the second chime: 'Damn, how did I miss out on being a part of the first issue?' For the first time in my life I held in my hands an annual which spoke directly to the genre I was an intimate part of. Here was a book dedicated to the professional craft of picture-making sampling the best of the best. A proverbial who's who in the contemporary field of science fiction and fantasy. Cathy and Arnie Fenner are fans of art, all kinds of art, but felt the need to start a collection bringing together the best of what was left out of so many other shows. By creating a venue for Fantasy and Science Fiction, they have brought a higher level of awareness and prestige to the artists associated with this genre. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for making this field a better place and bringing together the community in a tighter and grander way. Spectrum has been instrumental in achieving my career goals as well as launching the careers of scores of other artists.
To paraphrase a question Irene Gallo once put to me:
Why? Why spend numerous hours stressing over and preparing prints, tear sheets and samples to send into a juried process,on the chance of admission into an elite publication? Why?
Acceptance into Spectrum confers not only validation that your art is professional, cutting edge and of the highest quality, but the show is juried by the best artists, art directors and art appreciators working in the business today. Peer acceptance and recognition is the highest compliment I can receive... any artist can receive. To know you are an 'artist's artist' carries the utmost of compliments: an act of sincerity beyond words. Every annual of Spectrum is bounded full of these acts.
And people take notice.
It is a publication used by art directors, art buyers and fine art collectors world wide. My experience abounds with tales of referrals, licensing of commercial reproduction rights, new commissions, and original art purchases all stemming from my direct involvement with Spectrum. It has been one of the most instrumental aspects in the development of my reputation as a career artist. I cannot afford not to make it into each annual, and rue the day I will not be selected by that year's jury.
So evaluate what you have create this past year, send in your entries, and hope that something you do strikes a chord with enough of the jurors to grant you that ticket ride to stardom...
Best of Luck!


  1. Thanks for this Donato. I have become a Spectrum believer over the years. I wish I had taken part earlier. Cathy and Arnie are generous, creative, and just damn good people. I wish everyone could take part in the process of jurying Spectrum. There is really nothing left like it.

  2. I submitted this year (under pressure from my betters) but this is really a scary thing. 'How good am I really' is a question I think all of us struggle with every day and it is a question that the judges for Spectrum can really answer. The cost and effort of the submission is pretty minimal in the face of the reality of a possible rejection. But... On the other hand... No guts no glory.

  3. Amen. I would like to put in that not getting in doesn't mean the art isn't good or top quality. The bar is so high now that I know plenty of great works don't make the cut. You may submit and perhaps not get in. There are no guarantees for any of us. However, if the work isn't submitted it will definitely never get in.

  4. I think I submitted art for 5 times before getting in the first time. the year after I didn´t get in again. Some extremely artist I know get art rejected in the competition. I am spamming the Jury this year. Watch out!

  5. Great post, Donato. :D I discovered the Spectrum series over the last year and I am slowly collecting them. I agree with your thoughts on the amount of work being worth it just for the sheer chance to be published as one of the best in the world and to gain the respect of fellow peers. You, like your peers are a world of inspiration to me. Your artwork pushes limits and concepts in painting that challenge me to push my own limits. I adore the Spectrum Series and have great respect for it. I can't wait to see the new line up in the new issue and I'll bet you will surely be in it. :D <3

  6. There was a time when I bought my first Spectrum book and found your art in it. I remember I was so in awe about whats possible to do with oils! My thoughts where that I really hoped to be as good as the artists involved someday.

    It makes sense that you take part of it, as it is important for Dave McKean and Jon Foster and everyone else established from whom everyone knows he / she will be in...
    You get the idea.
    As artist to stand out you need to find your niche and thats the reason why its important to think twice if its worth the hassle, when there are other places where your work can be seen by a wider audience. In the end its all about referrals, and if you stick with a brand or if you take the risk and try something different.

    I absolutely understand what you mean with artists -artist. Its definitely important to foster relationships and it takes years to get established and introduced to the public.

    My critique is not that always the same artists are published or that it is possibly better to not be included instead of being published in a tiny corner against some big names. Its rather that the submission process ( I repeat myself here, sorry) is too uneasy to access, that I can´t believe all the "elite" is really in.

  7. It's important to remember that every competition involves risk. The risk is spread evenly across all artists...who submit. The judges make decisions on the artwork that's ENTERED, not the artwork of the year. They are not encyclopedias.

    If an artist doesn't enter, the work will not be considered. I decided years ago to take the better risk of trying to get in, than to stay away. No matter what it cost, that risk was too high.

    It took me close to a decade and thousands of dollars to risk entering several shows before I started to have my work recognized.

    The scary part would've been never having tried.

  8. I love dinosaurs and this picture just looks good with the two girls and the kid