Monday, January 31, 2011

A Teaser

by Arnie Fenner
I try not to talk about Spectrum too much here on Muddy Colors—though sincerely appreciate it that others have and really want to deeply thank everyone that recently participated in #18—simply because we have an official website already (maintained by our capable son, Arlo Burnett, and administrative assistant, Jackie Miles).
But there are a couple of Spectrum-related things in the offing that are part-and-parcel with what we've been trying to do all along and which I think will be of interest to many visitors here. Honestly, I'm pretty excited about them. Though the second bit of news will have to hold for at least a few days until some of the niggling details are ironed out (it's worth waiting for, trust me), the first...well, the first is something we want everyone to start talking about. It's sort of a "preview" announcement, I guess, but with these sorts of things it's never too early to set the wheels turning—and part of that process is in reaching out. We want opinions. We want in-put. We want suggestions. Because Spectrum has always been about community, about all of the artists joining together to call attention to our profession, to what we do. And what is this great and mysterious something we want people to start talking about?
We've reserved the Grand Ballroom in the Kansas City Convention Center—46,000+ square feet of first-class exhibition space. We're also looking to rent either the adjacent Folly Theater or the nearby Midland Theater for a special event one night—the live presentation of that year's (#19's) Spectrum Award winners. Hotels and restaurants (cheap or expensive) and bars and theaters are all within short walking distance of the convention center. Our goal is to create an art faire for fantastic creators of all stripes and all sensibilities—a gathering of the tribes, so to speak—where they can sell their work to the public without competing with movie studios and Playboy bunnies and actors for attention. A central locale that won't break the bank to get to, show at, stay or eat at. A venue where artists can socialize with their contemporaries and peers, workshop, share, and promote. A place where fans and collectors of all manner of fantastic art—for comics and books and films and the gallery market—can meet their favorites and buy originals and prints. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to meet and be inspired by some of the legends in our field. A, once again, community...coming together to celebrate our field and our craft, to help tell people first-hand what the fantastic arts are all about. Details—the hows, the whys, the wheres, and, yes, the cost—will be released in the weeks ahead. But in the meantime, a question:
What do you think a "fantastic art convergence" should include?
Discuss. Please.


  1. Looks like I will finally seeing Kansas City, Mo. It was on my bucket list anyway. :u)

  2. I would love to see a large gallery showcase of original work from the contributors to Spectrum. I have had the opportunity to hold in my hands some of the incredible paintings created by the Artists here at muddy colors (thaks to the IMC Classes) and the photos we see in books or on web pages just don't display the depth and luminescence a person can get from the real paintings.

  3. A fantastic art convergence should include artistic collaborations and encouragement to learn from and mentor one another artistically.

  4. This is pretty fantastic news. And I like the Kansas City location (It's close to the TAD Pod :) ).

  5. You mean other than me? Seriously, artists working maybe even collaboratively. Giant roller coasters, oops off again, mini interview and q&a sessions, panels and sessions (how Spectrum is put together etc.), portfolio review, start to finish projects. I know most of this stuff is done at other things but it's the quality of artist that will make the whole thing go and Spectrum has a bunch. Can you tell I'm excited about this? Great idea and about time.

  6. I am a Kansas City resident and this would be so great! KC is a really great place to see and hangout. I can host any KC questions :)

  7. Tutorials, lectures, portfolio reviews, art directors, group discussions, video conferencing for artists who cannot make it, free online video of all of the above on the Spectrum site!

  8. Oh my...

    I can't suggest anything to include as I've never been to an art convention before, but this one is close enough that I can't HELP but go. I'm so excited!

  9. "...Where they can sell their work to the public without competing with movie studios and Playboy bunnies and actors for attention."

    This sounds more like the Illuxcon model than WorldCon, much more a personal experience than a cattle call. With the Spectrum reputation, this will be hard to do -- the media and its sales teams will descend in force as soon as they get wind of it.

    Putting it in Kansas City rather than Vegas or LA helps, but you might consider limiting attendance, either admitting fewer people or excluding media types. Apparently not your intent, with such a huge hall.

  10. @Les

    This isn't some secret club. . . The more artists and presentations and demos the better, as far as I'm concerned.

  11. I Think it would be awesome. would like to see a node to the working but unknown artist.

  12. Les--
    I think what will help us is the focus. It's not going to be a comic con or an SF con or a fairy con or a pop-culture con—and we won't be advertising or promoting as if it is (though the creators of art for all those areas will be welcome). It'll be devoted to fantastic art and artists: that's what we'll be emphasizing. We're not going to limit our attendance because we want as many people to come through the door as we can get to come: hopefully more people means more potential sales for the exhibiting artists.

    The Plaza Art Fair in KC each September draws a quarter million people; it's free, of course, and most are just lookers out for the weekend. But a lot of art gets bought each year and the artists pull in good chunks of money. The Brookside Art Fair in the spring is similar, if a little smaller, drawing about 100,000 visitors over a weekend. We're not going to pull anything remotely near that many people to Spectrum Live!, but If we can take the first steps to help grow the appreciation for—and the market for—fantastic art...everybody (the artists, the public, the students, our field) wins.

  13. Some kind of provision for mail-in artists, perhaps.

    I find it kind of funny that that Spectrum can do something like this, while the Chesleys are probably the least known award in fandom...

  14. Many illustrators I know have discussed this time of the year as a prime time for adding a show (the summer/early fall is so packed already), so that's a plus, definitely.

  15. Living in the middle of Missouri, I think this is an excellent idea! Kansas City is a great location. I'd love to see an art fair devoted to fantasy/sci-fi work.

  16. I'd love to see some extended versions of the "Art Out Loud" demo events as part of the programming... especially if they included artists who aren't perennials at most of the cons.

    Just my two cents... great idea... looks like I'll be visiting KC next year!

  17. I wish I could afford to go!

    As a (recently graduated) student, the big draw for me would be a chance to see some of the stars of the field and hear their advice. Maybe short panels if they are willing about the making of their winning pieces?

  18. Sounds fun. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. I'm curious. Don't you think you should give Pat Wilshire some credit for the idea? Maybe change the name to Illuxcon West With Digital. Just an idea.

  21. This is terrific, Arnie! Pat and I are thrilled to hear there will be another artist/art focused event in the field! We’ve heard over and over again from people who would like to see the scale of IlluXCon increase to the numbers you’re aiming for—hundreds of artists and tens of thousands of attendees—but the intimate structure of IlluXCon just doesn’t scale. We think this will be a fabulous thing for the field and are really excited to hear that Spectrum Live will be bringing all that is encompassed in Spectrum—fantasy/SF, comics, lowbrow, concept, and editorial art—before the public in such a big way.

    Really hope we’ll be able to attend, I’d love to meet you and Cathy myself...

  22. Apologies for the double post/prior deletion, apparently the ice storm ate my icon in my initial, I opted to give it another whirl. (:

  23. Sorry it took a little bit to post: we've been digging out from under a foot of snow. (Snowblowers are the gift of the gods!)

    But, Jeannie, thanks for the note! We have the highest regard for what you and Pat are doing and hope IlluxCon continues on and on for years to come!

    We've been talking about doing something like Spectrum Live! since the first exhibit at the Museum of American Illustration in 2005; in fact, during the reception Michael Whelan pulled us aside and told us, "Now's the time." We tend to be fairly methodical and take our time investigating and planning and trying to figure out how best to proceed; it's taken us this long to get a firm handle on how to do what we want to do. I think we've come up with a plan that will benefit the community without taking away from any opportunity or experience available to the artists at other times of the year. With a big country and over 300Million people, there's room for a whole lot of fantastic arts events throughout the the U.S. , IlluxCon, Spectrum Live!, or anything else that might pop up in the future.

  24. presentation is everything. it'd be nice to see our artwork shown (at least in the art show section) as much like a museum or salon setting as possible.

    every artist is involved in bettering their process and i'm sure we'd all enjoy panels exploring methods both digital and traditional.

    an outlet for clients and art directors to do business with new and old clients.

    this is exciting news and i'm really looking forward to being able to participate.

  25. Howdy Arnie,
    It would be great to see artwork from as many folks as possible who have been featured in Spectrum over the years. But that would be a huge undertaking - or rather make a huge undertaking even huger.

    One other thought would be one gallery with perhaps one piece each from each of the Spectrum Grand Masters.

    Oh I know you have had live demonstrations by painters in the past but for something a little different what about a demonstration by one or more of the dimensional artists?

    Just some stuff that would make my day. Actually the announcement that this is happening makes my day! Terrific!


  26. This is a great idea, I think that as much art talking and viewing as possible will help everyone involved.

    I would also love to hear/see keynotes from people on their process, their work habits, or any thoughts on fantastic art and how it's changing.

    can't wait to get this started.

  27. This looks awesome. It seems as if I will be visiting KS in 2012 as well as 2011. Guest Lectures would be fantastic and maybe a student section where we can submit our own paintings. Or maybe have some booths that people can win from submissions. I think that would be cool. but I don't know how that would work... considering that is what spectrum is to begin with.

    -Evan Norman

  28. Don't know how I'm only now seeing this. Sounds like IlluXCon on steroids! I love IXC; getting to meet so many of the coolest artists in the field, Pat and Jeannie and so many other terrific people eager to share the joy of fantastic art- it has changed my life, for real. Now, this?! Wow. I'll be there, with bells on. And all those suggestions (above) sound good to me.

  29. @ Rachel: It sounds like IlluxCon indeed. For years now there has been a "place for us" to meet and socialize, and it has been IlluxCon. Are we all supposed to be pretending that it doesn't exist? Hello?
    I confess I'm somewhat taken aback by the lack of recognition given to Pat And Jeannie for initiating and nurturing the concept along in the first place. They got the ball rolling, investing enormous time and energy into making it happen, and everyone who has attended it has been positively motivated by the experience.
    To be sure, i believe "Now's the time", but I was referring to the so-called "art capital of the world", NEW YORK CITY...with the ultimate goal of becoming a presence in Basel, Miami, Florence, Paris, London. I await to be convinced that Kansas City is in the right direction.

  30. Pat and Jeannie deserve size-huge Kudos for their inception of Illuxcon, and taking the leap(s) to make it a reality, gambling fortune and reputation. Michael, Kudos to you for assigning credit where credit is most certainly due. In fact I credit Illuxcon with finally making your acquaintance - at a very modest Friendlys breakfast in Altuna, PA. This November will be my fourth year at Illuxcon, and the reason I keep coming back is that, under the most gracious of hosts, Illuxcon has become the nexus of "love-fest" for fantastic artists to meet, share work, ideas, tips and enthusiasm.... and eat and drink at artist budget prices. Certainly Arnie and Cathy deserve monumental Kudos for the institution that is SPECTRUM... It is THE showcase for the fantastic arts, for fans, collectors, and art directors around the world. I owe a personal debt to Spectrum, as many of us in the field do, because prior to the first book, fantastic art was treated rather shabbily in the world of illustration, and Spectrum has resoundingly raised awareness and appreciation of our corner of the art world - AND because Spectrum has brought me a multitude of commissions. Spectrum LIVE seams a natural outgrowth of that effort, and I wish it monumental success. Inherently I feel the pull of loyalty to both Illuxcon AND Spectrum, and hope to eventually do both shows. I hate that for many it will be an either/or proposition.

    I hope that artists will use this forum to vet questions to both shows about what they are doing, and where they are going. They both need to hear from you. Having exhibited at San Diego Comicon for over a dozen years, I find Illuxcon to be an extraordinarily low cost show, and it appears that the Fenners are making that a priority as well. I'd say that is a wise decision, given that assembling as much talent as both shows will undoubtedly do, is inherently market saturation when aimed at any single audience.... whether it is the relative handful of serious collectors who can attend, or the wider retail oriented fan crowd who will be willing to make the trek. As diverse as Comicon International is, it serves up a steady stream of on-the-clock art directors/buyers attending the show for business unrelated to searching out new art talent - and delivers many thousands of fans who are happy to buy a print or two in their mad quest for pop culture. These two aspects seem unlikely at solely art-focused shows. If the draw for artists, is primarily fraternizing with each other and giving back to up and coming students - and it is a lovely thing indeed - then they will be luxurious shows that many artists cannot afford to do. From my view, overcoming that issue is the critical next step in the evolution of this kind of show.

  31. No one will get any argument from me as to the benefits and boosting we have been given via the efforts of both SPECTRUM and IlluxCon. It was a long time coming, but the Fenners and Pat and Jeannie have been steadfast supporters of all of us all along. For years we have often been treated like last-minute add-ons to F/SF or media conventions, or even pro organizations like the Society of Illustrators; the respect and validity accorded to our artistic community, first from the ground-breaking SPECTRUM annuals, and then via IlluxCon, are highly welcome and will ultimately be immeasurable in impact.
    Aside from the rather stingy acknowledgement of IlluxCon's contribution, my concern with SPECTRUM LIVE is that it will work at cross-purposes to something that already exists[IlluxCon], to the detriment of both. With the current proliferation of masterclasses, workshops, live painting demos, YouTube demos, and other art events in our field, it will be hard to decide which events to devote one's time to. We all must find our own balance between hours spent in the studio producing work, and time spent on promotion, learning from others, blogging, and just plain hanging out with our peers.
    I'm afraid that sort of decision making will only get harder now, but then, as they say in the Church of the Subgenius, "Too Much is Always Better Than Not Enough."
    If I sound conflicted, I am.


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