For the second time in the history of the convention, there was a second art show at Illuxcon this year: The showcase. Contrary to the main show where artists are handpicked, the showcase was open to all on a first come first serve basis. It was open during limited hours (Friday night and Saturday until noon) and there were no lectures or other activities going on at the same time.
35 tables were available and pretty cheap too (30$ a pop) and the show was held in the ballroom of the Altoona Ramada hotel, which was the hotel where most attendees were staying in the first place. Friday night was packed! The tables formed a rectangle and on the side opposite the door where the people who started right and the people who started left met, it was a pretty big traffic jam.
It didn’t help that Petar Meseldzija was showing off the art or The Legend of Steel Bashaw right in that spot too. I think it’s safe to say that Petar was the surprise star of the showcase and by the time I made my way to his table, his book Bron Van Verbeelding was sold out.
I met plenty of other artists in the showcase, some of whom I knew from forums but had never met in person such as Joe Wilson, Noah Bradley and Kirsten Zirngibl. Noah had probably the best promo scheme of the showcase, he was giving away fantastic prints of his grandiose environments which made everyone else look like a cheapskate. I chose the End of Sorrow one.
I also discovered many new artists. It’s not possible to name them all here (admittedly, it was a sensory overload and there are people I would forget.) Here are a few highlights for me.
Sam Burley, who also does enviros with an amazing sense of scale. You might have seen his turtle shaped mountain when browsing forums, everyone seems to know it!
Chris Burdett and his amazing Mutation Nation creatures, seriously, an angler fish and an elephant? That’s badass.
Lauren K Cannon, I only got the talk with Lauren later in the weekend but I had seen her art in the showcase. Eerie stuff.
All in all, the showcase is a fantastic opportunity, I hope I can have a table next year.
Perhaps you are wondering why everyone is babbling about Illuxcon and have been for a while, perhaps you are considering going there next year and you want to know if it’s worth your hard earn money, perhaps you have been before and couldn’t go this year!
Well, it’s not going to replace the whole experience, but maybe you can get a glimpse of what you missed as I regale you with wondrous tales of … eh… lectures.
Now, let me tell you, at some points there were up to three lectures going on at the same time and I had to make some choices. These were not easy choices. I think we all struggled to choose.
Todd Lockwood – The art of composition
Well, this was more of a show and tell than a class on composition. Todd walked us through his extensive career, and showed us all the possible ways to paint Drizz’t Do’Urden. I did pick up some composition tips, one of which is the sharp cast shadow to bring out a character who’s the same color as the background. He also had nice touches as spine elements in his wraparound compositions and he did talk about using lines of action to guide our eyes across a scene.
Jane Frank – The art of negotiation: a lecture and role-play
Jane has a most colorful style and extensive experience as a negotiator. This talk was targeted at both artists and collectors. She walked us into the different steps and styles of negotiation and she gave us tips so that we can practice. That’s right, just like everything else, getting a good deal requires practice. She then followed up by negotiating live with a volunteer and giving us a play by play of everything he did right or wrong. This talk was both educational and entertaining. Michael Whelan was also sitting to the side and giving us nuggets of wisdom as the lecture went.
Jeff Menges – Learning from the past: The influence of golden age illustration on fantasy art today.
That title was a mouthful. This one was interesting, but I don’t think it’s going to change the way I look at art or the way I work. I found looking at parallels between contemporary illustrators and their golden age counterparts to be entertaining, but I already look at the past to get inspired and I already knew about other artists doing so. I learned new stuff about Dover publishing (Jeff works there) and I picked some new names of artists to look at but it might have worked better as an article in, say, Realms of Fantasy than as a lecture in a crowded room of overexcited people.
Dave Seeley – Dollars & $sense: How to keep the financial from sabotaging the creative
Another mouthful. Here Dave walked us along the path of his career and the choices he made. He made it very clear that this was his path and that someone might have done differently, and it was nice that he was not shy about spelling things out and giving us numbers. He talked about reliability, about agents and what they can do for you, about doing shows and getting your name out there, about the difference in pay in advertisement jobs and publishing jobs. It was very down to earth and I’m sure it was a serious dose of reality for many attendees.
Donato Giancola – The business of freelance
Donato moderated this panel that included Greg Hildebrandt and his agent Jeannie (if I understood well,) Michael Whelan, John Jude Palencar and I think that’s it. Microphones would have been nice for this one, even sitting in the 3rd row, I had a hard time hearing everyone. It was interesting, and I have to say that the point of view from an agent was the most educational for me. I was a bit disappointed that some of the younguns like Dan Dos Santos or Steve Prescott have not been included, starting a career in the age of the internet is very different than starting it 30 years ago.
Lars Grant-West – Dragon design, a naturalistic approach
That was amazing. Lars used to work in a zoo and he knows his stuff, he talked about many factors that can and should influence dragon design. How scales work, what bird feet looks like, the weight of horns and antlers, how wings are built in vertebrate (birds, bats, pterosaurs,) muscle placement, jaw structure, teeth, you name it. He had brought specimens (casts, skulls, antlers) for us to handle and marvel at and had an extensive slide-show to support his explanation. All of that with a serious side order of carnivourous beetle management and the science of roadkill. This lecture will definitely change the way I draw fantasy animals.
Now, I might have done some different choices if I had not attended the IMC last year (and if I was not going back next year) but for now, I made the choice that my business knowledge lags behind my art knowledge and it tinted my selection of lectures for this IMC.
As some of you might know, I spent the last few days in the scenic (but very small and far) town of Altoona, PA. I was there to be part of the 3rd edition of Illuxcon and I had the chance to mingle, chat and see lectures by some of the best fantasy/sci-fi illustrators alive.
Some of the people I got to hang out with happen to be part of collective blogs that have their own art podcasts.
I got to hang out with Christine Mitzuk, Allen Douglas and Sam Kennedy of Drawn Today. Drawn today is a blog all about drawing everyday. It’s formed of amateurs and young professionals and the podcast covers a lot of basics. I found the episodes about IMC especially useful, to know what I was in for.
I also had the pleasure to spend time and mangle the english language in the company of Drew Baker and Jeremy McHugh of Ninja Mountain. I also met Prof Herbert who is part of episode 59, and I met Ralph Horsley briefly who is a regular contributor! I already knew Drew from last year’s IMC but the others are brand new friends. Ninja mountain is the home of a bunch of working professional illustrator who have been podcasting for a while, the last episode is 85. They talk about everything from tools to Jon Schindehette (who seems to be their favorite subject) and are not afraid to put their necks on the line in the name of podcasting.
And I can’t finish this post without a pic of some of the sweet books and prints I got there.