Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tripping the LIVE! Fantastic

Greg Manchess

Just returned from the fourth Spectrum Fantastic Art LIVE! held in Kansas City.

This year was one of the best yet with so many attendees, and packed with artists. But the real difference this time was the quality of art. Especially the level of skills presented in all of the portfolios I looked through over the weekend. Good. Really good.

Amazingly good.

Took a quick shot of one of Spectrum's masterminds, and Muddy's own Arnie Fenner (Cathy was there, too!) on the Iron Throne.

I usually give portfolio reviews throughout the event not only because I make myself available, but because I want to see what upcoming artists are thinking about. There was a marked advance in skill and insight evident across the range of books.

I felt that last year showed a bump in progress in the samples. Handling of practical skills like value, color, composition, and concept advanced away from the typical feeling of a young professional’s post-graduate offerings. Far less figure studies for example. An art director needs to see much more than just the capability of handling a figure. They need to know that an artist can manipulate figures into scenes and concepts.

Reviewing Sasha R. Jones' portfolio together...

I don’t know what happened between last year and this, but there’s definitely a disturbance in The Force. Maybe it was Spectrum 21 coming out and being so incredibly good. Maybe it’s that far more genre artists are really paying focused attention to their progress and taking bigger risks. It just seemed that the level of understanding of how to engage the viewer had risen to a place where talking with young artists felt more like guiding them toward their goals than pointing out problems and explaining how to fix them.

Besides doing portfolio reviews at my booth and around the hall, I gave a painting demo on the main stage. I had sixty precious minutes to knock out a portrait demonstrating the way I go about structuring a head. This year: Furiosa, from Mad Max (because Irene Gallo made me).

Saturday evening’s gala awards event was as dramatic and encouraging as ever. The Folly Theater sparkled with an aire of old show biz, with energy rivaling the Academy Awards. Nowhere in this industry is there an event anything like it.

Bill Carman, above, and the front row reserved seating for nominees...things were a little EXCITING....

Everyone on stage, from introductions to eventual winners, spoke with such a relaxed confidence in front of an audience made invisible by bright lights that it seemed the whole genre world was watching with loving support for each and every one of them. We all laughed, some came to tears, but all were cheered to happiness. And then Gary Giani gave the most theatrical introduction for Scott Gustafson being presented the Grand Master Award it was worthy of an Oscar itself.

Pre gala, l to r: Irene Gallo, Zoe Robinson, and Cynthia Shepard

There’s never enough time to get around to see all the booths or hang with all the folks I want to chat art with. From seeing old friends to making new ones, meeting bright-eyed graduates, or seasoned pros, it’s nonstop. Then it’s back to the hotel for a relaxed evening of shop talk.

Hangin' with Bill Carman and Arnie Fenner at the Marriott....

WiFi (Women in Fantasy illustration) gathering for a shot at the Alamo Draft House!

All the artists gathered for a group shot to wish good health for our close pal, artist Allen Williams, who couldn't attend.

The art field expands and yet, The Genre Family gets tighter every time. I wonder what’s in store for this coming year. I bet the whole industry is on its way to phenomenal new visions.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


-By Dan dos Santos

A few months ago I was asked by DC Comics to do a double page spread for their upcoming 'Mad Max: Fury Road, INSPIRED ARTISTS' art book.

The film would not be released for months yet, so we had limited visual reference to work from. We did receive a video of George Miller discussing the concept art, the world and basic character points, but were left in the dark about actual plot specifics.

I suspected that many of the other artists would choose an action packed scene to depict. So I instead decided to show Furiosa in a more calm, pensive moment... Perhaps watching the horizon for War Boys before resting for the night.

The art book, showcases the work of 65 different artists, including the likes of: Tara McPherson, David Mack, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Dave McKean, Paul Pope and many more.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Spectrum Award Winners!

This past weekend was Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, and Saturday evening was the Awards Gala. The night's entertainment consisted of some amazing acrobatics, dancing, and some really wonderful, heart-felt speeches. Many of us are still reeling from the weekend's festivities (hence the lateness of this post), which sadly had to end some time.

We will recap some of the weekend's highlights in another post, but in the mean time, this year's Spectrum Award Recipients are...

2015 Grand Master Award:

Scott Gustafson


GOLD: Taylor Wessling -- Barbarians: Faust
SILVER: Yuko Shimizu -- Tokyo Night Show
Johnny Dombrowski -- Murder on the Orient Express
Edward Kinsella III -- Vernacchio
Victo Ngai -- The Cloisters


GOLD: Dan dos Santos -- Taking Flight
SILVER: Scott Gustafson -- Jack and the Sleeping Giant
Jeffrey Alan Love -- Radiant State
Petar Meseldzija -- The Giants are Coming
Sam Weber -- cover for Dune by Frank Herbert


GOLD: Audrey Benjaminsen -- Bernadette, page 1
SILVER: Alex Alice -- Castle in the Stars
David Palumbo -- The Beast
James Turner -- Rebel Angels
Tula Lotay -- Rebels

Concept Art

GOLD: Sung Choi -- The Parade
SILVER: Audrey Benjaminsen -- Fairy 3
Te Hu -- Wonders: Gate of Luxor
Kellan Jett -- Meeting
Allen Williams -- The Good Dog


GOLD: Forest Rogers -- Venetian Harpy
SILVER: David Silva -- Dragon vs. Raptors
Dan Chudzinski -- The Mudpuppy
Mark Newman -- Gallevarbe: Death's Siren
Dug Stanat -- A Bird From His Brim Will Guide Your Last Breath


GOLD: Tran Nguyen -- A Distressed Damsel
SILVER: Sam Bosma -- Critical Education
Jensine Eckwall -- This Circle: Walking Into The Wind
Edward Kinsella III -- Gland Monster
Victo Ngai -- Cocoon


GOLD: Rovina Cai -- Fake It
SILVER: Laurie Lee Brom -- Bad Seed
Ed Binkley -- Rikshaw Pass
Jeffrey Alan Love -- Skyrim
Jessica Shirley -- The Child Sleeps


GOLD: Cynthia Sheppard -- Momentum
SILVER: Paul Bonner -- Beowulf: Mother
Donato Giancola -- Descent from Caradhras
Rebecca Leveille Guay -- Time and Chance
Omar Rayyan - A Night at the Races

2015 Spectrum Rising Star:

Wylie Beckert

To make an already special event even more special, this year was the unveiling of brand new Awards, designed by sculptors Kristine and Colin Poole. The statues are cast in Bronze with Silver and 24K Gold accents, and are sincerely deserving of an award in their own right.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

David Palumbo on Sidebar Nation

A brief post this weekend for those who are not at Spectrum Live (sorry, not trying to rub that in).  I was honored to record an episode of Sidebar recently and it just went live.  For those who already know the show, they decided to experiment with something a bit different on this one and it ended up being a one-on-one conversation between me and Swain on the subject of ego and how it relates to those in creative careers.

It was an interesting discussion for me and a topic I don't normally dive too deep in to.  As a bit of post-script (having more time to think it all over) I realize I do have an automatic association of the ego being generally negative motivation, but there actually are many things which are driven by ego that I see as positive motivators for an artist.  A big one is the pursuit of mastery for ones own satisfaction.  In other words, competing with yourself.  I never thought of this as an egotistical pursuit (and I think I incorrectly describe it as non-egotistical at least once or twice) because it is not about placing yourself above others.  It is about striving for constant improvement and finding satisfaction in doing a task to the best your abilities.  Of course that is completely about the ego though.  It's, like, maybe one of the most egotistical things that I can think of.  To focus so intensely on one's progress and skill, it's all about the self.  So maybe ego isn't always so bad.  Maybe the problem is just when one lets their ego convince them that they are superior to others.  Maybe it's ok to nurture one's ego so long you don't act like a jerk.

I don't know, I'm still working this out.  In any case, find the episode here:

Friday, May 22, 2015


by Greg Ruth

 When you make art for a living, the act of making art can and does become at times, drudgery. I found myself waking up Monday mornings groaning as anyone would going to work, (ridiculous as that sounds). One of the most diabolical side effects of achieving the rare feat of working as a professional artist, will inevitably have to contend with wrestling with the encroaching ground of work and money and other compromises that will encroach into your once verdant and isolated landscape. It's just going to happen and I have found instead of trying to fight off the hurricane, it's better and more effective to learn to surf it. One of my favorite means by which I do this  surfing is The 52 Weeks Project- which is basically publicly committing to making a new drawing each and every monday. Sort of the art equivalent of eating dessert before the meal.

 As is per usual of the very broad scope that is the cornucopia of The 52 Weeks Project, this is anti-assignment, anti-work. It's the one protected sandbox of pure play, and as I have become more and more familiar with my new graphite drawings, I thought it a perfect time to really push them to see what they can do, and what they cannot. Typically these weekly drawings have been executed in sumi ink- which makes perfect sense. It's quick  free and gestural. Getting the graphite to not gobble the whole day up (there's a point when one does actually have to get back to work), has been tricky to try and discover. this series is an attempt to do so.

As always I am a HUGE fan of portraiture. There's something about the task reduced to a human face that is forever compelling and captivating to me as a drafstman. It's a drawing that looks back at you, and so much of where the character lies, is in not just the usual areas of eyes and mouth, but everywhere throughout the face, the garb, the way the subject holds his or herself... I've had an ongoing fascination with old coal miner photos, and especially the through line they all share. That same sooty face, that same determined focus in their eyes. Throughout the whole of photo-documented miners, they all seem, no matter what country they're from, to possess a common gaze, look and feel. They are of a people together and represent the frontline of our relationship with this heating/energy/fuel source of ours since the ancient Greeks first began to record its effect and its potential. Coal has shaped our world, driven our societies, and stood invisibly behind nearly every major epoch in human history from the advent of the iron age, through the locomotive and today's sophisticated electrical grid. it as a rock made from decomposition, and its exploitation has given rise to empires and now threatens to alter the very environmental structure of our planet. From Asia to Europe, to our Americas and over to India, Africa and the Middle East, Coal has dominated and permeated itself into nearly every human society on earth. Rich and fertile ground for exploring it in an apolitical anthropological way, and I can think of now better locus point around which to learn more than through the faces and hands of those who burrow deep and pluck it from the heart of the earth.

So here's the tools of the trade. I tend to begin with the lightest underdrawing using the Staedtler all-graphiter HB, and then progress towards the final Blackwing Palomino for the darkest and most detailed bits. Basically erasing and smudging maniacally with my thumb along the way.

Here's the very first portrait, which when it was done grabbed me by the top of my head and utterly against my will dragged me into this project. I had intended instead to spend a few weeks exploring the images of Weeping Maidens, but instead this fellow came in and overturned the tables. It took around an hour to execute- more than twice as long as a typical 52 Weeks style image- but there was simply something undeniable about him, and about the potential of this series.

For the second piece, I decided to go back a bit and focus on the 1800's area and England specifically. In a given coal family it was entirely typical to find every male generation working the mines alongside each other. The process of going in and coming out after a day inside the sleeve seemed to beg trying to do something a little different this time. Instead of going in with a full on attended coal-face I wanted to draw the piece clean at first and apply the soot as part of the finishing of the drawing. The technical aspects aside the thing that struck me the most was how it ages this fellow.

And finally to the end. I felt like I had taken it a bit over far with the soot and dialed back a bit here. One of the really wonderful aspects of working with these graphite pencils is their ability to erase and reapply. a bit like paint in this way as you can see below.  

As an artist, it's a chance to explore the idea of a face, the smudges and smears that both hide and mask it but also define and carve it into what it is. It is the leftover of interacting with it. Dark and filthy and sooty as a moonless night. A perfect arena to take the graphite pencils out for a good and long term spin.

First rough underdrawing. 

So. First up is the basic underdrawing. I tend to take the Staedtler allXwrite HB out for a spin for this one. A very light and dense all graphite pencil that let's me block out all the basic forms and shapes and areas of shadow I have in mind. The rough nature of its application, and the texture of the paper are perfect for this subject as you can see, like smears of charcoal, rough and filthy. 

Next up is the furthering of the basic light and dark work. My thoughts for these drawings are to keep the darkest and most intensely drafted areas around where the coal is, the face and the eyes and to let the rest fade into a foggy light around the subject. 

Finally, this Bolivian fellow is complete. One of the aspects that has come from these unique to portraiture and essential to these is how they look back at you. We are afforded a special permission to stare when it comes to portraiture we don't get to exercise with real live everyday folk. The relationship is therefor deeply intimate and I have found the more sharp and real and reflective a portrait is the longer and more worthwhile it is to stare at one. There's a world and a day in the face of a man or woman and so much in the faces of these people who dig deep into the bowels of the earth and pull out the pressurized decay that has fueled and continue to fuels the path of our entire civilization. 

While it takes far longer by centuries to generate coal, our use of it outstrips its production by a longshot. Even so, according to recent estimates, there is enough coal in the earth presently to attend to our needs for 300 more years before it runs out. Regardless of what it does to us, to our environment and all the rest, its highs and lows, coal is not going anywhere. not anytime soon, and that means more and more generations of miner to pull it from the earth. And perhaps a few more portraits of them to keep the company. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spectrum Live 4

Arnie and Cathy Fenner are once again hosts to one of the fiinest gatherings of professionals in the genre of science fiction and fantasy art. Art directors from various publishing houses, owners representing galleries, and numerous art collectors will walk the floor, mingle with exhibiting artists and attendees alike to make this an event well worth participating within. All forms of professionals will share their thoughts through lectures, presentations, and live demonstrations.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 4!
May 22-24, 2015
Kansas City Convention Center
Kansas City, MO

This is not an event staged around museum works or academics, but rather a place where comrades slogging their way through the extremely competitive freelance marketplace share their stories, advice, and work with a like and sympathetic audience. This is a place to nurture the artistic soul and charge the inspirational batteries of creativity and a time to pick the brains of talent, mature and fledgling, for they all had information relevant to expand their artistic awareness.

With dozens of panel presentations, hundreds of booths, and thousands of pieces of art, you are guaranteed to be inspired from the moment you step through the door. The Fenners (as well as their host of volunteers) has put on a top rate professional convention the past three years, and I am sure this will follow suit.

Be sure to attend the Spectrum 21 awards Saturday evening to celebrate the best of what our field creates.

Visit for information about attending, panels, exhibitors and the incredible gathering of artistic professionals.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


-By Jesper Ejsing

I have a series of paintings eating up all my time these last 2 weeks. Today I have only a couple of Giants to share with you. They are the front figures for an adventure series from Paizo, called Pathfinder - Giantslayer.

They were all penciled out on paper and then painted in Photoshop.