Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Allison Stein

The Archon 44 Art Show entrance and Jan’s display.

Artists at Archon 44

By Jan S. Gephardt

If I may judge from my own experience, it was a pretty good weekend for artists at Archon 44. There was only a little space left over in the Art Show, but not much. And there was a nice variety of media and art styles represented.

The Artists’/Creators’ Alley looked full and busy to me, even though the overall crowd was definitely smaller this year. It seemed as if people had been cooped up for close to two years, saving their money to buy things. For me, the highlight of this part of the show was the chance to meet and talk with the gifted illustrator Jennifer Stolzer. Her wonderful artwork may find its way into a Weird Sisters publication someday!

And, as is normal at Archon, there was a pretty full track of Art Programming. The audiences were a little smaller, but I was delighted to find they were eager to engage. We had some great panels. Yes, on the whole it seemed to be a very good weekend for artists at Archon 44.

Archon 44 Art Show entrance and Jan’s display.
Here’s a glimpse of the Archon 44 Art Show being set up, plus a photo of Jan S. Gephardt’s Archon 44 paper sculpture display. (Jan S. Gephardt).

The Art Show

For many artists, especially those who don’t have a booth in the Artists’ Alley or Dealers’ Room, the Art Show is an important event. For quite a few years in the past, the late Michelle Zellich presided as Art Show Director, but the committee lost a beloved friend and an incredible resource when Michelle passed away in June.

Artist Anna Mulch took the helm this year, and really put in a good effort. I feel quite certain (having been a first-time Art Show Director myself, a decade ago) that she and her staff came out of the weekend exhausted and stressed. But from my perspective as a participating artist, the show went well and seemed smoothly-organized.

Although some conventions have an Artists’ Reception on Friday of the con (designed to lure people into the show), that hasn’t been a recent tradition at Archon. Instead, most experienced Archon attendees know to come in for the voting and the bidding.

Craig Skaggs and Tai Taeoalii.
At left, Craig Skaggs with his Artists’ Alley display. At right, Tai Taeoalii’s Artist Guest of Honor photo (Jan S. Gephardt/Archon 44).

Award-Winning Artists at Archon 44

This year’s Artist Guest of Honor was Tai Taeoalii, whom the convention’s organizers spotted at an art fair (once you’ve seen his work, it’s hard to forget).

He had several large works on display near the front. My favorite of his works on display (and also the winner of the Fans’ Choice Award) was An Epic Versus of Classics. His Alternate Labyrinth received the Art Show’s Best Concept Award.

But the Art Show Awards also recognized other accomplished artists at Archon 44. Disney and Lucasfilm artist Craig Skaggs also claimed a number of panels near the front for some of his large showpieces. One of them, Trooper, received the Best in Show Award. Cartoonist Mike Cole, not surprisingly, captured the award for Best Use of Humor, with They Had Cookies.

Gifted Non-Pros

The Best Non-Professional Art Award this year went to Mary Skywalker, creator of Mermaid Lamps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to her artwork.

Best Juvenile Art (Under 13) winner was Meara Ensminger, age 9, whose Universe impressed a lot of us. Since she’s the granddaughter of April Robinson (who shared panel space with her), we suspect we know where she gets her artistic bent.

You may be wondering why haven’t posted images of some of these artworks. I’ve opted to instead embed hyperlinks to all of the artworks I specifically can find online. I did this for an important reason. Because of personal time and energy constraints, I couldn’t contact these artists far enough in advance to receive permission to share their images in this post. The issue of “fair use” is a much more fraught subject with visual artists than, say, sharing images of book covers. But please do follow the hyperlinks to see the artwork!

A Strong Showing by 3D Artists at Archon 44

Best Professional Art honors went to the marvelous sculptor Snail Scott, a “local,” but also widely-exhibited, professional. She also is an adjunct assistant professor who currently teaches at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Eddie Wilson (Whisperstudio-Broken Toys) also is a gifted 2D illustrator. But it was his original sculpture Wasteland Prophetesse that won the Best 3D Art Award. It was one of several original sculptures Wilson displayed at Archon 44.

And the ever-beloved potter Peri Charlifu of Aegean Goods received the Artists’ Choice Award for his Dragon Spoon Jar. Veteran readers of this blog may recall that Peri and his artwork have done star turns in my posts before.

A large display of Peri Charlifu’s ceramics.
In 2019 at FenCon XVI, Peri Charlifu allowed Jan S. Gephardt to photograph his Artist Guest of Honor Art Show display during Art show setup, for use on her blogs. (Art by Peri Charlifu/photo by Jan S. Gephardt).

Viewing the Show With a Friend

For me, the Art Show Award winners weren’t the only highlights. I happened to get a chance to view the show on Saturday before the Auction at the same time John E. Kauffmann was there.

As you might guess, science fiction conventions are a bit like a traveling community (art fairs and Renaissance Festivals are, too). John and I have been sf convention friends for several years. We’ve exhibited in many of the same shows and been co-panelists on art programming. Just as importantly, we like and respect each other’s art.

So, once we bumped into each other, we strolled through the rest of the show together, sharing thoughts and just generally having a pleasant visit. Gotta say, that’s one of my favorite memories from Archon 44 (not an experience it’s easy to replicate online!). Thanks, John!

John E. Kaufmann.
At his Archon 44 “Artists’ Alley” display, John E. Kaufmann gave his permission and cooperation for this photo by Jan S. Gephardt.

Other Notable Artists at Archon 44

Another highlight of the show for me was a chance to see some new-to-me artwork by the wonderful Arden Ellen Nixon. I say “new-to-me” because although it may have been out for a while, I haven’t been, much, for two years—and I simply can’t spend all my time online. So I had the joy of discovering Arden’s heartstring-tugging Rainbow Bridge, and her utterly adorable What? (my personal choice for Best Use of Humor), for the first time at Archon 44.

Fellow Kansas City artists Allison Stein and Rachael Mayo also had lots of new things in the show, as well as old favorites. Longtime readers of this blog may recall that two years ago I featured Rachael’s work in a post about Archon 43.

I also had a chance to see new intaglio prints by the amazing Mark Roland, and wonderful work by forever-fan-favorites Sarah Clemens and Theresa Mather. I’m sure I’ve failed to mention someone (several someones) who deserve mention, so I apologize to all the artists I failed to note by name. It was a good show!

Three artworks by Rachael Mayo.
These works by Rachael Mayo were exhibited in the 2019 Archon 43 Art Show. They are, clockwise from left, Jazzdragon 13, Shadowgorge, and Deep Rising 11. Used with permission from the artist.

Panels for Artists at Archon 44

I participated in a total of ten scheduled panels and other events throughout the weekend, including an autograph opportunity and a reading (more on most of them next week). Yes, it was a lot. But I gave the Programming Department a green light to “keep me busy,” so if I was tired at the end, that’s on me.

Three of those panels (one each day, as it turned out) specifically dealt with visual art topics. The Gateway Center’s “Illini A” has been the “art panels“ room at Archon for the past couple of years. It makes sense to keep the art panels in one room. People can say, “Art panel: Got it!” and always know where to go. It’s one of the smaller rooms, but art panels rarely generate large crowds. Everyone can get close enough to see art demos. Also, they can leave the tables bare-topped (easier to clean or cover up afterward, if art media spill on them).

After my comments about the Art Show, I bet you’ll recognize most of my fellow panelists’ names.

Adding Depth in Two Dimensions

This was my Friday art panel. I moderated, working with panelists Eddie Wilson, Allison Stein, and Rachael Mayo and a small but extremely engaged audience of seven. I always come prepared with questions and reference sources, but at this panel I barely had to do anything but guide the first few topics and facilitate.

Eddie came prepared with his own whiteboard and markers, ready and able to do quick demos of basic linear perspective and chiaroscuro techniques, while Rachael and Allison used pieces of their own art to demonstrate ways to use value and color to create visual depth through contrast, color schemes, and aerial perspective.

After the panel, I sent a short list of URLs to audience members who asked. It offered more guidance on the background and history of linear perspective and chiaroscuro, and gave detailed guidance on one-point, two-point, and three-point perspective.

Allison Stein, Rachael Mayo, and Eddie Wilson.
Jan’s fellow panelists on the “Adding Depth in Two Dimensions” panel, L-R: Allison Stein, Rachael “I AM smiling” Mayo, and Eddie Wilson. (Noble Fusion/Jan S. Gephardt/Eddie Wilson via Facebook).

Commercial Vs. Fine Art

My fellow panelists on this Saturday panel were two well-known artists at Archon 44, Craig Skaggs and John E. Kaufmann. We had a small but extremely engaged audience, while we walked through relevant questions.

How long have people recognized a division between “commercial” and “fine art”? Was Michelangelo a “commercial” artist? Was da Vinci? Can illustration also be fine art, or is it always commercial art? If you sell the artwork to someone, does that make it “commercial”? How much of the need to distinguish between them is driven by collectors, art dealers, and art directors? How much is driven by ego?

As you might imagine, the conversation got lively. And along the way we heard stories about boring work done only because someone was paying to have it done, the perils of commission work, and the joy of actually getting paid to make art.

Craig Skaggs and John E. Kaufmann.
Photos (L-R) of Craig Skaggs and John E. Kaufmann at their respective Archon 44 “Artists’ Alley” displays. Photos taken with their permission and cooperation by Jan S. Gephardt.

Putting Your Money Where Your Art Is

This panel was geared toward fielding questions from art collectors and offering information about the resale value of sf and fantasy artwork. Snail Scott moderated. She’s a fine artist with deep knowledge and strong opinions on the subject, not to mention being a university professor. She could have handled the whole panel solo. Longtime Kansas City art collector Tom Meserole and I also added our occasional 2-cents’ worth.

This panel addressed an important issue for sf and fantasy art. There was a “resale” section in the Art Show. That’s a feature we never used to see. In the earliest years of my career many artists looked upon resales as unwanted competition. Not anymore. Now more and more artists have come to realize that the resale value of their work helps them justify their original asking prices.

Where’s the “Resale Art” Coming From?

Baby Boomers, as a generation, came into sf fandom more willing and able to buy artwork at science fiction art shows than previous generations. Artists responded by bringing larger, better-quality, and many more original artworks to shows, in addition to their smaller, more affordable pieces.

Works that publishers used to throw away (after they’d made color separations for printing) suddenly had value. Collectors (including my co-panelist Tom) have sometimes paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars for fantasy or sf originals they love. They made a whole, additional market available for illustrators whose work graced the covers of sf and fantasy books.

Today, questions of “exactly how much is Grandpa and Grandma’s collection of dragon paintings really worth?” have gained a lot of relevancy. For a panel scheduled in the very last programming time slot before Closing Ceremonies, on the day everyone has to get out of their hotel room, we had a big crowd in that little art room.

I hope that, like Archon 44, more conventions see the need for a resale option, and help educate their attendees about the ins and outs of this issue.

All in all, a Good Weekend for Artists at Archon 44

I hope you’ve enjoyed my overview of the “Art Part” of Archon 44. It was a pleasure (though exhausting) to be back among “my people” for a weekend. If you were at Archon 44, or if you want to comment on any part of this post, please use the comments section below!

IMAGE CREDITS:

The photos in this post that were taken during Archon 44 are all by Jan S. Gephardt. I took them with permission from their subjects to use them for publication. See photo credits in the cutlines. Re-post or re-blog with attribution and a link back to this post, please. The photo of Tai Taeolii is courtesy of the Archon 44 website. I appreciate it!

The photos of Peri Charlifu’s Artist Guest of Honor pottery display at FenCon XVI were taken with his permission, on the understanding that they would be used for blog posts, with attribution and a link back. Many thanks, Peri!

The artwork by Rachael Mayo also is used with permission (from an earlier blog post). Please go to her site on DeviantArt to see her most recent work! And, thanks again, Rachael!

The photo montage of my “Depth in Two Dimensions” co-panelists features publicly-shared images of Eddie Wilson from Facebook, and Allison Stein, (thanks!). Rachael Mayo’s photo with her Peers’ Choice Nucleon Award from SoonerCon 27 in 2018 is by Jan S. Gephardt, taken for publication with Rachael’s permission and active cooperation. Many thanks to all!

4 screen-grabs from Virtual ConQuesT 52’s Twitch feed.

Virtual ConQuesT 52

By Jan S. Gephardt

Compared to some authors I’m slow, but Virtual ConQuesT 52 was my first virtual sf convention using interactive video tools.

Throughout the months since March 2020 I’ve periodically participated in Facebook-based Concellation. Last year I pre-recorded myself reading Chapter One of The Other Side of Fear for Virtual DemiCon 31. But this year I was in the final throes of preparing a finished draft of A Bone to Pick, and just didn’t have the psychic energy for Virtual DemiCon 32 (my friends in Des Moines were very gracious and understanding, for which I thank them).

Here’s the video of Jan, reading Chapter One from The Other Side of Fear, for DemiCon 31.

One for the Home Team

Readers who’ve followed this blog/my Artdog Adventures blog for several years may remember that ConQuesT in Kansas City is my “home” convention. I’ve blogged about it many times over the years (follow the links for examples).

ConQuesT didn’t exactly have a convention last year. But they had more time to organize a virtual event this year. For the first time in decades I didn’t participate in the ConQuesT Art Show, but I did agree to participate in panels. So, how did Virtual ConQuesT 52 go?

Well, in some ways it was almost like being on regular panels.

How did they Conduct the Panels at Virtual ConQuesT 52?

We conducted our panels on Zoom. By now I guess everyone who regularly uses a computer for communication has experienced a Zoom meeting. My writers group has stayed in weekly contact all through the pandemic by using Zoom, so I was well familiar with this interface.

A cartoon by Tom Fishburne demonstrates some typical Zoom meeting issues.
We had the occasional frozen screen during Virtual ConQuesT 52, but not often (by permission from Tom Fishburne, The Marketoonist).

We had the occasional frozen screen during Virtual ConQuesT 52, but not often (by permission from Tom Fishburne, The Marketoonist).

I also have been on Discord chats before, but this was my first really positive experience with the program. Previous attempts have been unguided attempts to connect with groups who also didn’t seem to have much clue what they were doing with it. This time around, with people actually interacting, I enjoyed it (more on that in a bit).

Once the live-on-Zoom panels were finished, the concom posted recordings of them on a dedicated Twitch channel. That way if you were a member of the convention you could access the panel any time you wanted during the con. Once I figured out how to get on, it was pretty easy to use.

An Art Panel at Virtual ConQuesT 52

I may not have had artwork in the show, but I did participate in one art-related panel at Virtual ConQuesT 52. I moderated, facilitating a discussion of each artist’s unique approach.

Panelists were our Artist Guest of Honor, Toni Taylor, graphic designer/artist/game creator Harold Sipe, and fellow Kansas City artist Allison Stein. I misunderstood the end-time, so I kinda aced myself out of my own process description (I demonstrated how I created Common Cliff-Dragon—Male).

The ConQuesT panel description for “Behind the Curtain”: The Process Behind the Art read: “Every artist develops their own style, and works with their tools in their own way. In this panel, the moderator will display some of the art by the artists on the panel, and give the artists some space to walk through the process of creating the piece, giving a view “behind the curtain” into their artistic processes.”

Screen-grab from Virtual ConQuesT 52’s Twitch feed.
Here’s a glimpse of how the video for “Behind the Curtain” looked on Twitch. (Image courtesy of ConQuesT 52).

Toni Taylor, Starchild Art

Each of the panelists has a unique take on their approach to their artwork. Taylor described some of the considerations that go into her portraits, including totems, spirit animals, and places that hold special meaning for the subject. See some of them on her website and Facebook page.

Harold Sipe, Small Monsters Games

Sipe gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how he and his wife conceived of their “Takeout” card game, and the process they went through to refine the idea, then design, test, and build it. He also showed us screen-shares of the finished cards, and his website.

Allison Stein, Author, Artist, TV Addict, Geek Princess, and Cat Servant

Stein described the ways she develops her whimsical creations, featuring birds of all types (my particular favorites are her owls), bunnies, octopi, cats, dragons, and more. She described the wide range of media from which she selects tools and add-ons to make each tiny piece unique. Catch glimpses on her website, Fine Art America page, and Etsy store.

My Panels with Writers at Virtual ConQuesT 52

Most of my panels at Virtual ConQuesT 52 involved some aspect of writing. I moderated all but one. Allison Stein, who also is a writer as well as an artist, moderated that one, about writers groups, and she handled it brilliantly. Barbara E. Hill, Lynette M. Burrows, and M. C. Chambers joined us for that one. We discussed several excellent local writers’ groups and how important it can be for a writer to find a good one.

4 screen-grabs from Virtual ConQuesT 52’s Twitch feed.
This montage shows moments from each of my four writing-related panels on Twitch (Images courtesy of ConQuesT 52. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt).

We discussed our personal publishing journeys (each one different) with Guests of Honor Becky Chambers (no relation to M. C., as far as I’m aware) and Dan Wells, plus the science fiction writer Claire McCague. Readers of this blog know I’m a partner in Weird Sisters Publishing.

Two other writing-related panels focused on specialized writing topics.

Food in Fantasy provided a fun conversation with Claire McCaig and Reed Alexander. It explored all the ways that food can and has featured in both culture and pivotal scenes. We explored our own writing, and also the writing of others.

Trials and Tribulations of Running an Interstellar Space Station is probably going to provide a basis for a future blog post. Guest of Honor Becky Chambers, science fiction writer Claire McCague, and dedicated science fiction fan Michael Kingsley joined me for that one.

Overall a Good Experience at Virtual ConQuesT 52

We experienced a number of tech glitches during my first panel on Friday. How’s Your Apocalypse was mostly designed to introduce Guests of Honor Becky Chambers, Dan Wells, and Toni Taylor. But Friday afternoon of the con is usually a lightly-attended time period. And once we got the bugs worked out, the convention went well, as far as I could tell.

Screen-grab from Virtual ConQuesT 52’s Twitch feed.
Here’s a glimpse of how the video for “How was Your Apocalypse?” looked on Twitch. (Image courtesy of ConQuesT 52).

I won’t say I want to conduct all-virtual conventions from now on. But the more we use the technology, the more possibilities open up. People who wouldn’t have been able to attend in person had a chance to participate virtually.

The Twitch feed with its recordings opened the previously-unavailable opportunity to view and enjoy panels, even when they ran opposite something else I wanted to see. Now that we have the technology and know how to use it, I hope more and more conventions maintain a virtual presence. Even when the main event goes back to in-person.

Have you participated in a virtual science fiction convention? Please use the Comments section below to tell us what you thought!

IMAGE CREDITS

Many, many, many thanks to our image sources for this post! We appreciate the gracious Tom Fishburne, The Marketoonist, for permission to use his cartoon on this post, and we’re forever indebted to Virtual ConQuesT 52 and their guests for permission to post screen-grabs from their Twitch feed. This blog post would be pretty boring to look at without them!

Kansas City represents, at SoonerCon 27!

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

I hope you can endure one more post about SoonerCon 27, held June 22-24, 2018 in Midwest City, OK. This one’s about Kansas City artists at SoonerCon 27.

At left is my SoonerCon 27 Art Show display; at right is my friend Rachael Mayo, another Kansas City-based artist who specializes in dragons. One of hers, titled Shadowgorge 4, very deservedly won a Peer Choice Nucleon Award in the Professional Artist category. She came in second to John Picacio, which is not doing badly at all.

Rachael and I weren’t the only Kansas City artists in the SoonerCon Art Show, however. Fellow Kansas Citian Allison Stein filled several panels with her small, one-of-a kind mixed-media artworks featuring quirky animals with attitude.

Also present but not exhibiting work in the Art Show were Kansas City author/artists Sherri Dean and James Hollaman.

IMAGES: Both photos in this post were taken by me (Jan S. Gephardt); in the case of Rachael’s photo, with her permission and cooperation (I asked her to smile. This is what she gave me. Twice. “That is my happy face,” she said). If you wish to reblog or re-post these images, please attribute both me and Rachael, and include a link back to this post, if possible. Many thanks!

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