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.
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.
Award-Winning Artists at Archon 44
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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!