Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WFC 2006 / Austin, TX

(Above: me, Jo Fletcher, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones)

World Fantasy Con 2006 was epic. It's probably my favorite con every year, and the Austin event was certainly no different. All the action happened about 2 hours driving distance from my house, so no airplanes for me this time. Despite that, I still felt like I had been slammed by a 2x4 when it was all over. It was five-plus days of sheer pleasure with old and new friends, and seeing everyone there is one of my favorite times of the year. I displayed several works in the Art Show and sold almost half of it, which was very nice. Happily signed a LOT of copies of my art book, COVER STORY: THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO. Signed a lot of other books as well, including copies of Mark Finn's fabulous new Robert E. Howard biography, BLOOD & THUNDER (MonkeyBrain Books), for which I did the cover illustration and design.

I was the Master of Ceremonies for this year's International Horror Guild Awards on Thursday night of the convention. It was quite an honor, and I'd like to again extend my congrats to all of the nominees and winners in all of the categories. Clive Barker won this year's IHG Award in the Artist category. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was honored as the Living Legend. It was a fun evening.

The great thing was that Austin's WFC Art Show was full of A-list talent. Gary Gianni and John Jude Palencar were the Artist GOHs and they both hung phenomenal displays of their work. Both consummate gentlemen. Gregory Manchess has long been one of my favorite painters and he displayed at a WFC Art Show for the first time, with some of his Conan paintings from Robert E. Howard's THE CONQUERING SWORD OF CONAN. Greg's an amazing human being, and I was especially gratified to see his presence at this year's show. I think his participation this weekend gained him a lot of new fans who will follow his work from here forth. He's quite simply one of The Great American Artists. Mike Dringenberg hung another great set of works and he had a piece he kept working on and re-hanging every day. We shared some time on a panel together, and every time I see him in that situation, he always offers solid insights. Charles Vess, Gary Lippincott, Lisa Snellings-Clark, and Vincent Villafranca were amongst the many with world-class displays of their work. 15-year-old Derek Ford had an amazing weekend. He sold several of his Dali-esque ballpoint pen masterpieces and stunned congoers all weekend with his invention of free-flowing form. The whole show was rock-solid across the board, and I heard many veteran congoers say they thought its overall content quality ranked amongst the best WFC Art Shows ever.

Unfortunately, the layout and spatial design for the Art Show were very disappointing. The layout seemed like a bit of a dark rat tunnel, and relative to the other con function spaces, it seemed (on the surface) that the Art Show got the shaft in that regard. Hopefully future con committees will give more careful consideration to the spatial needs of the Art Show and especially its lighting needs. It's not cool for it to be given a left-over space, as it appeared to many who walked through the show. It's a shame that such a world-class array of art wasn't celebrated better by the layout, especially when you consider the considerable cost and effort many artists undertake to participate in this show. Fortunately, the Art Show was in the same function space as the Dealers' Room, so that helped gain the show its traffic. It's a credit to the con committee though that despite this critical letdown, it was still a very successful convention. Kudos to Renee Babcock, Scott Zrubek, Kimm Antell, Fred Duarte, Kim Kofmel, Willie and Charles Siros, and all of the hard-working committee folks who made the entire con happen. I heard rave reviews all weekend for hospitality and overall fabulousness by congoers left and right. I can't imagine how much work it is to put a con like this together. Thanks to all, and congrats to the entire committee on the overall success.

I'm sure many blogs will discuss the results of this year's World Fantasy Awards in great detail, so I'll leave that fun to them. However, I'd like to offer congrats to James Jean, who won the World Fantasy Award in the Artist category. It surprised many that he won (admittedly, including me), but the sheer excellence of this guy's past 12 months' worth of work speaks for itself. I was honored to win the World Fantasy Award in this category last year, so congratulations and welcome to the club, as it were, James. I love the diversity of the World Fantasy Artist winners list over the years (Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, Edward Gorey, Moebius, Alan Lee, Dave McKean, Donato Giancola, just to name a few), and that diversity of excellence is part of why the award is so significant to me.

So on to Saratoga Springs for next year's WFC.

One final note -- to any World Fantasy board members, or members of next year's con committee -- if by chance, the committee hasn't yet resolved who will be the Artist Guest of Honor, I offer a recommendation.

Jeffrey Jones. He's a past winner of the World Fantasy Award and one of the all-time legends of the field. He continues to be an inspiration to artists worldwide. I think he's had some tough recent years, but he's located in that part of the country and I think collectors of his work could potentially rally a beautiful Art Show celebration of his oeuvre. Offering him an Artist Guest of Honor/Special Guest position would be a tremendous tribute and a real drawing card for pros and fans to attend. Taking a cue from this year's show, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have another prominent artist from the area as Artist Guest of Honor as well, especially in case Jeff's situation potentially prohibits him from attending at the last minute. Just a thought....

Back to work over here.

Thanks to Max Smolev for the usage of the photo above! Here's his gallery of IHG photos from this year. Here's John Klima's gallery of WFC photos. Irene Gallo has a terrific report over at The Art Department.


Blogger Christopher Roden said...

It's interesting that you leave a word of recommendation for next year's WF people, as I know that the Artist Category caused much searching for this year's judges.

One recommendation I would make in return is that you encourage your artist friends to make submissions to the judges. This doesn't have to be expensive to achieve, but this year only one submission from an artist was received, with the result that a great deal of scouring around websites was needed to supplement art which appeared on book jackets, in SPECTRUM, etc.

Just a thought.

Christopher Roden

3:28 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

Hi John, thanks for your great report and kudos! WFC took up about 2 years of my life, and I'm really looking forward to being able to use that time for other things.

I'm not sure what 2007's artist line up is, but I'll be sure to pass your comment along to them (as well as 2008, Calgary, since I know they are in the process of getting out guest invitations).

As for the art show, we really struggled with the space issue, and the final layout was only decided in the last week or so. If you want, I'll give you the sad story when you come back in August (we discovered a problem with the original space about 2 months ago, and were scrambling for a solution).


9:22 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, Christopher --

Great to see you over in Austin!

Funny you should say that about the portfolios....I mentioned the same notion to a friend of mine who said he'd pass it along to the awards administrators. In addition, I've heard some folks offer the notion that the Artist category should be juried separately by a jury of artists, which makes a lot of sense. Personally, I don't have a problem with non-illustrators/artists jurying the category, as long as they're willing to give the same due diligence to the Artist category as the other written categories.

Do the current WF Awards rules offer any clear, explicit submission guidelines for artists to submit portfolios of their work? I don't recall that being the case. If so, that might explain why the jury receives so few direct submissions in this category. Perhaps the language could read as follows...bits of the following are adapted from the rules established by Arnie & Cathy Fenner for the highly-successful and respected SPECTRUM ANNUAL competition...

"Artists interested in consideration for the Artist category are strongly encouraged to submit a portfolio of works to each judge (please limit the size of the images to no bigger than 8.5" x 11".) No original art, slides or computer disks will be accepted for judging. Loose, framed art will not be accepted for judging. No more than 12 works may be included in the portfolio. Works published or created in the year in question are eligible for inclusion. Proofs, tearsheets, color prints, laser prints, or other reasonable high-resolution hard copy are acceptable. Artists with a published folio or book of art in the given year are allowed to submit a copy of the book to each judge (in lieu of a portfolio) and the size restriction does not apply to these published works."

Something along those lines, maybe....just a thought...

9:25 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, Renee --

I appreciate the thoughts. Wow, you did a tremendous job, and the overall convention was a rousing success.

1. For those that are curious, I offered the notion of Jeff Jones as a 2007 Artist Guest of Honor for a few reasons. First, you have the artist's proximity to Saratoga Springs. Second, there are collectors in the area who might be willing to exhibit some of their prized Jones paintings in the Art Show to share with congoers. Most importantly, WFC '07 would be an ideal opportunity to honor a living artist like Jones who has influenced the field so much and still does (he was just given the SPECTRUM ANNUAL's Grand Master Award, in fact). Beyond the humble notion of Jones as a 2007 Artist GOH for the WFC, (and as a personal sidenote), I've been voting for Jones and for Michael Whelan for WF Lifetime Achievement Awards for the last few years because their contributions to the field are so far-reaching and significant that it's self-explanatory to even the casual observer. What an amazing thing it would be to see Jones honored with the WF Lifetime Achievement Award in '07, in addition to being a special GOH of the convention. I'd like to emphasize though that the Saratoga Springs con committee are the bosses, and I'm sure they have they're own ideas of what's best for their show. I'm not trying to intrude upon that process, with my editorial comments. Just offering a brainstorm or two...

2. My thoughts about this year's Art Show layout were intended more as a cautionary tale to the upcoming con committees. I understand that this year's committee probably had extenuating circumstances that forced the Art Show to be a dark, ill-conceived space, but that explanation doesn't change the harsh reality for the participating artists, many who came hundreds of miles to participate. Here's my overall feeling toward future WF Art Shows: WFC expects the Best of the Best to display in its Art Show year after year. That's terrific, but if so, then it's upcoming bids and venues can't continue to offer such poor layouts and lighting schemes. I was VERY proud to see the FACT group and the Austin con committee put such a premium on elevating the overall art quality of the Art Show, and really put a concerted effort toward inviting the Best of the Best. However, I speak from personal experience that it costs a lot of money to frame, crate, ship and insure art for a show like this. For some of the elite artists, we're talking thousands of dollars for those cumulative costs, and that's before they even commit to the membership, hotel, food and airfare costs. When artists are investing that kind of time and money to exhibit in one of these shows, then why shouldn't the Art Show space be first-class with adequate secondary lighting and adequate space? If the display conditions are poor, then how can the convention expect the artists to continue to participate year after year? It makes sense that the Art Show should be given the same careful consideration that's given to the Dealer's Room, the Banquet Facility, and the Programming Rooms. If future WFC bids build a reputation year after year of first-class display considerations, then the first-class artists will want to come year after year. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense for them to spend all of that money to display in a left-over space. The Art Show doesn't need special treatment, but equal treatment. If so, then WFC will a richer convention year after year.

Again -- thanks, Renee, and to all of the FACT crew. My critiques here should never tarnish the exemplary work the whole Austin/WF crew did this past weekend. Texas is lucky to have one of the premier SMOF groups in the country, and it's a credit to that crew that everyone I talked to went home so happy.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Charles Vess said...


Your suggestion of having Jeffrey Jones as the artist GoH at next years WF Con is a good one, however I'm afraid that he's been a AGoH once before and the rules precluded being invited twice. Seeing his originals would have been a treat. I was a pretty frequent vistor to the Studio back in the day and watched the evolution of Blind Narcius etc. It was indeed a thrill and a deep learning experience. Being around those four artists was a heady aesthetic experience!

The Northeast is a treasure trove of great artists. The Woodstock/Kingston/Red Hook area boasts Jim Gurney, Steve Hickman, Jame Warhola, etc., The Connecticutt are has Michael Whelan, Tom Kidd, etc. and the North Hampton area has a huge community of illustrators, among them: Tony DiTerlizzi, Dennis Nolan and Ruth Sanderson. I envy all of those artists as they are within easy driving distance of the con. It should be a heck of an art exhibition for sure.And with Ted and Bonnie Atwood running things it will be a great art space as well.


10:48 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Hi, Charles --

Great seeing you at WFC. It was fun seeing folks get up close to your tiny little strokes in your trees, and say "How does he do that?"

Thanks for the heads-up re: Jones. I wasn't aware of the previous GOH nod. Fair enough. Maybe a collector or two in the northeast might still be interested in sharing some of that Jones goodness in the '07 WFC Art Show though .... hmmmmm ..... anyway....you're right -- it should be a dynamite art show next year! :)

11:44 AM  

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