Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Boskone 47: An Amazing Con

Boskone 47 -- what can I say? As I said Saturday night to the NESFAns, Boskone is still the grande dame of regional sf/f literary-centric cons, and proved once again why it's one of the measuring sticks (along with Armadillocon and a couple of others) by which similar cons are measured. It was an amazing weekend, and one of the best cons I've ever experienced. I was the Official Artist for the con. Alastair Reynolds was the Author Guest of Honor. Michael Whelan was the NESFA Press Guest along with Lois McMaster Bujold. Vernor Vinge, Tom Shippey and Mary Crowell completed the lineup of featured guests. That's a helluva lineup! :)

I spent quality time with Michael, and got to visit with Al while we signed stacks of his new DEEP NAVIGATION story collection (cover art by me). As with most cons, it's not the GoHs that do the heavy lifting; it's the volunteers. And when you're talking about Boskone, those volunteers are largely made up of members of the New England Science Fiction Association. I can't possibly thank all of them by name, but I'll single out a few of them as I run through a few personal Boskone 47 highlights.

* Valentine's Meal: Traci and I arrived in Boston late afternoon, Thursday, Feb. 11. Valentine's Day was Sunday, but we opted to celebrate Thursday night because we were certain Sunday was gonna be tough because of my GoH responsibilities. A great night -- we did a three-course dinner tour in Boston's North End. First stop: clam chowder and beer at Union Oyster House; next, a giant Giambotta pizza at Regina Pizzeria; and then the capper: Modern Pastry for chocolate rumcake and a miniature key lime pie. We were stuffed. We had lots of leftovers to take to our room and needless to say, we had a ball.

* Art Show: Boskone's art shows have a reputation for annually being amongst the best in sf/f. This one was no different with a high-quality lineup that included Bob Eggleton, Rick Berry, Omar & Sheila Rayyan, Jean Pierre Normand, Gary Lippincott, Marianne Plumridge-Eggleton, Rick Sardinha, Kelly Kotulak, Marc Robinson, and Marc Scheff, amongst many others. Michael Whelan was NESFA's Special Guest and he celebrated with a giant 40-year retrospective of works that included his original paintings for Michael Moorcock's STORMBRINGER, Stephen King's DARK TOWER and Joan Vinge's THE SNOW QUEEN. Michael brought one painting for each of his 40 years in the business. It was an awesome display. So with all of that greatness in the room, and with me as the Official Artist, needless to say, I brought my best. Two items that really seemed to get a lot of audience attention -- a giant backlit print of my cover illustration for Dan Simmons' DROOD (see first image) and the final convention appearance (at least for a very long, long time) of my mixed-media shadowbox assemblage for Jeffrey Ford's WELL-BUILT CITY trilogy (pictured directly above). I was amazed to walk in to the Art Show on Sunday morning and discover that the latter won "Best of Show". With so much amazing art in the room, I kept staring at the ribbon to make sure it was real. Very appreciated!

A few Art Show shoutouts: Gay Ellen Dennett -- if you're an artist and you ever see her name as the person running an art show, you're in the best of hands. She ran a dynamite art show from beginning to end. Huge thanks, Gay Ellen. She had help from folks like Joni Dashoff, Ira Donewitz, Andrea Senchy, the Atwoods and others, but she ran the show and did a stellar job. Chip Hitchcock -- thanks for being Superman when it was time to get that lightbox up and glowing -- you're clutch and appreciated; and Filthy Pierre -- same to you. These two guys are examples of the kind of first-class people who are the heart of any great con, and my hat's off to them.

* Michael Whelan / John Picacio Conversation: Thanks to the excellent work of Priscilla Olson and JoAnn Cox, the programming was amazing. All of my program items went off without a hitch, and from the overwhelming audience reaction afterward, it seems that the Whelan/Picacio conversation was an especially big homerun. It's hard to tell from my side of the table, but I'm really glad this one connected with so many people. From where I was, it could have gone on for another hour because Michael and I were in a groove, exchanging back and forth unscripted. He's not only one of the greatest artists ever in sf/f, but one of my favorite people in the field as well. We don't cross paths often, but when we do, we seem to click for some reason. This was my favorite hour of the whole con. It went by too fast.

* Joe Siclari / Mark Olson: More programming highlights. Siclari and Olson are veteran NESFAns, as well as notable sf/f art historians and collectors. I really enjoyed their panels about the history of sf/f art ("Absent Artists" and "Who Painted That?"). The latter was especially cool. They put together slideshows of old-time sf/f imagery and Eggleton, Whelan, and me had to guess who illustrated the art. I love that stuff. Picked up a couple of names I didn't know that I'll research this week. I usually prefer programming panels that talk about the present state and future of sf/f art, but these guys really put together enjoyable programs about the venerable past, and I love that stuff too.

* NESFA Press Book Debuts -- ROBOTS & MAGIC, the second volume of NESFA Press' Lester Del Rey short story collections, debuted at the show along with DEEP NAVIGATION, a terrific collection of Alastair Reynolds' short stories. Steven H. Silver edited ROBOTS & MAGIC and Ann Broomhead did the honors for the Reynolds. Both are terrific, and I provided the cover art for both volumes. Special shoutout to Alice N.S. Lewis who did the design for both books and most of the Boskone publication work for this year. She's a gifted designer and I really dug her solutions.

* Friends Old and New -- That's why conventions are great. Too many people to name them all, but I had a blast with Irene Gallo, Dave Seeley, Audrey Price, Pablo Defendini, Marc Scheff, William Lexner and wife Maureen, Kelly Kotulak, Marc Robinson, Robert Weiner, Karl Schroeder, Stacy Hague-Hill and Sarah Beth Durst. The most unexpected new acquaintance I made at Boskone happened on Saturday night. Traci and I were seated for Boskone's Saturday Night Awards Presentations and I just happened to be seated next to the legendary Jane Yolen. This was good enough by itself, but to find out that Jane knew who I was and knew my work caught me off-guard in the best of ways. She's terrific and hilarious, and it was an honor to meet her.

* Rick Berry Studio Visit -- I've long admired Rick's work, and he was kind enough to invite a number of folks out to his studio on Sunday night. I learned a lot that night, and I suspect a couple of bits of that experience will affect how I work later this year. Irene had told me that it would be hugely inspiring to visit his studio, and she was right. Thanks to Rick and his wife Sheila, as well as Robert Weiner, for the food, drink, and good times.

Cons are often judged by their GoHs and guests, but I often judge them by the volunteers that run them. NESFA, you did an incredible job. Thanks to Jim Mann (this year's Boskone chairman -- take a bow), Laurie Mann, Ben Yalow, Tim Szczesuil (thanks for receiving my boxes, man!!), Ian Stockdale (new owner of the MUSE OF FIRE original underdrawing, and I'm honored to be in his collection), Mary Kay Kare (thanks for looking out), Tony & Suford Lewis, Ann Broomhead, Geri Sullivan, and Robert Luoma (thanks for the projection help...went off without a hitch). Great job, Boskone!

For more photos, see my Flickr set.


Blogger Laurie Mann said...

You were a great guest, too! And congratulations on being named the Artist Guest for next year's Capricon. You'll get another chance to visit winter... ;->

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soooo looking forward to working with you at Capricon next year where I will be running the art show.

Kerry aka Trouble

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John: Congratulations! You know how much I dig the WBC assemblage. So glad to hear your wonderful work on it has been recognized by the art show at Boskone.

jeff ford

10:44 AM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Thanks, Laurie. You and Jim pulled off a tremendous success along with the other NESFAn committee members. It was a great show.

HI, Kerry -- Yeah, I'm really looking forward to returning to the Chicago area. Haven't been there in several years. Scalzi and Janice Gelb are fun people. It's a great lineup. :)

Jeff -- pretty cool, huh? I'm really grateful. Fitting too. This is the final trip for that big assemblage. I hope it survives the trip home. It's a fragile original -- so it was great to see it get a major recognition for its last public appearance.

10:55 AM  
Blogger ces said...

I'm so glad you & Traci got there! With snow everywhere & airports closing & flights being cancelled I was afraid. But you made it! Congrats on winning best of show too! There were some good artists there!

And what an interesting con report - you always do a wonderful job with your write-ups!

I had a wonderful Valentines/Birthday weekend, but I don't think I'm going to eat for a week! Or at least 4 hours. :-)


11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was the gray-haired guy who stuck to you like shellac during your kaffeeklatsch to catch every inspiring word. No way you were going to just sit around talking: in one minute you got us onto our feet and hustled us into the Art Show.

So instead we got a high-energy, hands-on, closeup tour of your stuff in the show -- what worked, what didn't, how it got that way, and in one sad case (that we could tell still hurts) how the publisher went with the safe full-color version instead of the gutsier and dammit better spot color.

You mentioned that you always, if humanly possible, read the book before you do the cover -- something we don't hear from every artist. But you obviously meant it, since you praised the writer's work in detail for every artwork you talked about.

Your passion and commitment came through, man. Thanks for an unforgettable hour. I told some of the con committee afterward that you were the hardest-working man in show business.

-- Bob Devney

1:20 PM  
Blogger John Picacio said...

Thanks, Christine! Happy belated V-day. :)

Much appreciated, Bob. Glad you were able to make it on Sunday. I was grateful to be there, and it's always great to hear that the work is connecting. Thanks very much!

2:29 PM  
Blogger Mair said...

John, congrats on a great time for you. I love hearing you get acknowledgements on your work, especially the assemblage. Awesome getting that best in show ribbon! !!

2:48 PM  
Blogger soupablog said...

congrats john!!

11:12 PM  

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