Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Fantasy Art Annual for a New Era?

Great news -- I won an Art Order Challenge! Very cool, but there's something much larger here than my work being selected in a juried competition.

I'd like to share that view with those who care about the future of sf/f art.

How many of you have loved the work that Arnie and Cathy Fenner have done on the SPECTRUM annuals over these last twenty years? They built an incredible, definitive legacy. This year, they handed the book over to John Fleskes of Flesk Publications, and he'll continue to evolve the tradition.

Those books are a juried archive of some of the best in sf/f art for the last two decades. Over that time, they inspired a number of fantasy art retrospectives -- some juried, some not -- that have brought untold amounts of awareness to the sf/f art industries.

These books share a model where artists submit their work to the publication for juried review. These annuals not only have publication and printing costs, but have to pay for their juries' time and expenses. And don't forget about the cost of time to manage a publication of this magnitude. Those artist fees presumably help to cover some of those cumulative costs. The SPECTRUM Annual has credibility within the artist community because of the Fenners' integrity and track record. (Ditto John Fleskes.)

Other art retrospectives simply expect pro artists to contribute their work for nothing more than 'exposure'. Some of these books are credible. Many are not. None of them offer a dime of royalty back to the artists, even though their lone selling point is the inclusion of the artists' work. Many pros choose not to contribute to this model because it's not good business for artists.

Along comes Jon Schindehette.

For many years, he was a senior art director at Wizards of the Coast, and he's now the creative director of Treehouse Brands. He's won a Chesley Award for Best Art Director and has built a rep as one of the most respected ADs in the genre art business.

He runs an ongoing mentorship blog called Art Order and through that network, he creates art 'challenges' that encourage new works and build community.

This fall, he presented the 'Inspiration' challenge. The objective was straight-forward. "Choose something that inspires you -- it can be an artist, an event, a product or brand, an item, or a particular model. Once you have chosen your muse for the challenge, then write up a short article (no more than 100 words) about your inspiration, and then do a piece based upon your inspiration."

Great, but here's the part where Jon is doing something maverick and potentially game-changing.

No submission fees for the artists AND each artist that's selected by the blue-ribbon jury shares in the book's profits.

THAT'S a new one.

How is he going to fund the publication of this book? Crowdfunding. (Most likely, he'll use Kickstarter.)

Will the book happen? The community will decide, but like the Fenners, Jon has credibility, and the respect of the field. Will this book become an annual event? No way to know. I bet Jon doesn't even know. He may not even care at this point. I suspect he just wants to see if this thing can fly on the first try.

My guess -- it WILL fly. If given a few years, I think it has the potential to soar, as more artists, pro and up-and-coming, submit their best. I think Jon could potentially unlock a game-changing art book model that adds even more vitality and awareness for sf/f art and artists, around the globe.

That's a very good thing.

For now, I suspect this first book will be a slim volume, based on the number of submissions and winners. There's a LOT of quality work in those winners though.

I encourage all to watch what Jon does with this. He's doing something that could be a BIG win for the sf/f art community. He might be creating a new model -- and new standard -- for how art annuals operate. When his Kickstarter for this new art book happens, please be sure to give it your consideration.

For now here are the results of this year's competition! Grateful to be selected, and honored to be included! :)


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