On the Scene: Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

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by Carolina Cooney

The third annual Spectrum Fantastic Art Live took place this past weekend, and whether you came from the east coast, west coast, or places in between and beyond, it was well worth your travels. Taking place in charming Kansas City, Missouri, Spectrum showcased many of the best in brightest in illustration, fantasy, comic, concept, three-dimensional art and beyond. With a goal to make fantastic art truly accessible to everyone, Spectrum offered a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with artists and their original creations.

Creators themselves came from nearly every corner of the globe. Paul Bonner was there from Denmark with both original paintings and sketchbooks. Virginie Ropars and David Thierree from Brittany, France make this one of their only (if not THE only) show in the US, showcasing intricately detailed doll work and fantasy art illustrations, respectively. Frank Cho was there, and in fine form. Justin Sweet. Donato Giancola. Dave Dorman. Camilla d’Errico. Omar Rayyan. Greg Manchess. And so many more, all with original art you so rarely get to see outside of a gallery (or Christie’s auction!). The level of talent in one room was truly staggering.

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This gathering of elite creators not only made from some incredible purchasing opportunities, but also afforded the chance to actually talk to the creators, something that’s becoming increasingly difficult as the popularity of traditional comic conventions explodes. These conversations often continued on into the wee hours of the night, and overhearing artists discuss their technique in such wonderful detail was riveting for aspiring artists and art appreciators alike.

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Panels at the convention were also informative and interesting, providing further insights into artists’ techniques and into the world of buying and selling art. Irene Gallo discussed the job of an art director and gave tips on how to break in to the lucrative book cover market. Dan Chudzinski gave a spirited look into how he repurposes taxidermy to create pieces like “The Haunted Throne of the Voodoo Queen,” an astonishing $12,000 chair made from various animal horns and alligator skin. Iain McCaig, this year’s recipient of the coveted Spectrum Grand Master Award, shared insight into working in Hollywood. Mark Chiarello, Frank Cho, Terry Dodson, Mark Schultz revealed the inner workings of the comics industry. On the main show floor, they even held a live “Sculpt-a-rama,” where numerous artists including James Shoop, a DC figurine mainstay, collaborated on three sculptures throughout the day that would eventually be fired and cast.

A three-day badge to the show also included an invitation to the Spectrum 21 Awards Show, held in the magnificent Midland Theater, which was quite a treat in and of itself. This is basically The Academy Awards for our little corner of the art world, complete with red carpet. A complete list of winners can be found on Spectrum Fantastic Art Live’s Facebook page.

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While presale tickets for this third year of the event doubled from last year, attendance still could use a boost. The production of the renowned Spectrum annuals and the initial Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention was conceived by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, who after twenty years handed over the reins to John Flesk, another highly regarded publisher. While the Fenners are still involved in the Live event, it has become a group effort involving Baby Tattoo’s Bob Self, local web designers The Lazarus Group, and numerous volunteers. As far as the future of the event, John Flesk, who is ultimately in charge of the show, remained cagey. His main concern is to keep the show accessible to everyone, and the central location of Kansas City and this year’s addition of a very affordable Artist’s Alley are testaments to this. Still, it remains to be seen if the excellent show will return next year – if it does, it is definitely a worthwhile addition to your convention schedule.


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Silver Award: Victo Ngai for “A Tiger Beer Chinese New Year”
Gold Award: Kent Williams for “The Criterion Collection Lord of the Flies”


Silver Award: Scott Gustafson for “Little Sambha and the Tiger with the Beautiful Purple Shoes with Crimson Soles”
Gold Award: Nicolas Delort for “The End of the Road”


Silver Award: Mark A. Nelson for “Seasons, page 1”
Gold Award: Thomas Campi for “The Red Door”

Concept Art

Silver Award: Vance Kovacs for “John Carter Punches a Thark”
Gold Award: Theo Prins for “Refugees”


Silver Award: Colin and Kristine Poole for “Hot Diggety Dog”
Gold Award: The Shiflett Bros. for “Vertical Man-Tank, 1892”


Silver Award: Yuko Shimizu for “Hair Tree”
Gold Award: Tran Nguyen for “The Insects of Love”


Silver Award: Justin Sweet for “Blacksea”
Gold Award: Bill Carman for “Shared Eyewear”


Silver Award: Yukari Masuike for “Riding Horse on the Freezing Day”
Gold Award: Omar Rayyan for “The Long Walk Home”

Grand Master Award

Iain McCaig

More information about Spectrum can be found at the official website: