Illuxcon 2012 wrapped up a couple days ago and I'm home now and getting myself caught up and into routine. This was my fourth Illuxcon (out of the 5 years it's been running) and in those 4 years I've gone from clueless, nervous and friend-less to a showcase exhibitor, panel presenter and a familiar face. My first time at this convention 4 years ago I didn't have a single contact or client in this business and today I feel very comfortable and knowledgeable at (and because of) Illuxcon. This year felt routine, comfortable and validating. Other years I would leave with the impression that there was still a big "gap" between what I was doing and where I wanted to be, but now I have the feeling the gap is very small, if not closed altogether.
At each Illuxcon I am getting together with old friends, better acquainting myself with online ones in person, and meeting more of the names and newcomers to this field. Dinner at Red Lobster, below was such an occasion, as the table was surrounded by folks in all these categories.
Bam! The main show opens Thursday night for a couple hours. You can see most of it in this time, but it takes the rest of the weekend to thoroughly take in everyone's work, talk shop and fully digest it all.
photo by Kiri Østergaard Leonard
Friday night was the showcase. Having started as a collector/reselling and student show, this aspect of Illuxcon has morphed into basically the main show overflow. This was my first year bringing significant original painted art. I packed my best 9 oils from the year (which luckily fit perfectly on my table) and showed what I can do. The response was spectacularly well received as everyone mavelled over my smooth, vibrant finish. (One experienced, 60 year old, main-show artist thought they were airbrush!) I made a point to specifically ask the artists whom I most respected and whose own work was most relevant to give me critique, and the answers were basically that its already at 100% quality level. I have a few minor things to keep in mind, but the advice this time was just basically "more".
The showcase could easily stand as a respectable art show by itself! Illuxcon has some great plans to underscore this for next year and I'm happy they have realized the need to expand opportunities for us, allowing us to showcase our expanding skills.
On Saturday, Jim Pavelec, Todd Lockwood, Aaron Miller, Randy Gallegos and I presented our panel on "Strengthening the Artist's Role in the Industry" We spelled out the realities of working conditions for young artists and offered advice on how to survive in this tough industry, with anecdotes from our own careers. In addition we discussed a proposal for fixing these issues that is simple, fair and likely involves the companies who are our partners in this business. The panel was delivered flawlessly and received enthusiastically. I recorded the audio of our presentation, which will be available along with details of our possible industry-changing mechanism soon. Stay tuned.
photo by Jon Schindehette
Immediately after our panel, in the same theater, Petar Meseldzija gave his painting demo. Petar has a unique style in our field, combining comic-drawing experience and alla-prima action painting for a unique and impressive result. His final works attain the highest standard in our field.
Here is a random shot of Justin Sweet throwing down without abandon...
Saturday night is the Illuxcon jam, where artists with way too much talent than is fair get on stage to play music. Also, the award for best work is handed out; this year's winner being Omar Rayyan. The award "statue" is the f*ucked up head... but you knew that.
A random shot of Petar photographing Omar for reference for some future project featuring grotesque giants. Why not??
Illuxcon wrapped up Sunday afternoon with everyone having that last conversation, trading art and boxing up their wares. Next year the show will be in Allentown and be bigger and fancier. We have outgrown Altoona, Pennsylvania, and some of its charms may (or may not) be missed, but Pat and Jeannie Wilshire have succeeded in growing the field of painted fantasy illustration, and we all look forward to "better things".
Sunday night at The Outback Steakhouse (again), finds a group of gaming illustrators who haven't left yet due to morning flights. We said goodbye to our new Croatian friends, Milivoj and Filip, who had their last 3 helpings of cheese fries and American hospitality until next year.
One last shot at the airport: Todd Lockwood snaps photos of notes from Petar's demo and marvels over the disposable palette which was saved in saran wrap by another artist. The mutual admiration, learning and camaraderie finally ends.