Tuesday, November 07, 2006

World Fantasy Convention

The World Fantasy Convention started on a somber note. Our plane had a sergeant escorting a fallen soldier back to his home in Texas. The pilot asked everyone to remain seated on the plane to let the soldiers off first. It was a sad and touching ceremony.

Once we got to the hotel, the convention was one of the most enjoyable that I have been to. I was a bit irked that we seemed to be surrounded by strip malls rather than being anywhere near what I would have expected to be called Austin. Even when you don't leave the hotel, it's nice to be able to sense the city around you. But the company was so good we didn't mind too much. We were able to escape for about an hour on Thursday night to see the hundreds of thousands of bats flying out from Congress Bridge. The locals seem to poo-poo the event, not matching the millions of bats that are seen in the warmer months, but it was still pretty damn impressive.

The convention was superb. It had, not one but, two artist guests of honor! Not only that, but, they picked artists that are not part of the regular convention scene -- Gary Gianni and John Jude Palencar. It made for a great art show. I hope that the Saratoga World Fantasy Convention takes note of that. (Being in the Tristate/New England area they have so many artists within just a three to four hour drive -- Barry Moser, Tony DiTerlizzi, Jon Foster, James Gurney, Michael Kaluta, Scott Fischer...I'm sure that I am forgetting many others. It's a great oportunity for an excellent art show. But I digress, back to Austin....)

This year's art show was solid! It was smallish, but very high quality. I'll take that over a large so-so show anytime. Palencar brought in 14 large paintings, each one a treat. Gary Gianni brought in four fantastic paintings from Conan, Bran Mak Morn, and Solomon Kane. Greg had four paintings from The Conquering Sword of Conan. John Picacio exhibited his book covers and editorial work, including some of his 3/D assemblages. Charles Vess had two color paintings and a bunch of ink drawings from his Susanna Clarke book, The Ladies of Grace Adieu. (Thanks again, Charles, for the book!) Michael Dringenberg had a nice showing, including a work-in-progress. He would work on it each night and then rehang it in the morning. Gary Lippincott shipped in some great work. There was a sculptor there that I had not known before, Vincent Villafranca -- cool robots made of nuts and bolts.

The best thing about World Fantasy is that you can actually spend a decent amount of time with people. I had a great time talking with John Jude Palencar, Arnie and Cathy Fenner, Charles Vess, Gary Gianni, John Picacio, Robert Wiener, Andrew Wheeler, Lou Anders, and others. A lot of potential art books were discussed around the bar -- if even just a few of them materialize it will be an exciting time for art books.

I was honored (and nervous) to except James Jean's "Best Artist" award at the banquet.

Gary Gianni gave an excellent slide show, despite the fact that the projector refused to focus the images. He showed his influences -- Dore, Rembrandt, Wyeth, and others. He also shared his process -- thumbnails to photo shoot, to final painting. He talked a lot about blurring edges, rather than over-rendering, to create a sense of movement. He was able to turn the misfortune of the slide projector into a positive by focusing on the design of paintings ,breaking the paintings down to their essential shapes and groups of figures -- the overall impact of the design rather than the details. Gary is charming, funny, and very smart....the kind of guy you wish could be your neighbor.

Sadly, John Palencar's Powerpoint presentation did not work. Instead, Arnie Fenner did an on-stage interview with him. They talked about commission work and gallery work. You could hear a few gasps in the audience when John talked about burning his bad paintings as a means of exorcising them out of his system. When asked if an artist can own a style, he said, "No. Visual language has already been stamped out, we are talking in dialects now." He also stated that, "a good painting asks as many questions as it answers."

While sitting in the bar, Charles Vess showed us a bunch of fantasy paintings from the 1800s (I believe) to the present. They were the images from a lecture he gave at the International Conference of the Fantastic. By the looks of it, I am very sorry to have missed that. Hopefully there'll be another opportunity to see him present it.

The trip home was, thankfully, uneventful. It seemed that about two thirds of the plane were convention attendees -- Gordon Van Gelder, Ginjer Buchanon, Graham Joyce, David Keck, and many others -- just the kind of thing that makes you think, "If anything were to happen to this pl....."


John Picacio said...

It was a terrific weekend, wasn't it?

Great to spend time with you, as always. Wish we had more of that over the course of a year. The whole week/weekend feels like a blur. I'm glad you dug the Art Show. It was one of the best overall WFC art displays in years, in my opinion.

And hey, bonus! No Texas tornadoes for your airplane this time! :)

Arkady Roytman said...

we should try and get those guys over to the SoI for next year's lecture series.

stanko said...

Thanks for the recap! I so wish I could have been there... had some work in the show, but really wish I could have been there in person :(


Tracy Flynn Art said...


Thanks for the recap, much more indepth than the others I have read.


Irene Gallo said...

John - Great to hang with you this weekend!

Everyone - John's got a report of the con at: http://www.johnpicacio.com/2006/11/wfc-2006-austin-tx.html

Arkady - Good idea...we'll haveto talk to Dennis a bit. Hey, you're up for this Saturday? Meet at 9:00ish?