Wednesday, November 25, 2009

IlluXCon 2

Earlier this month, on November 11-14th, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, it was my great privilege to be flown out in my capacity as Pyr Art Director to attend IlluXcon2, a gathering of some of the best sf/fantasy artists in the world for a four-day weekend, exhibiting their art and hanging out with hardcore collectors, art directors, and sf/fantasy art afficionados. This is a rather special convention, the brainchild of Pat and Jeannie Wilshire, and quite impressive for an event only in its second year. It is also somewhat exclusive.  The con featured about 50 artists (who I believe are all there only by invitation), some 80-100 art students, several art directors, and a number of high end collectors. I flew in with a student who was coming from Huntsville, Alabama and rode in with a collector who had come in all the way from Kent, England.

The space itself is a gorgeous gallery, adjacent to a student center (where the panels and demos were held), and diagonal from a Bistro that very kindly opened its doors to host the portfolio reviews and be a general meeting destination throughout the weekend. There's not much else around, and the con is hampered by not having a hotel in the area, so there is a lot of shuttling back and forth and grumbling over same. But what it results in is an intimate weekend that is really a tremendous experience.

During the weekend, I got to hang out with some of the greatest living fantasy artists, participate in an art director panel with folks from Wizards of the Coast, Blizzard and elsewhere, and spent about eight hours doing portfolio reviews. It was an exhausting weekend, but one of the most rewarding con experiences of my career to date. Spending a weekend entirely in the company of artists taught me how much I enjoy artists' company, and really reinforced in a way I'd never quite considered just how fulfilling the "art director" part of my job at Pyr is to me. And being forced to quantify my opinions in the portfolio reviews taught me a lot about my own preferences. I get multiple portfolio submissions a week at Pyr, but am never called upon to say much more than "thank you, but this doesn't fit the style of our line." Having to quantify and articulate my response to students who had paid good money to attend the show and were expecting helpful feedback forced me to examine what I know intuitively in ways I hadn't done before. I think I learned a great deal and only hope the students did.

Meanwhile, as to the artists themselves... In addition to talking to childhood heroes Michael Whelan and Boris Vallejo, and spending real time with old friends John Picacio and Dave Seeley, it was wonderful to be in the company of such stellar talents as Caniglia, Dan Dos Santos, Vincent Villafranca, Bob Eggleton, Eric Fortune, Bruce Jensen, Daren Bader, Donato Giancola, Julie Bell, John Jude Palencar, Brom, Justin Gerard, Justin Sweet, Lucas Graciano, Michael Hayes, Scott Altmann, and many more.

Of particular fun/value, late night conversations with Cyril Van Der Haegen and David Palumbo, and meeting fellow AD Jon Schindehette. Also, keep your eye on this one.

Meanwhile, I still haven't come down off my IlluXcon high, and I imagine IlluXcon is here to stay, and may be one of the premiere events of the year.

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