For the past twenty years, the Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual has been the gold-standard of fantasy and science fiction art. Cathie and Arnie Fenner created Spectrum as means to celebrate genre art in an era when it was largely overlooked by the mainstream illustration industry. Since then it has grown to become the most widely distributed and anticipated annual publication of contemporary illustration on the shelves.
Today, at the second annual Spectrum Live convention, the Fenners announced that it was time hand the reins over to another publisher.
Flesk Publications will take over the judging process and publication starting with Spectrum 21. John Fleskes has a ten year history of publishing high quality artbooks with full respect to the artists. On the change, John said, “It’s not just about the books, but the positive future of the artists and making sure they are represented well and that their trust, in allowing us to collect their work, is not abused.”
I asked Arnie Fenner to talk about Spectrum and its future:
“As an art annual—as a ‘year’s best’—Spectrum exists to serve the art community and, as such, has to remain fresh in order to remain relevant. We’ve been hosting the competition and publishing the book for twenty years; we think we’ve done a pretty good job and achieved many of our goals, but also believe there’s more that can be done. The marketplace is evolving and change is inevitable: for Spectrum to continue to do its ‘job’ properly (that being to promote the artists and build the public’s appreciation for fantastic art), handing the editor reins over to John Fleskes is the proper thing to do. John not only shares our passion for our field and respects its heritage, but he is forward-thinking, detail-oriented, and incredibly intuitive. We could not have asked for a better person to not only carry on Spectrum’s tradition, but to expand on its possibilities.”
…and asked what they are most proud of…
“Probably in helping artists get the attention their work deserves. We’ve repeated the story that Spectrum was at least partially an act of rebellion. After seeing so much great work passed over in other competitions year after year, seemingly for no other reason than it was fantasy or science fiction-themed, we thought, “If you don’t want us, we’ll have our own party.” And it was a success. It has been extremely gratifying to hear from people who tell us that they felt their careers started with being in Spectrum. We doubt that’s really true—those artists obviously already had something going on to be selected for the book in the first place—but it’s always nice when people say it.”
…and what they will miss when it comes to Spectrum.
“There are always little routines that you fall into when working on something for so many years; there will probably be those moments when a certain time of year rolls around and you think there’s something that you should be doing…but aren’t. But most certainly the biggest thing we’ll miss will be seeing all of the art. We’ll miss seeing what our favorite artists have been doing; miss discovering someone new just by opening an envelope; miss the excitement and enthusiasm that comes with each competition launch and each deadline. Everyone has always assumed because of our marketing that Spectrum was some sort of biggish corporate entity that will always tick along and always be successful. But it’s always just been Cathy and I—helped when possible by our son Arlo—and we have never assumed artists would support the competition every year or or that the entries would continue to be of high quality or that the jurors would get along and cast their votes wisely or that the books would sell or that we’d be successful. Fortunately it has all turned out wonderfully, but…we never knew each year that it would. So it’s the “surprise” we’ll miss: the surprise with the entries, the surprise with the jury, the surprise with the reception to the annual. Now we’ll just have to be surprised when we open up a copy of Spectrum 21 and 22, and 23…”
As an art director and a fan, Spectrum has been one of my most valuable tools and sources of inspiration. Thank you, to the Fenners, for bringing so many talented people together, making our lives richer, and our jobs easier. And for leaving us in the capable hand of Flesk Publications. We all look forward to the next twenty years and beyond.
Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books.