Making the Jump: From Day Job to Dream Job

James, Kathy and myself. The Flesk crew!

On January 22, 2009, I was called into my managers office at Sun Microsystems. I was informed that due to the economic downturn I was being laid-off. (Thousands of people lost their jobs that day.) I remember the meeting vividly. I did everything that I could to not break into a big smile. In my mind I was doing cartwheels of joy out the front door of the office building. I was free to pursue publishing full time. A plan that was put into place in the fall of 2001 had reached fruition. I went home, sat at my computer and worked on the Al Williamson Flash Gordon book without any fear or worry about hunting down a new job. On my first day off, I took my son to Seabright beach and felt the sand and cool ocean air and dreamed about the future. I didn’t foresee, though, how difficult it would be to launch a full-time publishing business without the safety net of a salary from my now absent day job.

This is how it happened.

In 1997 I was employed by my good friend, Dick Swan, at his Big Guy’s Comics store in Mountain View, California. For roughly a year and a half I was working on Wednesday’s for new comic book day, then also on Fridays and Saturdays. We had a regular customer named Patrick. The first day that Pat came into the shop he asked me if we had any Adam Hughes comics. Since I was a fan of Hughes, and that we had one of the largest comic backstock inventories in the area, I pulled out just about every mainstream and obscure title that Adam worked on to start off Pat’s collection. We became friends and I looked forward to his visits when we could talk comics and artists. In the fall of 1998, I had quit Big Guy’s to move to Santa Cruz. This had been a big goal of mine for years. Before I left, Pat had told me that he may have a job position to offer me. I had no idea where he worked, or what this would involve, but he let me know that he would keep in touch.

During my first few months in Santa Cruz I was strongly considering a few options for my future. I had been buying and selling old and collectable books on the side for years, and the idea of starting my own book business or opening a comic shop were on my mind. Another option which I was thinking about was becoming a fire fighter or joining a search and rescue team. These latter options would put into practice my experiences and knowledge gained while working at the commercial bungee jumping business for 5 years, Bungee Adventures (this is a whole post in itself for a later time), and from my years of rock-climbing. Plus, it would give me an opportunity to help people, which is a huge motivator for me. I was leaning heavily toward a book business on the side, then fire-fighter as my day job.

Then, in October or November of 1997 I received a call from Pat that he would like me to come in to his work and meet his colleague, Colleen. The two of them managed a group together. As I drove in from Santa Cruz to Cupertino to meet with them I had no idea what the significance of this moment was about to place on my life. Pat and Colleen managed the Java Sustaining engineering team at Sun Microsystems. At the time there was only eight people in the group. I was being brought in to be a Quality Assurance (QA) tester for the Java Development Kit (JDK) and Java Runtime Environment (JRE). As the engineers would create a patch (to fix a reported bug) for Java, a pair of us would run a series of stress tests to verify that the patch corrected the reported issue.

I had no college degree and had a very basic understanding of computers. I had no idea what Java was, or why people would be shy when this guy James Gosling would walk by. (Inventor of Java, if you did not know.) I was teamed with an incredibly brilliant engineer, teacher and mentor there, Selvi, who was patient with me and guided me as I learned the basics of the tech on hand and the corporate work environment.

I was brought in as a contractor. I had three months to prove myself. If I did well, I would be converted to an employee. If Pat was wrong about his gut feeling about me, I would be let go. I had three months to learn everything that I could about Java, Sun Microsystems, computer software and hardware (primarily for Sun, PC/Windows, and Mac platforms), Solaris (including Unix and Linux), the corporate world, basic scripting, you name it! Whatever Pat saw in me to take me from a comic book shop to sticking me in the Java sustaining group was something I did not see in myself. I ended up being there for 10 years and two months.

Just a couple of years after I started working at Sun, in 2001, I began working on my first book Franklin Booth: Painter with a Pen. My passion for books and art needed an outlet. I wasn’t content buying, collecting, and selling books on the side for fun. (I’ll write a separate long version of this at some point, but for now I’ll keep this part of the story brief.) I never intended to be a publisher. I was simply making one book. There was no big vision to have a line of books, work with living artists, or to even do a second book. I was just working on the one book. I self-published it, then decided to work on a book on Joseph Clement Coll for 2003, then a second Coll book for 2004. By 2005, when I published Mark Schultz’s Various Drawings Volume One I realized that this may actually turn into something. That’s when the vision of actually being a publisher started to cement itself. I suppose it was already there in 2001, but now it was tangible and not just a dream.

As I worked by day at Sun, I was working nights and weekends on books continuously. The nice thing about having a day job was that I could channel my salary into the books and not worry about profits or loses. I was able to learn the publishing business slowly on the side and let the tree and roots grow into a solid foundation. While I was at Sun I was working with incredibly brilliant people, so I had growth by day, and a creative outlet by night. Most importantly my confidence in myself was growing. It was going well.

By the midpoint of my decade at Sun I had shifted over from the QA team to the systems administrator team that supported the Java engineering and sustaining teams. Our sys admin group managed thousands of computers and dozens of labs. I supported hundreds of engineers and was fortunate to work with some of the smartest people who I have ever met.

Our sys admin team grew from a small handful of people to roughly 15 individuals before layoffs began chipping away at us. By the time I left there was only 6 of us, and that was the leftovers from two consolidated teams. It was brutal. As an aside, a year after I was gone, I saw the news that Oracle had bought out Sun Microsystems on January 27, 2010. Many of those who I had worked with for years lost their jobs due to redundant positions. I felt very lucky to make it out and to have publishing waiting for me.  

My first 5 years at Sun Microsystems I truly enjoyed. I was working hard and thrived in my role. I was very grateful to be there. I was in a position where I was helping people, whether it was the Java engineers to test a recent patch, or as a sys admin to keep the engineers going as we maintained and fixed the labs and machines. We handled the network, the lab environment, hardware, OS’s–everything that you could imagine. It was a very diverse job that pulled and stretched you in all directions. I enjoyed the variety and the constantly shifting duties. It was perfect for feeding my brain that craves off of challenges, growth and change.

I had eight managers in ten years. In this order, there was Pat and Colleen, Rose, John, Sheryl, Bruce, Rajan, and my final manager who I won’t name. Most of these managers were short term, lasting just a year or less. I worked for Rajan the longest. While I liked and learned from all of them, (except my last manager), Rajan was my favorite. He was recommending and prepping me for a management position before he left, but that plan dissolved when he found a new position with another company. His direct manager took over our team. This is when things changed quickly for the worse.

All of my managers I liked, respected, learned from, and felt privileged to work for, except the last one. As cold and harsh as the corporate world can be, I always had managers who supported me, turned me loose to do what I do, and who trusted me to get things done. I was, for the most part, completely left alone to do my job. That’s when I thrive. I’ll work to the bone to please my managers, team and those who I support. But, if you try and assert control over me or don’t support me, I leave and use it as an opportunity to find something else that motivates me and where I can thrive mentally. I don’t stay in hostile or negative situations.

My last year at Sun was painful. Moral was low and stress levels were high throughout the groups due to the company doing poorly and the economy beginning to tank. I heard through the grapevine that a new round of layoffs was coming. I made it clear to my final manager that I was no longer interested in working there. I was essentially volunteering myself to take the hit. I had Flesk running in the background. I had something to fall back on. I had a vision to pursue. I wanted to follow my own passions and utilize my own creativity. I never told anyone, except for a couple people at Sun that I had a publishing business on the side. I was very careful to keep Flesk and Sun separate.

Long story short, I was laid off that January in 2009. I was grateful to be gone, and I was also happy that the rest of my team could stay and was not laid off. As far as I knew, I was the only one with a backup plan. I did this since I knew how volatile the tech industry was. I’d seen dozens of co-workers let go. I knew I needed to take care of myself since Sun was showing signs of problems. At the same time, I was never a good fit for the corporate structure.

So, on January 23, 2009 the dream began, but the realities also began to set in. For those who worked through 2008 and 2009 you will not forget just how tough this period was. For me, book sales dropped significantly, and book returns were high. Book stores ordered large quantities that I delivered, then months later the stores would return mass quantities. I was left with printer bills and piles of boxes of unsold inventory. Within a year I was seriously in debt and in a tough spot. By 2010 I took a significant loan and got a little smarter about making decisions. I believed in myself and thought that if I just kept on working it would all work out. Then I spent three years essentially chipping away at the loan and debt to get back to a stable place. I was doing what I loved, but it came with a lot of stress. None of this was easy, and it was a very difficult time. I made a lot of mistakes, which is not a crime. It would have been a sin to not get back up and learn from those mistakes. My passion and determination got me through in the end.

Benefits to running my own business included my ability to raise my son, to be with him every day and not put him in day care. I get to live on my own terms, fail or succeed based on my own actions, and I get to work with artists and do things for others. I’m not driven or motivated by money, but instead by doing something that I think benefits others and that I enjoy being a part of.

Despite all of the struggles, hardships, difficulties, disappointments, and setbacks—it was all worth it. I wish it was easier, but I never expected it to be easy. I don’t expect handouts. I don’t expect anything to be given to me, and I don’t expect that I should get a pass. I have high expectations of myself, and believe that I should not feel pity for myself when something bad happens. I think all experiences are lessons to learn from and to use to move forward to something better. I see every instance as an opportunity for improvement and that I was meant to experience it for a reason. That reason is oftentimes unknown to me for years, but eventually I learn the reason why—even if it’s 5-10 years later. I have trust in myself that everything will work out and that as long as I don’t quit or give up, that what I do will make things better for my son, for others, and for myself. For those reasons (and more) I refuse to quit.

Life has always been about the journey for me. I love it. The time we have, the options we have, the chances we get, and the opportunities that are presented to us. I like that I am just discovering my gifts, and knowing what I can do with them, and how they will provide opportunities to others who I will never meet.

This is just the beginning for me. I’m greatly looking forward to the next 10-20 years.

Make the jump!

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
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Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text and photos copyright © 2019 John Fleskes. Videos © 2019 Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2019 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

Spectrum 26 Awards Nominations

The jury for Spectrum 26: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art has nominated the top five artworks in eight categories for consideration for either a silver and gold award. Judges Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole debated the merits of hundreds of pieces of art before finalizing this list on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at the Flesk Publications offices in Santa Cruz, California.

Established in 1993 by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, the first Spectrum annual appeared in 1994 from Underwood Books; for over a quarter of a century it has attracted participants from around the world and has set the standards for excellence in fantasy and science fiction art. John Fleskes became the Director and Publisher of Spectrum in 2014 with volume 21.

The recipients will be announced at the Spectrum 26 Awards Ceremony that will be held at the historic Folly Theater in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, March 30, 2019 . The 2019 Spectrum Grand Master Award honoree will also be announced during the ceremony.

For more information about Spectrum visit: www.spectrumfantasticart.com
www.spectrumfantasticartlive.com

Congratulations to all of the artists who have been nominated!

Text only list is followed by the list showing the art.

ADVERTISING CATEGORY
Justin Gerard – Lair of the Firebreather
Donato Giancola – Reach
Valentin Kopetzki – After the Flood
Victo Ngai – Earth Species Project
Greg Ruth – Annihilation variant

BOOK CATEGORY
Jaime Jones – Winter Road
Vanessa Lemen – I am the Light
Yuko Shimizu – Japanese Tales 1: The Invisible Man
Chase Stone – Dragon Lords: Bad Faith
Francis Vallejo – Charlie Florida

COMIC CATEGORY
Alex Alice – Castle in the Stars: Book 4, page 1
Thomas Campi – Joe Shuster: The Artist Behind Superman cover
Paul Davidson – Blue Vortex 1
Kang Minjung – Kang Hearts Out 1
Jeffrey Alan Love – The Thousand Demon Tree

CONCEPT ART CATEGORY
Te Hu – Golden Temple Through Time we Converge: End
Carlyn Lim – Dwarf
Danny Moll – The Banner Saga 3: Juno in the Black Sun
Abe Taraky – Submerged Statue of Tyr
Zhengyi Wang – Big Hunt

DIMENSIONAL CATEGORY
Matthew Corcoran – Vivicus
Paul Komoda – SwampThing
Patrick Masson – Reflection
Mark Newman – Gallevarbe
Dug Stanat – Justice

EDITORIAL CATEGORY
Chris Buzelli – Structure
Qiuxin Mao – The Remains
Victo Ngai – Human: Opener
Tim O’Brien – Stormy
Leonardo Santamaria – How to Collect Customer Feedback the Right Way

INSTITUTIONAL CATEGORY
Ed Binkley – Mantis
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme – Etrata
Jesper Ejsing – Slippery Bogle
Tyler Jacobson – Opt
John Jude Palencar – The Nights Watch

UNPUBLISHED CATEGORY
Julien Delval – The Stranger
Konstantin Marinov Kostadinov – A Walk in the Woods
Ronan LE FUR – Sent by the Gods
Eric Pfeiffer – Racing Season in Empire City
Annie Stegg Gerard – The Serpent

ADVERTISING CATEGORY

Justin Gerard – Lair of the Firebreather
Donato Giancola – Reach
Valentin Kopetzki – After the Flood
Victo Ngai – Earth Species Project
Greg Ruth – Annihilation variant

BOOK CATEGORY

Jaime Jones – Winter Road
Vanessa Lemen – I am the Light
Yuko Shimizu – Japanese Tales 1: The Invisible Man
Chase Stone – Dragon Lords: Bad Faith
Francis Vallejo – Charlie Florida

COMIC CATEGORY

Alex Alice – Castle in the Stars: Book 4, page 1
Thomas Campi – Joe Shuster: The Artist Behind Superman cover
Paul Davidson – Blue Vortex 1
Kang Minjung – Kang Hearts Out 1
Jeffrey Alan Love – The Thousand Demon Tree

CONCEPT ART CATEGORY

Te Hu – Golden Temple Through Time we Converge: End
Carlyn Lim – Dwarf
Danny Moll – The Banner Saga 3: Juno in the Black Sun
Abe Taraky – Submerged Statue of Tyr
Zhengyi Wang – Big Hunt

DIMENSIONAL CATEGORY

Matthew Corcoran – Vivicus
Paul Komoda – SwampThing
Patrick Masson – Reflection
Mark Newman – Gallevarbe
Dug Stanat – Justice

EDITORIAL CATEGORY

Chris Buzelli – Structure
Qiuxin Mao – The Remains
Victo Ngai – Human: Opener
Tim O’Brien – Stormy
Leonardo Santamaria – How to Collect Customer Feedback the Right Way

INSTITUTIONAL CATEGORY

Ed Binkley – Mantis
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme – Etrata
Jesper Ejsing – Slippery Bogle
Tyler Jacobson – Opt
John Jude Palencar – The Nights Watch

UNPUBLISHED CATEGORY

Julien Delval – The Stranger
Konstantin Marinov Kostadinov – A Walk in the Woods
Ronan LE FUR – Sent by the Gods
Eric Pfeiffer – Racing Season in Empire City
Annie Stegg Gerard – The Serpent

Congratulations again to all of the Spectrum 26 nominations!

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text and photos copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Videos © 2018 Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

Spectrum 26 Artist List!

Spectrum 26 Call for Entries Poster by Tyler Jacobson (detail)

The complete list of artist names selected for inclusion into the twenty-sixth volume of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art is now available!

The five member jury selected over 600 works works by 335 artists that will make up Spectrum 26. These creators that work in every style and medium–both traditional and digital–represent the finest in the fantasy, horror, science fiction and the surreal genres from around the world. You will find top industry names who serve as the current definition of excellence and discover the rising stars who are being published for the first time.

Individual emails to those artists accepted will begin to go out this week. Full details regarding the next steps will be provided.

From everyone here at the Spectrum and Flesk offices, we would like to thank all of the artists who submitted to Spectrum 26. We couldn’t do what we do without your support. This includes putting out the Spectrum annual each year, organizing and running the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event, putting on the Spectrum Awards Ceremony where we hand out the Spectrum awards, and making the artist feature videos that we post online. You have our most sincere gratitude. Thank you!

A

Rob Alexander
Sara Alfageeh
Alex Alice
Evan Amundsen
Eren Arik
Tommy Arnold
Fian Arroyo

B

Daren Bader
Kathryn Beesley
Douglas Bell
Julie Bell
Steve Belledin
Julie Benbassat
Audrey Benjaminsen
Ed Binkley
Steven Russell Black
Chelsea Blecha
Jori Bolton
Paul Bonner
Zoltan Boros
Noah Bradley
Andy Brase
David Brasgalla
Bruce Brenneise
Brom
Lane Brown
Thomas Haller Buchanan
Christopher Burdett
Kirt Burdick
Wesley Burt
Chris Buzelli

C

Rovina Cai
Thomas Campi
Antonio JavierCaparo
Bill Carman
Kai Carpenter
Allan-Diego Carrasco
Robert Carter
Leslie Casilli
Clint Cearley
Milivoj Ceran
Sidharth Chaturvedi
Lynn Chen
Marcos Chin
Frank Cho
Yongjae Choi
Jehan Choo
Dylan Choonhachat
Alex Chow
Dan Chudzinski
Christina Chung
Sebastian Ciaffaglione
Hasani Claxton
Miguel Co
J.A.W. Cooper
Matthew J. Corcoran
Stephanie Cost

D

Sarah Dahlinger
Jessica Dalva
Paul Davidson
Olivia De Berardinis
Andrea De Dominicis
Peter de Steve
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Julien Delval
Kring Demetrio
Jieyu Deng
Luc Desmarchelier
Mark Dewes
Peter Diamond
Anna Dittmann
Daniel Dociu
Andrew Domachowski
Dan dos Santos
Allen Douglas
Pierre Droal
Chris Dunn

E

Jesper Ejsing
Craig Elliott
Rudy Ellis
Elvisdead
Micah Epstein

F

Crystal Fae
Rita Fei
Lyli Feng
Diego Fernandez
Fesbra
Thomas Fluharty
Jessica Fong
Jon Foster

G

Cosimo Galluzzi
Reinier Gamboa
Su Gao
Axel Rangel Garcia
Caroline Gariba
Shaun Gentry
Annie Stegg Gerard
Justin Gerard
Donato Giancola
Lamnho Giang
Gary Gianni
E. M. Gist
Anke Gladnick
Cory Godbey
Kevin Zamir Goeke
Oleksiy Golovchenko
Lucas Graciano
David Greco
Nicholas Gregory
Julia Griffin
James Gurney
Scott Gustafson

H

Mary Haasdyk
Brian Haberlin
Marie-Alice Harel
Dwayne Harris
Michael C. Hayes
Alex Herrerias
Stephen Hickman
Cleonique Hilsaca
Michael Hirshon
Alexandra Hodgson
Sijia Hong
John Howe
Limei Z. Hshieh
Te Hu
Lu Hua
Robert Hunt
Lake Hurwitz

I

Frazer Irving

J

Tyler Jacobson
Mate Jako
He Jie (Mona)
Jaime Jones
Romain Jouandeau

K

Will Kalkanis
MinJung Kang
KARAKTER Design Studio
Gomesh Karnchanapayap
Sam Keiser
Priscilla Kim
Edward Kinsella III
Nic Klein
Chris Knight
Fernanders Koak Chan Sam
Julian Kok
Paul Komoda
Alex Konstad
Michael Kontraros
Valentin Kopetzki
Bartosz Kosowski
Konstantin Marinov Kostadinov
Maxim Kozhevnikov
Svetlana Kudakova
Guido Kuip
Sudarshan Kumar
Anita Kunz
Eelis Kyttanen

L

Luis Lasahido
Mathieu Lauffray
Ronan LE FUR a.k.a DOFRESH
G-host Lee
Doug Lefler
Elizabeth Leggett
Vanessa Lemen
Andrew Leung
Meagan Lillich
Carlyn Lim
Jason Liu
Todd Lockwood
Loopydave
John Loren
Yoann Lossel
Travis Louie
Jeffrey Alan Love
Ashly Lovett
Howard Lyon

M

Lawrence MacDougall
MAD
Elliot Mallon
Greg Manchess
Qiuxin Mao
Victor Marin
Matteo Marjoram
James Martin
Juan Pablo Corredor Martinez
Patrick Masson
Victor Maury
Iain McCaig
Seb Mckinnon
Tara McPherson
Miranda Meeks
Gustavo Mendonca
Eddie Mendoza
Petar Meseldzija
Brett Mich
Victor Adame Minguez
Danny Moll
Ivan Montoya
Allen Morris
Sarah Morris
Jason Mowry
Iris Muddy
Meris Mullaley
Reiko Murakami
Scott Murphy
Sean Andrew Murray
Muhammad Mustafa

N

David Auden Nash
Alexandru Negoita
Greg Newbold
Mark Newman
Yin Shian Ng
Victo Ngai
Tran Nguyen
Terese Nielsen
Irina Nordsol

O

Tim O’Brien
Takeshi Oga
Ben Oliver
Yuta Onoda
Gal Or

P

Roberto Ribeiro Padula
JJ Palencar
David Palumbo
Ryan Pancoast
Dustin Panzino
Richard Pellegrino
Lucas Pina Penichet
Eric Pfeiffer
Ismael Pinteno
Alessandra Pisano
Colin Poole
John Powell
Brian Pratt
George Pratt
Luisa J. Preissler
Jeff Preston
Theo Prins

Q

Shan Qiao
QueenStudios

R

Andrea Radeck
Chris Rahn
Henrique Rainha
Chris Rallis
S. W. Rand
Omar Rayyan
Corinne Reid
Rob Rey
Wayne Reynolds
Brad Rigney
Aaron Riley
Pablo Rivera
Zack Rock
Virginie Ropars
Jakub Rozalski
Feifei Ruan
Steve Rude
Tim Von Rueden
Shawn E. Russell
Greg Ruth
Oliver Ryan
James Ryman

S

Leonardo Santamaria
Dominick Saponaro
Rafael Sarmento
Phil Saunders
Christopher Schenck
Paul Scheruebel
Mark Schultz
Audre Schutte ‘Charamath’
Danny Schwartz
David R. Seeley
Arantza Sestayo
Cynthia Sheppard
Yuko Shimizu
Jessica Shirley
Kaysha Siemens
Douglas Stanat
John Stanko
Stephen Stark
Matthew Stewart
Alex Stone
Chase Stone
William Stout
Paul Sullivan

T

Shaun Tan
Stacy Tang
Abe Taraky
Ken Taylor
John Tedrick
Thom Tenery
Kyriakos Theodossiou
Andrew Theophilopoulos
Allison Theus
Viktor Titov
Paul Tobin
Anthony Trujillo

V

Gavin Gray Valentine
Francis Vallejo
Randy Vargas
Svetlin Velinov
Erin Vest
Armando Veve
Beatriz Martin Vidal
Magali Villeneuve
Johannes Voss

W

David Wachter
Yiyi Wang
Zhengyi Wang
Tatsang Wang
Marisa Ware
Jonathan Way$hak
Owen William Weber
Sam Weber
David Thorn Wenzel
Taylor Wessling
Sam White
Allen Williams
Jeremy Wilson
Stijn Windig
Rob Wood
Sam Woodfin
Ben Wootten
Bayard Wu

X

Zi Xu

Y

Joy Yang
Kieran Yanner
Lixin Yin
Chieh Ying Yu

Z

Mark Zahaczewsky
Eytan Zana
Amir Zand
Luye Zhang
Aaron Zonka

Thanks again everyone!

With our very best,

John and Kathy

Flesk Publications
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Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2019 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2019 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.


Spectrum 26 Judging Event! Saturday, February 9th

Thank you again to everyone who submitted artwork to Spectrum 26 this year! We are excited to present your work to the judges this upcoming Saturday, February 9th at our Flesk offices in Santa Cruz. We will be hosting this year’s panel of judges consisting of Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole who will be reviewing the Spectrum Call for Entries submissions.

The first phase of the day consists of the judges voting anonymously on the works they feel have achieved a standard of excellence for inclusion into the book. A majority consisting of three of more votes from the five member panel guarantees the art for inclusion into Spectrum 26. This year, Colin and Kristine will be voting as a pair.

Phase two of the day brings the jury together for a group discussion to determine the silver and gold awards nominations for each of the eight categories.

We feel that it is essential to have a group of diverse and exceptional artists working together to select the art for Spectrum. Together, they represent all aspects of the art industry and community. This is important because the jury is an example of what Spectrum stands for: a community working together to help create a collection of art to inspire others.

We have spent the last few days cleaning our office and turning into a studio space for our judges. We will have everything set up in time to welcome the judges and will be excited to share the day’s activities with everyone during the event as well.

We wish everyone luck!

John and Kathy

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

Spectrum Friends!

Kristine and Colin Poole. Photo by Greg Preston

Hi, everyone,

When I took over Spectrum Fantastic Art with Spectrum 21 I never imagined the friendships that would form. With the annual books–as well as with the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (SFAL) event—there was a bonus beyond seeing all the amazing art and learning about the artists. There is a welcoming within the community that is open to all. New and inspiring friendships were quickly formed when I started, and they continue to strengthen with each passing year.

The list is far and great, but just a few people who I met through Spectrum is Daren Bader, Petar Meseldzija, Bill Carman, and J.A.W. Cooper—all of whom I had the privilege to publish books on. Then there are the Spectrum judges, such as Cory Godbey, Justin Gerard, Annie Stegg Gerard, Allen Williams—all of them! All the judges have been wonderful. Then being able to meet artists who I’ve idolized. When you meet them they are the best of human beings, such as Paul Bonner. It’s staggering to think about everyone who I’ve met and talked to since I have had this honor of being the current Spectrum caretaker.

A couple who has been an absolute pleasure to get to know and to call friends is Colin and Kristine Poole. They attended one of the early Spectrum shows without ever having taken part in anything Spectrum before. We met, we talked, we soon became friends, I inquired if they would like to make the new Spectrum awards, they did, then they suggested a Rising Star Award, I said yes, and they have been on the stage of the Spectrum Awards Ceremony ever since to present the award. All this from two people who decided to check out the Spectrum event with no expectations or connections. It just goes to show how everyone is welcome.

I’m so very pleased to host Colin and Kristine here in our Flesk office next month for the Spectrum judging event. These two greatly care about the individual artists and the community. They will do a wonderful job as judges.

If you’d like to submit to Spectrum 26, the deadline is Thursday, January 24th. Here is the website with more details: http://spectrumfantasticart.com/

To learn more about the Spectrum Awards Ceremony, you can visit this website: https://www.spectrumfantasticartlive.com/

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

Spectrum: The Gift of Community

Hi, everyone,

When people learn that I’m an art book publisher, the number one question that they ask is if I am an artist.

The answer is that my gifts lie elsewhere. Instead of being an artist, I have this fortunate position to be able to bring people together, to help raise the awareness of the art community, to be able to make books on the artists whose work that I love, to share who these artists are with others, and to raise artists up, while playing a part in putting the spotlight on them. In addition, I am humbled by being able to participate in running the Spectrum awards ceremony. This ceremony goes far beyond simply handing out awards. We get to recognize the entire fantastic art community on stage, in a prestigious theater. This was a dream for Arnie and Cathy Fenner to be able to to one day. And now this vision has become a reality where hundreds of people can participate.

Fantastic artists, on stage, in the spotlight, being recognized for outstanding achievement, among their peers, the fans, and the community. It’s unlike anything else.

So no, I’m not an artist. I was not given that gift. But, I’m ecstatic that so many others have this gift and that I can help share your gifts with others.

I hope you can join us at the Spectrum 26 Awards Ceremony that will be held on March 30, 2019 at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, MO.

Thanks for making so much beautiful art, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of this community.

If you are interested in submitting to Spectrum 26, you have until Thursday, January 24th.

More information on submitting to Spectrum 26:
http://spectrumfantasticart.com/

More information about the Spectrum Awards Ceremony:
https://www.spectrumfantasticartlive.com/

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

The Spectrum 26 Call for Entries Deadline is Thursday, January 24th!

Hi, all,

There’s just two weeks left to submit to Spectrum 26!

Click here to learn more or to submit to Spectrum.

This is an invitation to all professional and student artists, art directors, publishers and artists’ representatives to submit entries to the 26th Annual Spectrum International Competition for Fantastic Art. All artworks in all media embracing the themes of science fiction, fantasy, horror and the surreal are eligible. Fantastic art can be subtle or obvious, traditional or off-the-wall, painted, sculpted, done digitally or photographed: There is no unacceptable way to create art, and there are no set rules that say one piece qualifies while another does not. Imagination and skill are what matters. Work chosen by the jury will be printed in full color in the Spectrum annual, the peer-selected “best of the year” collection for the fantastic arts. Click here to submit.

The Spectrum 26 Call for Entries Poster was created by the renowned artist, Tyler Jacobson.

To join our mailing list to receive your complimentary poster, please click here.

The Spectrum 26 jury is comprised of a five member panel of some of the most exceptional artists working in the industry today consisting of Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole. Find out more about the Spectrum 26 jury here

“It is an honor to assemble such a prestigious group of artists for the Spectrum 26 jury,” shares John Fleskes. “I greatly admire the art that these six individuals have created during their careers. I also have a high regard for the educational opportunities that they have provided to others while giving back to the community. I look forward to bringing them together to view the call for entries submissions in February 2019.”

For over twenty-five years the Spectrum annual has been a showcase for the best and brightest creators of fantastic art from around the globe: it serves as an invaluable resource book for art directors, art buyers, publishers and agents world-wide. Our purpose and singular agenda is the promotion of the art and artists. We believe that Spectrum functions as a cost-efficient promotional forum and provides a bridge between creator, client, and aficionado as well. Spectrum is all about facilitating opportunities for creators, about growing the audience for imaginative work in all its forms, without pretension and without prejudice.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support of Spectrum! Please let us know if you have any questions.

For more information on Spectrum please visit spectrumfantasticart.com.

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

Flesk 2009-2019. How A 10 Year Plan Paid Off

James Walker, Katherine Chu, and John Fleskes in the Flesk office while packing our latest exclusive book, Pastoral by J.A.W. Cooper.

Hi all,

In January 2009 I was facing a major challenge. The Stock Market Crash was devastating to individuals and businesses. It was, hands down, the worst time to go into publishing full time. (During 2002-2008 I had a full-time day job when I launched, built and ran Flesk.) While scores of people were losing their jobs and as I watched neighbors around me lose their homes, I was determinated to go full time into publishing. When people were scared to spend, scared that they might lose their jobs, scared to lose their retirement—I was sitting at home working on the Al Williamson Flash Gordon book while putting a 10-year plan in place. I then began to follow it without question. Grit, determination, stubbornness—call it what you will. It was hard. It almost didn’t work. I came very close to losing the business. But it all worked out in the end. Here’s some insight into how it happened.

I’ll start with some background information. I tend to keep book projects under wraps for months, or even years, before they are ready for the printer. This allows me the opportunity to work at my leisure without any outside influences dictating my schedule.

It’s common practice for publishers to announce books anywhere from 8-12 months in advance of its street date to help ascertain the publics interest. This allows the publisher to determine the initial print run of the book. It’s a tried and true formula that is a historically good model to follow. This is especially necessary when working with titles that depend mostly upon the book trade for a successful sell-through. It’s also imperative if you are a new publisher. By garnering its initial demand while promoting the book months in advance you can best set yourself up for success. Or, this can be an opportunity to cancel a book if the interest looks weak, such as if I determine that the buying climate has changed.

I have a different approach to making and releasing books than most. I set my style into place in 2009. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing things like I do, but I have been very deliberate about creating an alternate and unique method that has proven successful for us. In 2008 I was acutely aware that the demand for tangible books, and the way that they would be sold, would be greatly affected by the mass adoption of the internet. There was also the possibility that tablets could replace, or greatly reduce, tangible book sales as e-books became more accessible. In addition, it was obvious that Amazon was changing how people bought books. Brick and mortar stores were closing because of the economy coming to a halt, but also due to the ease and accessibility of online shopping.

Huge discounts on books through Amazon contributed to publishers going into scramble-mode. When stores closed, there were less outlets for people to find our books, which meant lower print runs in a market where profit margins were already small. Lower print runs increased the per unit costs and cut back on the return of investment making it harder to recoup money and put it into future books. Another factor that came into play was it became tough to sell our own books on our website and at art shows since you could get it on Amazon at a 35-40% discount with free shipping. Adding to this, if you look at the 2008-2009 time period, there was a mass influx of returns that publishers received due to unsold stock. This increased inventory fees beyond the loss of funds from overprinting. Stores would order certain quantities in advance that set our print run. By the time we printed and delivered, those stores could be out of business, or they couldn’t sell what they had initially projected 4-6 months prior. All of those unsold books came right back to us instead of receiving a payment. It was brutal for everyone.

Another major shift in the 2000s was the lost ability for people to see the book in person and flip through its pages. This was historically the way people used to buy books. Now, people buy books more sight-unseen. Their purchase is based upon online reviews and the faith the “X” publisher, author or artist is desirable and has a good reputation. Additionally, people outside of the hardcore collectors at shows are more apt to buy items for delivery. That was not as common when I started publishing in 2002.

I’ve always been one to like challenges, to never ever make excuses, and to see what kind of positives can come out of change. I was determined to figure out a new business model that would allow us to thrive.

Ultimately, in January 2009, I believed, by creating consistently high-quality art books that people would want to hold in their hands was necessary to beat e-books. Also, creating a direct line of specialty books that could only be bought through us was necessary to beat Amazon. And finally, we needed a website with a proper shopping cart where people could place their orders direct from us while having good service and a reliable shipping system in place. I stopped wholesaling certain new titles as we launched our line of event exclusives. It only took a couple of years for them to become very popular for us.

Overall, I was excited. I knew that there was a big potential to be successful as a small publisher by doing things in a new way. The internet allowed for self-promotion through social media. Instead of paying $2000 for a full-page advertisement in a magazine, or spending thousands of dollars exhibiting at an event such as Book Expo in New York, now we could reach people directly in a one-on-one fashion. I loved where things were going and how technology was bringing us together.

I remember walking around at Book Expo in New York in the mid-to-late 2000s and realizing that the conventional way of doing things at the time was short-lived. It seemed so old-fashioned to me. I benefited from having no experience in the industry since I was not stuck looking at how things typically ran. Since I was small and a new publisher I could quickly adapt, see where the future was headed, and go after it.

To summarize quickly, in 2009 I put into place a new plan that would beat Amazon and beat e-books, while increasing a direct interaction between our collectors and ourselves. As I look back on the last 10 years, our direct sales exceed our distributor sales and we have a core group that supports us directly. The best part is that young people did not tire of tangible books. I’m incredible grateful at how things turned out for us.

How about the next 10 years? I noticed a new big shift start to develop four years ago. I started to put something new in place and am ramping up to grow along with where I predict things are going. I’ve already put things into place where I feel we will be ahead and thriving in this new world that is coming. It’s as exciting as it was for me in 2009. I’ve set some major goals for myself and for the company so that in the next decade it can hit the milestones that I foresee. I look forward to writing about it in detail in 10 years from now! I’ve never been one to boast or talk about what I’m doing. I enjoy the work and prefer to be recognized for what I’ve accomplished rather than tooting my own horn. Plus, I feel that talking too much jinxes’ things. I’ll just say for now that good things are coming.

Now, let’s touch upon 2019. Typical me, I’m going to be vague here. Besides the Ballpoint Beauties book by Frank Cho and Ambedo by Tran Nguyen (spring 2019 releases), then Spectrum 26 (fall 2019 release) we have three other books that are almost done, and three additional books that are in the early stages of production that I will publish this year. I’ll most likely be announcing two to three of these new titles in late-January. I’m working with our usual artists, along with some new ones. The only thing that I can guarantee is that we will put all our passion into these titles and do our very best to make 2019 the best ever for Flesk books. My commitment to the individual artists and this community is my focus. I’ll let the other publishers chase after the latest pop culture craze. For me, it has always been and always will be about the people.

I remain enthusiastic and grateful to be in this position to make books for you all to enjoy.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing more goodness soon.

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

 

Happy Holidays!

Hi all,

The Flesk office is closed for three days. We’ll return on Thursday.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays.

I’ll try and take a lesson from Mocha here and take a little break, but knowing me I’ll fail miserably at it. I hope some of you are more successful than I will be!

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.

New Gary Gianni Book Revealed Next Month!

Hi all,

The new Gary Gianni book will be revealed next month. This is one of my favorite ink pieces that will be included in the book, simply based upon Gary’s mastery of the ink line. It’s stunning!

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to work in three’s. We’re putting the final touches on this Gianni book, Frank Cho’s Ballpoint Beauties, and Ambedo by Tran Nguyen. Actually, there’s a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh new book that are well into the production stages as well. But the first three that I mentioned are the primary focus at the moment.

A lot of big news will be shared early in the new year!

Enjoy,

John

Flesk Publications
Flesk Publications on Facebook
Spectrum Fantastic Art
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live on Facebook

Text copyright © 2018 John Fleskes. Photos and videos © 2018 John Fleskes / Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2018 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.