We sincerely hope that you are all doing well and that you are safe and healthy.
The Art of Frank Cho books arrived
at our Flesk warehouse! We entered phase 3 in Santa Cruz County, just in
time, making it open for tourism and for Frank to visit.
All of the Art of Frank Cho books, the prints associated with our Kickstarter campaign and all of the Kickstarter bonus items have been signed. Frank ended up doing just over 7000 signatures.
Kathy, Vicky and I have started packing. Due to Covid-19 we are still
being very cautious. We normally bring in a crew of helpers to pack
books, but we decided to limit the operations to just the three of us.
What this means is greater safety for us, but that means it will take us
a little longer to get you your goodies that normal. We hope you all
As of yesterday, 600 domestic packages of the signed deluxe edition
have been shipped. We are concentrating on mailing out all of the books
first, then we will mail the prints immediately afterward.
I’ll post weekly updates to inform you on what has shipped to date.
Big News! I’ve stepped down from Spectrum to focus on some new projects and visions. It has been an absolute joy to work with the Cathy and Arnie Fenner and to be a part of Spectrum. The friendships formed over the years has been incredible. Thank you all for your support and help!
Here’s the official press release with the details.
Changes for Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art
For Immediate Release
(06/08/2020) Overland Park, KS John Fleskes, the current Director of the Spectrum Fantastic Art competition and editor of the resulting book, has announced he will be stepping down from both positions following the publication of Spectrum #27 in October, 2020. Spectrum Fantastic Art founders Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner will return as Directors and editors beginning with the 28th annual competition in the Fall.
“Spectrum is an extremely time-consuming, labor-intensive project” says Cathy Fenner, “and John has many books for his Flesk Publications line that he is very passionate about but has been unable to pursue because of the energy and focus Spectrum demands. He also has some deeply personal projects outside of publishing that he needs time and attention to bring to fruition—and there are only so many hours in the day. Arnie and I greatly appreciate all of the excellent work John and his staff have put into Spectrum, SFAL, and the fantastic art community for the past seven-plus years and sincerely wish him the best of luck with all of his future endeavors.”
“It has been an absolute joy to be a part of Spectrum,” shares John. “I still have the same enthusiasm and care for Spectrum and the art community that I have always had. Both Arnie and Cathy Fenner have been wonderful to work with as mentors and friends. I can’t thank them enough for their trust in me and for their support over the years. I consider myself very fortunate to have had this experience. Being able to work with so many creative and amazing people is something that I will forever be grateful for. I’ll continue to be very active in the art world as I focus on a new line of books that I am eager to publish and I’ll be setting the foundation for a new vision that is close to my heart.”
John’s final volume, Spectrum #27 (as well as all previous in-print volumes), will be available through Flesk Publications and to the book trade via distributor Publishers Group West as usual.
The addresses for the Spectrum website and social media pages will remain the same; Spectrum 28 will open for entries in October, 2020 and the book will be available in October, 2021. Further announcements regarding the new Spectrum advisory board, additions to the Spectrum staff, the poster artist and jurors for #28 will be made at a future date.
Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art was founded by Cathy and Arnie Fenner in 1994 and is the renowned international symbol of excellence for the field of fantastic art. John Fleskes became Director/Editor/Publisher of the series in 2013.
For 27 years Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art has
been celebrating imaginative works by creators from around the world.
The Spectrum Awards Ceremony was held live online on Saturday night, April 4,
The celebration included the presentation of the Gold and Silver Awards for
exemplary art from the previous year in eight categories: Advertising, Book,
Comics, Concept Art, Dimensional, Editorial, Institutional, and Unpublished.
The ceremony was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 450 people
from all over the world connected to bring the community closer than ever. Recipients
from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, and in Europe were able to participate. For
the first time all of the recipients were able to provide winning speeches.
The ceremony introduction was by Spectrum founders and directors, Arnie and
Cathy Fenner. Lauren Panepinto and Dan dos Santos served as the hosts during
the ceremony. Between Lauren, Dan, along with Marc Scheff who ran tech support,
the three of them made it possible to bring the awards ceremony live.
The in memoriam introduction was presented by John English. He gave a
touching tribute about his father, Mark English, and spoke about how each
artist who passed away in 2019 served as mentors and changed people’s lives for
Presenters included such luminaries of the art community as Ed Binkley (Unpublished
category), Dan dos Santos (Advertising category), Christine Foltzer (Book
category), Karla Ortiz (Concept Art category), George Pratt (Comic category), Cynthia
Sheppard (Institutional category), Yuko Shimizu (Editorial category), and Chris
Sickles/Red Nose Studios (Dimensional category).
The five finalists and award-recipients in each category were selected by the jury consisting of Alice Carter, Craig Elliott, Anthony Francisco, Courtney Granner, Forest Rogers, and Chie Yoshii from over 4000 artworks submitted to the twenty-seventh annual competition.
Also presented at the ceremony was the Muse award, created and presented by sculptors Colin and Kristine Poole and intended to encourage a young artist. This year’s Muse award recipient was Alex Dos Diaz. Muse award finalists included Alex Dos Diaz, Irina Nordsol Kuzmina, and Erin Vest. The Spectrum Grand Master Award was presented by Iain McCaig which honors the career accomplishments of a living artist. This year’s Grand Master recipient was Terryl Whitlatach.
Time lapse art demos were featured in-between each category by Rovina Cai, Donato, Scott Fischer, Justin Gerard, Ron Lemon, Travis Lewis, Rebecca Leveille-Guay, Iain McCaig, Allen Williams, and James Zapata.
The Spectrum 27 awards were designed and made by J. Anthony Kosar and his
team at Kosart Effects Studio.
The award-winning art will appear with over 300 other pieces selected by the judges in the Spectrum 27 book, which will be published by Flesk Publications in November 2020.
Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to the recipients!
The Spectrum 27 Awards Ceremony was sponsored by Drawn and Drafted, Flesk
Publications, Muddy Colors, and Spectrum Fantastic Art.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for an unforgettable evening.
Spectrum 27 Awards Recipients
2017 GRAND MASTER HONOREE
RISING STAR AWARD Alex Dos Diaz
GOLD Bartosz Kosowski – The Shining
SILVER Brom – Lilith
GOLD Rovina Cai – Ivywood
SILVER Sija Hong – The Three Lords of Shambhala
GOLD Tim Probert – Lightfall 1: Walk in the Woods
SILVER Claudya Schmidt – Myre: Flora
CONCEPT ART CATEGORY
GOLD Tooth Wu – Devourer of Ghosts
SILVER Ian Jun Wei Chiew – Island Woodblock
GOLD Dug Stanat – Space Madness
SILVER Michihiro Matsuoka – Philosopher From The Past Coelacanth
GOLD Red Nose Studio – Truth, Lies & Uncertainty: Truth
SILVER Sam Araya – The Forest Yell
GOLD John Jude Palencar – The Stranger: The Seventh Faith
A big note of thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered our upcoming Bruce Timm book so far! We’ve had a tremendous response. It is very helpful when people pre-order since not only does it help us to pay our initial printer bill, but it also helps me to determine the print run. I enjoy how many books that we sell direct since we like the relationship that we have with all of you. Thank you!
The Big Teasecollects his three Teaser collections—released from 2011 to 2013 and long sold out—plus Surrender, My Sweet from 2015. In addition, Timm has created new material especially for this collection and delved into his personal archives to share pieces not shown before. These culminate in more than 75 additional pages of material not reproduced in any of his previous Naughty and Nice collections. In all, over 260 women drawn in pencil, ink or color fill these pages. Timm’s art is reproduced at an impressive size and showcased in this oversized format.
The hardcover edition is only available direct from us at Flesk. Save $10 by pre-ordering your book at this special price. This collection ships in mid-June 2020. The book is done and at the printer. All hardcover pre-orders come with 2 free bonus 8 x 10” mini-prints that feature B.T. art found within the book.
I was curious about how long we have been working on this collection. I went through my emails and found the following message that I sent to Bruce on November 5th, 2018. (This is just a small portion of the email.
“I have a little itch to work on something else in the background.
“What do you think of making a new collection of your nudes that would collect the 3 Teaser’s and Surrender My Sweet into a 9 x 12″ collection? We’d be looking at 112 pages of material.”
Bruce’s reply was, “Consider me interested.” (Also, a small portion of his response.)
Since I know how busy Bruce always is I had suggested that this book was something that we could do without him needing to produce any new work, except for a cover piece. Well, here we are 1 year and 4 months later with a 208 page book that has an additional 75 pages of material not reproduced in any of his previous Naughty and Nice collections.
Bruce is a joy to collaborate with. I always work around his schedule knowing that in time we will have a beautiful new collection. For this reason we are grateful for your patience and truly hope you will enjoy this book.
We’ve had a lot of inquiries asking if Bruce can sign the books. His schedule is too tight and busy to allow him to. However, we hope some of you can meet him in person at the San Diego Comic Con where he can sign it for you in person. That’s the one show where he makes an appearance each year.
Here’s the link to pre-order if you are interested.
With everything that is going on right now, I wanted to reach out to
you and wish you all well. I hope that you and your family and friends
are safe and healthy.
We’re all doing good here. Kathy, Vicky and I are working from our respective homes while we are sheltered in place.
What does this mean for us at Flesk Publications? We can run the business from home with the one exception of mailing packages on a daily basis. For the time being we have limited our shipping to once per week until we are given permission by the city to resume our office operations. Only essential businesses are allowed to continue to operate at the moment. Health services, grocery stores and gas stations are examples of essential businesses. Thank you for your patience as our online orders ship slower than usual until the city gives us the safety clearance.
The health of our community, our friends, and our families takes
precedence during this time. We’re doing our part by staying at home to
respect the ordinance and to refrain from inadvertently adding to the
During our shelter in place we will use this time to pour all our
energy into being creative and to working with our artist friends. It’s
our goal to use this time of sheltering to make some beautiful new
books, including Spectrum 27, a new Arthur Adams collection, and our
first big book that highlights Rachel and Terry Dodson. We look forward
to sharing these new titles with you once we get through this
The Art of Frank Cho is at the
printer. It’s too early to tell if there will be any delays with the
book, but we will get through this incredibly challenging time and
everything will be ok.
From Kathy, Vicky, Lauren and myself here at Flesk, and from Frank,
we wish for you and your family to be safe and secure and hope that you
all come out of this situation healthy. We’re grateful to all of you for
your support over the years. You have given us this gift of being able
to publish art books. We can’t thank you enough.
The complete list of artist names selected for inclusion into the twenty-seventh volume of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art is now available!
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 27. 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!
Spectrum 27 will be available from Flesk Publications in the fall of 2020 at your favorite comic and book store.
Mattias Adolfsson Alex Alice Marie Alice Sam Araya Steve Argyle Tommy Arnold
Daren Bader Anna and Elena Balbusso Wylie Beckert Ed Binkley Steven Russell Black Michael Blank Paul Bonner Zoltan Boros Bruce Brenneise Brom Laurie Brom Alan Brown Thomas Buchanan Dmitry Burmak Wesley Burt Chris Buzelli
DJ Cacouault Rovina Cai James Cain Thomas Campi Bill Carman Milivoj Ceran Lynn Chen Zhiying Chen Ian Jun Wei Chiew Frank Cho Heonhwa Choe Yongjae Choi Jehan Choo Waiji Choo Dan Chudzinski Hilary Clarcq J.A.W. Cooper
Daarken Jessica Dalva Galen Dara Bastien Lecouffe Deharme Julien Delval Jie Deng Eric Deschamps Peter de Seve Laura Diehl Daxue Ding Anna Dittmann Daniel Dociu Terry Dodson Hope Doe Dan dos Santos Allen Douglas Adam S. Doyle Chris Dunn
Jesper Ejsing Micah Epstein
Diego Fernandez Thomas Fluharty Owen Freeman
Shaun Gentry Justin Gerard Annie Stegg Gerard Donato Giancola Gary Gianni Cory Godbey Nicholas Gregory Chuck Grieb Oleg Gritsak James Gurney Scott Gustafson Breanna Guthrie Arturo Gutierrez
Brian Haberlin Leesha Hannigan Wang Hao Alex Herrerias Ben Hill Sija Hong Alex Horley John Howe Te Hu Steven Hughes Risa Hulett Robert Hunt
He Jie (Mona)
Jim and Ruth Keegan Edward Kinsella Tatsuro Kiuchi Ki Kline Bartosz Kosowski Sebastian Kowoll Maxim Kozhevnikov Thomas Kuebler Tami Kuo
Mathieu Lauffray Elizabeth Leggett Vanessa Lemen Shuxing Li Yangtian Li Kan Liu Jonah Lobe John Loren Travis Louie Ashly Lovett Howard Lyon
Felipe Machado Greg Manchess Finnian MacManus Michael MacRae Michael Manomivibul Patrick Masson Michihiro Matsuoka Ben Mauro Iain McCaig Chris McGrath Seb McKinnon Tara McPherson Miranda Meeks Petar Meseldzija Brynn Metheney Brett Mich Aaron Miller Mike Miller Christel Morvan Jason Mowry Reiko Murakami Sean Murray
John Nadeau Mark A. Nelson Daniel Newman Cliff Nielsen Tran Nguyen
Tim O’Brien Michael Avon Oeming James Ortega Pernille Orum
John Jude Palencar David Palumbo Dustin Panzino Andy Park Amirah Patel Angi Pauly Liam Peters John Picacio Lucas Pina Alessandra Pisano Colin Poole Kristine Poole Marc Potts April Prime Tim Probert Vincent Proce Magdalena Proszowska
Wu Qinghao Queen Studios
Andrea Radeck Chris Rahn Henrique Rainha Omar Rayyan Red Nose Studio Rob Rey Wayne Reynolds Tooba Rezaei Olena Richards Paolo Rivera Virginie Ropars Feifei Ruan Steve Rude Greg Ruth Grzegorz Rutkowski James Ryman Entei Ryu
Karl Deen Sanders Leonardo Santamaria Mauro Santini Axel Sauerwald Steven Saunders Chris Seaman Arantza Sestayo Claudya Schmidt Cynthia Sheppard Allen Song Baiheng Song Dug Stanat Chase Stone William Stout Yuko Shimizu
Shaun Tan John Tedrick Thom Tenery Agnieszka Trojanowska
Olivier Villoingt Thomas von Kummant Timothy Von Rueden Johannes Voss
Sam Weber Jan Wessbecher Sam White Allen Williams Erica Williams Jeremy Wilson Bayard Wu Esther Wu
Y Lixin Yin Leif Yu
Amir Zand James Zaraam Enzhe Zhao Fan Zhang David Zhou Daniel Zrom
The jury for Spectrum 27: 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 Alice A. Carter, Craig Elliott, Anthony Francisco, Courtney Granner, Forest Rogers and Chie Yoshii debated the merits of hundreds of pieces of art before finalizing this list on Saturday, February 8, 2020 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 27 Awards Ceremony that will be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, MO on Friday evening, March 20, 2020. The 2020 Spectrum Grand Master Award honoree will also be announced during the ceremony.
This is an invitation to all professional and student artists, art directors, publishers and artists’ representatives to submit entries to the 27th 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 Spectrum27 Call for Entries Poster was created by the
renowned artist, Paul Sullivan.
To join our mailing list to receive your complimentary poster, please click here.
The Spectrum 27 jury is comprised of a six member panel of some of the most exceptional artists and educators working in the industry today consisting of Alice A. Carter, Craig Elliott, Anthony Francisco, Courtney Granner, Forest Rogers, and Chie Yoshii. Find out more about the Spectrum 27 jury here.
“I’m delighted to bring such an esteemed group together,” shares John Fleskes.
“Alice Carter and Courtney Granner have mentored and guided thousands of
students through the San Jose State University’s award-winning
Animation/Illustration program that they co-founded. Craig Elliott has had a
hand in designing many of the most popular animated films from the last 20
years for companies such as Disney and DreamWorks, as well as being a
remarkably well-rounded artist and craftsman. His teaching credentials are
equally impressive. Then, we are pleased to have Anthony Francisco join us, who
is the Senior Visual Development Concept Illustrator at Marvel Studios. Anthony
created Baby Groot and the costumes for the Dora Milaje (Okoye and Nakia) for Black
Panther. We are honored to have Forest Rogers, who is one of the most
admired sculptures in the surreal and fantastic arts genres. Finally, we are
fortunate to have Chie Yoshii join the jury, who’s gorgeous paintings have long
been featured within the pages of Spectrum. We’re are grateful to have this admired
group of artists to select the works for inclusion into Spectrum 27.”
For over twenty-six 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
Thanks to everyone for your continued support of Spectrum! Please let us
know if you have any questions.
With the summer winding-down I am turning my focus toward our latest batch of books. There are five titles that form our next wave of art collections. These will be released between this fall and into the spring of 2020. Each of these books has been in some stage of development from anywhere between 1 to 13 years. They include monograms on Frank Cho, Bruce Timm, Brad Kunkle, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Jeffrey Alan Love. Some of the details for each project is outlined here. I’m including Al Williamson and Mark Schultz as supporting guests as I share some behind the scenes stories.
The Art of Frank Cho
The first book that I
will share the details about is a big Art of Frank Cho collection. Frank has
brought up the idea of a large book for years. During a quiet period about a
year ago I began to assemble this book. Over the course of a few weeks I worked
with Frank to map out a book that spans his entire career that runs over 300
pages. During my visit to Maryland during the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con I spent
some extra time with Frank and scanned original art from his archives. Then, in
February 2019 I visited Frank again when we fleshed out the book some more and
I scanned a bunch of more material for the book. It was common to work on the
book for 2-3 days, then to take a few months off before another window opened
where we could align and do some more work on it together. I’m looking at the
book now and realizing how close it is to being done. It’s amazing how a few
days here and there over the course of a year or two can result in a book.
Since we haven’t looked at the book over the summer, we have two fresh pairs of eyes on it. We have tweaked one of the sections by cutting back on the Liberty Meadows section and inserting some of his latest works. At the moment Frank is working full time on his upcoming Fight Girls comic for AWA, his regular Harley Quinn covers for DC Comics, and the occasional comic cover for other publishers. This makes his time available to focus on this book limited. We are squeezing in an hour here and there to wrap it up. I never want to stress Frank out by being pushy, so we are working at his pace to get this done. The only thing that Frank has left to do is the cover and to provide the remaining captions. We’re in a good groove and hope to have it done very soon.
The way I work with
every artist is different, yet the same factor of it being very personal is
consistent. With Frank we do everything over the phone. We talk for anywhere
between 1-3 hours at a time, usually chit-chatting about random things as we
both work while keeping each other company. What I’ll do is send Frank a PDF of
the book which he will look over, usually while he is drawing a Harley Quinn cover.
Based on his feedback and our discussion I’ll tweak and adjust things as we
talk about totally random things. I’ll send him a new PDF once I’ve made a
series of fresh improvements. Frank gives it a look, we talk about it, then I
tweak it some more. We go back and forth like this for hours. It’s easy, very
organic, and we are always in sync with one another. It’s a pretty smooth and
enjoyable process. When I work with Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni, it is very
similar to this, with the exception that they are not working on comic covers at
the same time. Frank is always backed up with so many projects, he usually has
to continue working.
With Frank, we usually work and talk late at night. Between 8:00pm to midnight my time, which is 11:00pm to 3:00am his time. We both work best with creative stuff at night—especially since we can focus uninterrupted. For me, the daytime is reserved for running the business and while being on daddy duty. Since we are the same age and in similar family situations, we can relate to one another easily.
Working with Frank is a
good experience. Since neither of us likes drama, and we like to keep things
mellow and easy, it’s always worked out smoothly.
The details and release date for The Art of Frank Cho will be revealed soon. I like to have Frank’s books done, or nearly done, before we announce it. Since he is always slammed with work, I don’t want to make an announcement and then have the book delivered late. But, we are very close to being done!
At the same time I am working with Bruce Timm on his new book. This will be a collection of his three sold-out show Teasers, then Surrender My Sweet, and will also include a lot of new material. At 208 pages and 9 x 12 inches, there will be a paperback and a hardcover edition available. Bruce is another artist who is very easy to work with. We started on this collection last year. Like with Frank Cho, Bruce can get very busy with his day job. We tend to work a little at a time in-between other projects. Sometimes when he has the time, I may be fully engrossed in my Spectrum duties. Then, when I’m free, he may be tied-up in a new film. Eventually though, we align and get it done. By not setting a deadline it takes the pressure and stress off of us, while allowing for a book that we are proud of.
Bruce and I work
exclusively through email. Like with Cho, Schultz, and Gianni, he is easy and
professional, with the process being very organic. The way we work typically
goes like this. I’ll shoot him an email with a book idea that includes a full
outline to get the brainstorming sessions started. Bruce replies after each of
my paragraphs with notes and thoughts of his own. We go back and forth like this
as the book begins to take form. This is a very enjoyable part of the process.
I’ve written this before, but Bruce has been very impactful on me in terms of
how I design a book. I’ve never worked with him at Warner Bros., or seen him in
action there, but based upon my experience while working with him on his books,
he is very good at bringing out the best in me, while allowing me to be
creative and to try new things.
If you are wondering
how I started working with Bruce, it was as simple as my meeting him at a
Comic-Con in San Diego and giving him a 2-minute pitch. Since I didn’t know him,
I forced myself to keep my book idea with him to just a few minutes. I knew he
was a big name, and I was well aware of his stature in the industry and all
that he has accomplished. I don’t get nervous or feel intimated when I meet
people, so I didn’t practice, or prepare (since both rob me of feeling
comfortable—I’m best when I don’t rehearse in advance), but I simply had a
general idea of making a book on his personal “after-hours” art. I let him know
that I wanted to make a “Bruce Timm” book and never mentioned any of his
superhero or daytime work. A handful of follow-up emails over the next 6-8
months resulted in about 200 originals showing up at my house one day. Suffice
it to say, I feel very fortunate that he continues to work with me.
Back to this new
collection, it is about 95% complete. As soon as Bruce is wrapped up with his
latest film we can wrap it up. I’ll make an announcement once we have a release
A third book that I am
working on is with Brad Kunkle. Working on three books at a time serves a few
purposes. The first is that it is practical. Many of the artists that I work
with stay very busy. Between commercial assignments, private commissions, event
appearances, exhibits—we all share passion for our dreams and work hard to
achieve our vision. When Frank Cho has a Harley Quinn cover deadline or he is
attending a show, I may jump over to the Bruce Timm book. Then when I am caught
up on Bruce’s book, I’ll send him an email with some notes. Rather than wait
for his reply, especially since it may be a week or two since he is involved in
a new film, I jump over to Brad’s book. The three books keep me moving and I’m
not sitting idle.
Another reason why three
books is the magic number is because it keeps me creatively excited. Each book
has a different tone; each one features different subject matter; and, each is
handled differently. By jumping back and forth between the three, I feel that I
can have continually fresh eyes. Rather than serving as a distraction or
impeding my flow, the variations help with my flow. My goal is to have
contrasting books with different designs so that there are no templates being
Getting back to Brad, I
first met him in 2006 or 2007 (I have to check my notes to confirm the year) during
my first trip to Pennsylvania to visit with Mark Schultz. Mark had invited me
out to visit Al and Cori Williamson. Having the chance to see Al at his home
was a special moment for me. I’m a huge fan of the EC comics line that came out
in the 1950s. Al did a lot of artwork for the Weird Fantasy, Weird
Science, and Weird Science-Fantasy titles. He collaborated with Roy
Krenkel and Frank Frazetta at times, but it was Al’s work that excited me the
most. (This all ties into Brad, I promise.)
After I arrived at
Mark’s house, and after we visited with Al and Cori, Mark and I drove back to
his house. The next day Mark asked me if he minded if a guest joined us for
lunch. Sure, I didn’t mind. This guy pulls up the driveway and Mark introduces
Brad Kunkle to me. It turns out that Brad is related to Mark’s wife, Denise. Brad,
at the time, was in a band and was doing dog portrait paintings on the side. I
recall that he was still deciding which direction to go in.
Brad pulled out a
painting from his trunk. It was of a recent portrait that he did of his
girlfriend at the time. It was stunning! I looked at his dog portraits online
and was amazed at how he captured the personalities of the dogs. We even
discussed possibly doing a dog calendar at the time. But, basically, from that
fortuitous lunch during a time when I was starting to get my publishing career
off the ground, and Brad was beginning to become a painter, we developed a
friendship. Over the years we would meet up in various locations during our
travels when our lives would intersect such as in Santa Barbara, New York City,
and in various cities in Pennsylvania, but never in the same place twice. I was
able to congratulate him as he had his first sold-out exhibit, followed by his
second, and watched how his notoriety and fame grew, while he always remaining
a humble and good guy. Each time we saw one another, we would discuss working
together on a book project when the time was right. Well, 13 plus years later
after our first meeting, we finally decided that the time is right.
At the moment we are
working on his first art book collection. Our main emphasis is for the book to
be an art object. There may be more discussion going into this book than any
other project that I have worked on before. I want this to be something very
special, and unlike anything we have published before. Like all of the books
that we do, there is no rush on this. It will get done when it is done. But, I
can guarantee that it will be beautiful.
Edwin Austin Abbey
A fourth book that is nearly done is an Edwin Austin Abbey pen-and-ink book that is reproduced from old magazines. I recently pulled it off a hard drive and dusted it off. I had done the majority of work on this book 10 years ago. It is in a similar format and style to the Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll books that I did from 2002-2004. I had lost interest in the Abbey book when I was working with living artists and direct from original art full time. The chance to work with Al Williamson was more exciting! After looking over the Abbey book I realized that it was about 80% done and I liked it a bunch. I asked Kathy to finish cleaning up the remaining art that I hadn’t got to yet, and she put the final polish on the book. All that’s needed is for me to write an introduction or essay. I just need to find the time to write a brief piece to open the book. I’ll leave a detailed essay on Abbey to a future historian. Taking the time to research and write extended essays is not available to me at this stage in my life.
Jeffrey Alan Love
A fifth book in development is a Jeffrey Alan Love sketchbook. Jeff ran this idea by me last year, which I liked and agreed to publish. The concept is simple in that Jeff would paint a piece in his sketchbook of whatever idea came to his mind that day. Once the sketchbook was full, he passed it along to me. Rather than scanning the pages I took it to my friend Greg Preston to get photographed. When scanning art, it projects a bright flat light against the art surface. This works fine in most cases, however I wanted to have more control over the lighting for this object, rather than treating it as a flat surface. There are textures and variations in the way Jeff applies his paint and I didn’t want these nuances to be lost in the scanning process. Jeff was the one who initially suggested that the sketchbook be photographed. My mind immediately began spinning with ideas and techniques for a unique approach to reproducing his sketchbook. With the photography done, I’ve been playing around with two very different approaches to the book and will make a final decision soon. There’s not too much work left to do on this book. I simply need the time to focus on it. My goal is to have it done in the next few months, then I’ll plan a release date.
Making a Book
Publishers typically make new book announcements 10-12 months in advance, then work hard to hit their target dates. I prefer to work in a different way. I like to either finish or have a book 95% done before I advertise and offer a release date. This allows me to take my time and to let the book dictate its own schedule. I can pull this off since I am a small publisher. Once a publisher gets to a certain size and has a larger staff–mapping out schedules is imperative to making sure the business runs smoothly. I can work in both environments, however, lately I’ve been focusing on the book first, followed by advertising it once it is complete.
The high majority of
the book work is done by me, although Kathy is quickly growing as a fine
bookmaker and will be running her own projects as soon as we can find a new
office manager to free up her time. Currently, Kathy runs the office and
assists me throughout the week. Some books, like Spectrum, she plays a major
role in and does most of the heavy work, and other books, like the Bruce Timm
collection where she has a very small hand in. Then, there are other books
where we work side-by-side like this new Frank Cho book. The new Tran Nguyen
book Kathy did not see until I asked her to give it a final review before I
sent it to the printer. We work very organically and fall into a smooth groove
based on what is going on in the office and what book work needs to be done.
When we start a new
book, I’ll take the first step which is to make something which I call a book
map. I do a rough layout with no design in place. It looks as simple as art
placed on pages just to get an idea of the flow and placement of how the tone
and order of the book will look. Actually, before I do this, I visually scroll
through the artwork quickly on the computer to take a mental snapshot and to
memorize all of the imagery. I shuffle and organize the images in my head, then
place them in the order that I want on the pages. Once this is done, I’ll send
a PDF to the artist for them to look at for feedback. This avoids wasting time
and effort by streamlining the book early, before the design stage begins.
Either through email or over the phone we’ll go over the PDF together. Based on
their comments and reactions I’ll tighten up the book further, shift pages and
art around, and I may group things differently, until we have a solid book map
to work with.
At this stage I’ll start inserting text, if any. Again, I’m not paying any attention to design. I’m simply dropping text on pages next to the art that it is associated with. Before the text is dropped into the book it is fully edited and finalized. I don’t write in the design program, or make changes to the text after it is inserted into the book. I want to be efficient and not waste time by repeating unnecessary steps. I’d rather spend time with my kid than do something a second time. Once the text and art for each page is finalized, then I’ll start designing the book. I’ll only design a handful of book spreads first, then send it to the artist for their feedback. That way we can nail the theme and design elements early, before applying it to the full book. After we settle on the design, I’ll go in and apply the master design to the full book. I’ll send PDFs regularly to the artist to give opportunities to make changes and to provide feedback in the early stages. The last thing I want to do is to make big radical changes after I’ve already applied the theme to the book. It’s about doing the heavy lifting early on, really paying attention to the early mapping and design foundation to make sure that the rest of the process is smooth and easy. I actually enjoy the heavy creative lifting in the beginning stages, then fall into cruise control for the middle stage. The final stage includes all double checks on the art and text to look for mistakes. Then I package it up and send it off to the printer.
That brings you up to date on our next five books. Lots more to come! I have a backlog of 10 more that I am pretty excited to move forward with after these. They include the next Arthur Adams, J.A.W. Cooper, Terry Dodson, Mark Schultz, William Stout, and Al Williamson titles—along with Spectrum 27.