With the five artists, Craig Elliott, Gary Gianni, Petar Meseldžija, Mark Schultz and William Stout, and myself, traveling to The Netherlands to attend the Strip Festival in Breda, I came up with the idea of holding a private event two days before the show started. “An Evening with Flesk Prime,” held at the Merlijn restaurant in the nearby city of Oosterhout, was the result.
Our local friend, Mark Thelosen, scoped out restaurants months in advance to find the perfect setting in which to hold our dinner. What he found at Merlijn proved to be excellent service in a large private room decorated in a fantasy setting with our own dedicated servers regularly catering to us in a luxurious fashion. The setting was beautiful. Alan Lee and Arthur Rackham inspired murals decorate the walls and mock up trees and vegetation sprinkled throughout made us feel like we were in an enchanted room and not a restaurant.
Promotion for the event was kept to a minimum and mostly through word of mouth to keep the amount of attendees to a low number. We had ten guests and have decided with future evenings that we will keep the count to no more than fifteen individuals. My goal was to make sure each person felt they had a unique and personal experience and were not a part of a crowd, or a witness, but instead a participant with ample time to relax and communicate with all of the artists individually and within small groups.
The evening began with our meeting at the lobby of the Apollo Hotel in Breda at 5:00PM. Here, we had the chance to meet with everyone before going to the restaurant. We all arrived at the Merlijn restaurant shortly after 6:00PM when the festivities began. The night did not end until shortly after 1:00AM. (When the restaurant closed.) The evening consisted of a superb four course meal and unlimited spirits for the entire duration. I was surprised at how quickly the night went. It seemed like just a few hours. I had a great time getting to know everyone. Our new relationships extended over the weekend when we would see each other at the Strip Festival and hotel.
Throughout the night each artist brought their own unique personality to the eclectic mix. What the private event allowed for was to go beyond the typical short fan experience. I noticed as the evening went on that people would become more comfortable which allowed for a more in-depth conversation that went both ways. I hope the guests experienced a pure memorable experience in a unique setting that they will remember for a long time. I know I had a wonderful time.
William Stout opened his bottomless treasure chest containing stories of fascinating personal adventures–all of which are true. Craig Elliott discussed his working on recent hit animated films such as The Princess and the Frog and Rio. Gary Gianni shared his experiences of working on Prince Valiant, among many other projects, as well as exposed his clever wit. Petar Meseldžija was open about his deep commitment to his work, while weaving his amusing tales to the delight of many. Mark Schultz enriched us with his commitment to his work and wide range of knowledge of an array of subjects. All five take their craft very seriously, yet have the relaxed exterior that hides how devoted they truly are.
The meal and talking went until 11:00PM, when I invited the artists and guests to convene on a secondary section of the room. Large tables were set up in a horseshoe shape with chairs arranged on both sides. Each artist brought a portfolio of original artwork and spread them out on the five individual tables for the guests to peruse and talk about.
We were also pleased to have Marcelo Anciano in attendance. Marcelo is the publisher of Wandering Star, the publisher that brought you the beautiful limited edition deluxe book series collecting the works of Robert E. Howard and illustrated by the likes of Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni and Gregory Manchess.
I brought two gifts for our guests. The first was a copy of our new book, Flesk Prime, featuring all five artists which they could get signed by the group. Then, a limited edition giclee print using archival inks and paper on heavy watercolor paper featuring all five artists and their signatures was shared. But, before I could give them away Gary Gianni pulled me aside and showed me large pencil preliminary drawings from his MonsterMen, The Shadow and Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea comic adaptations. He wanted to give one to each guest! This was both extremely gracious on Gary’s part, and a delightful surprise for everyone. I think they left with some good bounty from the night.
I want to express my appreciation to both the artists, Craig, Gary, Mark, Bill and Petar for being so willing to attend and entertain for the evening, and also to our fabulous ten guests who were perfect gentlemen and a joy to spend the night with. And especially to Mark Thelosen, who without his assistance, the event would not have been possible. I am grateful to you all and I look forward to planning another special evening sometime in the future. Perhaps it will be somewhere in the U.S. or in Europe, but you can count on each one to be different and unique.
Text and photos © 2011 John Fleskes