Spectrum 17 Edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner Now Available from Underwood Books! (With A Little Insight from a Jury Member!)

Before I gush about Spectrum 17 edited by Arnie and Cathy Fenner [Underwood Books], I would like to share some of my experiences being involved as a jury member for this edition.

During the 2008 Comic-Con International in San Diego I had the opportunity to have dinner for the first time with Arnie and Cathy Fenner on the Saturday evening of the show. William Stout was present too, for a lively discussion and enjoyable evening. At one point, Bill stepped away for ten minutes. While he was gone, Arnie and Cathy asked me if I would be interested in being one of the five jury members for Spectrum 17? I was both surprised and elated. I consider Spectrum to be an invaluable resource to the field, and something I have enjoyed since its first volume. To be among the jury is an honor I could never have imagined as I first picked up Spectrum 1, or even Spectrum 15 for that matter.

Fast forward to February 27, 2010 when the jury convened in Kansas City to view and make our selections for Spectrum 17. I wrote a blog in March detailing my adventures as a jury member, which can be read here.

I received my copy of Spectrum 17 a few days ago. It’s exciting and interesting to see how the combined private choices of five individuals formed this collection. I was the only jury member who was not an artist. During our debates when selecting the pieces for awards, I found it interesting to see how artists looked at the art compared to my own viewpoint.

Flipping through the book, I notice there are many artists I was completely unaware of prior to our viewing the submissions in February, but now find them to be among my favorite contemporary artists. The two standouts for me are Eric Fortune and Sam Weber. These two do absolutely phenomenal work. I can’t praise both of them enough. If there was a Best of Show selection for the book, my vote would have been for Sam Weber’s “Absinthe Drinker.”

Other artists I was previously unaware of who stood out to me are Victo Ngai, Yuta Onoda, Chris Buzelli, Android Jones, Joe Quinones, Steven Tabbutt, Heather Theurer, and there are many more. Artists I am familiar with that I was happy to see new works from are Gregory Manches, Donato, Justin Sweet, Michael Kaluta, Craig Elliott, Frank Cho, Peter de Seve, Claire Wendling, Charles Vess, Scott Gustafson, Art Adams, James Gurney and plenty others.

One aspect I enjoy about Spectrum is there are plenty of well-known professionals in there. But even better, a large selection of artists that don’t have the big name recognition are included in this beautiful showcase. I get just as much of a kick discovering new artists as I do seeing new works by those I am familiar with.

Also, with the amount of periodicals in the marketplace it would be very difficult to see all of the material you can find in Spectrum. I dig seeing all of the art in one place.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Spectrum 17 jury event, the announcement was made that I would be a part of the Spectrum Advisory Board. I am deeply honored by Arnie and Cathy’s invitation to join the Advisory Board. I can only hope to live up to the expectations they have for me. Since its onset, I eagerly anticipate each new collection as the definitive yearly showcase of the fantastic art genre I am so passionate about. The concept of their mission to “promote and provide exposure to fantastic artists” has turned into a worldwide phenomenon. I am privileged and humbled to play a small role in keeping Arnie and Cathy “in line.”

Other board members are: Rick Berry, Brom, Mark Chiarello, Leo Dillon, Diane Dillon, Harlan Ellison, Irene Gallo, Bud Plant, Tim Underwood, and Michael Whelan.

My first role as an Advisory Board member was to place my vote for the Spectrum 17 Grand Master Award. We were each requested to provide a list of three names for consideration. The individual must have made a significant contribution to the field, and proved to inspire and influence both readers and fellow artists. As one of the artists I sought out to publish for his outstanding achievements, casting one of my votes for Al Williamson felt natural. I knew full well my association with Al and his family and my publishing two books on his works would appear as favoritism to some, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. There are ten advisory board members and two directors who took part in the voting process. If Al didn’t deserve the award, then someone else would have been selected.

Once Al was selected, Arnie then asked me to write a piece to accompany Al’s Grand Master Award section for inclusion in Spectrum 17. A week after I turned in the text, Al passed away. As much as I knew Al was in poor health, it still shocked me.

I have had a wonderful opportunity to play a small role in this year’s Spectrum of which I am grateful. I am thankful to Cathy and Arnie for allowing me the privilege.

To learn more about Spectrum and read information on the Call For Entries, you can visit the Spectrum website here.


John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
© 2010 John Fleskes