Working on “James Bama: Personal Works.” A Look Behind the Scenes.

I am currently working on the James Bama: Personal Work” book. I originally conceived this collection back in 2007. I had visited Jim that summer. While I was there I had the opportunity to see some of his private paintings based on his travels for the first time. I had no idea they existed. After returning home the imagery stuck in my mind. A few months later I called Jim to see if he would be interested in having a book made. “Sure,” he said.

It was during that same visit that I was also introduced to Bama’s sketches. I broached the idea of a sketchbook at the same time as Personal Works. I decided to focus on the sketchbook first (James Bama Sketchbook published in May 2010), then follow-up with his Personal Works book. I had originally intended on publishing them in 2008 and 2009. But with the economy being so bad in 2008 and continuing to limp along to today I held off and have been waiting for the economy to get better. I’m tired of waiting for the economy to turn around. I feel this book is important and needs to come out sooner than later. After nearly five years of waiting, talking and thinking, I’m finally wrapping it up.

I am writing some lead-in text and designing the book. Jim has supplied commentary for each piece of art included. I also have pictures of Jim on his travels and details about where he visited. I spoke with Jim on the phone a few days ago and asked many questions relating to the imagery in the book. I was able to get quite a bit of good quotes and fresh stories that I will include in my text. I want the whole package to feel very personal and allow people to connect with Jim and his paintings. It will be available this fall.

A lot of people ask me how he is doing. Jim is in terrific shape. He is a life-long athlete and still continues to exercise daily. When I spoke with him he had already done 1000 push-ups off of his bookcase in his studio. If I recall correctly it is three or three-and-a-half feet tall. Sound easy? Try doing 300 and see how you feel the next day. Even in his mid-eighties he is solid.

He is an impressive individual. Even though his artwork speaks for itself I also hope to share some of what makes Bama, the man, so special.



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
Text © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

“James Bama: Personal Works” book details

Flesk News From WonderCon 2012

Jonathan Leveck welcoming people to the Flesk booth.

I was looking forward to WonderCon being in Anaheim, California this year. I surmised that there would be a lot of people attending who either want to avoid the large crowds of Comic-Con International in San Diego, or who couldn’t get a ticket for Comic-Con, or simply always wanted to see what WonderCon was all about but never made the show since it was previously in San Francisco. Whatever the reason, I felt we would have an opportunity to share our books with fresh faces.

My number one goal for exhibiting at shows is to promote our books, artists we focus on and our company. I want people to have access to me and my crew for questions, and to have a chance to flip through all of our books. I think this goal was met due to there being a ton of people and how busy we were. The Anaheim Convention Center is a larger building than the Moscone Center in San Francisco allowing for more tickets being available. I don’t know what the attendee numbers were but it looked more crowded than San Francisco.

Craig Elliott and John Fleskes at the Flesk booth.

This makes me ask the question, what does an organization do when they move an event for the year due to the Moscone Center having renovations, then the new convention center proving more successful? From a business standpoint why move back to S.F.? Here’s what I’m hoping for; I would like to see the show move back to S.F. and a new venue added to the calendar in Anaheim. In my opinion San Francisco is a far better location in terms of taking a vacation and enjoying a beautiful city than going to Anaheim. I say all of this not knowing what the Comic-Con International team has planned for the future. I’ll be curious to see where the show ends up next year. If it doesn’t go back to San Francisco it will be a real loss in terms of having a terrific long-standing show in the Bay Area. (Be sure to go to the Big-Wow! ComicFest in San Jose, California in May.)

William Stout drawing in his fantasy-themed collection “Inspirations.”

In preparation for the show, I packed the truck for a typical WonderCon. I know what we tend to move at this show. Then I brought a little more than I thought we needed. By the end of the weekend we ended up tossing five boxes into the back seat of the truck. We moved a lot of books. We almost did as well as Comic-Con in 2011 and that show has over 125K people showing up. WonderCon has less than half the crowd and is only three days compared to four-and-a-half days at Comic-Con. We were very busy on Friday and Sunday. Saturday is always semi-busy with a more family oriented crowd and us competing with the Hollywood events. Plus it was rainy and cold that day. (From what I hear it was a bit unusual for Southern California.) I heard complaints from neighboring dealers that no one was buying prints, posters, art and large items due to the downpour and the parking being so far away. People in San Francisco wouldn’t sweat the rain! (I grew up in the Bay Area so I’ve got to be loyal and pay my respects to The City and people there.)

William Stout, Craig Elliott and John Fleskes at the Flesk booth.

The second goal for attending the show is to spend some time with artists I currently work with and to make some new contacts to discuss future possibilities. William Stout, Craig Elliott and Jim Silke were all there. It was a pleasure to have a few relaxing dinners with these gentlemen. In regards to new artists I spoke with and projects in development I am very excited about the future; the details of which I will be sharing later this year.

My third goal, that of selling books, was met. Bruce Timm’s “Naughty and Nice” book led the way with Al Williamson Archives volumes one and two and The Art of Craig Elliott coming in second and third. I like to make sure every title I have published and is still available is out on the table to view.

Overall I am very pleased with the show and enjoyed myself.

I want to mention our new face at the booth, Jonathan Leveck. He has been assisting me for the last five months and has just moved into the position of Director of Operations. I have found him to be smart, efficient and invaluable in his efforts to help grow and promote the business. He shares a passion for art and books, plus has a firm understanding of our mission and where we are headed. This was Jonathan’s first show. I found it curious to see the event through the eyes of a newcomer. He did very well. I look forward to having him take over more responsibilities to allow me to focus on other aspects of the business.

Our next show is in May at the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! event in Kansas City, Missouri. I hope to see you there.



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
Text and photos © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

Flesk Publications
Big Wow! ComicFest
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!

Flesk Publications Exhibiting at WonderCon, Booth #816.

We’ll be set up at WonderCon in Anaheim, California running from March 16-18. Our booth number is 816. Craig Elliott, Jim Silke and William Stout will be there are well, along with our full line of books. I look forward to seeing those that make the show.

A newsletter with the details about he show and what we will have there can be read here. I’ll have pictures and a blog about the event posted afterwards.



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
text and photos © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

Flesk March newsletter.

Spectrum 19 Judging Pictures and Award Nominees, May 3, 2012

Kansas City in her evening gown. The view from the Westin downtown.

A few people emailed me when they noticed my presence in the background pictures and video of the Spectrum 19 judging on the Spectrum Fantastic Art website. I admit to being guilty of being there. I had wrapped up the “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” commemorative art book on Thursday, March 1, just in time to travel to Kansas City to help behind the scenes with the judging process on March 3. In-between setting out artwork and cups, and counting beans (votes), I took quite a bit of pictures. I am sharing them here.

The beans and the highly coveted paperclips.

Each judge is assigned one of the five colors to avoid duplicate votes by accident. Each bean represents a vote. Three or more beans gets you into the book. The voting is anonymous, except when determining the silver and gold awards when a lively discussion ensues. A paperclip is reserved for award consideration.

The Spectrum 19 jury with Cathy & Arnie Fenner.

The jury comprised of Scott Gustafson, Jeremy Cranford, Peter de Sève, Jon Schindehette, and Dawn Rivera-Ernster. Arnie & Cathy selected an all-star group and they are all terrific people. It was a pleasure to meet them all. This group of artist’s, art directors and senior creative individuals are well-equipped to make the prime selections for the best in contemporary fantastic art. I am anxious to see the book that they made.

Let the judging commence!

Arnie Fenner and Jon Schindehette. Jon is the senior creative director for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast.

Dawn Rivera-Ernster, director of talent and recruitment for Walt Disney Animation Studios, amid the sea of entries.

Jeremy Cranford, senior art manager at Blizzard Entertainment, casts a vote.

Scott Gustafson, artist and writer, weighs his choices.

The couple behind Spectrum, Arnie & Cathy Fenner.

An artist submitted a 3-D work, along with 3-D glasses for the judges. Each pair of glasses had their name written on it. Here Cathy Fenner holds the art while the jury views the piece.

Rows and rows of art to view. Jon Schindehette is in the background.

Dawn Rivera-Ernster and Peter de Sève.

New this year is the silver and gold awards being awarded at the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! event in Kansas City, Missouri this May at “The Midland” theater. The five artists up for the awards in each category follow.

The five Advertising category nominees.

Jutin Coro Kaufman: Mothead
Android Jones: Boom Festival
Tyler Jacobson: Talon of Umberlee
Tyler Jacobson: Daask Crime Lord
Lucas Graciano: Temple Guardian

The five Book category nominees.

John Jude Palencar: Bared Blade
Edward Kinsella: Wooden Bones
Petar Meseldzija: Eowyn and the Lord of the Nazgul
Dragan Bibin: Vid the Vampire
Jean-Babtiste Monge: Ragnarok

The five Comics category nominees.

Jim Murray: DOTA 2: Tales from the Secret Shop
Sonny Liew: Malinky Robot
Andy Brase: DarkSun II
Phroilan Gardner: The Destroyer
Alex Alice: Sigfried III

Concept Art:
Justin Sweet: Jack the Giant Killer
Brian Matyas: Spartan Victory
Robh Ruppel: Yemen
Daniel Dociu: Hangar
Allen Williams: Unknown One

The jury reviews the five Dimensional category nominees.

Jonathan L. Matthews: Batman, Black and White
Thomas S. Kuebler: I am Providence
Virginie Ropars: Jack
Allan Carrasco: Rhinatuar
Michael Defeo: Octopus

The five Editorial category nominees.

Chris Buzelli: Strength in Numbers
Jean-Baptiste Monge: Mic Mac Cormac
Bobby Chiu: Early Bloom
Ture Ekroos: Beneath
James Gurney: Kosmocertatops

The five Institutional category nominees.

Android Jones: Water Dragon 2012
Petar Meseldzija: The Rescuer
Bill Carman: Three Wishes
Raoul Vitale: Turin and the Glaurung
Omar Rayyan: Crow and the Picture

The five Unpublished category nominees.

Eric Fortune: Last Embrace
Andrew Theophilopoulos: Princess of the Pleia Dians
Justin Gerard: Portrait of a Monster #3
Kei Acedera: morning Chill
Michael Whelan: CK Unmasked



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
text and photos © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live Spectrum 19 pictures and videos

“Warren Chang: Narrative Paintings” Book Signing at the Arts Council for Monterey County

Warren Chang

A few weeks back I attended a Warren Chang exhibit and book signing for his “Narrative Paintings” fine art book, a collection of which I am honored to have published.

The event was held at the Sunset Center in Carmel, California on Friday, February 24th from 4-7:00p.m. This premiere exhibition of an ongoing series celebrates the Monterey County artists featured in the 2012 Fine Art Calendar selected by the internationally renowned artist David Ligare. Karen Leoni was also there showcasing a sampling of her original works.

Warren Chang with Karen Leoni

The Sunset Center is a beautiful venue. The evening included live music, and a wonderful assortment of food and wine.  Paulette Lynch, the host, was a pleasure to meet and she did a wonderful job of making us all feel welcome.

A good number of people showed up allowing them the opportunity to see some of Warren Chang’s original paintings and to purchase a personalized copy of his new book.

Two of Warren's models arrived unexpectedly. They happened to be featured on the same spread in the book. Posing the models, artist and book together was a fun moment.

The Arts Council is a truly outstanding organization that “provides arts education to thousands of students each year thanks to support from local PTAs, foundations, businesses and individuals. We provide promotional, technical and financial support to over fifty arts organizations thanks to funding from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.” I’m happy to know that a portion of the sales from Warren’s book went straight into the local arts community.

Warren with The Arts Council president Richard Anderson. Two giclee prints of Warren's paintings are in the background.

Thanks again to Paulette, president Richard Anderson, and the entire group at the Arts Council for their support!


John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
text and photos © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

“Warren Chang: Narrative Paintings” book information
Arts Council for Monterey County website

Flesk Update: “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” Art Book. The Making of the Book.

I just approved the final proofs for the “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” commemorative art book that I edited and designed. There are five artists featured along with an introduction by five different writers to each gallery section. The book opens with an introduction by Cathy & Arnie Fenner and closes with an afterword that I wrote.

This Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! hardcover collection explores the work of the five special guests at this year’s event: Android Jones, Brom, Iain McCaig, Phil Hale and Mike Mignola. Introductions to each gallery are by industry greats Christopher Golden, Lorne Lanning, Christopher Paolini and William Stout, plus a short interview with Phil Hale by Tray Batey. The book is limited to 2000 copies and it will premiere at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! in Kansas City, Missouri on May 18-20, 2012.

Since I was working with a dozen people I mapped out every page before I contacted everyone. Then I gave everyone a blueprint in PDF form. I detailed exactly what I needed from each person and provided a due date. The schedule is very important as the “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” show is coming up in May and the books have to be there. They can’t show up a day late. The book is done. It is going on the press next week. Then it is a matter of me staying on top of the printer and shipper to make sure they arrive in time.

I spent some time pushing, challenging and driving myself to do something new with the design of the book, when compared with my previous book designs. I felt I really needed to grow. I applied much of what I learned from working with Bruce Timm on the Naughty and Nice book. And I also forced myself to stop answering emails, stop writing blogs and just focus on the book. I get very distracted running Flesk Publications and I had to just shut myself off from the world for a little while and focus on experimenting. This effort added an extra couple weeks to the timeline, but I think it was worth it. I came up with enough new design ideas to apply to the next few books.

The way I started is much in the same way as you see artists draw out thumbnails for book covers or illustrations. I like to use a red or blue pencil, something soft—dull or sharp, it doesn’t matter, and make little two to three inch cover, book spread, title pages and introduction page designs. Like I said before, I rarely have time for this sort of thing but one evening I just sat down and started drawing. Within an hour I had a dozen section spread ideas, a handful of cover ideas and most of the book worked out in miniature form. At this point the book is totally in my head. I never referenced the sketches again. I fine tune any details in my head while running errands, waiting in line at the Post Office, driving to the beach or any other moment that I have a moment to myself.

Another hour to two hour session I spend is going through fonts for the book. Again, it is very hard for me to find this moment focus, but once I do, one to two hours is the most time it takes. I go through hundreds of fonts to find what I am looking for. I never know what font I will choose, or what I really want, but once I see it I know it is the right one. It’s usually very obvious when I see a font and know I want to use it. For all of the non-body text fonts, I wanted to make sure I used selections that I had never used before. Once the fonts were selected, I moved on to designing the book.

As I was designing the cover, I sent my concept to Mark Schultz for his opinion. It’s good to have a guy like Mark to call and run ideas by. It’s fun! Sometimes a ten minute call can result in a good handful of ideas, or cement something in my head I was unsure about. So, I sent him the cover and before I knew it his wife, Denise (a solid artist and designer in her own right) was on the phone to offer ideas. I found myself tweaking the cover as we talked and sending PDF’s through email. I must have sent them fifteen samples with different color variations, font placements, line thicknesses—all very subtle variations to “see” how different ideas would apply to the cover. We had a good time. Before we knew it we had one we all liked the best. There was no arguing or debates, the right cover naturally evolved and we all leaned towards it. A few weeks later I decided to add the burnt paper “look” to replace the flat colors. I spent about three hours making the swatches that are used for the backgrounds on the jacket, but I think it was worth the time. The flat color looked too boring to me and was not harmonizing with Brom’s terrific cover art.

Brom was the first person to get me all of his art and captions, so I started with his section. He gave me more art than I needed so I never felt limited by what would go on each page. This allowed me to design the section by balancing the art on the spreads just how I wanted to. From the start I already knew I wanted every section to have a different feel that represented each artist directly, almost like five chapbooks in one book, and not one single design to run through the whole book. The book does have unity, but each section is unique as well.

By the time I actually start laying out the book in InDesign, if you were to stand over my shoulder and watch you would think I am working very fast. At this point I’m bouncing around the pages and book, adding this, moving that, dumping one idea to start another—I’m on autopilot and am just sticking things in place. It feels very subconscious and I don’t feel that aware of what I am doing. It doesn’t seem like work. I can have music playing, kids screaming, it doesn’t matter. I’m just in the groove. All my preparatory work was done in advance making the actual work seem like a breeze.

Mignola’s section came second. This went fast as well, since I had a very clear vision for how to present his art. I sent it to Mike to look over, took his feedback and made some slight adjustments for the better. It’s very important to me to represent the artists’ energy in the book. Each personality and style is so different from one another and I want to capture some of that uniqueness into the book. It really isn’t about me and my ego. It’s about the artists and the book.

I continued to put together and send each artist their chapters for review. No major changes were made, just little tweaks—mostly by me later on.

Phil Hale requested that he design his section. Sure! I took it as an opportunity for me to learn from him. He sent me a detailed layout for his gallery. I really dug what he sent me. It was very much in line with how I envisioned his art to be showcased. I had studied his previous books so had a good feel for what he would want. He breaks boundaries and really pushes design in subtle, simple and powerful ways. I just love what he did.

I wasn’t too familiar with Android Jones before I started the book. As I worked on his section I grew an intense appreciation for him and his work. He is absolutely amazing! The way he pushes electric art and fuses colors together is unbelievable.

Iain McCaig’s section went together quickly as well. I had a certain idea for his section from the start and ran it by Iain. He sent me some very special pieces. I can’t talk about it yet, but just wait until you see what Iain is sharing with us.

Arnie Fenner suggested Christopher Paolini to write Brom’s introduction. I was crossing my fingers, but not getting my hopes up. I thought he was surely too busy. Turns out I was wrong and Christopher was more than happy to write one. Christopher Golden, another recommendation by Arnie, came through like champ too, writing a piece about Mignola. Lorne Lanning delivered for Android, and William Stout for Iain. Phil Hale supplied an interview extract with Tray Batey. Each is a delight to read and I am grateful to all of these gentlemen for their time and help.

I am very happy with how this book turned out. I was asked last June by Arnie if I would be interested in producing some sort of simple and modest souvenir book for the show. Well, I have a bad habit of taking a simple request and having my way with it. What you will see is something atypical of a souvenir book. In fact I’m not labeling it as such and am focusing on this being a high end art book commemorating the event. At first it was going to be 8.5 x 11 inches at 48 pages. It grew into 64 pages at 9 x 12 inches. I wanted the dimensions to match the Spectrum books and the extra 16 pages added some weight.

I would like to thank Cathy & Arnie Fenner and all of the artists and writers for this opportunity and for their trust.

So there you go–a bit of background information on how the book was made. I’m looking forward to the “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” show and having this book available there. See you soon.



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
Text © 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! commemorative art book details
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! event website