Interview with Spectrum Director John Fleskes!

Spectrum-23-cover-webHi, everyone,

Last May I was sent a series of questions by Julie Sagar at ImagineFX for use in an upcoming August 2016 article about Spectrum and Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. As is usual, due to space considerations, they were able to extract a few key sentences for use in the article. Here is the full uncut interview that covers my passion for all things relating to Spectrum.

Thanks to Julie and to ImagineFX for the coverage!

ImagineFX: On the Spectrum site, it says “Spectrum will continue to evolve and improve with each volume.” How, or in what way has Spectrum 23 evolved from Spectrum 22? What can readers look forward to (aside from the stunning showcase of the year’s best work to which we’ve become accustomed) with this annual?

John Fleskes: One notable change that I made when I took over with Spectrum 21 is the inclusion of the artist profiles for the award recipients. This was important to me for two reasons: The first is to highlight the artists behind these amazing works; the second is to highlight the art community which is the beating heart of Spectrum.

Additional improvements for Spectrum 23 include new chapter opener sections and a revamped design. As the artists grow to reflect today’s atmosphere, Spectrum grows right along with them.

ImagineFX: And how has it changed since the first annual?

Fleskes: Its significance and impact on a positive and nurturing community has grown exponentially since the initial Spectrum annual was released. This mission statement was clear from the very start. It has been magnified many times over the last 23 years, and through my leadership “community” will continue to remain Spectrum’s key priority.

ImagineFX: How many different artists are featured in Spectrum 23? And which artist (or piece of work) most caught your eye this year? (Please feel free to name me that one!)

Fleskes: There are nearly 300 artists featured in Spectrum 23. It’s always extremely difficult to single out favorites, for #23 or for any year, simply because there are so many exemplary works by so many different people for a wide variety of reasons. If pushed I could say that the art that most caught my eye might be “The Year of the Ram” by Android Jones, which might be obvious since I selected it to use for the cover of Spectrum 23. I chose this art for its sheer beauty. Put simply, it is gorgeous and I kept returning to look at it again and again. In some ways I feel that Android Jones defines the future while setting the stage for others to follow. But, of course, he’s not alone.

ImagineFX: Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 5 has been moved to April 2017. In what ways will this next iteration of the event be bigger and better than ever before? What can attendees start to get excited about? What can you do now with the new venue that you couldn’t before?

Fleskes: For starters, we are exploring running the workshops and panels on Friday only. The exhibitor floor hours will be concentrated on Saturday and Sunday. This allows the exhibitors and the attendees the opportunity to take part in the educational benefits of the panels and workshops without the requirement of running a booth or missing the floor activity. We want our artist exhibitors to have the same opportunity as the attendees to excel, network and learn from one another.

Our new space allows for a better booth and artist alley table integration in a central and unique atmosphere. SFAL is a place where the artists are respected and treated like the stars in an elegant atmosphere. Each year we make subtle improvements that cater to our exacting standards.

ImagineFX: Why do you think Spectrum–both the book and event–have proven so successful? We’ve read about the excitement exhibiting artists have for other exhibitors at SFAL–it’s been called a “love-fest”; the atmosphere most be incredible–and the book has a really hit a chord.  How can you explain it? Why does Spectrum resonate so strongly with the fantasy industry?

Fleskes: It gets back to our love for the art community. For me, and also for Spectrum co-founders Cathy and Arnie Fenner, Spectrum is our family. It’s a place where we can call home and were we can leave the door open where everyone is welcome regardless of medium, style or convention. We promote goodwill and the value in being here to help support one another and to provide a safe environment where we can grow and enjoy or passions together. You tie in beautiful art and a supporting healthy community–it’s a beautiful thing. In brief, we create and promote the atmosphere that we most cherish for ourselves.

ImagineFX: What’s next? Do you have any plans to further evolve Spectrum (either the book, event, or by adding something new to the mix)? What are your plans for the next 5-10 years?

Fleskes: There are many things planned for the next 5-10 years, although it’s a bit early for me to talk about openly. But yes, I always envision where I will be taking Spectrum over the next 20 years. We have a pair of exciting announcements that we will make in another year that will broaden the Spectrum brand, community and outreach. I always work 1-3 years in advance, with my mind considering where Spectrum will be in 10 to 20 years from now and what I need to do today to make sure we hit our future goals.

One of the things that I am most excited about is seeing the new artists in their early to late-twenties who are breaking so many boundaries and who will revolutionize what we see and how we will see art in the years to come. We are seeing people from all over the world and from all walks of life submitting to Spectrum. With our level playing field and by being a place where everyone is welcome, we have the amazing opportunity to show and reflect these changes like no other annual. And, in this way we can show the most diversity seen in the industry. That’s something I especially love. It’s going to be very exciting seeing how each volume of Spectrum captures each year so we can look back to see how quickly things are changing.

The reason why I don’t worry about competition is because no one can match my passion, perseverance or my work ethic for what I do.


Text copyright © 2016 John Fleskes. Photos © 2016 John Fleskes. Artwork © 2016 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.