It’s been several weeks since Worlds Beyond Gallery and Alamo City Comic Con, and even though I posted a brief post-show ‘thank you’ last month, you can enjoy some additional photos of the event below. First, I have some wrap-up thoughts to share. This exhibition / vendor model was a collaboration between The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (headed by President Sara Felix), Alamo City Comic Con (featuring the combined brainpower of Apple De La Fuente, Austin Rogers, and Wes Hartman), and me. Media-centric pop culture and comic book conventions are proliferating across the country, but very of these cons have successful models for booking and presenting top-quality professional illustrator talents. Unfortunately, when these shows feature such artists, they usually mix them into Artist Alley situations with sequential art pros, who are themselves competing with a tsunami of unlicensed knockoff art product. The result is generally less than optimal. Until Worlds Beyond, there have been precious few (if any) successful efforts to brand, present, promote, market and cultivate that audience within major media / pop-culture-centric conventions. San Diego Comic Con International does it well in its own way, but with the growing number of mid-market regional pop-culture / comic conventions, there seem to be experiments worth trying and a void worth filling. That was one vector that led to Worlds Beyond Gallery happening, but there was another equally important one.
On a personal note — I see my pro art career shifting toward more of a ‘creator-owned’ model, developing my own intellectual properties, and writing / illustrating my own stories. That doesn’t mean I’m jettisoning my career as a freelance illustrator, but it does mean investing more time on my own material than I did for the first fifteen years of my career. I’m not alone in this career shape, as major illustrators such as Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, Ruth Sanderson, Jeffrey Alan Love, and Todd Lockwood have made similar choices, along with Shaun Tan, Gregory Manchess, Wylie Beckert, Greg Ruth, Tara McPherson, and a rising number of visually-centric entrepreneurs. That means new stories, new characters, new properties, new art, and new visions, as opposed to just talented artists re-drawing other people’s properties. It means the visual artist is the creative fountainhead and owner of his/her destiny, and I think that renaissance is worth celebrating with pop-culture audiences craving the next shock of the new. That curatorial focus coupled with the need to connect new streams of art audiences with new visual creators was the inspiration for Worlds Beyond Gallery. (Big salute to Pete Barnstrom for the terrific WBG promo video, and Lou Anders doing his own thing with the separate ACCC / Young Adventurers literary track, as well as all of the ACCC volunteers and WBG booth assistants).
Patrick and Jeanne Wilshire and the exhibition / vendor model they created at Illuxcon deserve a huge shoutout. So do Arnie and Cathy Fenner and what they have cultivated with Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (now working alongside John Fleskes). Those two shows were HUGE inspirations for what was done with Worlds Beyond Gallery, but they’re also independent events — a VERY different proposition from what WBG may have just established.
Worlds Beyond Gallery marked the creation of a working boutique model that can now be evolved, expanded, and improved. All of the artists brought their ‘A-game’ and considering this was a first-time effort, I think the event was a remarkable success. Everyone presented their latest creator-owned works, including a wide array of original artwork available for buying and up-close enjoyment, such as my first official Loteria original art exhibition. Throngs of fans old and new bought merchandise and art from all of the artists. Representatives from other major conventions expressed amazement and awe when they saw the foot traffic and the polish of the display and exhibitions. Who knows — maybe someday we’ll look back upon this as a game changer. Sara and I have been exchanging thoughts. Once the ACCC guys have recovered from staging a huge convention, they’ll possibly have a thought or two about what they experienced. We’ll look at the options and see where this goes. I’m excited about the possibilities. Onward to the next evolution.
And if that’s not enough for you — here’s some more Worlds Beyond Gallery fun. 🙂