Friday, March 15, 2013

Shows: Great Interview with Cathy and Arnie Fenner! Creators of Spectrum Art Books and Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!

I have a TREMENDOUS respect and love for the work of Cathy and Arnie Fenner!  The super geniuses behind the Spectrum Art Books that have been showcasing the best fantasy artists and artwork every year since 1994.  As well as creating with their amazing team, the GREATEST artshow / convention on the PLANET with Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!  (Anytime you have James Gurney, William Stout, Jean Baptiste Monge, Paul Bonner, Bobby Chiu, Iain McCaig and a million more of the best fantasy artists in one room for ONE show you automatically have the GREATEST art show EVER!)

Therefore, I was excited to be able to ask them a few questions about: the tremendous surge in fantasy art being created today, the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!  show and differences in the art world today compared to the early 1990's before the internet and computer art explosion!

Be sure to check out the interview and BE SURE to attend part 2 of the GREATEST art show EVER, Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2! 


1.There currently seems to be a massive fantasy / concept art movement going on. Why do you feel fantasy art is so popular now?

There's probably no single "right" answer; undoubtedly it's a combination of reasons. The increased number and popularity of fantasy and comics-inspired films with cutting edge CGI effects is certainly a factor. The internet has allowed a connectivity to people with like interests and that has encouraged many artists to produce fantasy work. Genre TV shows, alternative art galleries, role-playing games, video games, books, and comics all have had an impact—and when combined with the numbers of art students influenced by everything entering the marketplace the increase amount and public acceptance of fantasy are was almost inevitable.

2. What are the biggest differences in the fantasy art world since 1994 when the first Spectrum Fantasy Art book came out and now in 2013?

The only major difference is the significance of digital art. In 1994 there were virtually no entries that were computer generated; twenty years latter, it is easily half. The traditional mediums haven't been abandoned, but the impact of the computer on the artists is undeniable. And even with painted works the computer plays a role: when we started all of the art for inclusion in the annual came as transparencies or photographic prints. Now everything is delivered via our FTP site.

Perhaps the other big difference is that when we started fantasy art was often overlooked or ignored. There was a subtle prejudice that prevented artists from receiving the recognition their work deserved. Twenty volumes (well, twenty this Fall) and two record-setting museum shows later, no one is ignoring these artists anymore.


3. A artist friend of mine told me "Artists learn and grow by seeing the work of others." With the internet making it so easy to see the work of thousands of incredibly skilled artists do you think this is raising and elevating the amount of talent in the world?

In some ways yes, in other ways no. There is so much great research and inspiration that can be found on the internet that for some it can be a prod to create inspirational work themselves. But for other it can dull the senses and just facilitate imitation. Part of being a successful artist has to do with failure and discovery, of learning through your successes and failures. If all you're doing is following a path step by step that someone else blazed, you're not really learning how to solve problems and express yourself. One of the problems inherent with digital art these days is a sameness: much of the art uses the same techniques and solutions and the individuality of the artist can get lost. It's fair to say that can happen with traditional painters, too, but it can be harder for others working in the same medium to replicate what you do. There are many talented artists working today in paint and pixels but the ones who stand out are those that combine their skills with and original voice. A tool is always only a tool: it is the intellect using the tool that matters. But that's the way it's always been.

4. You both seem to have a tremendous love for art and your career. Are you working your dream job and do you feel its important for others to pursue their passion in their career?

Sometimes we're so busy it's hard to know. There are always challenges with any career; there are always good days and bad. But sure, certainly: working in the arts and publishing, working with friends and colleges you respect and admire is a dream job. We've always loved the art and to be able to showcase it, to share it, is wonderful. And, yes, people should pursue their passion in their career, even if you sometimes feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock while you pursue it. Otherwise…it's just a job. That's fine for some, but if you're creative "just a job" is never enough.


5. How was the idea for the first spectrum show started and how long did it take to plan the first show?

We had toyed with the idea since the first exhibit at the Museum of American Illustration in New York in 2005, but we really didn't know how to do it. Bob Self, the originator of Baby Tattooville, started talking to us about a "live show" or convention or whatever you want to call it and we sort of got swept along with Bob's enthusiasm. We started looking into all the costs and logistics and had actually planned to do it originally in 2008, but the economy wasn't looking very chipper and we decided to wait. With the recession, unemployment figures, and the struggles everyone was generally going through, we deliberately put it off until the economy started to improve. Once we gave ourselves the green light, our committee probably spent the better part of 18 months planning and working on the first show. We learned a lot along the way.

6. What is the biggest thrill of the show for you both?

Seeing everyone was one enormous thrill. Artists coming from all over the US as well as from France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, was extremely humbling for us. The other big thrill was to be able to finally have a red carpet awards ceremony in a majestic theater with professional entertainment: it was what we always had wanted to do for the artists and the arts community. We didn't want them to have to take a backseat to writers or actors or anyone else as they have so often in the past: we wanted it to be their night. And it was. So of course we have to do it again for our 20th anniversary.


7. Do you have a personal favorite artist?

It would be impossible to name only one for either of us: each artist and each artwork means something different depending on the day or mood, but all are equally special.


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