The first volume of Spectrum: the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art appeared back when I was still in college. As a juried compendium of the year's best-of in genre art and illustration, it quickly became a much-anticipated release, both for fans of the art who happily scoop up each volume, and for every genre artist, who looks to it as a quick way to stay abreast of the competition, as well as to measure themselves informally against it. It's also become the de facto standard in the field of illustration annuals--books that historically have required big bucks to advertise in, that are sent to art directors all around the country. These still exist, and they still perform their job, however, for art directors interested in fantasy genre art, Spectrum seems to have become the preferable choice.
So as you can see, Spectrum serves a few very important purposes. It's also the source of much anxiety every year for many artists--will they get in? If for the first time, will they get in and earn the credibility associated? If they've gotten in multiple times, can they then keep up the streak which further establishes reputation, or will they be out a year or longer, and feel like they might be slipping? When they don't get in, is it because they haven't merited inclusion and don't have an accurate perception of the work, or is it just bad luck given the jury selection and any number of variables that insert themselves into the process?
My recent stint of jurying happened while I was eagerly awaiting the results of this year's Spectrum submission. Of the 16 or so years (inclusive), I think I have submitted maybe 6-7 of those years, mostly recently, and have been in twice and a half (I was selected for one of the earlier books for a piece I collaborated with another artist on, but we couldn't organize getting a reproduction to them in time, as I didn't have a good scan of it). So I was mindful of my own struggles with juried competitions as I participated in jurying one, myself.
Well, I was informed that I got in again this year, and I was greatly relieved and cheered by that news. I'm not sure yet what image(s) got accepted, but just being on the list with so many talented artists makes one proud. Other artists whose work is truly worthy did not get in. Some years, I haven't gotten in and felt a little bitter about it when I saw the book and noted a couple of pieces I honestly felt my work was objectively better than. This happens to everyone that doesn't get in. Of course why my piece should have filled that spot and not someone else's instead, isn't something I ask myself in those moments. Because when I'm upset, I'm usually at my most selfish. Taking a step back, I could probably name a dozen or so artists who might actually deserve that extra spot. I mean, those at the top of the game might produce 30 pieces of art in a year, every single image of which deserves to be in the book, and all of which might eclipse my best entry. So, when I get in, I consider it a little act of charity that the book isn't 20 images each by the 15 best illustrators. I'm glad the rest of us get a shot, too.
So this year, I'm in. But already, the pressure is on as 2009 is a quarter over already--where do I stand for next year's submissions? Is my work improving? Is it improving fast enough compared to the other guy? What will I do to bump it along? To which I can only respond in what I will do today.
5 hours ago