This is my review and experience at Illuxcon 6 held in Allentown, PA this past weekend. Three of my friends and myself went on an adventure to check out Illuxcon, a convention of professional artists and illustrators in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy. There were many names that I recognized in attendance. Artists that I grew up admiring from Greg Hildebrandt, who painted some amazing Tolkien art along with his brother, to Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell who have published too many of my past calendars of fantasy art. Two of my recent mentors, Noah Bradley and Cynthia Sheppard were also in attendance. I recently completed Noah’s three month long Artcamp and was eager to meet him.
Our adventure began with a 11 hour car trip from Michigan to Allentown. We arrived at 9:30pm and after checking in we found our way to Fegley’s brewpub. Amazing food and some tasty beers making the trip worth it for that experience alone. Upon returning to the hotel I began with a quick run through of the showcase. Eighty artists had purchased tables to display their artwork and sell their wares. The quality of artwork was impressive. A few beginning artists but all enthusiastic to share their creations with the attendees. Here I saw Drew Taylor’s life size painting of Princess Leia and Darth Vader that he painted for Star Wars’ European Celebration. Most of the people here I had not heard of, but found many illustrators that I will be following in the future.
On Saturday was our big day. We walked about 5 blocks away to the Allentown Art Museum. Here the artists inside had to face a jury to show their work. There were so many amazing professional artists here that the artwork was mind boggling. I went through the entire place at least three times. Upstairs, downstairs, through each hall and salon. There were many artists that had or currently work for Magic: The gathering. During one of my trips around the museum, I found Noah Bradley examining one of Donato’s paintings. We had a brief chat about his art camp. Noah is a lot taller than I thought but as likable in person as online. Many of the artists were selling prints of their work as well as original oil paintings. Many were selling for several thousand dollars each. My goal was to purchase sketchbooks and compilations of the artist’s work. I think I bought six of them.
I found Cynthia Sheppard downstairs in the Salon. We had time to talk and I did have a brief fanboy moment and gave her a big hug. She does amazing figure work in her paintings, wether digital or in oils.
I had time to talk to several other artists about their work, their technique and was shocked to find out how many artists are using prints or photos glued to boards and then they paint over these. I can see the value in doing this for a professional artist with time constraints, but personally I didn’t like the thought of doing it myself.
During the convention, I did have time to take in one panel of artists that have worked for Magic the Gathering, a collectible card game by Wizards of the Coast. The panel answered a number of questions on their experiences working for this company.
Then after dinner again at Fegley’s Brewpub, I spent four hours at the Showcase looking and meeting more artists. I went from table to table, looking through portfolios, and art books. Talked to many folks about art. Some showcasing their work for the first time, and others who have returned time and time again. I know there were several art directors in the audience. Many of the professionals from the museum were in the crown doing the same as myself. Meeting and talking about art with the crowd. I found friends of my friends in the audience, and it was great to spend a few days talking about art.
On the long trip back my friends and I talked about the event. My favorite experience, Cynthia knew my last name from our online chats and our plans. Myself, I planned to work on completing my unfinished assignments from Noah’s art camp, building my website and working on my blog. I’ll be taking the art camp again this November and recommend both the camp as well as attending Illuxcon. It is great exposure to the professional community and will leave you feeling excited to recommit to your own artistic endeavors. It was an amazing time to talk to your art heroes and connect on a personal level. I will be back, I am sure.