by Arnie Fenner

It’s that time of year. In a few weeks the awards for Spectrum 24 will be presented at the Folly Theater in Kansas City during Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. After the Golds and Silvers are handed out in eight categories, the evening will be capped by the announcement of 2017 Spectrum Grand Master Award honoree. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Grand Master can only be presented once to an artist; the Spectrum Advisory Board nominates and debates a list of eligible artists and ultimately reaches a consensus. Theres never been a “slate” of candidates and any Board member can nominate (and champion) anyone they choose. As a career award a lot of thought and discussion goes into who receives it each year. Sometimes it’s incredibly easy, sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth among the Spectrum Advisory Board as to who the honoree should be; on more than one occasion a selection that seemed sure was suddenly challenged and, in the subsequent debates, minds were changed and someone different became the recipient. And sometimes, sadly, a deserving artist passes away before they get the recognition.
The criteria to receive the Grand Master Award is: [1] at the time the designation is given the artist must be living; [2] their careers must have passed the 20 year point; [3] their work must have achieved a high level of skill and quality that has been maintained throughout the course of their career; and [4] their art and their attitude must have had a profound impact upon and been a positive influence for the field as a whole. Gender or nationality or race are not part of the equation; it doesn’t matter who the artist is or where they come from. All that matters is that they’re really goddam good at what they do.

Since the Board sometimes nominated fellow members who were deserving of the designation when Cathy and I were heading Spectrum, those artists had been recused from discussions when their names had been brought up for consideration: Don Punchatz, the Dillons, Michael Whelan, and Brom never knew they were in the running until they were presented with the award. Two GM honorees passed away prior to the announcement—Al Williamson and Ralph McQuarrie—which confused a few people, but both were still living when the Board bestowed the honor. I’m sure that a t some point John Fleskes will face similar issues with his Advisory Board and recipients: it goes with the territory.
The current Board has debated for several months (a bit longer than usual): who should be the Grand Master for Spectrum 24? Who is deserving in 2017? Well…we know, but we’re not saying. Yet. And—knock wood—if our plans succeed the honoree will be in the audience when their name is read April 22.
But until then, I always like to remind everyone of the previous Grand Masters (in the order they recieved the award) and encourage everyone to give a round of applause to some of the best and brightest contributors to our field.
Frank Frazetta / 1995

Don Ivan Punchatz / 1996

Leo & Diane Dillon / 1997
[Diane b 1933/ Leo 1933-2012]

James E. Bama / 1998
[b 1926]

John C. Berkey / 1999

Alan Lee / 2000
[b 1947]

Jean “Moebius” Giraud / 2001

Kinuko Y. Craft / 2002
[b 1940]

Michael William Kaluta / 2003
[b 1947]

Michael R. Whelan / 2004
[b 1950]

H.R. Giger / 2005

Jeffrey Jones / 2006
* Many refer to Jeff as “Jeffrey Catherine Jones” out of respect for her transition to being a transgender woman later in life and sometimes question our use of a male descriptor: we do so at Jeffrey’s request. Jeff preferred to be identified for his illustration and Fine Art career as male (when he was creating the works he became known for). At his direction the nameplate on his award reads simply “Jeffrey Jones.” Those interested can read my earlier post about Jeff here.

Syd Mead / 2007
[b 1933]

John Jude Palencar / 2008
[b 1957]

Richard V. Corben / 2009
[b 1940]

Al Williamson / 2010

Ralph McQuarrie / 2011
[b 1929-2012]

James Gurney / 2012
[b 1958]

Brom / 2013
[b 1965]

Iain McCaig / 2014
[b 1957]

Scott Gustafson / 2015
[b 1956]

Mike Mignola / 2016
[b 1960]