SPECTRUM (1) cover art by James Gurney

Tomorrow is the last day to submit entries for one of the most celebrated collections in science fiction and fantasy art, that of Spectrum: The Best on Contemporary Fantastic Arts.  26 years have passed since the annual debuted with small fanfare, but enormous impact.  It was a collection so many of us in the visual arts field had been savoring for without realizing we needed it.  It instantly became a book to see and be seen within, and still to this day commands a tremendous reputation as THE source book within the genre.

Staying current on art movements is a battle every contemporary artist understands. While combating the insta-gratification of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the likes, the worth and weight which Spectrum offers is vested in its process – that of a jury selected body of anonymously voted upon art entries.  This process creates an incredible quality selection of art while remaining non-exclusionary due to the anonymous nature of the voting, providing established pros and new talent a level playing field with their submissions.

That level playing field has kept me on my toes every single year that I enter!  In the beginning years of the 90’s Spectrum was a way to establish name recognition and get my art out in front of prospective collectors and clients who may not of heard of my work.  It is the same truth even for today’s market, but now I approach submissions with the primary weighted intent to hopefully land an entry which opens new doors for me conceptually and aesthetically.

This last factor was an issue for why I started to enter Spectrum all those years ago and why I still do so today.  Just thinking about why I am making a new painting and/or how I am executing a current commercial commission with the intent of submitting it to Spectrum motivates me far beyond the needs of my clients.  It turns the assignment from a basic project with a narrow audience into a stand out portfolio piece I am proud of and eager to share, regardless if it gets into the annual or not.

The power and benefit in this action is about motivation, not the award.  If you feel like you have accomplished something worthy, yes recognition in a show provides validation, but ultimately it is not what drives you to create more art.  Motivation is something no one can take away from you, and it is that action and mindset which builds a successful career.

Over the years I have had many of my favorite and popular works get into the Spectrum annual, but also many of my personal favorites did not.  For some reason many of these images did not speak to the jury at the time.  I have learned it is not a judgement call on the integrity of the work, rather just a confluence of aesthetics which, in that moment, did not correlate with jury selection.  The point here is to enter, hope for recognition, and move forward in the creation of new work.

Good luck to those who are entering the competition, and if you have already entered, then you have already gained from the process.  It’s now time to think about next years annual and what type of art you will create in the coming year as entries to submit…


SPECTRUM 27 Call for Entries poster by Paul Sullivan