Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seven Reasons to Enter Spectrum

There are a lot of art competitions out there, but one of the few that I consistently enter is Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.

Here's the packet of entries that I'll be mailing in tomorrow. Let me tell you the seven reasons I believe Spectrum is well worth entering:

1. Winners get in a book
It's one of the few competitions where accepted entries become part of a book that's actually distributed in bookstores, and that book is actually cherished by fellow artists and art buyers.

2. All media welcome
Spectrum manages to keep a good balance between digital and physical artwork, both of which are at such a high level that the technique doesn't matter, but the design and draftsmanship does.

3. Range of vision
The range of work in Spectrum is broad and inclusive, from comics to concept art, sculpture to pen-and-ink, horror to humor, mainstream to experimental. Spectrum manages to transcend being a tight-knit club of the same people. It represents artists from all around the world, including United States, Europe, China, Australia, and South America. It always includes a mind-expanding mix of fantasy, horror, comic art, science fiction, paleoart, and the surreal.

4. Different ways to submit
You can submit your entries either digitally online or you can mail them in as physical tearsheets / printouts. I opted to mail in my entries because I figured that the jurors would get sore butts and sore eyes from looking at stuff on the screen and they might feel more pleasantly disposed when they're up on their feet walking around the room. (Physical entries are laid out on tables in a big hotel ballroom.)

5. Fees are cheap
The entry fees are among the most reasonable of art competitions out there: just $20 per piece, and $40 for a related series of five pieces. There are no additional hidden publication or hanging fees. And if you get a piece accepted, they send you a copy of the book worth $45. They've worked hard to keep that price low, and I can tell you that the guys behind Spectrum are in it for the love of the art, not doing it as a money-making scheme.

6. Top-notch jury
The jury changes every year, and that keeps the art fresh. The jurors are always leaders in the field of imaginative art. This year's jury is one of the best. Shown at left is their work, from top to bottom: Justin Gerard, Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard, and Dice Tsutsumi.

7. No prescreening
Entries are not prescreened: Each and every entry will be reviewed by each member of the jury. The jurors travel all the way to California to review the work in person, and they don't compare opinions as they're going through the entries. The competition to get a piece accepted is pretty fierce, but tough competition is a good thing.

The deadline is coming up on January 26, so there are still three week left.


Sesco said...

Jim, thanks for info like this. After reading about Sorolla and Sargent recently, I began to wonder what, in our modern times, would be comparable to the Salon competitions into which our greatest artists entered their best works back in the day? Art Basel appears to embrace modern art, but would you know what are the most respected competitions for fine art? Thanks in advance.

Eugene Arenhaus said...

Well, there is the art salon, which had recently relaxed enough to allow art other than strict naturalism.

dragonladych said...

I have nothing to submit this year. Didn't have any time to paint last year :( I am firmly decided to catch up this year.

bill said...

I enter several competitions but over the years Spectrum has become my favorite for many of the same reason you list. It's become a really nice community too. Spectrum Live is a wonderful event especially for shut-in isolated people like me. Thanks James.

jeff jordan said...

So how many Spectrum entries do you send on average in a given year?

Carl V. Anderson said...

Fantastic post. As a fan of fantastic art, this annual publication is one of the highlights of my year. I look forward to release day every year.

Best wishes with your entries this year, it is always a pleasure to see your work in the pages.

Janet Oliver said...

This is what I love about James Gurney. He sends his entries to a renowned competition packaged in corrugated cardboard and duct tape. Stylin' cardboard and duct tape, but still . . .

James Gurney said...

Sesco, good question. I love reading about the original French Salon, and there's nothing like it now, mainly because painting doesn't hold the cultural primacy that it did in France in the 19th century; movies hold that place now. But there are a lot of different competitions, some of which have exhibitions, and others that have books or other publicity for the winners: Spectrum, ARC Salons, Plein Air Salons, International Artist Magazine competitions, Society of Illustrators, and lots of other specialized subject topics, like ASAI or SAA, FON, or SVP. I'd weigh them all against the list in the blog post and ask the hard question: Am I really getting the benefit for my time and expense for entering? Is the judging process reasonably fair and open?

Jeff, I typically enter between three and 10 pieces to Spectrum, and I like it when they're part of a series. This time I think I've got 13 pieces. In the past I always feel lucky and amazed if one piece gets in, and I haven't always gotten things in Spectrum.

Janet, Yes, I love cardboard. Actually the silver tape is the stuff they used to use to black out slides. The art school near us was throwing the stuff out, and I figured I could use it.

dinodanthetrainman said...
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Julia Lundman said...

This part of your post strikes a chord with me:

3. Range of vision
The range of work in Spectrum is broad and inclusive, from comics to concept art, sculpture to pen-and-ink, horror to humor, mainstream to experimental. Spectrum manages to transcend being a tight-knit club of the same people.

I've witnessed some terrible rationalizations lately for this school of thought or that, without any consideration of the broader picture of Art, artists and what a large, global community it really is. I like that Spectrum transcends this and considers the whole community.

I've not had anything to enter myself but hope to in the coming few years. Thanks Mr. Gurney!

Sesco said...

I was in Barnes & Noble this afternoon, and I saw a book titled "Spectrum 20"; because of your blog I knew what it was. Took it down and perused it while enjoying a fancy coffee. I was blown away! The art felt as if most everyone was attempting to copy Frazetta. Was Frazetta the originator of Fantasy art, but if not, who was painting such things prior to him?

James Gurney said...

Sesco, that's funny -- Frazetta would have been very pleased that you made that observation. When I worked with Frazetta, I mentioned to him a couple of times that his work seems inspired by Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. He was reluctant to admit it, but he did say he looked at their work a lot.