The Artful Collector: The Best Fantasy Art Show in the World

Ok, I exaggerate.  Or do I?  Nah.  IlluxCon is the best convention dedicated to sf/f Art in the world, today.  Yes, Spectrum Live! it’s got you beat!  I’m throwing down the gauntlet!

Don’t believe me?

An enthusiastic Donato Giancola talking about his art, at IlluxCon 6
An enthusiastic Donato Giancola talking about his art, at IlluxCon 6

1) Where else are you going to find the world’s best and most-renowned artists in the field, all showing their work under one roof – and that roof now belongs to a Museum? [The Allentown Museum, Allentown, PA- and see link for more photos]

2) Where else but IlluxCon will you find hundreds of major ORIGINAL works from major artists from the U.S., the UK, and Spain for sale?  Where what you see is the real McCoy (not prints!) and artists in one weekend can realize the same sales as years’ worth of Worldcons, with only about 200 attendees? 

3) Where else can you find artists, collectors, art fans, art students and art pros…all schmoozing in an atmosphere that is cordial, congenial, friendly?  It may be a “tiny” show compared to Dragon*Con or San Diego Comicon, but it’s amazing!  See

IlluxCon 6 has come and gone (Sept 11-15) and it was the most successful to date.  Consider the line-up of artists who flew in from England, alone: Chris Achilleos, Jim Burns, Roger Dean, John Harris, Ralph Horsley, Ian Miller, Chris Moore. And from Sitges, Spain there was Ciruelo Cabral.

Roger Dean standing just 4 feet away from one of his massive works, easily 4' x 6' at IlluxCon 6
Roger Dean standing just 4 feet away from one of his massive works, easily 4′ x 6′ at IlluxCon 6

The con attracted so many luminaries in the field that I can’t take the space to list them all….but these names should ring immediate “bells” for anyone who tracks fantasy illustration:  Julie Bell, Kinuko Craft, Bob Eggleton, Donato Giancola, Steve Hickman, Greg Hildebrandt, Tom Kidd, Don Maitz, Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan. More than FORTY artists who worked on role-playing and collector card games like the Magic:The Gathering game were also there, including Volkan Baga, Jeff Easley, Lars Grant-West, Jeff Laubenstein, Mark Poole, Chris Rahn, Matt Stewart, Mark Zug and many many more.

Michael Whelan and Audrey Price showing off some major works at IlluxCon 6
Michael Whelan and Audrey Price showing off some of Mike’s major works at IlluxCon 6

Established and run by art collectors Pat and Jeannie Wilshire, IlluxCon is a miraculous place where as far as the eye can see there are only artists and collectors, reinforced by enthusiastic art students, dedicated art fans and important art directors.  There is nothing to distract anyone from what they came for: art.  There is one small display of art books, should anyone want to buy one.  And a small stack of t-shirts, for those who need a souvenir. Other than that, absolutely nothing to detract from the art on display.  No media celebrities signing photos, no costumers, no cosplay, no gaming, no authors reading from their latest novel, no dealer’s room for trinkets, no nothin’ that’s not 100% related to ART and the people who create it.

Marianne Plumridge (whose art was also on display at the con) smiling as she extols the virtues of Bob Eggleton's art (spouse) as well as the delicious tray of sweets she was  giving away to celebrate Bob's birthday at IlluxCon 6
Marianne Plumridge (whose art was also on display at the con) smiling as she extols the virtues of Bob Eggleton’s art (spouse) as well as the delicious tray of sweets she was giving away to celebrate Bob’s birthday at IlluxCon 6

There was a main show (4 days), a weekend “salon” for artists who couldn’t stay the full four days (including displays by Dorian Vallejo, Rebecca Guay, Bruce Jensen, Janny Wurts and dozens of others) Plus two juried “showcase” nights for emerging artists and students – giving them an unheard of opportunity to show off their talents to major collectors and art directors.

Dave Seeley, known for his Star Wars paintings, and his choice of great music  tracks and entertaining art videos that helped make IlluxCons congenial from the start!
Dave Seeley, known for his Star Wars cover paintings, brings great music tracks and art videos that made IlluxCons congenial from the start!

Every inch of space is utilized, so everyone stays “up close and personal”  There’s no waiting to talk to anyone, or to get your book or card signed.  It’s a place so small, that you’re never more than a few steps away from anyone.  And just like the artists, collectors flew in from far flung places: Canada, Hawaii, even Texas!  🙂

IlluxCon is so far ahead of anything else on the convention map, that it pains me to recall the last decade of Worldcons, whether fantasy, science fiction or horror.  None of them can compare.

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  1. I had not heard of Spectrum live. It sounds darn cool to.

    To be clear, what I was hinting at in my earlier post is that I am a fan of SF art and illustration, but being a fixed-income pensioner, not able to afford anything other than the occasional print.

    Still, from my perspective, both ‘salons’ are worthwhile should I ever happen to be in town when they are showing.

    Why? Worth the price of admission to wander these magnificent (if temporary) art galleries feasting my eyes on all the creative sense-of-wonder on display. That would make for a memorable day.

    My attitude is purely selfish, of course, as I’m not sure the artists appreciate the presence of ‘looky-loos’, but I’d like to think they appreciate being appreciated.

  2. Well let’s be honest, ‘the best’ is a matter of perspective. If you are an agent who wants to sell paintings to dealers and galleries with minimal crowds and exposure to the public then Illuxcon at a $175 membership may indeed seem like the best show in the country. If on the other hand you are looking for a more inclusive convention experience founded with the express purpose of celebrating and promoting the artists and creators working in the fantastic arts (including most of the same artists and art directors as Illuxcon), if you want to see the best in their field recognized by their peers in an outstanding and exciting awards show, if you want to taste some of the worlds best BBQ and you want to spend about 4 1/2 times less then I think it is pretty ballsy to slam Spectrum Live.

    I do not have anything against Illuxcon and I welcome any event that celebrates these artists and genres but I believe both shows have their own distinct goals and role to play and I don’t think you can compare them. In fact if I were Illuxcon I think I would want to work to promote Spectrum Live since they seem to be doing more to try and bring new fans and awareness to Fantastic Art to the public which in turn creates more collectors for Illuxcon which seems to focus more on the top elite fans and collectors.

    If you have never seen a Frazetta or Jeff Jones painting in person, or met Brom or Mike Mignola, and you want to learn more about the people who paint your favorite book and game covers, draw you favorite comics, or sculpt your favorite action figures then go to Spectrum Live in Kansas City. If you are a long time aficionado and collector and are looking to spend a few thousand dollars on original paintings and want to shop an incredible selection of originals without comic convention crowds then Illuxcon in Allentown, PA is for you. If you are an aspiring artist or consider yourself an ultimate fan of Fantastic Art then really you should go to both.

    1. Well, of course, it’s a matter of perspective! But first, let me correct you on your opening point: there are no agents taking tables to show/sell art to dealers and galleries at Illuxcon. In fact, there are no agents taking tables at all, or buying memberships in order to sit there and sell art. Only ARTISTS are allowed to buy display space at IlluxCon – i, as agent, am allowed to buy a membership and sit with any artist I represent…and be a ‘helper’ if one happens to be attending the con…which gives me something to do when I’m not wandering around and talking and looking at art 🙂 but I can’t do business there on my own. Then again, collectors also can sit at artists’ tables and talk to them, or help them sell 🙂 So, in that way, IlluxCon is distinctly different from other venues where an agent CAN buy a table or booth and display any works they care to offer.

      A second point in error: IlluxCon is not “elitist” in the way you suggest by attracting collectors “looking to spend a few thousand dollars on original paintings”. Just as Spectrum has a great array of artists in attendance, including (as you point out) very famous ones, known for their comic, toy, and game art – original art at IlluxCon starts in the low hundreds, not thousands. What is different is the presentation, atmosphere, and focus. Not the price set on the works. Originals at Spectrum, I daresay, will cost as much, or as little 😉

      Which brings me to say, the point you raise about the different goals of these conventions, and roles they play, is an important one. And I think you are right when you say these conventions are attracting different audiences. Which is why I also think you can and should compare them that way (goals and roles) – although that wasn’t something I was aiming for in my post – in order to decide which venue will be more satisfying. if what you are after is buying or selling original fantasy art.

      THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT WAYS TO HAVE FUN. And I’ve had my share of fun at larger, more inclusive, more widely commercial and product-oriented conventions – the ‘trade show’ model but for sf/f “collectibles,” – as both buyer and seller. So I don’t mean to disparage them. And whether these will draw big numbers of new fans and collectors to the genre – a percentage of which will ultimately migrate to a more focused venue….who can tell? I certainly hope so. 🙂 But whether that happens or not, I do think we can compare Illuxcon and Spectrum on the basis of their goals.

      There is no reason why both cons can’t co-exist. Goodness knows, for fans (including me!) there is lots of fun to be had in venues with “comic convention crowds.”. Which is why I am saying: IF original fantasy art ALONE is what you’re after, not comic art, or action figures or the artists who create them; in a place where there is no hawking of goods, digital prints, or commercialism of the kind that typically accompanies large-scale conventions that attract – for want of a better word – “consumers” . . . then IlluxCon is a better place to find it.

  3. What a brilliant concept! Of course the leading genre artists should be brought together for a salon/symposium selling their original art. A collectors dream!

    I mean… dang! I wasted my life savings setting up a personal pension, when I could have been living in a squatters shack fashioned out of fantastic works of art. Sigh. One lives with ones mistakes…

    But seriously, if I had the funds, I’d be present every year, listening in awe (but with no comprehension) to lectures on technique, but mainly spending money on anything that took my fancy. I’d build up quite a collection, then will them (along with sufficient funds) to establish an art gallery wing extension to the lobby of the Tucker Hotel. A fannish dream.

    But seriously, this convention IS a dream, one little short of paradise to one such as I who loves SF art and illustration.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Now I have something new to fantasize about.

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