I just came back today from judging 144 oil paintings at the Western Washington State Fair.
This huge event sees over a million people each season and hosts one of the largest attended, if not the most important art show in the state. I’m extremely grateful to have the high honor of judging the category of oils, the medium of the Masters. Michelangelo, de Vinci, Van Gogh, Rafeal, Sargent, you know the crowd. I have been a professional artist for over 50 years, having started my career selling soap statues of Jesus in church when I was 10. Always the entrepreneur!
In any case, I’m not here to take up Amazing Stories space to talk about what it’s like to judge an art show, or my artwork.
I’m here to laud the infiltration of SF and Fantasy art into an age old, or at least a century old, venue.
When the facilitator of the State Fair’s exhibition sat the judges down and explained to us how the fair has seen a declining number of entries for the art show, he confirmed what my own thought has been for awhile. The hobbyist artists, the ones who paint pretty pictures at home, spends money on mats and frames, and enters their artwork into fairs to show them off. . .these people are disappearing. They are too old, or unhealthy or just not able to move around anymore. Yes. The hobbyist artist is a dying breed.
The question is, are they and can they be replaced?
There are many young individuals who are oil painters and watercolorists. But do their numbers replace our grandmothers, and aunts and great aunts who have enjoyed retirement at an easel?
My answer is probably not. But what is encouraging is that galleries, fairs, and art societies, are beginning to embrace the new style and mediums that are emerging.
During this judging event the first place winners of all the categories were put together. We were then asked to vote for our favorite piece . The winner would be the Best of Show. We saw water color, mixed media, sculpture, oil paintings and digital. I was torn. I love my medium, I appreciate what one can do with watercolor and pen and pencil. But the most stunning piece of fantasy art done digitally captured my heart. It was beautiful. The design, the composition, the colors, the heart of the piece took my breath away. It didn’t win Best of Show. There’s still a stigma that needs to be wrestled with among traditional artists, but I think all of us developed a new appreciation for the technique in those few moments of studying that piece.
Not all good fantasy art has to be digital either. A few years ago, Art Renewal opened up its highly prestigious art competition to the world of fantasy. If you need further proof of the validity of SF art, check out Art Renewal’s Imaginative Realism competition where the purchase award is $18,000. I would love to post the images here of some of these art pieces, but I cannot due to copyright. But for me, as an artist and an oil painter, this work is highly inspiring for the creative mind.
I’ve never been shy about putting my fantasy art in more conservative venues. Waiting for the Kiss, for instance, won First Place a few years ago in a local gallery competition. And my nine foot dragon goes everywhere, especially to book signings.
For all of you artists who do fantasy work, let this be an inspiration to you. You don’t need to stay within the bubble of Fantasy Cons to show off your work. Once you know your craft and can do it well, learn how to finish it with a mat, glass and frame and hit some mainstream venues.
Don’t get discouraged. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Some old school art societies might be hesitant to accept digital art. I personally prefer the kind that doesn’t try to look like an oil painting, or a water color painting because those two mediums take skill and time and patience to learn. You don’t need to copy them. Develop your own style and polish it, Then get your work in some galleries, state fairs, and art shows. Join some art leagues. You are the next generation!