The gold stan­dard

Go­ing for gold As the win­ners of Spec­trum 23 Awards are an­nounced, Ju­lia Sa­gar ac­knowl­edges the role of the long­est-run­ning fan­tasy art book se­ries in ex­is­tence

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We find out what’s in store for the lat­est edi­tion of Spec­trum, the world’s long­est run­ning fan­tasy an­nual. Artists, judges and its ed­i­tor spill the beans.

The win­ners of the 2016 Spec­trum Awards have been an­nounced, which means the highly an­tic­i­pated 23rd Spec­trum an­nual is in pro­duc­tion. Avail­able from Novem­ber 2016, Spec­trum 23 con­tin­ues the best­selling se­ries of an­nu­als, show­cas­ing the year’s most ex­cit­ing cre­ators of fan­tasy, science fic­tion, hor­ror and sur­real art from around the globe.

Spec­trum has come a long way since the first an­nual was printed in 1993. Founded by Cathy and Arnie Fen­ner, the weighty tome is the long­est-run­ning fan­tasy art book se­ries in ex­is­tence and has evolved into an in­flu­en­tial who’s who of the con­tem­po­rary illustration world. “It pro­vides a sa­lon for works of this genre to be seen, as well as a fo­rum and sup­port sys­tem,” says il­lus­tra­tor and Spec­trum 23 judge Ter­ryl Whit­latch. “It’s a val­i­da­tion for art that, at times, is looked down upon by The Art Es­tab­lish­ment.”

This year, says Spec­trum ed­i­tor John Fleskes – who took over in 2013 – read­ers can look for­ward to a re­vamped de­sign and new chap­ter opener sec­tions, along­side other de­vel­op­ments. “As the artists grow to re­flect today’s at­mos­phere, Spec­trum grows right along with them,” says John, adding that this is why he started in­clud­ing artist pro­files for the award re­cip­i­ents in Spec­trum 21. “It was im­por­tant to high­light the artists be­hind these amaz­ing works, and to high­light the art com­mu­nity, which is the beat­ing heart of Spec­trum.”

unique tricks

Over 280 artists will feature in Spec­trum 23. So what does it take to get into such a pres­ti­gious pub­li­ca­tion? Ac­cord­ing to Ter­ryl, a healthy dose of unique, out-of-the-box think­ing and cre­ativ­ity: “The tech­ni­cal skill was very high across the board, so we looked to see if the art ac­tu­ally and clearly com­mu­ni­cated an idea, con­cept or story el­e­ment,” she ex­plains. “In other words,

did it fulfil any pur­pose, or was it merely cre­ated to ‘look pretty’?”

“The only trick, re­ally, is to en­ter and to put your best work for­ward,” says il­lus­tra­tor David Palumbo, who served on the panel. “I rec­om­mend send­ing sev­eral pieces.”

This year, the awards cer­e­mony was held at the his­toric New York home of the So­ci­ety of Il­lus­tra­tors. In May, the cream of the fan­tasy art com­mu­nity gath­ered to­gether to cel­e­brate their com­mon pas­sion for sto­ries and the fan­tas­ti­cal. “It’s a chance to meet artists and fans, to share sto­ries and grab drinks with old friends. It’s also a time to re­flect on the last year’s work and get in­spired for the next year’s. There’s re­ally noth­ing quite like it,” says Vic­tor Maury, who was named by the judges © as this year’s Ris­ing Star.

“I was very sur­prised,” says Vic­tor. “But af­ter the ini­tial shock, I was very happy, be­cause this com­mu­nity’s sup­port means a lot to me. It’s fuel for mov­ing for­ward.”

You can find out more about the awards by vis­it­ing

(Above) Shang­hai Child­hood Septem­ber, part of Ke­jun Zhao’s se­ries on life in the Chi­nese city.

Arnie and Cathy Fen­ner pose with some of this year’s win­ners, along with John Fleske.

Wangjie Li’s Hunter in Snow is one of the many treats that await read­ers of Spec­trum 23. The Spec­trum 23 call for en­tries poster. Vic­tor Maury’s Pride helped win him Spec­trum’s Ris­ing Star award.

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