Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IlluXcon V 2012: Omega Sci-Fi-Fantasy Smackdown 5: In Review, Part 1

Last Thursday, my dad and I loaded up the truck and made the 5 hour drive from our home in Philadelphia, PA to Altoona, PA to attend IlluXcon V. A lot of awesome stuff went down over the weekend, and in the next two blog posts I'm going to share what my experience was like this year as well as how it differed from my last time attending, two years ago at IlluXcon III.

That place where I wanted to go to and then did

IlluXcon III was my first time attending a convention of any sort. When I arrived at the main show I was blown away by all the amazing artwork and I felt really intimidated by all the talent I was surrounded by. I felt pretty insignificant that first year. I knew I had a lot to improve upon, and I was too scared to talk to a lot of the people I wanted to talk to. Getting sick halfway through the show didn't help either, it only taxed my energy and excitement even more. Yet despite all of the hurdles during the convention I still left feeling inspired and motivated to keep creating and honing my skills. The year after, when IlluXcon IV came around, I had just graduated from college and somehow talked myself out of going to IlluXcon that year, and I never forgave myself for not going.

My first year at IlluXcon I felt like I didn't get the most I could have out of the experience, and the next year I was kicking myself for not even going at all. I mention this because these things put me in a state of mind this year that really forced me to get the most out of the experience.


When I arrived this year I was overflowing with excitement and energy. I was so happy just to be standing in the main show room that any fears or insecurities I had in the years before flew right out the window and I was able to just enjoy talking to all the artists without worries. When I showed up the first night I talked to a lot of awesome people like Chris Rahn, Ralph Horsley, Steve Prescott, Matt Stewart, and plenty of others. These guys are some of my illustration heroes and it was really exciting to get a chance to pick their brains, listen to their critiques and just share a laugh with people who I really admire. It's not everyday you get to meet one of your heroes, but at IlluXcon there are rooms completely filled with them.

The next day (Friday) I spent a lot of time sitting in on lectures and taking notes. The lectures I attended that day were: "Self-Teaching & Self-Design*" by Winona Nelson, and "Narrating in the Dark*" by E. M. Gist. Winona talked about how to make ourselves most efficient and how it's important to be open to experiencing new things because you never know who or what could wind up teaching you valuable information. Erik Gist's lecture covered popular conventions in telling horror and dark fantasy stories, and gave plenty of great examples of where these methods have been executed successfully. Both lectures were very interesting and insightful, and they got me excited to apply what I learned to myself and my work.

*Note: I typed up my notes from all the lectures. Nothing can replace actually being in attendance yourself, but if anyone missed a lecture and wanted an idea as to what was talked about let me know and I'll happily email you the document.

After the lectures I spent some more time in the main show, making my way around to artists I didn't get a chance to talk to the first night. I met the very talented Milivoj ─ćeran who came all the way from Croatia to attend the convention, and I also met Jeremy Caniglia, whom I had never heard of before but I wound up really liking his work. I stopped by and chatted a little with Randy Gallegos who I'd met 2 years ago. And I also got a really helpful portfolio review from Winona Nelson, and since she lives in the Philadelphia area she was able to give me some really great information to help me find resources in my hometown.

It's almost like I'm a professional or something...
My Showcase neighbor and good friend, Jimmy, aka J. Edwin Stevens, aka Level20artist, aka J master Flash

Friday night was a big night for me because it would be my first time being a part of the IlluXcon Showcase event and my first time ever setting up any kind of convention table. My 2 artist friends J. Edwin Stevens (aka Jimmy, also setting up in the Showcase for the first time) and Dave Mallon made sure to save me a table next to Jimmy's so I had a familiar face to keep me company. As we were setting up we both could tell we were a little bit unsure of how to arrange things, and what to expect from the coming event. By the time people started pouring into the room we were all set up and ready for, well...whatever was going to happen. For me, the night was full of highs and lows, but overall I'm very satisfied with my first display at Showcase. At one point I was sitting at my table and I look up and there's Julie Bell taking a look at my work. She said a few kind words to me about my work, and upon seeing my Wights painting she tipped me off about a Game of Thrones exhibit happening in Austin Texas. Later in the night Raoul Vitale and his son Santino stopped by my table to check out my work and also share their excitement with me about Santino and I performing in the IlluXcon Jam the next night...but I'll talk more about the Jam in a bit. It was really great feeling having artist's I admire so much taking the time to check out my own work and spending some of their time chatting with me, it helped keep my nerves from getting to me. In the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Showcase night I even sold a couple of my pieces! I sold my 18"x24" Boo Berry, and my 11"x14" Darksol portrait. Thanks again to China and Shawn, I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of them! Towards the end of the night I decided to step away from my table so I could see what else the Showcase had to offer. It was great seeing some familiar faces like Chris Burdett and Jeremy McHugh, and I met a lot of great new people as well, and of course collected a bunch of postcards and business cards. It was a long night, but overall a great experience and I hope I can be a part of Showcase again next year.

That's all I'll cover for today, I'll cover the 2nd half of the con in a later post, so stay tuned if you enjoyed reading about my experiences so far. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

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