Wednesday, November 14, 2012

IlluXcon V 2012: Omega Sci-Fi-Fantasy Smackdown 5: In Review, Part 2

Soooo...onto Saturday!!!...

Saturday was another really big day for me, I spent most of the day attending more lectures. As soon as I got to the building, I headed straight to the lecture being held by Christopher Burdett and Jon Schindehette on the topic of "Getting Serious*". The room was absolutely packed with people and I wound up standing up against the back wall, but it was 100% worth it. They shared a lot of personal experiences and the advice they gave made a pretty big impression on me. I have notes on that lecture too if anybody wants them, let me know and I'll send them your way. I also got to catch a little bit of Winona Nelson's 2nd Lecture, "Break the Rut*" where she talked about her personal journey on how she lifted her artwork to a more meaningful level for herself and how that lead her to creating her best work thus far. The lecture also covered ways that you can try to push yourself to break out of your own artistic rut, and it was cool hearing her own personal experiences. After that I wandered around the main show a bit more then headed over to see Todd Lockwood do digital paint-over critiques in order to kill some time before my portfolio review with Jon Schindehette.

On Friday I had a portfolio review with Andrew Vallas from Paizo, and Saturday, a portfolio review with Jon Schindehette from Wizards of the Coast. Both of the reviews went well, and the comments on my portfolio were along the same lines I had been hearing all weekend. Without getting too much into what they said, I know I'm really close to working with these people, I just have to work on addressing a very clear issue with my portfolio, and I think I'll be ready. It was a really exciting feeling that really cranked up my excitement and it has me really craving to break through this wall that's in front of me. A few well planned out pieces and I should be blowing that wall to pieces and then I'll hopefully be in a much better place with my work and my career.

Soon after my review with Schidehette was over, I left the convention center to head back to the hotel where they were hosting the Illie Awards ceremony followed by the IlluXcon Jam. The IlluXcon Jam was an idea concocted by the guitar-wiz and very skilled painter, Mark Zug. Mark thought it would be a fun idea to bring together the visual artists who are also involved in the musical arts as well. I was one of the several artists who took part in the Jam the first year around (I play the drums for anyone who doesn't know) and it was so much fun and people seemed to enjoy it. The second year they put on the Jam (the year I didn't attend) apparently there was no drummer and based on what I heard from people the drums were missed. This year was the third IlluXcon Jam and I was back on the drums. I was pretty nervous as I hadn't really played much since the first IlluXcon Jam two years ago, but people seemed to be pretty happy to have the drums back. It felt really nice hearing the reaction to me being back on the drums. I know my skills had gotten a little rusty, but after I got a few rough songs out of the way I really started having fun and it was such a great experience getting to play along with some of my illustration heroes. I was happy to have my dad in the audience as well to cheer me on. I know that night will stick with me for a very long time, thanks to everyone who took part and to everyone in the audience who listened.
Here's one of the better performances of the night, Fiona Apple's "Criminal" Click here to see the playlist of video I was able to have recorded that night.

After the jam I was pretty exhausted, so I went straight back to my room to sleep. Sunday, being the last day of IlluXcon, I spent a few hours walking around the main show, talking to any people I missed, getting some final portfolio reviews, making my final purchases, and saying my goodbyes. Sunday was also the day I was able to convince my dad to come see the main show with me. My dad was a little out of his element, so he was a little shy walking around and I'm sure he felt a little tense when Matt Stewart starting handing him original paintings to look at. My dad is a fan of the World of Warcraft MMO so I made sure to point out all of the WoW art for him at the show. I even specifically asked Matt Stewart if he could pull out his WoW pieces so my dad could see.

It was really nice getting to show my dad around the main show. My dad has been a huge support for me and my art ever since I was a little kid. I do my best to keep my dad informed as to how the art world works and while he definitely understands more about the art world than most parents might, it really meant a lot to me that my dad got this chance to take a closer look into my world through IlluXcon. It was really exciting watching him react to all the amazing artwork, and he even bought a few prints. All the artists were very welcoming to my dad when I told them who he was and a special thanks to Matt Stewart for sharing his time and talking about his work with us, it really meant a lot.
A farewell photo with J. Edwin Stevens, Dave Mallon and Myself (thanks Jeannie!)
After I made my last purchases and said my final goodbyes, it was time to head back out onto the road and head home to Philadelphia. I had an absolutely amazing time the whole weekend. I can't express that enough, just a wealth of knowledge, advice, inspiration, and good times. I learned a great deal and I'm super excited to get back to work. Next year, IlluXcon VI is going to be taking place in Allentown, PA, so I'll only have about an hour drive from my home to the convention, so hopefully everything works out for me to go again next year. I hope to brings some more friends with me next year as well...we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Me and my dad posing with the amazing work of Tom Kuebler
Lastly, I would like to extend a huge thank you to my family for all the support throughout the years. I know the path I've chosen with art isn't the easiest, and it can be very difficult to understand when you're not an artist yourself, but I'm very thankful to have the huge support from my family in order to help me get to where I want to go in life. A special thanks to my dad, Michael D. Burns for taking the time to travel across the state with me and for helping me with all of my IlluXcon arrangements. I would never have made it to IlluXcon this year without him, nor would I have made it this far in my art altogether. Thank you so much!


  1. I've never met you Mike, but you seem a genuinely nice person, talented to boot.. go get them there Paizos n Wizards! :)

  2. Thanks Scott! I really appreciate you saying that. It's really awesome to know you're cheering me on :D