by John Fleskes
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Spectrum series of artbooks has now reached its 25th year. Originally founded and edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, the last several volumes have been edited by John Fleskes, although the format has remained the same. The volume opens up with an explanation of who formed the jury for the award, a discussion of the year’s Grand Master, a look at the previous year, and eventually the winners and other works submitted for the eight categories of award which are presented as part of the Spectrum Awards.
This year’s Grand Master is Claire Wendling and Fleskes includes a page long tribute to her written by Arnie Fenner. The tribute includes two of Wendling’s illustrations, although they aren’t enough to show the breadth of her work or really give a strong indication of why she was selected as Grand Master. Although Fenner provides the rationale in his tribute, additional works by Wendling would been welcome, especially for those who are not particularly familiar with the French comic artist’s work.
The meat of the Spectrum series, of course, is the artwork reproduced in its pages. Every ready will have their own particular favorites and Fleskes and the judges offer a broad range of art styles from which the reader can select their favorites. However, flipping through the pages, there seems to be a dearth of color.
Occasionally an artist will use brighter colors, but most of the pages seem to use a more subdued palette. Even when there is a preponderance of red on a page, such as the reproductions of Sebastian Kowall’s “First Keeper” and Tommy Arnold’s “Shadowborn” and “Killing Gravity” on pages 84 and 85, the rest of the artwork, including the details of those paintings, seems to be lost in the darkness, which may be the result of the reproduction method, although earlier volumes of the series don’t seem to have suffered this effect as badly.
One of the strengths of Spectrum is drawing its artwork from a wide range of locations. While one reader may be familiar with book covers and another may be a fan of comics, Spectrum 25 provides the opportunity to see the sort of work that is being done not only in those two fields, but in advertising, three dimensional art, and unpublished works. The volume demonstrates that science fictional and fantastic art is all around us, cropping up in the most unlikely places, such as Tim O’Brien’s artwork for La Traviata as performed at the Cincinnati Opera Company.
Spectrum 25 is filled with so much intriguing, imaginative, and sometimes disturbing artwork that the reader can spend quite some time looking through the pages and finding new artwork and new details within that artwork. The book doesn’t really capture a snapshot of what the art world was like in 2018 so much as it offers a smorgasbord of possibilities regarding the art world, showing the range of art, both stylistically, technically, and in subject matter, which makes up art of the fantastic. Spectrum remains an essential addition to any library that wants to keep up to date on fantastic art.
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