Art of the Fantastic Exhibit
Coming to Allentown

Star Wars by Jim Steranko

An ambitious showcase of contemporary fantastic art will run June 3-9 at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley. Art at the Edge: Art of the Fantastic will feature works by James Gurney, Greg Hildebrandt, Paul Lehr, Jim Steranko and others.

The exhibition’s guest curators, Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire, fantastic art has been around since man has “been able to make meaningful marks on permanent materials.”  They go on to say that, “Ancient artwork is rife with narrative depictions of gods, monsters, shining deeds and things crawling from dark shadows.”

A press release asserts this “will not only be the most comprehensive exhibition of fantastic art to date, it will also be the first time that this discipline has been presented on such a large scale.”

I wonder if they’ll make good on that boast? This will have to be quite an event to surpass Alex and Phyllis Eisenstein’s Classics of Science Fiction Art at Chicago 2000, which presented works by Ed Emshwiller, Frank Kelly Freas, Edd Cartier, John Schoenherr, Ed Valigursky, Richard M. Powers, Mel Hunter, Wallace Wood, H. R. van Dongen, and others.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012)

James Gurney (left) and Thomas Kinkade (right) at work on Ralph Bakshi's "Fire and Ice."

Thomas Kinkade, “The Painter of Light,” died at home in Los Gatos, California on April 6. He was 54. A family spokesman said death was apparently due to natural causes.

Kinkade was among the most commercially successful artists in the history of America, selling his work in malls and earning tens of millions of dollars. Nothing in his work suggests his career ever intersected with the sf & fantasy genres – yet not only did it intersect, his brief work in the genre had a big impact on the success that followed.

Kinkade and James Gurney, of Dinotopia fame, roomed together as freshmen at UC Berkeley in 1976. Both later attended the Art Center College of Design in Southern California. And in 1982 they were hired together to paint backgrounds for Ralph Bakshi’s animated movie Fire and Ice.

In between, the two spent a summer crossing the country on freight trains, paying their way by making sketches of bar patrons and doing house portraits for $10.

They would stop by pubs and start out by sketching the bartender. Thom would give the sketch to the barkeep and ask if he could paint the patrons that came in. The bartenders usually said yes and Thom would set-up at the end of the bar with a jar and a sign that read, “Sketches – $2.00”. People enjoyed the sketches so much that Thom and Jim thought it would be a great idea to teach people how to sketch. So they said, “Let’s write a book”. One night they spent hours on the pier above the Hudson River and banged out what became “The Artist’s Guide to Sketching”.

Having finished the book, the two applied for jobs at Bakshi Studios. They made “hundreds of scenes of jungles, volcanoes, swamps, and forests in which the rotoscope cel-animated characters” performed. These all had to match the style of artist Frank Frazetta, the movie’s co-producer.

Kinkade’s web biography says “This intensive period of work for the movie business may well have been the genesis of Kinkade’s mastery of pictorial lighting effects.”

Can you imagine? The Artist of Light got his inspiration from working for the artist of Conan.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the story.]