Over the past two decades, collections like Exposé and Spectrum have had a major hand in cementing the careers of the industry's leading artists, as well as marking the debuts of many of its newest stars.
"It's always good to see your art published in a book of selected work," veteran Kekai Kotaki tells us. "It makes for a nice addition to your resume when you can put down that you’ve won an award or two." Coming from an artist with almost as many awards as published pieces, that's got to be a great feeling.
Each collection has its own submission process, so it's vital to make sure that you know where you stand. Some anthologies have submission fees, and not all entries can be made digitally. Often a judging panel will decide on which artists to include, which Dan Dos Santos points out has its own set of benefits.
"Unlike source books, in which an artist can simply purchase a page for inclusion, you need to be selected by a jury of your professional peers to be included in a juried annual like Spectrum. This means that the quality of the work in the book is much higher and more consistent than a source book, which makes it the perfect tool for art directors on the lookout for talent."
Expose your talents
Tyler Jacobson, illustrator for Wizards of the Coast, understands how important this can be. "Getting noticed is the best way to get jobs, and collections like Spectrum and Exposé are a great way to do that. People in the industry pick up these annuals and understand that the work was selected by their peers."
It's not just being seen that counts. Sharing page space can also inspire camaraderie among fellow artists, as Tyler attests. "Collections help build a community for artists to share their work with one another and interact. It creates a clear picture of what's going on in the industry itself, and the level of quality that needs to be met."
In Dan's view, this is particularly useful for younger artists looking for their big break. "It's hard not to look and get inspired by all the different mediums and styles. I've no doubt tomorrow's great artists have used these annuals as a guiding light."
A great opportunity for beginners
When you consider that digital art finds itself under occasional scrutiny against its traditional counterpart, breaking barriers between mediums helps bring things back to natural artistic talent. "Spectrum really helps in this area," Tyler explains. "It places quality art next to quality art, no matter what tools were used in their creation. I think it shows that if an image is of high quality, how it was created is irrelevant."
"It’s crucial to only ever submit your best work," Kekai advises. "And don't get caught out by the 'Unpublished' category. Many people will try their hand here as it allows non-professional work, which is attractive for beginners. Really, it's a rough ride as the entries are often some of the most technically brilliant and creatively astounding works in the entire collection."
Next page: illustrator Annie Stegg shares her experiences from both sides of the publishing process...