Women take centre stage at annual art event

spectrum artists

Artists show their wears at Spectrum's fourth convention

This was Spectrum Fantastic Art Live’s fourth year and it's really grown into a must-attend event for science fiction and fantasy illustrators.

I had the pleasure of appearing on many panels and giving some workshops and reviewing a lot of portfolios, so I was very happily exhausted by the time the show was over.

ladies of spectrum

Some of the lovely lady artists who attended Spectrum and are a part of FantasticalWomen.com

My favourite part of the convention was the Women in Art Business workshop given by myself, Irene Gallo from Tor Books, and Zoë Robinson from Fantasy Flight Games.

We've all been listening to the struggles of women artists and wanted to hold a workshop about gaining self-confidence, especially the confidence to negotiate pay and promote your work.

Then we covered some strategies to deal with sexism, and touched on the issues of family/work balance that many women face.

spectrum panel

Women of Wonder discussing gender equality in art

It was an overwhelming success – we had at least 125 people pack the small workshop room, and I was thrilled to see a large number of men in the audience as well. We had some great questions from them on how to be good allies to their female peers that I know all the women appreciated.

Another highlight for me was the Women of Wonder book panel, which showcases the amazing women working in the "fantastic" genre both in the past and today.

I moderated the panel (and also wrote the introduction to the book), and we had Cathy Fenner, who edited the book, and Laurie Lee Brom, Karla Ortiz, Forest Rogers, Rovina Cai, and Tran Nguyen representing the artists in the collection.

spectrum women panel

Women of Wonder panel was one of Lauren's top highlights

It was a packed panel room and we could have easily gone on for a few more hours. We spoke a lot about challenges that specifically face women in our genre and in art generally, and why we need to collect women artists in their own book and promote them as women artists, not just as skilled artists. (For more info on this, read Creative Bloq's interview with FantasticalWomen.com's founder, Leesha Hannigan).

Finally it was time for the awards ceremony! Often lovingly referred to as the "geek art prom" by many of the artists, the Spectrum Awards are the community's night to celebrate it's brightest lights and greatest achievements of the year.

lauren and dan

Lauren congratulates Dan Dos Santos on his award

It was the debut of the new award sculpted by Kristine and Colin Poole and everyone was awed by the gorgeous new Muse.

I've presented a category for three years now, and I was thrilled to be able to present my good friend Dan Dos Santos with the Gold Award for Books.

I was thrilled to see that half of the medals were awarded to women this year, and three of them to members of the Women of Wonder panel. That is definitely a huge sign of the gender ratio starting to equalise in our genre. Scott Gustafson was awarded the annual Grand Master Award for 2015.

Each year Spectrum gets better than the year before, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this convention.

Words: Lauren Panepinto

Lauren Panepinto is a regular contributor to ImagineFX Magazine and creative director of Orbit books. She was in charge of the educational/A.D. Programming for Spectrum this year with her partner in Drawn + Drafted, Marc Scheff.

Photos: Gerald Trapp

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