Each year, tens of thousands of aspirants, some Bacchanalian, some serene, some creative, some banal, yet all adventurous, converge on the Black Rock Desert for the Burning Man festival. For a few days, a massive city sprawls on an ancient dry lake bed in the alkali dust, and a bunch of dirty hippies and/or cultural pilgrims gather to be very, very weird. In the process of expressing this weirdness, some incredibly majestic, technologically advanced, and downright breathtaking art is displayed. Many in the KWF community have deep connections to Burning Man. In 2017, some of us returned to the wide expanse of "the Playa" to experience the art, and be inspired. Here are some of the highlights.
It’s summer of 1987, and I’m in the sweltering heat of downtown San Diego, walking with my friend Brian to introduce him to another friend, Kevin, and it’s making me anxious. This is going to be one of those “world’s collide” kind of meetings.
Brian I grew up with, and though we attended different high schools we’re still best friends thanks to our long-running game of D&D.
Kevin I met through a bulletin board system (BBS), and though meeting someone “online” is perfectly normal by today’s standards, back then it was so nerdy that even nerds would sneer at its nerdiness.
Yet as Brian and I walked from Comic-Con over to the Burger King, I assured him once again that Kevin was cool. Kevin was one of us. Kevin was good people.
It didn’t help that when we finally spot him, Kevin’s barreling down the sidewalk, in 100 degree heat, wearing a leather trench coat that would make Harry Dresden proud. He loved to say “let your geek flag fly” and lived by that advice, even back then. Anyway, he looks, and I think wanted to project, a blend of Roland Deschain and Rick Deckard (which I’m only realizing now share the same initials). Half Gunslinger, half Blade Runner. They say dress for the job you want, and Kevin was nothing if not ahead of his time.
That was the first San Diego Comic-Con where I hung out with both Kevin and Brian (who now helps run the KWF), and my anxiety over those worlds colliding were unfounded, largely due to Kevin being Kevin. The introduction went off without a hitch. Worlds didn’t collide so much as merge. That was just how Kevin was. Drop him into any conversation in the world and I have no doubt that within minutes he’d have those gathered laughing and hanging on his every word.
We quickly found that we all shared a love for art and technology. These things anchored the friendship we developed that summer, and so it’s absolutely perfect that these are the cornerstones of what the Kevin Workman Foundation is trying to accomplish in my late friend’s name. I hope you’ll consider supporting their efforts.
Jason M. Hough
I like a lot of things about what I do here at KWF. But my favorite moments, by far, are those spent discovering, interviewing, and getting to know the stories of our sponsored artists. I approach this year's artist, Kelly McKernan, with great excitement. I and the rest of the KWF team give her mad props for the professional, structured, committed approach she takes towards advancing her craft. And we love the vibrant, emotive, inspired look and feel of her art. There's something elemental here in Kelly's creations. Pausing to take them in feels like connecting with another plane of existence, one waiting just an eyeblink away, a place we would've missed without her careful guidance.
Kelly's art is clearly influenced by the emotions, trials, tribulations, and triumphs of her personal life. We can follow her work, like signposts, and see the way she's journeyed through a personal and creative life on the precipice of sweeping changes.
There is tremendous power in this authenticity. It whisks us to far-flung locales perched on richly surreal terrain, inhabited by the majestic, haunting, and bizarre. So read on. Let's learn more.
Ladies and gents, we've been at this for only four years and continue to be inspired by the level of talent and devotion we see in the ever-growing KWF artist community. We've also noticed, over the years, an incredibly solid contingent of extremely committed, skilled, and insightful female artists. This year was no different. So at the risk of burying the lede, let us briefly introduce the 2017 KWF Sponsored Artist:
This year, like others past, the ladies brought it. There is an extremely talented generation of early career female artists entering the predominantly male field of pop culture art, and their voices are vibrant, fresh, and loud. Through work like Kelly's, they roar.
This year's applicants even included, for the first time, significant representation from the international community, a poignant reminder of how art brings us all together, transcending nationality, gender, and cultures. We are humbled, and especially thankful for the sage guidance of this year's expert panelist, Simon Thorpe, who hails from the UK.
And to our supporters and fans: You are the beating warp core that makes all this possible. Thank you. We'll have more to say about Kelly in the coming days. But in the meantime, please join us in congratulating her!
Friends and family, artists and otaku, the 2017 KWF Sponsored Artist application cycle is now closed. With a good amount of portfolios queued up, now is a good time to get acquainted with the selection panel that will review this year's applicants.
In addition to the usual suspects on KWF's board, each year's panel is advised by a professional in a field of interest to the Foundation. Past panel judges have included art college professors and pro illustrators. This year we're assisted by film industry concept art and illustrator veteran Simon Thorpe. Simon is a long-time friend of Kevin and KWF and we're excited to have his assistance and guidance during this year's artist selection process.
To find out more about Simon, click through after the break!
Just a quick THANK YOU on behalf of everyone at KWF to all of the amazing artists and their fans who submitted their work for consideration for our SDCC 2017 Sponsored Artist Program scholarship; the submission period for this year is now closed.
As in years past, we received an increasing number of applications covering a wide variety of styles, mediums, and subject matter.
Also as in years past, our panel of judges (including our Guest Judge, Simon Thorpe,) will have their work cut out for them: selecting a winner will doubtless prove extremely challenging.
We anticipate announcing our selection in about a month, so please stay tuned.
Thank you again for your participation and to everyone for their ongoing support of The Foundation and its mission to continue Kevin's legacy of finding inspiration at the intersection of art, science, and community!
In the evening of December 2nd and on the following day, we at KWF watched the news reports and social media feeds from our extended friend networks with alarm, sadness, grieving, and compassion. It was in Oakland, on Friday night, December 2nd that a fire erupted in an artist collective workspace known locally as "Ghost Ship" in the Fruitvale District. Many artists and attendees were present for a musical performance. Injuries and fatalities from the fire are still being tallied, but it's certain that this tragic event will be the most deadly structure fire in California since the early 1900s.
As the tragedy unfolded, we realized that we'd enjoyed the creative, communal vibe of spaces like Ghost Ship many times before, at art shows, musical performances, and at festival events on the Playa and elsewhere. And while we at KWF weren't directly touched by the tragedy, we felt a strong kinship with those who were.
As we considered this kinship, we thought about the future of creative communities and underground spaces like Ghost Ship. And our emotions turned to resolve.
We see that all forms of art outside the mainstream mass media market represent a rich tapestry of music, sculpture, performance, and exciting, emerging new media. Yet we also see that this "underground" art stands on fragile ground, pressured on all sides by commercial, economic, social, political, and bureaucratic challenges that can marginalize and isolate artistic individuals. This fragility and isolation may at times be painfully apparent on the road towards healing and recovery after Ghost Ship, but it will also represent an opportunity for underground creative communities to be better understood by their neighbors.
The U.S. lags behind most developed nations in public sector support for art projects, artists, and art education. Yet we celebrate a vibrantly capitalized market in mass media music, movies, books, and comics, and the massive revenues they generate. Artists are at the core of this creative money machine, yet the Ghost Ship tragedy shows us that they can be deeply isolated from the abundance it generates. Actor, singer, and artist Danielle Thys puts it best in an appropriately intense essay on Medium, where she points out that in the U.S., "being an artist is staggeringly more difficult than in numerous countries where artists are supported and celebrated as culture makers and shapers."
We at KWF assert that in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy we must strive to keep an important truth in vivid focus: Our creative communities are treasures to be supported and loved. Without them, a virtuous circle of inspiration and innovation that underpins our society is weakened for all.
With this in mind, KWF has made a donation from our 2017 operating budget to the Oakland Fire Relief Fund organized by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. This donation is sizeable and challenges us to do a little more hustling to make our planned 2017 program goals, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
The Ghost Ship tragedy affects us all.
KWF's Sponsored Artist 2017 search is go for launch!
Do you know a skilled visual artist or illustrator who embodies the intersection of technology, community, and creativity? Could this person be you? Our nomination page is open for applications.
The alumni of KWF's Sponsored Artist Program are a small but highly gifted group. Each artist brought their own unique vision and passion to Comic-Con. This vision and passion is the clearest and most vibrant explanation of what we here at KWF might hope to see in a new batch of nominees for 2017. If you're interested in applying or nominating a friend, we encourage you to learn more about our previous Sponsored Artists, check out their art online, and be inspired. Our alumni have set a high bar. We expect this year's nomination pool to be even more competitive. And yet it isn't about winning and losing. Rather, it's about following your truest, most passionate self through your art. So to our creative friends out there we say this: Please share your passion with your friends, your fans, and your community. Share it with us at KWF, and we'll do our best to help you share it with the world.
With the afterglow of Con 2016 receding in our main viewer, and new adventures approaching at Warp 9, we again open our hailing frequencies. The search for KWF's 2017 Sponsored Artist begins next week!
Each year we sponsor an artist to attend San Diego Comic-Con International, which unless you've been stuck incognito in a cave-dwelling, pre-Warp civilization, you'll recognize as the most important convention of its kind from here to the Gamma Quadrant. The Foundation's program provides a Sponsored Artist with up to two (2) 4-day badges for access to the sold out convention along with an opportunity to showcase their portfolio, sell product, and network from the KWF booth. For more details, check out the Sponsored Artist Program overview, and be sure to read the FAQ. Keep your subspace radios listening and join our mailing list to hear the latest.
We're looking for an early-career, talented artist who could make their break at Con. Do you know this person? Could it be you? Go boldly, be creative, and be inspired. Get in touch with us.
More to follow next week!
Thank you Comic-Con® International for your support of the Foundation, we cannot express how grateful we are for everything you have done for us. Without your generous support our Sponsored Artist program would not be possible.
Speaking of our Sponsored Artist Program, the 2016 Sponsored Artist, Candice Broersma rocked the Con! Learn more about Candice's Comic-Con experience here. More from Candice soon!
Kevin Workman Foundation