Why You Should Come to JordanCon

Why You Should Come to JordanCon

by Guest Blogger Leslie Annis

It’s that time of year again!

Okay… you got me… it’s not quite April yet, but it’s that time when we start shamelessly promoting our shiny weekend that is JordanCon, in the hopes of sharing our communal merriment with Wheel of Time friends far and wide—those we’ve met and those we hope to meet.

Seriously, yo. Come and play. It’s a sweet time, and one you won’t regret. The more we get together the merrier, faster, stronger, and the partier we’ll be.

Or something like that…

In the interests of discovering what makes JordanCon… er… JordanCon, we performed a wee bit of crowd sourcing a while back—which is the fancy way of saying we posted on Facebook to see what previous con-attendees mentioned as the highlights for potential newcomers to experience.

In the interests of thoroughness, we have absolutely crawled the JordanCon Facebook wall to see what people are saying to those would-be-first-time-con-attendees-but-they’re-nervous-and-need-a-little-push-folks. Because we truly want to see you in April, newbies!

(Even though that previous paragraph sounds stalkery, we’re really not… unless “stalkery” is a euphemism for “exuberant,” in which case, hells yeah, that’s totally us—and we party well, too!)

Ahem. Anyhow. Here’s what we got from said stalkery…

In response to the question, “What are you most excited about for JordanCon?”

  • “Seeing my JordanCon family again!” – Brit
  • “…The new hotel, new programming layout, bigger art show/dealers room, etc.” – Jimmy
  • “It’ll be my first time, so… everything!! (Mostly meeting all of you though).” – Rina
  • “Meeting the people who have only existed on my computer screen for so long! I do want to experience all of it, workshops, costumes, etc. but it always comes back to the people. Always the people.” – Steve
  • “Seeing my friends! And meeting the author. And meeting new people! And dancing. And…and…and….” – Tricia
  • “Seeing my JCon family, the panels, Jay’s cookies, people, the authors, the artists, the art, the people, the costumes, the laughs, the hugs, making sure Kristy eats, laughing, just ALL OF IT!!!!” – Tina
  • “Bob’s blackberry Brandy, the mead, the homemade wine, Blood and Bloody Ashes, Fork Root Tea, etc.” – Lisa
  • “Getting to see all the people I only get to see once a year. And more Lews Therin dragging a dead Ilyena around.” – Seth
Fans attending the Sunday Kaffeeklatsch enjoy an hour chatting with Artist Guest of Honor Michael Whelan. Photo by Tricia Grantz Irish, from JordanCon V, 2013.

We asked previous con-attendees what they’d tell first timers, and we received a myriad of responses.

  • “The Saturday night dance party is a must!” – Jenna
  • “Shout-out to volunteering as a newbie—it’s a marvelous way to meet a whack of people at once and really invest in your own Con experience. It might only be a couple of hours, but you could meet a ton of people at the registration desk or by being a runner for the Con suite, or maybe help out with signing lines (and meet author guests one on one). Seriously, so many opportunities to enhance your own experience…it does NOT feel like work!” – Leslie
  • “Jay’s cookies! And the family reunion atmosphere that’s only barely held in check by panel times on the track schedule. And the authors, who are, seriously, the most awesome on the planet.” – Tiff
  • “SHENANIGANS!!!!” – Bonnie
  • “For anyone that hasn’t finished the series, I’d recommend the discussion panel that only goes up through Book 5 or 6 (not sure which it will be this year, I suggested 6). It’s great to discuss the series and what you think is happening and what will happen. It’s even more fun to discuss the characters we love, hate, or love to hate.” – Jeff
  • “I went a few years ago, the only time I was able to make it. The things I still remember are the awesome people I met (most of whom I still keep in touch with), cover art artist panel, poker competition, and dance party. And of course meeting some of the top people in the Wheel of Time world.” – Jeremy
  • “Getting up super early to wait by the registration desk so you can get your name on the Team Jordan kaffeeklatsch list. Because Harriet, Maria, and Alan are awesome!” – Ross
  • “The people are so great that even if you have not read all (or any!) of the WoT books they are NICE to you and talk to you! And if, HYPOTHETICALLY, you completely misunderstand the instructions for the Shenanigans and start playing halfway through and generally causing accidental chaos (BUT FOR CHARITY), people are very understanding. Get there early for panels, because even shy people can strike up conversations with strangers who turn out to be completely lovely, and suddenly you have a new friend!” – Melissa
  • “If we’re making a list of must-dos for the Con, you NEED to hit the Con Suite! Lots of low key chatting for those who want to meet people in a quieter setting, plus free food, and the smiling faces of the Con Suite crew. Home away from home!” – Leslie
  • “JordanCon is more than just WoT! We have fantasy, sci-fi, writers, gaming, hands-on stuff… We’re equal opportunity geeks!” – Tiff
  • “I love the local authors that come from the other panels; they write diverse genres. From YA fantasy to comedy/urban fantasy to romantic fantasy to urban/action/horror to SciFi. I am of course referencing Jana Oliver, John Hartness, Delilah S. Dawson, to James Ray Jr. Tuck to Alex Hughes. All published authors. Check out their stuff.” – Charles
  • And, of course, last but certainly not least, folks need to come to JordanCon to experience the “best bartender in Randland.” (Thanks for literally sharing, in this respect, April!) [Editor: You’re welcome.]
Warders really do make the best bartenders. Photo by April Moore, from JordanCon IV, 2012.

Here and there on the JordanCon Facebook group we see some brave souls sharing their vulnerable side, specifically their concern that they’d be traveling solo to the con. Take, for instance, Rand (whose name has been changed to protect the innocent).

Rand says, “I want to go soooo bad, but I’m wary because I’d literally be going alone and I wouldn’t know anybody there…”

Here’s how our JordanCon veterans replied:

  • “Jen Halbman heads a ‘Speed Friending’ panel on Friday afternoon that was started the year before last. I’ve helped her with it and we have a ton of fun! Gives folks like yourself a chance to meet some other attendees and break the ice in a fun way. We had great turn-outs both times and everyone seemed to have a blast.” – Danielle
  • “I walked in the door knowing about 6 people. In the next ten minutes, I acquired friends for life. […] I was absolutely PETRIFIED about going. I missed last year and I’m still trying to recover. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun and you’ll wonder why you didn’t go sooner.” – Melanie
  • “We didn’t know anyone at all there. The first day was a little strange but then, by that first night, it felt like we knew everyone!” – Randy
  • “We’re so friendly, we’ve had weddings and Bar Mitzvahs crash our party.” – Jeff
  • “For all of you posting about being concerned about going because you won’t know anyone, just hang out here [on the JordanCon Facebook group] a lot. Post often, comment often, and then you’ll recognize names and we’ll recognize yours. I promise that you won’t be alone!” – Paige
  • “Yes! There are no strangers at JordanCon.” – Kelly
  • “COME!!!! We’re all excited to meet you! No strangers, just family you haven’t met yet (I know, it’s been said before — but it’s SO true!!)” – Tina
  • “It’s just like old home week. Remember, you have something to talk about with every JordanCon’er!!! Just open up, relax and enjoy!!” – Darrell
  • “It’s a small con, and very laid back. Very welcoming. I would definitely suggest it for an introduction to cons.” – John
  • “Aside from us being a friendly group in general, we also do a few things specifically to help people meet each other. We do something called ‘Speed Friending’ in the Wheel of Time track every year, we’re hosting a pre-con book club this year and we’re looking at a few other potential games. Lots of people say volunteering for a few hours helped them meet new friends too.” – Jen
Even bestselling authors know to run from their characters when the One Power starts getting thrown around. Photo by Jansen Photography, from JordanCon IV, 2012.

That wraps up our list, folks—perhaps you spotted your own quote or maybe you’re a potential JordanCon attendee who’s now had your questions answered. Between the artists, authors, and apparel, the panels, parties, and people, there’s plenty to do and see and you’ll have plenty of new friends to hang out with while you’re at it.

Come and play at JordanCon, you won’t regret it.

Meet the Artist: Amanda Makepeace

www.amandamakepeace.com

Amanda Makepeace is a JordanCon favorite who has quietly built a following here for her beautiful, evocative work. In 2015, she was awarded the Judge’s Choice Award by Artist Guest of Honor Todd Lockwood and the Art Show directors for her painting “Renascentia.”Amanda is an Artist, Changeling, Wanderer, Bird Whisperer and part-time Owl Queen. When she is not in the studio, she is usually reconnecting with nature and the woods that inspired her as a child (and which continue to inspire her work today). If you are coming to JordanCon this year, be sure to check out her work and say hello.

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

I’ve been attending conventions as a fan longer than I have been as an artist, and I’m always amazed by the limitless creative passion. The creativity of the cosplayers, the story-makers, and the artists of all types is something I look forward to each year. And because there’s no way I can can choose just one thing, I also love how willing attendees are to share they knowledge and skills with others. Even if I’m attending an event as an artist in the show, you’ll often find me sitting in on panels.

How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?

I grew up in the sphere of a creative mother with a passion for the humanities. She kept a book of Georgia O’Keeffe art on our coffee table, featuring one of her iconic skull paintings. Copies of National Geographic were always available to flip through and I soon developed a love of world cultures, their art and customs. It also didn’t hurt we lived in a suburb of Washington D.C. All of my school field trips centered around the museums. I’m sure all of these things played a role, but that moment when I felt a spark came from watching my mother draw.

I often hear artists say talent is a myth, but I think a person can be born with an innate gift. If that gift is nurtured with practice and hard work, then you have an artist. My mother never studied art, but it’s clear she has that innate gift. One of my most vivid memories is watching her draw my toy dinosaurs. I would often ask her to draw things. I loved watching what seemed like magic happen on the paper. I wanted to create my own magic. From around the age of eight, I began drawing—a lot—and I never stopped.

What was the subject and title of the first piece of art you ever sold?

When I moved to London, U.K., in 2004, I began actively selling my art. The art I was creating then focused on nature. I hadn’t yet begun exploring fantasy and myth themes. The Forest of Wic, while not the first painting I sold, was the first for which I received an artist’s pay. The acrylic painting featured oak leaves. It was commissioned by a friend for the cover of his book, Developing Java Software 3rd Edition, published by Wiley & Sons. My friend commissioned the art, but the paycheck came from Wiley & Sons. I’ll never forget holding that check in my hand, nor seeing my art on the cover of a book for the first time.

Though I wasn’t painting fantastical art, the title of the painting hints at my underlying passion for fantasy. There is no Forest of Wic, it’s an imaginary place I envisioned while creating the painting. Forests have always been magical places to me. I couldn’t resist giving this one a mysterious name.

Which artist do you find most inspirational? Why?

There are numerous artists who have inspired me over the years. Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Michael Parkes are a few. When I think about inspirational artists, my mind wanders to the Impressionists, a group of artists who were ridiculed and whose name was used as an insult. Their paintings were rejected again and again, seen as radical and unworthy to be exhibited.

However, with all the walls placed in front of them, they never gave up and they never compromised on their vision. They took what was meant as an insult and embraced it as the name of their movement. They were revolutionary. Their passion and determination should be a lesson to all artists, whether working in fine art or illustration.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Angela Sasser

www.angelasasser.com

Angela is the author of “Angelic Visions: Create Fantasy Art Angels With Watercolor, Ink and Colored Pencil” and an alumni of the University of West Georgia and the Savannah College of Art and Design. She works in many mediums, including watercolor and digital media, to create whimsical Art Nouveau and narrative fantasy art. She is also a leather artisan and mask-maker in her spare time. In the next few years, she hopes to expand her skillset into writing and illustrating her own novels.

How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?

I had always been a crafty child, thanks to my very crafty mom. I was always devouring coloring books, making my own pop-up books, and doodling my own little illustrated horror stories. Scariest Stories Ever Told provided so much inspiration for my young mind! That series and unicorns (what a mix!) activated my joy for the fantastical and the strange very early on.

When I was around 8 years old, I read the book Saint George and the Dragon over and over. I never got tired of finding the faeries and creatures its illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman, had hidden in the expertly crafted borders. Magic permeated every corner of the book’s fanciful illustrations. The first time I looked at the book’s credits, I realized that a human being just like myself had taken a story and created imagery for it. I wanted to be a person just like that, whether I brought life to someone else’s stories or to my own.

What do you see as the primary link between writing and art? (If you think there is one.)

As a writer and artist, myself, I find that both activities fulfill different sensory needs and oftentimes one will inspire the other in an amazing feedback loop of inspiration. I do my best work when I am both writing and drawing.

For example, a viewer looking at a painting can get an immediate read of a painted scene and impress upon it their own thoughts, feelings, and narrative, while a written scene can provide a deeper sense of lyricism, of hidden history and emotion put into words. I tend to write to get to know my characters as people, while drawing those characters and scenes gives me a sense of atmosphere and physical presence. One activity most certainly enriches the other!

If I had to put a word to what this primary link is, I’d call it ‘immersion’. Stories, whether told in video games, art, writing, or any other media, all give us a piece of the puzzle to an immersive experience, one that lets us form an empathetic link with the characters.

Are you a fan of The Wheel of Time? If not, what is your favorite book or series?

I’m a newcomer to the series, so ask me about this at the next convention you see me at after I’ve had a chance to finish reading The Eye of the World! Brandon Sanderson’s work has drawn me into the series via Mistborn, which I’m also currently reading. So far, I’m intrigued and can’t wait to dive into this rich, complex world!

My favorite book series, the one that first hooked me into mature fantasy is undoubtedly the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. Imagine if the spies and courtesans of Game of Thrones were the main characters of the series and you have a hint of the intrigue of the world of Terre d’Ange. Add the mysticism of fallen angels, an amazing female protagonist, and a complex sex-positive culture and you have all the things that make the world of Kushiel’s Legacy stand out in a way that’s inspired my muse for years.

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

I’ve always felt like the geeky outsider with my love of tabletop games, fantasy EVERYTHING, and video games. Conventions are magical places where I get to feel normal, like everyone I meet is a kindred spirit who understands my passion for these things. It’s also a place I get to ramble endlessly about fantasy art without people’s eyes glazing over! The sense of connection I feel at cons helps me when my small world of the art studio starts to get lonely. My profession as an artist is an isolated one and it helps me feel less insane to get out of the art cave and bond with other like-minded humans!

I wanted to thank the Art Show staff and JordanCon con-goers for making my first year at JordanCon last year a special one and welcoming me to the JordanCon family! Winning Judge’s Choice award in the Art Show last year was a wonderful surprise and the first time a convention has given me a trophy with an award. I have it displayed proudly next to my favorite Assassin’s Creed and Horizon Zero Dawn statues! I’m looking forward to taking part this year and diving back into the thick of things. Please do feel free to drop by and say hello to me at my table in the Dealer Hall. I’d love to chat and geek out!

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on a series of Art Nouveau paintings that I hope to turn into an art book next year! I’ve been toiling on this birthstone-inspired series of goddesses for the past few years and can’t wait to share their dreamlike visages with everyone in a beautiful cohesive volume. I also plan to Kickstart a coloring book based on this series in the next few months, since I have a glut of meticulous line art that came out of this series and would love to share that detailed insanity with coloring fans like myself.

After this series has been fully wrapped up, I can’t wait to venture further into the world of writing! I’ve always wanted to indulge my writing muse, but haven’t had the time with my art muse having a majority vote. Once my latest series is wrapped up, I look forward to adventuring into my story world of cursed princes, has-been monster hunters, and snarky elves! I look forward to sharing more about this venture in the coming JordanCons.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Ariel Burgess

www.artistarielburgess.com

Ariel Burgess hails from the Washington, D.C area, where she has lived most of her life. Her family is filled with artists and red heads, so she was destined for both. At an early age she set her sights on a career in comic book illustration, and recently finished her Associates of Web Design at Montgomery College.

In her art, Ariel chooses to bring fictitious things and people to life. She does not think she could have made The Wheel of Time® cards if she had not been such a fan of the series or loved the characters so deeply. Because of that love, Ariel introduced her family to the series, and now they love it as much as she.

Ariel has been attending JordanCon and exhibiting her art there since 2012. Her work is featured in The Wheel of Time Companion.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I have considered myself an artist since I was four, but if you count from when everyone else thought so, then probably twelve. That was when I really focused on learning it as a trade. I think I considered myself professional when I signed my contract with Ta’veren Tees, but I was doing commissions long before that.

How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?

Most of my family members are artists in some way. So I was inspired by them, most of all my older brother, mother and Grandmother. When I was little I knew wanted to be an artist when I watched Disney movies. I wanted it as a career when my father showed me MARVEL’s Phoenix Saga when I was six. I wanted to draw comics and I wanted to be Jean Grey.

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

Getting to meet lots of wonderful people who love the same things I do, most of all at JordanCon. The Wheel of Time (WoT) fan base has a special place in my heart and always will. The WoT community accepted me for who I am as an artist and a fan and gave me my first, real, big break. I have become close with many of the JordanCon members and look forward to spending the weekend with them all year long.

Are you a fan of the Wheel of Time? If not, what is your favorite book or series?

Yes, I am a big fan of The Wheel of Time. My other favorite series of all time is The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

What was the subject and title of the first piece of art you ever sold?

It was an anniversary portrait of a couple. The title was “Cristina & Mario.”

What do you see as the primary link between writing and art?

Imagination. I often write stories and I often draw scenes from those stories. I really think they are one and the same, just in different formats. Personally, as a dyslexic and a visual person, I have an easier time processing the information if it is visual. Which is one of the reasons I want to see The Wheel of Time as a premium show or movie. Until then I try to do my best as an Illustrator.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.

Meet the Artist: Charles Urbach

www.charlesurbach.com

Charles Urbach is a writer and colored pencil artist with more than two decades of work in design, publishing, and illustration. His work challenges everything you ever thought you knew about colored pencils. While he put some of his art on display in our Art Show last year, this is the first year he has attended JordanCon in person. Check out his panel on “Colored Pencil Techniques for Adult Coloring & Illustration” on Saturday if you want to see him at work, first-hand.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I was raised in an artistic family, so in one way or another I’ve always been involved in creative expression – be it music, theater, or ultimately, the visual arts. In that sense, I’ve always considered myself expressive across different kinds of media.

The word “artist” tends to be a title other people place on you – usually when you’ve accomplished something they recognize as relevant or as “art” in the formal sense. For me, that started in grade school when teachers and peers noticed that I was drawing and coloring a lot, although I was also involved in writing, music and other disciplines for many years. Things could have gone in any of those directions, but over time, the visual arts became my focus, with writing a close second. It turned professional when I started working as a graphic designer in the summer after graduating high school. I was fortunate to get a job with a large regional publisher, designing advertising and layouts for newspapers and catalogs. I continued in that field before, during, and after college, building my skills as an illustrator at the same time I was making a living and getting real-world experience as a designer. Eventually I was able to make the jump to illustration full time.

How did you first discover art, or that you wanted to create art yourself?

Some of my earliest memories include a fascination with how things worked and what was inside them. I always had an interest in the story or mechanics behind what you see on the surface. I loved detail, like in Richard Scarry’s Busytown books. As a toddler, this was always a facet of my play and the things I was drawn to. For example, I’d build elaborate structures out of Legos with detailed interiors that were completely sealed from the outside except for a single window or hatchway. The idea was that there was some sort of inner life or story going on inside this structure – much like Scarry’s work was filled with tiny vignettes of activity. In the beginning, I looked for these things in the toys I played with and book covers or illustrated stories I read. Later, TV, films, and other media added to my exploration. In addition to their main narratives, I was always looking at the backgrounds, or the details of characters’ costumes, imagining what all those things meant and what other stories they might tell – or lead to. It was this interest in the world beyond the picture that sparked my desire to create.

Are you a fan of the Wheel of Time? If not, what is your favorite book or series?

I love the Wheel of Time series, although I’ve been away from it for quite a while. I read “The Eye of the World” shortly after it was published and stayed with the series through “Lord of Chaos.” At that point, my life transitioned from college to work and I wasn’t able to follow as many authors as I had prior. In the case of WoT, it was a painful separation. Jordan’s world building and characters were enthralling – some of the most richly detailed in all of fantasy. I loved the varied cultures and histories he created – their echoes appear in my work – and I’m looking forward to finishing the series. Attending JordanCon might just be the impetus I need…

What do you see as the primary link between writing and art? (If you think there is one.)

Narrative. Storytelling. World-building. Catharsis. Writing and art are related in their potential to reach inside a viewer (or reader) and connect with that viewer’s inner self. They may get there through different mechanics, but the interactions and resulting effects are very similar. It’s really just telling stories on different canvases or pages. Drawing with words, instead of colored pencils – or vice versa.

What’s the one thing you most enjoy about attending conventions?

Without a doubt – meeting other aspiring creatives and equipping/encouraging them to go forward with their expression in a safe and positive environment.

For most creatives, the academic and professional arenas are filled with unfairness, negativity and discouragement. There are many excuses for and denials of that reality, to the point where many creatives just accept it as the only way to be. It’s a sad fact that throughout the artist’s life and career, there’s almost always someone positioned to tell you your work isn’t good enough or you don’t have what it takes to make it.

On the professional side, industry and commerce are built around gatekeepers choosing who gets opportunities (sometimes rightly and necessarily, sometimes wrongly, almost always subjectively.) When you realize this goes back to the first time someone (a parent, teacher, internet troll, schoolyard bully…) tells you, “You drew that wrong!” you begin to see a lifetime of acculturation where the artist is taught to be subordinate, submissive, and that she must look outside herself for approval and validation. Certainly, there’s a component of learning, practice, and evaluation that’s healthy for an artist, and in contract work, there’s a mandate to meet a client’s needs. But too often, art culture (and art business) take those further, becoming elitist, arbitrary, and dogmatic. Punishing in the name of improvement.

Conventions can offer a powerful alternative; where artists of all kinds can grow, recharge, and renew their creative passions. Through various tracks of programming, sales venues such as art shows, and tolerant fan culture, creatives can bypass the power structure and negativity that accompanies it, if only for a weekend. But during that time, artists can connect with each other and audiences directly, exposing them to possibilities they might otherwise be denied. Those possibilities sometimes grow into opportunities, and those into successes. That’s a rare and precious gift. It’s what drew me to conventions in the first place.

Conventions are crossroads where creative expression is recognized and celebrated in all its diversity; from the written word, to gaming, to costuming, to music, to visual arts… and beyond. For creative people (me included), there’s no better or more enjoyable venue to educate, strengthen, and encourage one another.

If you’d like to find out more about the authors and artists who share their work at JordanCon, check out our other “Meet the Artist” blogs.