The weekend of May 17-19, I exhibited at Spectrum Live, a convention for fantasy/sci-fi artists and art lovers. I had been anticipating the event since October when fellow illustrator Colin Nitta asked me to share a booth with him. Later on in our plans we decided to make it a road trip–driving from Oakland to Kansas City, Missouri! We planned it as 10-day trip, on which we would camp at national parks along the way. I had to record some of our adventures in a map:

Full Map

Map of our perilous journey to Kansas City

We were accompanied by fellow artists and friends and CCA alumni Laima Klavina and Lauren Szabo. We donned nicknames (I was Danger Ranger and also earned a new moniker, The Incinerator) and pulled together to survive the elements. Of course, there are always unexpected twists, turns and soy sauce spills when driving halfway across the country. We subsisted on avocados and weathered fire and ice. We were also assisted by helpful strangers, like a Denverite named Nina and a Canadian named Arjun. Specials thanks to them, if they are reading.

Map Detail

First half of map, detail

We raced against the shifting timezones to make it to Kansas City in three days. Fortunately, we made it, though we did miss the pizza party on Friday night. On the way there we camped at Great Basin in Nevada and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

map part 2

Second half of map, detail

During the trip, there were several threats of natural disaster. In a bar in Kansas City, we heard a rumbling and asked the waitress if it was an earthquake (after all, there is a continental divide in the Midwest). She informed us that it was only the mechanical bull upstairs. But later on the morning we left Kansas City, we stopped for a picnic in a small Kansas town. A siren went off and we noticed the sky looking strange. We all thought–TORNADO–and quickly packed up and got a move on. Later we found out that tornadoes were descending on Kansas City and Oklahoma. We were just hours ahead of it, but it felt too close for comfort. It’s eerie to find out later about all the destruction that happened in the Midwest just as we were passing through.

bryce canyon

Plein air painting of the Queen's Garden in Bryce Canyon, watercolor and gouache

One of the highlights of the trip was spending a whole day in Bryce Canyon, Utah. We all fell in love with the colorful hoodoos and spent the afternoon plein air painting. I made friends with a chipmunk. I thought he was coming close to my easel just because he wanted to see the painting, but it turned out I had dropped some GORP and that was what attracted him.


My chipmunk friend coming close to my painting set-up

I haven’t even described the actual event of Spectrum. As soon as I arrived in the convention center and saw the dragons projected on the wall, I felt at home. Colin and my booth looked fantastic and we got to meet all sorts of interesting people. I enjoyed the talks I got to attend–one by Michael Whelan and a panel discussion on women in fantasy art. Every time I walked around the other booths, I was stunned by all the work and friendly faces and the proliferation of beautiful/horrifying visions. I came away with a longing to continue to experience true artist community. Bay area artist friends, let’s hang out some more!

Group shot

Laima, Colin, me and Lauren, road buddies at Spectrum

After that weekend, I also have a great fondness for Kansas City. I’d like to return again. And I’ll never forget such an amazing trip with my friends. Thanks Lauren, Laima and Colin!