A Sampler of Excellent Artists at ConQuesT 53

A Sampler of Excellent Artists at ConQuesT 53

By Jan S. Gephardt

ConQuesT 53 offered quite a sampler excellent artists. It really was a beautiful show, a credit to both the artists and the Art Show director, Mikah McCullough (ably assisted by his wife Katarina Gibb, and his Corgi Renji). I don’t have time or room to feature them all, but several of them impressed me with the range, beauty, and inventiveness of their work. Most had new things that I haven’t seen at ConQuesT before.

For the short profiles offered below, I have borrowed liberally from the artists’ self-posted biographies. Please note that I did need to edit most for length and to fit the needs of this blog post. However, it is not my intention to misrepresent the facts stated in them.

As for the artwork shown, “fair use” standards are always tricky when one hasn’t had the “bandwidth” (because of illness and family urgencies to attend to) to contact all of these artists ahead of time. Lacking their expressed wishes, I have only used photos that they themselves authorized to be publicly posted – either on their own websites or on the ConQuesT Art Show Facebook page. I strongly encourage you to explore their work at more depth on their websites.

The ConQuesT 53 Art Show in a panoramic photo that shows the entire display.
A panorama of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show, just prior to the end of the silent auction. (Mikah McCullough/ConQuesT Art Show).

Lucy A. Synk

Yes, I’m biased. And please note that this post’s sampler of excellent artists isn’t all ranked according to “who Jan knows best” order. But I just had to start here. As frequent readers of this blog know, Lucy A. Synk and I are close friends. She painted the cover art for my novella The Other Side of Fear. She is a member of my first-to-be-consulted Brain Trust (along with my sister G. S. Norwood and Dora Furlong), whenever I have new XK9 stories that need feedback. And readers of both this blog and my Newsletter know her as the artist who frequently creates developmental and promotional images of characters from Rana Station.

Lucy has exhibited her art at science fiction conventions, Renaissance Festivals, and art fairs.  She illustrated magazines and books in both the U.S. and Europe, most notably the cover for Andre Norton’s book Wizard’s Worlds. She also continued to hone her various skills in painting and portraiture. Through more than a decade of work in the natural history exhibit industry, Lucy painted murals and illustrations. She considers her Cretaceous mural, installed at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL, the high point of that career (scroll down on this page to see the mural).

Lucy is now exploring new directions for her artwork. Experiments with “Dirty Pour” and Mixed Media techniques resulted in her Planets series and the fantasy sea/ship paintings. She also has created some wonderful new still-life and Plein Aire paintings, and has embarked on an ambitious series of paintings called the “Rejoicing in Our Differences” series.

Arden Ellen Nixon

No sampler of excellent artists at ConQuesT 53’s Art Show would be complete without Arden Ellen Nixon’s work. Especially not, since she’s recently returned to full-time “artist-ing” and had some new-to-me work in this show.

I first encountered Arden’s work when I was the Art Show Director at ConQuesT myself, back in the dark times before Mikah McCullough took the helm. Since then we’ve become friendly acquaintances (I once had fun giving her a tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). Here’s what she has to say about herself and her art.

“Hello! I am Arden Ellen Nixon, and I will be your charmingly awkward artist this evening. It is my sincerest wish for my paintings to find the beauty in the dark–as with my extensive “Make-Shift Angel” series–the silly in the sublime, and the humanity shared by the creatures and the world around us. Legend has it that I could draw before I could walk. While I don’t know about that, I do know that I bought my first set of acrylics at thirteen. I found my starter set at a hardware store, of all places, on clearance for $13.75. “Why not?” I thought–little did I know! When not painting, you’ll find me pursuing my love of ancient history, watching soccer–Come On You Spurs!–with my husband, and visiting whatever zoo or museum is available at the time.”

The ConQuesT 53 displays of L-R: Lucy A. Synk and Arden Ellen Nixon.
L-R: Displays by Lucy A. Synk and Arden Ellen Nixon. (See credits below).

Jeff Porter

I worked with Jeff Porter on a few early XK9 developmental images, after I discovered his artwork at ConQuesT. Back then, he was deeply involved in creating the game “Xenofera,” which opened the door to a whole new avenue of illustration work for him. I’ve watched it unfold with great interest. I collected bits from his online bio for the introduction below.

Jeff, he is a freelance Illustrator from the Midwestern United States. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and very early in life realized the passion he had for creating art. He graduated from Raytown South High School, and then joined the United States Marine Corps for a four-year tour of service as an artillery cannoneer. After the service, Jeff started attending art classes at Longview Community College and later the University of Central Missouri, graduating in 2009 with a degree in Commercial Illustration. In 2013, he received his MFA from the University of Hartford’s limited residency program under the guidance of Murray Tinkelman. He now spends his time staying busy working on projects and learning as much as he can about the field of art and illustration.

Mike Cole

I have no idea when I first met Mike Cole. He’s been a (very funny and enjoyable) fixture at midwestern science fiction conventions for a long time. Since he lives in the St. Louis area, there’s a good chance our first encounter happened at an Archon! But whenever we met, he definitely belongs in this sampler of excellent artists.

Mike has been drawing since he was three years old. He has been displaying his artwork at science fiction conventions across the country for the last 25 years. Currently he lives in St. Charles, MO in a multi-level comic book storage facility. A science fiction fan since the early 70’s, Mike has attended, volunteered, run, and doomed, (don’t ask) something on the order of 300 conventions. He is a working artist as well as creating award winning digital artwork, and covers for Yard Dog Press.

Screen-grabs from the website homepages of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole.
From the websites of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole. (See credits below).

Sarah Clemens

I first encountered the artwork of Sarah Clemens the same way I did Arden’s, the first year I was the ConQuesT Art Show Director. I’ve been delightedly following her work ever since. My daughter Signy is among her devoted fans (she’s collected several of Sarah’s prints). Sarah works primarily in oils, but has also tried her hand at rock-painting and sculpture. She’s probably best known for her “Magnus and Loki” series, about a cat and a small dragon who are partners in hijinks.

“Working in oils brings everything into focus,” Clemens writes in her online bio. “I have had to work in all types of media to make a living as an artist and I pride myself on doing well in all of them, but oils…they’re special. Perhaps it’s the sense of history and tradition that makes them unique. There is also something extraordinary about they way you can push the pigments around a canvas. Oil has a luminosity, a gem-like glow. Moving the to Southwest has given me new ideas for painting, and for the first time, I am doing landscapes and flowers, along with the figure studies I love so much.”

Sara Felix

I met Sara Felix through ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy artists. It seems to me that she’s been the President of ASFA for at least 2-3 terms (it’s a job that has burned out many people over the decades, so I’m in awe of her stamina!). And with no fewer than six Hugo Awards in her CV, she surely deserves to be included in my sampler of excellent artists!

Sara describes herself as a mixed media artist. Her works are typically done in alcohol ink, acrylics and resin. She also creates a weekly tiara for Tiara Tuesday and has created over 100 unique tiaras in the project. Whenever she can, she teaches online and in-person classes. They typically sell out quickly because she has a large following with her creations.

She has been guest of honor at multiple conventions across the states and shows at science fiction art shows when she can. Her design work includes two Hugo bases, the 2016 base and the 2018 Hugo base co-designed with Vincent Villafranca. She also has designed three WSFS Young Adult Award/Lodestar awards as well as the nominee pins.

Screen-grabs from, L-R, the “Magnus and Loki” online gallery of Sarah Clemens and the “Tiara Gallery” of Sara Felix.
At left, Sarah Clemens’ Magnus and Loki are always up to something. At right, catch a glimpse of the stunning beauty and variety of Sara Felix’s fantasy tiaras. Her “Tiara Tuesdays” are a regular social media feature. (See credits below).

The Convention Artists Guild

The Convention Artists Guild was strong with us, this ConQuesT, so naturally several of them belong in my sampler of excellent artists at ConQuesT 53. What is the Convention Artists Guild? Here’s how they describe themselves:

“We are a group of professional & semi-professional Colorado artists who participate in Convention art shows and events. Our work is exhibited in Art Shows and Vendor Rooms alike throughout the country . . . It is our intention as a group to provide: support, trust, collaboration, aid, resources, information, motivation, community, education and inclusiveness both within our core group and with the community in general.”

In addition to Founding Member Peri Charlifu, and Remote Member Elizabeth Leggett, both of whose work I’ll examine in greater detail next week, several other CAG members showed their work here. Three in particular caught my eye.

This header says: Convention Artists Guild, Colorado Chapter.
The Facebook Page header for the Convention Artists Guild. (Convention Artists Guild).

Mike Kloepfer

Mike is a Founding Member of the Convention Artists Guild. I think I first met him at a SoonerCon, but it was a while back. I immediately fell in love his luscious, painterly technique. His art looks a lot like it was painted in oils to me, but he actually uses acrylics. I especially love his sense of humor and his anthropomorphized animals. Check out his “Dogs of War,” as well as his “Flyboys” and “Animals of Adventure.” They all look like such interesting characters!

Here’s how he introduces himself on his website: “Hi! My name is Mike Kloepfer. My friends call me Mikey. I call my art mikeyzart. I create unique imaginative characters, creatures, and places – Fantasy, SciFi, and Whimsical art, as well as Portraits, Figures, and wildlife. As a professional artist for over 3 decades, my art and myself have appeared in many places: books and magazines, including The Artists Magazine, and Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides; as well as galleries, art shows and conventions. I have been a technical illustrator for Microsoft, Boeing and COBE Laboratories, a map-maker for USGS, graphic designer, cartoonist, fine artist, and many other artistic occupations.”

Jim Humble

I first noticed Jim Humble’s artwork about a decade or more ago, at a science fiction convention – possibly at a DemiCon. He, too, offers wonderful, humorous paintings and prints of anthropomorphized animals. His Steampunk Kittens and Star Wars cats are especially fun. But this man has range. He also creates amazing resin and mixed-media sculptures (I particularly enjoy his amazingly intricate dragon sculptures). Give yourself some time to peruse his whole website. It won’t take long to see why he belongs in my sampler of excellent artists.

Here’s his self-introduction: “Some people think I was born with a pencil in one hand and some clay in the other. It’s pretty much true. I lucked out since my parents supported my art habit. In fact early on my mother and I baked one of my first clay pieces in the old oven. Of course it was crayola clay and it just melted and stunk up the house! Whoops! Live and learn.

“I’ve progressed since those days and still strive to improve. My life experiences have shaped my art in particular a 3 year stay in Germany and Europe. There my love of art (in particular the human form, gargoyles, grotesques and mythology) was really intensified. I’ve been pursuing my vision and passion to create now for more than 20 years.”

Brenna Deutchmann / Whimsical Whiskers

Brenna is another Convention Artists Guild Founding Member, and while she’s also a sculptor, she’s chosen the medium of fiber art. The result is unique, sometimes articulated, stuffed fantasy creatures that range from rather large to keychain-sized. She produces them under the name of Whimsical Whiskers LLC. As she explains on her website:

“All of our products are made with love and care. All of our products are original designs, and all production, sewing and construction are overseen by Brenna, who is the designer and artist.

Accessories and jointed dragons are handmade in Denver, Colorado and the USA by Brenna and local artisans. Each and every dragon is jointed, stuffed and finished by Brenna.

“Some of our products are my original designs but are produced off site in a factory. I work closely with my suppliers to ensure quality, softness of fabric, and ethical production. All are safety tested for age 0 (baby safe). These products include keychain animals, foxes, bunnies, silver and rainbow stripe dragons.”

Whimsical Whiskers’ “Dice Dragons,” a header from Humble Studios featuring a Steampunk Kitten and a mischievous-looking dragon, and a gallery of images representing Mike Kloepfer’s print series represent the three artists.
Clockwise from lower left, “Dice Dragons,” the Humble Studios header, and a “gallery of galleries” offers a representative sample of Mike Kloepfer’s artwork.” (See credits below).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampler of excellent artists whose work I enjoyed at ConQuesT 53!


As noted in the introduction, out of concern over fair use, I have only used photos that the artists themselves authorized to be publicly posted – either on their own websites or on the ConQuesT Art Show Facebook page. All montages were made by Jan S. Gephardt.

Art Show Director Mikah McCullough took the panoramic shot of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show on Saturday, May 28, just before the silent auction ended. He posted it on Facebook. Jan took the photo of Lucy A. Synk’s 2-panel art show display during Art Show setup on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Mikah McCullough took the photo of Arden Ellen Nixon’s display at about the same time – both with the motive of showing the two mail-in artists how their displays looked. Lucy gave me permission to share hers, while Arden and Mikah shared hers on Facebook.

Jan captured screen-grabs from the website homepages of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole. Likewise, the imagery representing Sarah Clemens is a screen-grab of part of her “Magnus and Loki” online gallery, showing six images, complete with itty-bitty watermarks. The one representing Sara Felix screen-captured nine of the wildly imaginative tiaras for which she is well known. To see more, please visit their websites!

The header image for the Convention Artists Guild came from the organization’s Facebook Page. Three of their members are represented by images in the montage below it. Whimsical Whiskers‘ “Dice Dragons” came from a Facebook image. Images representing Jim Humble and Mike Kloepfer are screen-grabs from their respective homepages. Many thanks to all, for helping me share this sampler of excellent artists!

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