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All about the art: my 3 favourite artists at Cape Town’s FanCon 2016

With expos such as EGE and rAge emerging on Capetonian soil, the Mother City has had a healthy dose of geeking-out over the last year. This past weekend, Cape Town witnessed another debut of such an event, namely FanCon.

While EGE focussed on tech and rAge on gaming, FanCon was all about the art for me. As I made my way through the surprisingly dense crowd of attendees on Saturday, I became lost in a world of imagination and creativity. With over thirty artists exhibiting their work, there was more than enough eye candy to feast upon.

There are a few artists’ work that stood out for me though, and I’d like to take the time to tell you their story.

Here are my favourite three artists from FanCon 2016:

Inks MD – Mel Dixon

Inks MD FanCon 2016

Enjoy more of Mel Dixon’s work on her Facebook page.

I had originally met Mel earlier this year at rAge Cape Town and it was a pleasant surprise seeing her work again at FanCon, especially considering that she hails from the far away land of Johannesburg.

Mel uses three traditional mediums: graphite pencils, colour pencil and water colour. With this she conjures up, what I would call, the geek’s equivalent of heroin. Leafing through her portfolio is very, very addictive.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from my love for comic books and pop culture, generally I draw or paint pictures of the things I am either currently reading or watching or playing at the time,” she tells me.

From portraits of your favourite comic book characters, such as Batman and Deadpool, to a very intriguing sketch range of scantily clad men and women in Storm trooper helmets, she produces a very diverse range of work. But within that diversity, she conveys a distinct visual voice, which I think I found most appealing about her range.

While talking to Mel, one of the most interesting things I discovered about her was that she used to be a professional golfer. It was after a golf-related back injury, which prevented her from competing professionally anymore, that Mel turned to her art. “If it wasn’t for the injury, I wouldn’t be on the path I am now.”

Mel is currently studying 3D animation at the Animation School in Rosebank, Johannesburg. She has exhibited her work in Australia (Supanova, Oz Comic Con) and can regularly be spotted at various geek- and art-related events in South Africa.

Lilak Rain – Karien Benz

Lilak Rain FanCon 2016 lead

Enjoy more of Karien Benz’s work on her Facebook page.

The first thing that drew me to Karien’s stand was a hyper-realistic action portrait of Uzumaki Naruto about to rearrange someone’s face with a Rasengan. As a religious fan of the Naruto Shippuden anime, seeing it portrayed in such vivid beauty was mesmerizing. Couple that with her inviting personality and you can understand why this was one of my favourite stands at FanCon.

After I managed to tear away my eyes from Naruto, my gaze started to wander over the rest of Karien’s work. This hyper-realistic approach was evident in all her pieces, giving me the sense that she was a sort of “photographer” of the anime world. I did not feel like I was observing an event but rather that I was participating in some way.

Karien produces most of her work in the “wonderful world of Photoshop” but she also likes to dabble in more traditional mediums. “Pencils, watercolour, ink and copic markers are all mediums that give me great joy,” she explains.

Not surprisingly, Karien draws most of her inspiration from her great love for Anime.

“I actually started to draw because I love Anime so much. However in more recent years I’ve been inspired by more things than I can count. Films from all over the world, American comics, amazing artists online, South African comics and artists, and most recently Franco-Belgian comics.”

When asked about her plans for the future, it was clear that Karien was planning big. From giving birth to her own IPs (intellectual Property) to helping to carry the torch in the promotion of comics and animation in South Africa, she is ready to emit her wave of change.

Karien is currently studying 3D animation at the Animation School in Cape Town.

Shundeez – Robert Whitehead

Shundeez FanCon 2016

Enjoy more of Robert Whitehead’s work on his Facebook page.

Rob’s stand boasted some of the most unique art that I saw at FanCon this weekend. While most other artists’ pieces were produced in an animated medium, Rob’s work came in the form of photography.

To be more specific, Rob makes use of photography to breathe life into the world of LEGO. He takes recognizable LEGO minifigures and places them in natural situations, such as Aquaman emerging from the sea or Gandalf majestically peering into the distance. The result is nothing short of astounding.

“I’ve been doing this for just over two years now. Started as a bit of fun but quickly turned into a full blown obsession.”

But of all his work, the pieces that captivated me the most was the photographs printed on wood or brushed aluminium. This method imbues the work with a certain life force that I am having trouble describing. To truly do it justice, you would have to experience it in person.

Another thing that I found intriguing was the name under which Rob operated, namely “Shundeez”. Naturally, my curiosity led to me enquiring the meaning of this strange word. According to Rob, Shundeez is a slong word from Durban “meaning lekka or cheers”.

Rob also works as a director on documentaries and reailty TV shows. As there is regular travelling involved in this profession, it provides Rob with a great range of location to produce his photographs.

“When I’m away on shoots I often find myself in amazing locations. So in between takes and on off days, I will go off in search of the perfect ‘Lego Spot.’”