A look at the local artists appearing at Gen Con and Bizarre Bazaar 

It's a fantasy art fan's dream

click to enlarge An Overman whimsical character
  • An Overman whimsical character

Among the legions of costumed gamers at this year's Gen Con — the annual gaming extravaganza taking place at the Indiana Convention Center — you will find some locally-based visual artists displaying their work.

And this year there's another fantasy art vending event, unaffiliated with Gen Con, called Bizarre Bazaar: An Alternative Art Extravaganza. It will be going on downtown during the same time at the Artsgarden (Aug. 4-7).

Bizarre Bazaar just might give Gen Con a run for its money because — unlike Gen Con — it's a free event.

But, of course, if you're a gamer/fantasy art nut you're going to want to check out both!

Among the local artists appearing at Gen Con this year is Indianapolis-based Emma Overman, who has her studio in the Harrison Center for the Arts. (Another local fantasy artist displaying work there is veteran convention vendor Kathryn Steele.)

click to enlarge Emma Overman next to one of her painings
  • Emma Overman next to one of her painings

Overman's paintings, featuring a menagerie of childlike characters from some lost storybook, might at first glance seem a little lost in the hustle and bustle of Gen Con. But Overman, who has had numerous shows in Indianapolis in a wide variety of venues, and is participating in the event for the second year in a row, only has good things to say about the event.

"I loved it last year," says Overman. "I had not known how well I would fit in. I went simply to see if I would fit in okay and I think it was funny because I was assuming there would be metal helmets with horns coming out.  But I saw animals in vests, and I thought 'okay!'  Just to see a bit of the lighter, friendlier side was helpful for me. So I thought, 'Yeah, I can do this'."

While her characters are not attached to any particular narrative, they attracted interest from one particular game developer whom she ran into last year.

"He said that it seems distinctly more childlike and more feminine than most of what you see here," says Overman.  "And then he said I can't think of a project off hand where you would fit in right now, I don't have a project right now but your kind of art makes me want to make a project around it."

click to enlarge An Overman whimsical character
  • An Overman whimsical character

Overman's hoping to make contact with this game developer again this year. What's most exciting to Overman is the opportunity to experiment with style and subject matter.

"I would say that in general that it's an excuse to go on a visual tangent for an audience that might be more receptive to that than any other gallery-type show that I might have in town," she says.

And although there isn't much opportunity for her to get up and explore Gen Con as much as she'd like, she still is looking forward to the event for one other reason than those outlined above.

"I love the people watching,"
says Overman.

But you might meet some equally interesting characters at Bizarre Bazaar: An Alternative Art Extravaganza.

"Last year I had intended to vend at Gen Con for the eight year in a row," says Indianapolis-based fantasy artist Lydia Burris, who organized the event. "But they had instilled a new jury system. ... Many of the longtime artists and/or artists that did not fit their new mold were cut from the mix.  Not to be deterred from vending on the same weekend, I went to the arts council to discuss alternate vending options ... All the pieces fell into place, and I found myself running an alternative four-day-long art event at the Artsgarden!"

The event will act as a bridge between the local arts community and Gen Con, according to Burris, and will feature a diverse array of participating vendor/artists.

"There will be Chuck Baker the wizard wand maker," says Burris. "He's a delightful older gentleman with a twinkle in his eye and magic in his heart. He's an experienced craftsman and tinsmith and began making wands on request for special events ... [he] has continued to make wands ever since. We also have William Stolpin, known for his detailed dragon drawings. Kate Cole is an abstract expressionist 'emotion painter', and will most likely be performing throughout the weekend with live painting. She owns Gallery 444 in Shelbyville, Ind."

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