When it comes to being a member of the Star Wars community, whether you’re a fan or a pro, a podcaster or writer or just someone who loves watching and reading the end product, there’s nothing quite like Star Wars Celebration. At the 2017 edition, Star Wars Celebration Orlando, that was apparent all over, from the show floor where cosplayers stopped for photos, often with children, representing their favorite characters, to panels where fans got to see the maker himself, George Lucas, hold court, or at fan meet-ups for favorite characters like Ahsoka Tano, at Celebration, it’s impossible not to feel at home with your fellow attendees.
That feeling is underlined, bolded, and exclamation-pointed by the artists of the Star Wars Celebration Art Show, a recurring part of the event that showcases some of the best artists in Star Wars history, with officially licensed, commemorative, limited prints honoring the galaxy far, far away. It’s a different experience for most of these artists, who also attend comic conventions, hometown shows and signings, and often work with many other properties.
“For me, the difference is it’s all Star Wars, all the time,” prolific artist and writer Katie Cook says of Celebration. Cook, an accomplished artist, has been published by several comic book companies, and has worked in Star Wars in books, prints, and even those stickers you probably still love sharing on Facebook! Her Celebration Orlando print, “Making Friends,” is seen to the right. “If I’m setting up at a regular comic convention, I’ve got my Gronk stuff, I’ve got My Little Pony because I used to work on that, I’ve got 10 years worth of stuff I’ve worked on. This show, I just bring the print! We all have our official licensed print for the show, and that’s what we’re here to promote, here to sell, and luckily I sold everything!”
Cook says that there is one danger at Celebration, however.
“I have to get corralled back in! I love Star Wars. I’ll get texts from my husband [at the Art Show table] saying, ‘Where are you?’” she says with a laugh.
That love of Star Wars is shared across the Art Show, where one of the first words out of most of the artists’ mouths about the experience is “family.”
“When you’re an artist [at a convention], there’s a sense of camaraderie and competition that exists,” Jeff Carlisle, who has been an Art Show exhibitor since Star Wars Celebration IV, explains. “This one? It’s family. Star Wars, especially Star Wars artists, become a community, become a family, and all support each other. We’re all in it together — we’re all the Rebellion, taking on the Empire, and by the Empire I mean legions of wonderful fans!” he says with a chuckle.
While everyone has their own print to sell, artist Chris Dee agrees that “there’s not really competition.” While Dee attended the show as a fan in previous years and had his portfolio reviewed by many of the artists still in attendance this year, he didn’t feel any need to fight them for sales or fan attention.
“My teachers are here. I got here because I learned from all of these people, they helped me get here, they answered all of my questions, they taught me how to be an artist,” Dee says. “There’s just friendship. We’re actually happy when other people sell out of prints even if we haven’t yet. It’s beautiful!”
Dee’s friend, and another member of their artist group delightfully called “Tell that to Kanjiklub,” Joe Hogan was also in attendance for the first time, and he was struck by the “little family” of the Art Show atmosphere from go.
“Everybody takes care of each other. This is my first time being here professionally, and before I even got to the show, they treated me like one of their own. It’s such a supportive, amazing wellspring of talent. I’m so blessed and thankful to be a part of it,” Hogan says.
For artists like Hogan and Dee, it can be a shared moment. Dee’s print, depicting Obi-Wan Kenobi meditating on Tatooine, was one of the first sellouts of the show, something both Hogan and Carlisle mentioned excitedly. Dee says his favorite moment, though, was when Joe Hogan was inducted into the 501st Legion, a fan organization known for its charity work and elaborate, film-accurate costuming, as an honorary member for his print.
“Since he made a clone trooper print, 30 of those guys came in and made him one of their own, and it was beautiful to look at. That’s what Celebration is all about,” Dee says.
“It was one of the most insane moments of my entire life,” Hogan adds. “A ton of clone troopers came and swore me in, and I was just honored and touched by that. I’m a big clone fanatic, so that was pretty awesome!”
Sometimes, after days with the fans and family of other artists, it’s something simple as a good, old-fashioned treat-yourself moment, which was how Cook closed out the show.
“I bought that Jyn jacket! I tried to talk myself out of it,” Cook says unconvincingly while her husband laughs. “The other big thing I do is eat red meat once a year, so tonight I’m going to have a big steak!”
Hopefully it’s not Wookiee meat. We hear that’s a little Chewie.
Visit StarWarsCelebration.com for a full list of the talented artists at this year’s art show!
Lucas Siegel is a freelance journalist and writer with over a decade of comic book, movie, TV, and video game reporting. A lifelong Star Wars fan, the galaxy far, far away shares time in his brain with Disney, superheroes, and Chicago sports. When he and his wife aren’t at Disney Parks, they’re watching Disney movies, their favorite The Clone Wars episodes, or playing Star Wars video games — you get the idea. He currently contributes to SyFyWire.com and other outlets.