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The first FantasyCon will feature giant sentinels, a rock monster, panels, celebrities, costumes, a dragon that's three stories tall and 53 feet wide — and an art gallery.

Yes, an art gallery. Fantasy art, of course. Which is one of the ways the new event running Thursday through Saturday in Salt Lake City looks to distinguish itself from other sci-fi/fantasy cons.

"We focus on artwork and the artists," said FantasyCon founder Josh Patel. "So I've had the top fantasy artists — some of which have been working on their paintings for three, four, five years."

He said he and his wife got the idea while they were visiting art galleries on a trip to Italy.

"So I said, 'Why don't bring this kind of beauty to the U.S., where we don't have this kind of stuff?'

"It's some of the most fascinating artwork, because you can look at fantasy paintings of the exact same topic painted by a thousand different people and every one will be completely different."

A centerpiece of FantasyCon's art exhibit will be a 6-by-10-foot painting by Donato Giancola that depicts a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring."

"We've got some amazing works of art from the top fantasy artists in the world," Patel said — everything from huge paintings like Giancola's to smaller paintings to sculptures.

• Brom, whose works range from novels to game, comics to film. He's the author/illustrator of a series of award-winning horror novels that include "The Plucker," "The Devil's Rose," "The Child Thief" and "Krampus, the Yule Lord."

• Jeff Easley, who is responsible for the iconic first edition "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" hardcover and all second-edition hardcover rule books.

• Justin Gerard, whose work has been featured in Spectrum Fantastic Arts, the Society of Illustrators and the Illustrators Annual.

• Howard Lyon, whose clients include Blizzard, Upper Deck, Wizards of the Coast, Electronic Arts, NCSoft, The Greenwich Workshop and Paizo Publishing.

• Mark Poole, an illustrator for "Magic: The Gathering" and "Dungeons & Dragons," among others.

• Annie Stegg, whose illustrations have been featured in various game and publishing clients, including Ballistic Publishing, Apple, Android, Hi-Rez Studios, Tiki Games, Addicting Games and SPIL Games.

• Heather Theurer, who has worked for Disney Fine Art and FantasyCon, among others.

• Christopher Vacher, a two-time Emmy-winning artist who has done backgrounds, visual development and art direction for Disney, Dreamworks, Universal and more.

• Eric Velhagen, whose painting "Fantasy Feast" was part of the "Breath of Embers" show at the Nucleus Gallery in California.

"You're going to see all the best artwork and creations and sculptures, not just in Utah, but some of the best the world has to offer," Patel said.

Artists will be on hand working on paintings and interacting with conventiongoers, part of Patel's goal of making FantasyCon "immersive and interactive," he said. "You go to most conventions out there, it's look but don't touch. We want them to get more involved than they would at a typical convention.

"And the celebrities are agreeing to do it. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them."

The list of celebrities includes Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Claudia Christian, Summer Glau, Simon Pegg, Rose McGowan, John Rhys-Davies and Mark Sheppard, just to name a few.

The art exhibit isn't the only departure for FantasyCon. Members of the Ballet West company will perform "A Magical Misadventure" — a ballet depicting what can happen when sorcery falls into dangerous hands — at 6 p.m. all three days of the convention.

Meeting the celebrities, viewing the paintings and most of what happens inside the Salt Palace at FantasyCon are all part of the price of admission. (Food, some autograph/photo sessions and products from vendors are the only additional costs.)

A family of four can attend for $50 on Thursday, $75 on Friday, $100 on Saturday or $150 for all three days.

"One of the main pillars of FantasyCon is to make it affordable for everyone," Patel said. "You can't even get into Lagoon for $40 a day.

"I want people to get lost in a world for three days. FantasyCon is an affordable stay-cation for locals and vacation for people who are not too far away."

Twitter: @ScottDPierce —


When • Thursday through Saturday, July 3-5

Where •Salt Palace Convention Center, 90 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets •VIP All-Access, $150; adults (16-plus), $20 Thursday, $30 Friday, $40 Saturday, $60 three-day; youth (11-15), $10 Thursday, $15 Friday, $20 Saturday, $30 three-day; children 10 and youmger, free. Military, college sudent and teacher discounts available. Available at and at the door. —

Frodo the DJ

Elijah Wood will be the DJ for FantasyCon's kickoff party. Wood, who is teamed up with his pal Zach Cowie as DJ Wooden Wisdom, will also participate in a question-and-answer session with guests before the event

When: Wednesday, July 2. Doors open at 8 p.m.; show begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 1 a.m.

Where: The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets: $20 general admission; $50 VIP tickets at A limited number of tickets are available.