St. Louis' Jason Spencer Takes Top Prize at Illustrated World Series

Spencer was awarded more than $2,000 for his win in the international competition

click to enlarge Prolific St. Louis artist Jason Spencer bested competitors from around the world in the art-sports tournament. - VIA JASON SPENCER
Prolific St. Louis artist Jason Spencer bested competitors from around the world in the art-sports tournament.

Here in St. Louis, we already know and love Jason Spencer and the myriad bonkers artistic works he creates through his Killer Napkins brand. His demonic creatures haunt our galleries, his trippy sci-fi murals cover our walls, his monstrous tapestries keep us warm in the winter.

Now, word of our hometown hero's outsize talent has gone international.

Over this past weekend, Spencer participated in the Illustrated World Series, taking home the top honors in the Illustrated Masters 2022 Digital division. The London-based art-sports competition pitted 16 illustrators from around the globe against one another in a bracketed tournament, with the winner — that's Spencer — taking home £1,750 (or $2,068.31 in United States money).

As if that wasn't impressive enough, Spencer pulled off the win in his debut year participating, having been asked only days before the event to sub in for a competitor that had to drop out.

Spencer isn't even fully sure how he ended up on the organizers' radar — but he supposes it might have something to do with a comment he'd left on one of the group's social media posts.

"Apparently I was following them on Instagram beforehand — I guess I might have saw something last year — but I saw a friend had posted about participating in it this year," he explains. "And I was sitting at the bar just talking to my buddy, and I go, 'Yo, check this out. This looks cool.' And then like 10 minutes later I got hit up and asked to participate, to fill in last-minute because the thing was happening in a couple days. So I accepted and tried to make it happen."

Make it happen he did. Before an online audience of more than 500,000 streamers, Spencer bested his fellow competitors from the United States as well as those from Spain, Great Britain, Venezuela, Russia, South Africa, France, Poland, Italy and Mexico to secure his win. The rules for the event were fairly straightforward. Pairs of competitors were assigned headlines from Buzzfeed articles that they were then given an hour to interpret artistically in a head-to-head manner, employing only black, white, grey-scale and one other color of their choice.

"Then everybody else had some different headline that they were working on. And you would take an hour to get to draw your full piece," Spencer explains. "They did a big Twitch stream where they had eight people going at a time at the beginning, with an announcer and all that."

Spencer employed his usual surrealist, monster-laden approach to the headlines he was given. For the first round, he was assigned "#RIPTwitter: Elon Musk Is Buying Twitter For $44 Billion." In response he whipped up a Grim Reaper figure with dollar signs for eyes and a huge sack of cash. In the second round Spencer tackled "Worldcoin Promised Free Crypto If They Scanned Their Eyeballs With 'The Orb.'” For that one, he drew a cyclops creature clad in a bow tie, drooling as it trains its single eye on a sphere that's pooping coins into its open hands. Round three was "Twentysomethings Have Started Throwing Fake Weddings," for which Spencer conjured up a set of sinister, glowing eyes with a pair of tattooed arms moving tuxedo- and wedding dress-clad crash test dummies toward one another atop a cake.

click to enlarge St. Louis' Jason Spencer Takes Top Prize at Illustrated World Series

For those rounds, the competitors had been told the headlines the night before, giving them time to come up with an idea. But for the final round against fellow American Alex Solis, the two were given their headline just before it was time to compete.

"That final round was essentially like, the judging took about 30 minutes or so," Spencer explains. "And then they announced the winners and told us our new headlines, so we had to come up pretty quick with an idea."

That final round was focused on a matter of considerable impact for the two U.S. citizens, with the headline being "Americans Take To The Streets To Protest The Overturning Of Roe V. Wade." For this one, Spencer pulled no punches, drawing a sea of limbs and heads in a crowd approaching a columned building labeled "Supreme Shit," some carrying signs with slogans such as "Hands Off," "Protect Women" and "Abort the Court." That one was enough for Spencer to take home the gold.

click to enlarge St. Louis' Jason Spencer Takes Top Prize at Illustrated World Series

In addition to the cash prize, Spencer says that the level of exposure the win will generate for him is considerable. The Illustrated World Series has a partnership with Comic-Con, he says, and several of the people who were competing are artists for whom he's long considered himself a fan.

"I knew a lot of these illustrators that were in this for a while now," he says. "I had a couple of friends that I had just recently met when I was in New York participating ... and then some other people that I've been following for years. So, pretty cool to see."

His participation in the event was last-minute this year, but Spencer already has plans to be involved in 2023. After all, he's got a title to hold on to.

"They were explaining to me, once you participate in this, you'll be asked to come back," he says of the win. "So I gotta defend it."

About The Author

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill is editor at large for the Riverfront Times and he demands to be taken seriously, despite all evidence to the contrary. Follow him on Twitter at @editorfatlarge.
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