Spokane 2015 – The World Science Fiction Convention

Usually, I’d be writing a long and hopefully entertaining journal about the whole amazing show. But given the events of the last few days (the midnight to 4am ER visit with one dear friend and the trauma work with another, the break in and theft from our car, the still inexplicable internet oddness, and related maladies), I have time only for a brief photo essay:

The crossing of the Columbia River Gorge past Ellensburg, and the horse sculptures upon the hill:
1Step 1: Pass out the 2 full boxes of Voodoo Doughnuts to the Convention volunteers:

2Below Left: I made the little flyer on the right to highlight the Small Gods I had on display, and to suggest that the Art Show might contain unexpected surprises.

Below Right: Most of the crack team (Venetia, Kim and Tracy) that put up my always-complex display in the Art Show:3Many a lovely being! Debi Chowdhury used Venetia as a model in her Sari-tying Class.

Crystal Huff was happy to see us, even before her bid to host the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki Finland so spectacularly crystalized. ;)

Liz Argall always looks sharp in a black suit. The black mask would not be needed on that day….4Venetia was a woman of many disguises – from the wee fairy hat to the replicant infiltrating the bizarre Kubrick Film that was Spokane’s Grand Hotel, to her rarely-glimpsed Moomin-form (rendered here by the delightful Goldeen Ogawa):5One does not simply expect Mordor. Spokane was, like Johnny Cash, in a burning ring of fire. The sun was red, the air unbreathable, and the idyllic walk across the park to our hotel? Unthinkable. And that’s where the masks came in. Colette and our kind friends at the DC bid committee supplied the fabric. We wetted it down and shared it with Liz (because sharing is caring in any emergency or apocalypse):6Below Left: The me of today with the me of decades past – as seen in Christine Valada’s excellent series of SF Portraits.

Below Right: Me desperately trying to use a PC as I engage in a REDDIT “Ask me anything”:10Now, I had a feeling Daniel Patrick Moran might be a geek. But I had no notion that Jim Wright (aka Stone Kettle Station) was. Here – at the midpoint of the convention – was the first meeting of the firm of Moran, Wright and Moyer:7Saturday, a miracle occurred and the Apocalypse was called off. In gratitude we went and rode the Sky Ride – one of the few features left from the well-loved Expo ’74:8 9The night of the contentious Hugo Awards, we dined with Mark, Baize and Tempest – eventually shutting the slightly seamy (if delicious) Teriyaki House down. When the metaphoric smoke cleared, all was right with the world – and so many of the good people won! Here is the wondrous Wendy Wagner holding her ceremonial mace upside down (for safety no doubt – she is wise):11As we took down the remnants of the art show, we couldn’t help but notice this tiny bird. How clever to seek breathable air inside the Convention Hall!:12After the closing pool party and the good affordable food (where had that been for the rest of the convention?), we wandered to Meg and Will’s room in the Kubrick, and were treated to splendid conversation:13There was ever so much more of course, but my clients are no happier with my delays than I am, so it’s back to work for me!

I am very grateful to Jean and Rob Carlos for their fine opening dinner, and their hosting Cards Against Humanity. But also for the thorough convention reportage that they (and the marvelous Carol Berg, Jim Wright, Vandy Hall, Stacy, and so many others) have written. Here’s to future meetings!

Spokane History

I was last in Spokane in 1974. For the World’s Fair.
Before I arrived, the state of Washington and the rail-hub city of Spokane did a massive amount of work:


View from helicopter, Expo '74 World's Fair Spokane

View from helicopter, Expo ’74 World’s Fair Spokane

41 years later, I returned for the World Con.
I anticipated the removal of most of the fair buildings, and the reclamation of that land as park, but I looked forward to exploring those changes. It should have looked like this:

riverefrontInstead, because of the record fires surrounding Spokane, staying at a hotel across the waterways and park (which had seemed such an idyllic notion just days before), proved a fascinating challenge when the going got tough.
One does not simply …expect Mordor:


Le Morte d’Artiste

The Germans probably have a word for it.
But in English the closest I can get is “the feeling you have when someone speaks your heart far better than you can”. And its sad addition “and the feeling you have when they die”.

Terry Pratchett’s death (or should I say Death?) was long in coming – Alzheimer’s is a cruel and truly terrible thing. Many of you know Sir Pratchett’s writing, and some of you the man himself. And while I could single out Small Gods as my favorite of his works, I was never sorry I read even one book of his.

That I associate him with Stephen Colbert may seem bizarre, but I do. I well remember watching Colbert’s Press Club evisceration of George W. Bush, and that exact moment when he went all in – the look in his eyes that told me he hated the mendacious suckfish of the U.S. media as much as the policies of the killers they were failing to report accurately about. And not only that he got it, and was taking a rare moment to speak truth to power, but that he was simply better at all of it than I was. There are many reasons of course, but I cannot shake the idea that it’s because the real Colbert so adeptly used the character of “Stephen Colbert, right wing press hack” as a mask. The way Pratchett used all the hackneyed tropes of fantasy and fiction to tell true stories about all the things that matter.

I’d heard tell of Discworld for several years, but we’d never really “met” before I read Good Omens, his collaboration with the esteemed Neil Gaiman. But once begun, Pratchett’s oeuvre proved hard to put down, and after a couple decades of reading, I was asked to be the artist guest of honor at The North American Discworld Convention. By then I was ready.

But the sad truth of Pratchett’s Alzheimers diagnosis had just been revealed, and Pratchett stayed home. Rather than have a few drinks with the legions of adoring friends, fans, and families, Pratchett sent a high-tech “hello” from across the briny and the likes of Bernard Pearson to keep things lively. (Trying to match wits with Bernard was a highlight of not just that convention, but the entire year).

Pratchett’s Calendar spread shows the not-quite-penultimate one we call ‘November’ but the denizens of Discworld, in their 13 month cycle, call ‘Ember’.
The 8 day week proved problematic, but the double helix makes so many things possible. Nothing was off limits to Pratchett – everything could be questioned, altered and enjoyed.

MonthOfEmberDeath is everywhere in Pratchett’s books (Gaiman’s too, come to that), but some things transcend it – art and love among them.
He left his all on the page. A reformed Om’s blessings to him for that.

LeeMoyer_OmPratchett never got to see these pieces – all from ‘Good Omens’ (and including my favorite joke in the entire book: “Admittedly he was listening to a ‘Best of Queen‘ tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into ‘Best of Queen’ albums”). I hope you’ll enjoy them.

AziraphaleCrowley GodSaveTheQueen GoodOmen4Horsemen A&ClogoAdded bonus! The pin-up that goes with the calendar page above.


Lee Moyer – Selected Works for 2014 Award Seasons

It’s inescapable. Beautiful art is everywhere and here is some that premiered in 2014 made by yours truly. Please kindly take these into consideration for your award choices.


Arisia 2015 Schedule

Having arrived in Boston and already had a splendid day, I realized I need to post a “Where’s Lee”. All the cool kids are doing it.


7:00pm Map and the Story

Marina 3 (2E)

Maps are a familiar sight in our field, but lately a number of stories have placed maps and cartography at the core of the stories themselves. Maps serve as portals to other worlds, cartographers remake the world in a map’s image, and mapmaking itself becomes a means to discuss the distance between perception and reality, between the map and the territory. Panelists will discuss the ways in which maps and cartography have escaped from the endpapers in recent works of fiction.
Erik Amundsen, Greer Gilman, Walter H. Hunt, N. K. Jemisin, Lee Moyer (m)

10:00pm Art Reception

This is the largest art show I’ve ever done – 100 pieces! Some as large as 4 feet tall! Please come see if your schedules so allow!


12:30pm Improbable Research and the Ig Nobel Prizes

Grand DE (1W)

I will be the second presentor of an Ig Nobel winning study before I must skedaddle to my own presentation of art.

Highlights from Ig Nobel prize-winning studies and patents, presented in dramatic mini-readings by luminaries and experts (in some field). The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions about the research presented. Answers will be based on the expertise of the presenters, who may have a different expertise than the researchers. NOTE: Some of the presenters will be selected from nominations made in advance by you the fen! Nominate someone here: http://bit.ly/1GfEYQm

1:00pm The Art of Lee Moyer: from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Marina 4 (2E)

35 years of art to show and, hopefully, audience questions to answer.

2:30pm Handling Your Online Image As an Artist

Independence (3E)

How do you create effective online presence? How and where should you sell work online? What social networking tools should you be using, and how? What are best practices for building a fan base and then interacting with them?
Bob Eggleton, Lee Moyer (m)

5:30pm Designing Things That Don’t Exist

Burroughs (3E)

We are always trying to depict the alien, but how far do you have to go to be truly out of this world? When you can’t draw from a model, how do you create a believable fantasy creature or technological object? What artistic techniques help convince the viewer you were there? What in the natural order can you change? Are there rules you should never break?
Lisa Hertel, Scott Lefton (m), Lee Moyer, Mercy E Van Vlack


11:30am Inspiration – Art History & Modern Masters

Marina 2

We live in an Age of Miracles and Wonders – the art treasures of the world, past and present, are at our fingertips! Please join Artist Guest of Honor Lee Moyer as shows some of his inspirations, answers questions and signs calendars, games, and/or book covers!

2:30pm Portfolio Review with Lee Moyer

Independence (3E)

I am here to critique your work, answer questions, and possibly make career recommendations. Listen to the critique of others’ works, as you may learn something valuable. (Limited to 10 people. Signup sheet available at con in the Program Nexus on the Mezzanine.)

4:00pm Guest of Honor Tour of the Art Show

Harbor III (3E)

Art Show Tour by our GoH. Limited to 10 people. This is after the auction but before anyone picks up their loot. Come see what you missed with commentary by our Guest of Honor!

8:00pm Masquerade

Grand AB (1W)

The 26th annual Arisia Masquerade. Come watch the entrants perform short vignettes to show off their costumes, and see if your pick matches that of the judges.
Colette H. Fozard, N. K. Jemisin, Lee Moyer


2:30pm Infamous Bad Book Covers Panel

Marina 4 (2E)

Learning from the tragic past (and ebook present), this panel will hope to prevent future crimes against authors and readers alike.

2014 Holiday Letter

PinUpsJanuary began with preparations for Lee’s big art show of Pin-Ups (featuring more than 3 years of literary calendar art and a few others). Below is one of two longs walls at the Catalyst Studio. And in the next shot, the gorgeous Kiana Phi hangs out with us, and with Miss Kim Stanley Robinson for whom she posed. She has us surrounded!

ShowThe opening presented a splendid chance to meet up with many of our friends as they mingled and enjoyed the delicious cheesecake (and other hors d’oeuvres, natch).
The month ended with a trip to Seattle, where many colleagues and co-conspirators were seen, much fabulous food eaten, and several adorable pets petted.

Guests are marked “G•” and shown in burgundy throughout:
G• Ang, Echo & Her Traveling Troupe d’Arte

February was marked by collaborations with Todd Lockwood: Two paintings in honor of Jeff Easley (one of the original D&D artists), and an unusual Superbowl party where both our “home” teams were playing (like me, Todd grew up in Colorado and now lives in the Pacific NW).  The paintings ended rather stronger than the Denver Broncos, but our other home team won.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 8.17.54 PMG• Gail & Rod

March began with the departure of dear friend Dan Cottle – bound for the wilds of distant Massachusetts. The opening soiree for Kate Ristau‘s book Commas: An Irreverent Primer left us with a new coloring page on our refrigerator (as you know, Lee cannot really be trusted with loose crayons) and a cryptic phrase that might be… a pass code? Mere Dadaist ramblings? Who can know?

DraggyA few weeks after the big Pin-Ups show first appeared, it moved to the Radio Room, site of the original Pin-Ups show some 5 years gone, and we got to spend some time with models Becca and Saamanta into the bargain!

Our friends Tara and Accalia came to stay with us from icy Winnipeg while they attended Rachel Brice‘s intensive belly-dancing masterclass. They were marvelous, even despite their exhaustion and overwork.

We opted for Health Republic (an actual public health co-op) as we sorted out our coverage in light of the ACA.

G• Tara & Accalia

April marked the arrival of The Doom that Came to Atlantic City (just in time for the HP Lovecraft Film Festival!) and the real beginning of Guest Season – Gail and Rod’s visit ending just as Andrew and Anya arrived. The weather was perfect, and a good thing, since Mina and Jamie would arrive from DC the very next day – both couples intent on the HP Lovecraft Film Festival.
Happily, after several years of near misses, Lee finally bested his colleagues at the Film Festival’s live painting demonstration/competition – thus allowing him the right to design the festival’s 2015 poster.

G• Gail & Rod, Andrew & Anya, Mina & Jamie

Doom copyVenetia got a mohawk! She had pondered it for the better part of a year at Lee and Phryo’s suggestion and decided it was the best idea ever. It was… and is!

MohawkCropWith all our guests returned home, we headed back to Seattle that Lee might participate in panels and hang artwork in the show at Norwescon. Artist and Faerieworld’s impresario Robert Gould was this year’s Guest of Honor, but happily past guest John Picacio was in the house too, with Lee rounding out an unlikely trio of Honored Guests. The panel on mapping with Bradley Beaulieu was delightful, and moderator Brenda Carre introduced Lee to the marvelous Carol Berg afterwards (oh, how Lee would love to make the maps for her cartographically inspired books a reality!)

NorwesconHaving done some type design for the von Trapp Family (4 of the grandchildren of the original Sound o’ Music bunch), we ventured out to a local bookstore to see them sing. And while we’d seen them perform with Meow Meow at the Schnitz and Pink Martini in Pioneer Square, the little solo concert was particularly sublime.

The World Horror Convention came to Portland in May. And while we were too busy with work to attend, Lee did put art in the show and pop by the odd party. More importantly, we got to host most of the Illuminaughty – that amazing group of guests we’d met the previous year in Winnipeg. From Mexico, author Ann Aguirre; From Canada, authors Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Chadwick Ginther and GmB Chomichuk – a sort North American Embassy was established here on Alameda Ridge.

Lee created a coloring book and a couple Golden Tickets as part of the party favors for his birthday party and costumed whing-ding at the end of the month. We must again thank the marvelous Jessie and Annabel for hosting, and Ang and Gail and Alanna for abetting! And of course those who could attend. Such good food and idyllic weather!

G• Ann, Silvia, Chadwick, Gregory, and Ang

BirthdayJune. At this point there is precious little we need to acquire, but the siren call of the annual Laurelhurst Yard Sale is irresistible and beautiful objets de art have to live somewhere.

Is there a more curious juxtaposition than ‘Showboat’ and The March Violets? We took in the former at Lakewood Center. The latter came to town (and the menfolk in the band to our house) from England. Sadly, Lee missed meeting up with talented singer (and author) Rosie Garland, the wife of Lee’s friend and collaborator, Aly Fell. Next time for sure!

Larry and Serena’s wedding celebration brought many notables to town – including Dr. Melissa Ganus and her assistant Tara, who we were happy to host. Doctor Mel’s research on children and their cognitive development is quite interesting, and Lee did a little design for her upcoming book too.

G• Tara, Si & Tom

SquidKate Ristau’s birthday Kickball party gave Venetia her first sport’s related injury in years, and cost her a favorite pair of pants (being a ruthless competitor clearly has it’s costs). We enjoyed the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ with Kimberly, and looked all the more forward to comparing an actual grand Budapest hotel with Wes Anderson’s more fantastic one.

July began with Roxanne’s sublime show of Gummi Bears as the appetizer, and Keith’s birthday the main course. Lee and Kimberly ventured up the Oneonta Gorge, and enjoyed the sushi in Troutdale thereafter (both of which sound oddly like euphemisms now I come to write them….)

We stayed with Ang in her timeshare during this year’s pilgramage to San Diego, and traveled to both the Hotel del Coronado and the San Diego Zoo with her. The San Diego ComicCon was mad as usual, but seemed to peak with the appearance of the amazing Francois Schuiten. Lee gave him a calendar, and Francois drew the hand you see below in pen! And it’s one thing to get your caricature drawn at the mall, but another to get it drawn by the astonishing Bill Plympton!

SanDiegoG• Zan & Sam

In August, we drove down through Salem to see ‘Avenue Q’ with our friend Kim’s star turn as Christmas Eve, arguably the world’s worst therapist. Seeing the Bad Idea Bears try to sell Venetia (sitting on the aisle) on Scientology was especially delightful!

BadIdeaBearsLater in month we were delighted by a surprise visit from Doug & Lisa. Time was shorter than we’d have liked, but so much good food (at Verde Cochina and Laurelhurst Market) and such lovely sights (the Falls, the Hatchery and Bonneville Dam) were taken in!

G• Doug & Lisa, Gail & Rod, Rose

September was our month of adventuring overseas: to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. We’ve written about that journey HERE.

The timing of our trip abroad was specifically designed to put us back into DC in time for Della and Kevin’s wedding in Alexandria  – as well as allowing Venetia to get back to the precious Smithsonian! This time the highlights were largely sculptural, but the exhibit of Andrew Wyeth still lifes was a refreshing break from the Euro-snobbery that so defines the National Gallery. We didn’t plan on having our luggage kept overlong in Brussels, but when we arrived in DC, our luggage did not. The Barkers kept us in high style and we used the opportunity to see everyone we could amid our wild ride around and through the Beltway. This included the Kate and Heather Hanna at Kate’s home in Annandale, and Helen Svensen in Raljon (Actually Landover. Thank heavens the grasping Jack Kent Cooke couldn’t tar the community with his spoiled children’s names forever!). Helen kindly donated one of her late husband’s shirts for me to wear, and directed Venetia to an amazing shoe store. After our stop in College Park to pick up a frame for the wedding gift, we found Ellie at home in Tacoma Park, where we patted her adorable wee rabbit and dined alfresco. Then, we made the mad dash through the dark heart of DC, arriving at the wedding exactly on time. It was a sort of miracle!

You can probably tell how happy we are watching Della and Kevin married:

023DK_blog_-1024x682Despite the three weeks of traveling, we still managed to fill the last weekend of the month with guests from all points, and luncheon with Stephen, Nicolle, Rajuli, Alaina, and Rose.

Though it happened while we were overseas, one of the definite highlights of the month, (and the year in general), was Arisia’s Author Guest of Honor N.K. Jemisin getting a tattoo of the blue lotus design Lee rendered from her description of it in the Dreamblood Duology.

JemisinTattooG• Rajuli, Rose

In October, Lee was invited to reprise his Month of Love with a Month of Fear. Other entertaining projects this month included Lee’s heartfelt tribute to Kim Newman‘s exemplary ‘Anno Dracula’ in the online comic (beloved of Librarians everywhere) Unshelved. (We had found Kim’s ‘Life’s Lottery’ earlier in the year and found it, though completely different from ‘Anno Dracula’ or the ‘Diogenes Club’ books Lee has illustrated, to be quite astonishing. As she navigated the complex and surprisingly meta narrative, Venetia had some bad life experiences that left her bitter. Lee, by contrast, enjoyed his golden life so thoroughly he couldn’t bear to dip back in for results virtually guaranteed to be less pleasant.

We traveled with Tracy traveled down to Salem for a splendid autumn party hosted by Kim and a couple of adorable dogs. Venetia journeyed on her own via Portland’s excellent public transit to see outed-spy and budding-stateswoman Valerie Plame at Powell’s in Cedar Hills.

We attended Halloween Parties hosted by Trinity & Sam, and Stephen and Nicolle. While Lee’s Willy Wonka seemed to go over well, who can compete with Totoro in any form? Much less as Iron Totoro?

HalloweenWe finally replaced our iPhone 3s with iPhone 6s – not because they were lacking or busted, but because the 6 is large enough to serve as a proper little portfolio (well, in Lee’s case 28 different little portfolios), thus allowing us to leave the iPad at home far more often.

Peter Beagle, Connor Cochran and ‘The Last Unicorn’ started our November in style. The following week we flew out to DC for the World Fantasy Convention in Lee’s old suburban Virginia stomping grounds. The Art Show was as fancy as an convention art show could hope to be and there were many parties and delightful people throughout – especially Les Howle’s fine Clarion West Party where I almost tripped over that tightknit Ben Rosenbaum/Lis Argall cabal! We found the private Kelly Collection as inspiring as the Belvedere’s more famous one, and spending quality time among the Pyles, Wyeths, Leyendeckers, Cornwells and Schaeffers was a real honor!
ArtMina’s lovely houseparty provided Lee an opportunity to see some old friends, and meet the marvelous Christine Watson at last. And since she had experienced a flat tire en route from Richmond, we put her up that night in our Crystal City hotel room. Here’s to that extra bed!

Panels were moderated and participated in, with the creme de la creme of artsy society – from British art guest/s of honor Les Edwards/Edward Miller to Irene Gallo to Chris Roberts to Michael Whelan. A good time might not have been had by all in attendance, but we had a fine time indeed. And not just because the mohawked ladies were representing.

WFCBack in Portland, we treated ourselves to a concert by Postmodern Jukebox which is currently the most popular band playing in our house. (Maybe tied with Andy Prieboy, but at least our most recent favorite.) Within the same week, we went to Amanda Palmer‘s book launch which Lee wrote about earlier.

And we continued the tradition of inviting our multi-talented friend Jaym to help us host a Thanksgiving feast:

ThanksgivingJaym proved herself to be an especially amazing friend by sacrificing her computer to Venetia’s lust for Civilization V. The game is addictive as can be, but can also easily be used as a teaching tool to show why the world is in such an ongoing state of disaster.

CivG• Jaym

December started out with Lee deep in the throes of pneumonia (he might well have stayed healthy had not the furnace died amid November’s vicious cold snap) and while taking excellent care of him, Venetia and Jaym had their own adventures in Portland and in Seattle – shopping, visiting friends, and seeing the final night of Todd Lockwood’s art show at Krab Jab Studio. This year also saw the last of Lee’s teeth receiving it’s own golden crown and some festive holiday parties: our neighborhood block party, cookies from Andy & Susie (well, Susie’s Mom), Krampus cheer with Michael and Liv, and a gorgeous family meal the day after Christmas. Venetia also saw Jason Webley‘s return to Portland for his kickstarter tour of ‘Margaret‘. And Ang brought her lovely family up and took Venetia to see the sparkling Zoo Lights.

ZooLightsOur year ended full of parties and friends and we hope to see much more of both in the coming year.

G• Ang, Jordan, Kitra


Lee’s art year in review for 2014 is in it’s own separate blog (to keep this one from being overwhelmed with images) and you can view it HERE.

Harry Palmer: Starstruck with Elaine Lee, Mw Kaluta and James Ratcliffe is not quite finished, but we made some serious headway! And from where I sit, the book is looking like a masterpiece…. Here’s a small sampling of 3 non-consecutive pages:

StarstruckTrioStill-unrevealed: the cover for ‘The Best of Caitlin Kiernan, Volume II’, a board game for Sasquatch games, and the branding for a fabulous wedding in 2015.

Other activities


Kickstarters We Supported
Periscope Studio: Maiden Voyage
Grandmother Fish
Margaret by Jason Webley and Friends
Strong Female Protagonist
EVOLUTION: The Art of Rebecca Guay 1993-2014
The Tooles Record
Reading Rainbow

Books We Read
Carol Berg’s Lighthouse Duo
Impulse by Steven Gould
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte
Life’s Lottery by Kim Newman
Hounded by Kevin Hearne
Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult by Marion Goldman
The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Dreamwalker by C. S. Friedman

Movies and Shows We Watched
Game of Thrones
Venture Bros: Season 5 (and then re-watched Seasons 3 & 4)
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Rocketeer
Boardwalk Empire
The Tick (the series)
The Lego Movie
The Artist
City of Ember
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The Grand Budapest Hotel
How to Train Your Dragon
X-Men: First Class
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Winter’s Tale
House of Yes
Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow

The Last Five Years
Avenue Q
39 Steps

New Artwork
Three posters from the Kelly Collection: Pyle’s extraordinary ‘Angel’, Leyendecker’s triumphal ‘Saturday Evening Post’ parade, and Mead Shaeffer’s sublime ‘Count of Monte Cristo’; a stupendously framed print of James Christensen’s ‘Superstitions’; Malachite Glass ashtray-turned-crystal-globe-holder from Prague. Also: Paul Komoda’s Ceratosaurus as well as a mystery commission as yet unrevealed!


2014: Art Year in Review

I started 2014 off in collaboration with Todd Lockwood. These two paintings were for a Jeff Easley tribute. Both reference Jeff’s early work on Dungeons & Dragons. I drew the first, Todd the second, and we switched off painting until we were happy.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 8.17.54 PMTheater Season is almost always the first big job of the year. And this year marked my 10th Anniversary of painting the full season of posters and the program cover for Northwest Children’s Theater. Time really does fly when one is working with great people!

nwct2014 Lakewood Theater presented such a great mix of plays this year – from the classic Mame to the world premiere Seven Wonders of Ballyknock:

lakewood8The premiere of Zombie Strippers (a heartfelt musical) at the New York Musical Theatre Festival required a design that could be used in a variety of ways – from temporary tattoo to poster:

ZombieStrippersAaron McConnell, Patricia Smith and I worked with Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet and Robin D Laws on 13 True Ways, the fulsome second book in our game 13th Age. Here’s the wraparound cover:

13TWCOVERfinalPart of the beauty of 13th Age is how closely I can work with the writers. The spread below required that both Rob Heinsoo and I be at our best in collaboration, passing ideas back and forth, the better to ensure that the final piece has the ability to surprise and intrigue the reader – something that I fear happens far to little in most game projects.

SantaCoraSpread2This piece shows the Horizon, City of Magicians, as seen from the ocean.
It was used as the endpapers of the book.

HorizonIt was a great pleasure to work with rising star Elliott Kay on Days of High Adventure and Natural Consequences. The latter cover only occurred to me after I spoke with Elliott about a completely different design, and I was delighted when he preferred it to the one we’d agreed upon!

Ladies Poor Man’s Fight and Rich Man’s War will, I hope, get a third companion soon. War is hell, and I just hope that poor Tanner survives his….

Poor&RichI was commissioned by book affectionado Tracy to create a designer slipcover for Brandon Sanderson‘s new book ‘Words of Radiance’ which was presented to Brandon at his book tour stop in Portland.

40 EndlessPagesWhat can one do with odd Lovecraftian suggestions (in this case – Nyarlathotep in an Amusement Park) from a boisterous crowd? Real fingerpainting?
It may not be much, but it won the annual HPL Film Festival‘s Pickman’s Apprentice competition:

HPL2014aIn May, I finished my full year of Small Gods with Small God #365.
I plan to continue the series as I have since then – with commissions, and as inspiration strikes. I also hope to put a book of fiction together with various writers this year.

SmallGodsPersonal commissions for friends can be the most mixed of blessings. The first piece below was a memorial for the late lamented Lobo. The second a birthday celebration for Andy Jewell. Here’s to them!

CharactersMy friends Brian and Scotia opened their store A Muse N Games in Winnipeg, and this was the logo I designed for their store.

MUSEBlueOther logos I enjoy: the Fool, Fun Mines, and The Karuna.

I was commissioned by Aeon Magazine to do a piece to accompany their interview with the great Alan Moore. They wanted a relatively simple editorial style, and the piece should have been simple, but the research took 2 days!

MooreTallerAlthough I missed this year’s Ambercon NW to return to DC for the World Fantasy Convention, I again designed their t-shirt, this year an Edward Hopper homage from a gas station in shadow. The wee black rabbit and the Power Station sign are homages to Edgefield (where Ambercon NW is held).

AmberB2014I created a Naga to add to the pages of Lands and Legends.
I learned a lot doing this painting and especially appreciate the kind embassies of Mary Anne Mohanraj and the second pair of eyes Todd Lockwood brought to the party!

NagasWonderful Boston artist Kristina Carroll invited me to participate in her Month of Love, for which I painted a daily Small God, and then again in October to participate in the Month of Fear. This month marked my return from Europe, and I was definitely the better for the inspiration I found there.

MonthOfFearI also got to write a book review for my favorite book, Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula.
My appreciation appeared on Halloween day in the Unshelved Book Club:

UnshelvedEDITfinalIn November, Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking came out. Upon reading and relating to much of the message therein, I made her the Small God of Asking. Synchronicity was in the air though, as that very day saw the release of her “Dear Daily Mail” nudie pens. I’d drawn them months earlier, but manufacturing can be tricky, and I had no expectation that the timing would synch up so well. Much to the surprise of all, the pens sold out in a day. Happily, do to popular demand, you can preorder the next batch here.

AmandasThe year ended quietly but, I think, with significant progress. Since returning from Europe in September I’ve been working more and more on pieces that are personally interesting and delightful. I’ve actually completed many more than this and they will premiere at Arisia this month.

10689669_10152851304702495_8783437240540942638_nVenetia and I have enjoyed listening to Rachel and Miles X-plain the X-men so much I had to create a Christmas card for them, as well as collaborating with Zach Fischer for a very special Christmas gift.

RachelMilesAnd I will end this year’s summation with one of Venetia’s favorite images of the whole year – sketched at Kathi’s in Vienna and painted digitally upon my return.

Here’s to a splendid 2015!


Palmer, Large, and Moen: Attorneys At Law

Last night’s concert (when I wrote this, it was still last night. Pneumonia and holidays interfered with it being posted in a timely manner) was unusual, especially falling so swiftly on the heels of the Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox show at the Hawthorne.
I just don’t get out that often – the last time I attended 2 concerts in a week was the week of Mojo Nixon and Those Mysterious Wanktones and T-Bone Burnett 30-some years ago!

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted”.
When I haven’t been properly introduced to someone, I try not to waste their time. It’s not that I am perforce uninteresting, but the discomfiture of being “that guy” takes some overcoming. Part of that is clearly hierarchical, but my intensity is all-too-often unsuited to “hanging out”. In this case, I was glad to have the back-stage pass not to go introduce myself to the headliners and be a pest, but because I could use it to get someone out on stage. Funny world.

The stars? Amanda Palmer (hung over after celebrating her newly-minted Best-Selling-Author status for ‘The Art of Asking‘), Portland’s own Storm Large (whose bio I found riveting, but whose PR machineries lack international reach) and Erica Moen (author of ‘Dar’ and ‘Oh Joy, Sex Toy’).

Songs were sung – road manager Whitney joined in on ‘Delilah’, Storm sang ‘I Google You’, and Amanda soloed on a couple more ‘Ukulele Anthem’, ‘In My Mind’, and ‘It Runs in the Family’.
Passages of Amanda’s book were read (my favorites being her introduction to surrogate father/best friend, and her massage at the hands of a stricken internet hater).

But for me (and, I suspect, many others), it was really all about the conversation between these three different but exceptional ladies. If only ‘The View’ had these three!

AFP COncertThe evening included lots of good thoughts about:

The Benefits of Starting Slowly
Creativity as Service
Creativity in Accounting – It seems that Erica & Storm share an amazing Accountant
Creativity in Programming
Being Good at Receiving and at Giving
Taking the Flower + the Doughnut your Mom Made + the Love +  the Money
The Double-Edged Sword of Damocles’ Internet
The Fine Line Between Hate and the Ache for Fame
Oversharing + Overthinking
Broken Homes
Whack a Troll (Storm’s Reality Show)
Women’s Kickstarters doing better than Men’s
The Death of Publishing (all sorts)

And strange for me? I’ve drawn two of these three ladies – more than once (Storm, call me!).
Erica I drew by chance – she was life-modelling at Portland’s Art Institute more than 6 years ago, and I was startled to recognize the model’s tattoos.
She was the best life-drawing model I’d ever had, and while none of these will secure my place in the Louvre, they remain the best collection of life drawings I’ve ever made.
And afterwards, Erica asked if she could use them on the web, so… Victory! :)

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.54.42 PMThe first paintings of Amanda, I made (with the invaluable reference shooting Philadelphia’s own Kyle Cassidy) for the 2013 Literary Pin-Up Calendar to benefit Heifer International.

6-gaiman7And since that June started slowly, I had room for a little ‘American Gods’ comic strip while I was about. In this scene Media (Amanda) has a little fun with Shadow. Since Amanda hadn’t had time to pose in I Love Lucy costume, the lovely Venetia acted as her body double:

6 JuneDates22I would love to show you more drawings of Amanda (this time from the reference photos taken in Wellington, NZ by the wonderful Lance Lones), but that time has not yet arrived.

Venetia has already read “The Art of Asking” and I am working my way through it at a slower pace.

And you can see the whole discussion between Amanda, Storm, and Erica here.

Europe 2014 Summary

It’s been a month of glorious travel in Europe. Budapest, Vienna, and Prague (with special guest appearances by Moosbrun, Bratislava, Telč, and Kutná Hora). Our previously posted trio of journals (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) is a lot to wade through (we know, we lived it!), so we post this captioned pictorial summing up in hopes that those of you who don’t want the minutiae might enjoy it:

Amazing view from Hotel Gellert along the Danube.

1b Up early because of jetlag; plus side is beautiful sunrises.

2Spa day at the Gellert Baths!

3Hike to the castle early in the morning. Beautiful views.

4Some behind the scenes repairs being done early in the morning.

5Another spa day. We just couldn’t get enough of the beauty and hot water.

3cTraveled from Hungary to Austria.

Stopped at friend Kathi’s family’s farmhouse in Moosbrunn.

1Stayed with Kathi in her beautiful apartment in Vienna.

2Day trip to Slovakia. Explored the ruined Castle Devin.

4Were greeted in Bratislava by the carnival!

5More views of Bratislava.

6Trip out to see Kathi’s brother Philipp.

Left: the Golden Plum.

Right: Philipp’s store front for classic Viennese tiles.

7 Walk along the Danube.

8Vineyard overlooking Vienna.

10Delicious sushi dinner!

11Exploring Vienna: the Belvedere and environs.

13The most memorable painting for us in the Belvedere.

13bSt. Marx Cemetery, resting place to Mozart and many others.

Currently in beautiful decay but ongoing repairs may change that.

14Ferris Wheel view of Vienna at sunset.

15General frolicking.

16Leaving Austria for the Czech Republic one must drive by… Excalibur City!!!


A rainy day in Telč.

2 The Sedlec Ossuary at Kutná Hora.

4a“When life gives you plague victims, build bone sculptures.”

4bLovely apartment in Prague.

Krampus sighting at the local “farmer’s” market.

5Our group enjoying a delicious luncheon.

9Up to the castle on the hill (there’s always a castle on the hill.)

10 St. Vitus’ Cathedral.

11A detour on the way back leads to hijinx and purloined fruit.

12No comment. Or better yet, “caption this”.

13 The Grail of the trip: Mucha’s Slav Epic.

No we aren’t going to post lots of pictures, you need to go see it yourself!

No really, please do go see it.

14Dinner and after-dinner art.

16 Prague has a cherub problem.

17Miscellaneous beauties seen in Prague.

18Castle on the hill, Kafka, and a synagogue.

20It can be a good idea to go inside buildings.

You never know when you will find an upside down horse.

7Peacock paradise. And the forbidden gardening shed.

22Mucha’s stained glass window at St Vitus’ Cathedral.

24Various treats of the day.

25Sculpted wall  – part nouveau fever dream and part concrete folly.

26And finally the culmination of our trip, Della and Kevin’s wedding!

28Thank you for sharing our trip with us!

Europe 2014 Part 3: Czech Republic – Telč , Kutná Hora, and Prague

We had originally intended to go straight to Prague from Vienna via train but our fantastic hostess suggested she drive us all and that we take a few days in the Czech Republic to explore. The morning of our travels was the first rainy day we had seen thus far on our trip. We had a real vacation-lazy morning, hang about the apartment, taking long baths, and generally meandering. Kathi and I headed back to the market (where at least one of us spoke the language and could read ingredients) before heading north. The trip was slow and rain soaked, but lovely. The landscape was beautiful – and sometimes surprising as we discovered when we crossed the border and discovered Excalibur City! – It seems that Excalibur City is what happens when a DMZ at the edge twixt Empires decides to go all Las Vegas with amusement park rides and the sex trade. Who knew?

1A sampler of the sights in the parking lot of Excalibur City

Kathi had suggested we spend our first night in Telč so that was our first destination. After trying to help a trio of Rom with a petrolless car that was impeding the road, we finally found our way to Telč and a lovely little inn. We fell asleep to the sound of the pounding rain outside.

The next day we awoke to find the torrential rain had more or less ended and was now merely drizzling. We ate breakfast, read a bit of the delightful Fool on the Hill aloud (before we had to return it to our hostess), sought Kathi out in the square and found her with coffee and cigarettes. We sat for a moment enjoying the square and then were off. First a trip to the west. We could not venture into the castle, as they were using it to shoot a film. But we wandered out the western gates and shot photos among the rainy parkland – the ponds and trees and flowers. We circled out, returned through the gate and meandered in that touristy way for an hour or so. Happily the windbreaker I’d borrowed from Kathi was all I needed. It seemed it was a magic charm for there was only one additional day of rain after I returned it.

2From central Telč, the only escape via car was a looping circular route, and we found ourselves making loops outside those we’d already made on foot. A few dodgy signs and directions were no match for the high-tech wizardry of the modern iPad though, and Kathi and Venetia’s combined cleverness got us through so that we were soon en route to Kutná Hora, though we’d not even heard of it before yesterday. After posting the minimal connect-the-dots of this ongoing journey on the internet, both Janine Ashbless and Travis Webb strongly recommended a visit to the Sedlec Ossuary and we were game.

We enjoyed stops in tiny Filipov and bustling Havlickuv Brod, where we adored the architecture (though we couldn’t really translate what the Grim Reaper atop town hall had written in gold on his scythe) and stopped for a fine luncheon of “kabob”. Seeing every pepper in the farmer’s market labeled “paprika” was the most sensible thing I have read here – mostly the signs form only accidental collisions with English (“Darky Gifts” leaps to mind), and resemble nothing so much as that nightmare rack of Scrabble tiles where too many Ys fight the Z and an insufficiency of vowels. But oh the lovely people and architecture!

3The Ossuary was glorious in its “When life gives you bones, make bone sculpture” sort of way.

4bGorgeous and macabre in the extreme!

4aFrom there we travelled into the old mining city of Kutná Hora, marveling at its ancient Gothic cistern, sculptures and painted facades before finding some cinnamon-spiced pear juice in a restaurant overlooking the lower park and the cathedral.

Properly refreshed, we began a sunset trip into Prague from the east. I stayed up past midnight talking with Kathi and saying a long goodbye. It’s was so wonderful having her as travel companion and guide – from Bratislava to Wein to Praha. There really is no comparison between the limited movement most travelers enjoy and a proper anything-goes tour guide.

Our first full day in Prague, Kathi left for a meeting with her sweetheart and we dined in the Bar adjacent to the hotel. As the other guests mingled over dubious canned pâté and stake corn flakes, we were entranced by the ancient Czech music video channel – ancient black and white footage of a man who’d made a local hit of Waltzing Matilda, of a group of young men and women wandering down hallways in outfits that Venetia thought better used in Austin Powers movies, and of a local Abba-esque group who made their 80s dream video for what could have been no more than 100 krona.

We paid up and headed to the train on foot, squeaking just enough coinage from our pockets for the trip to Pavlova. A short few blocks later we arrived at the apartment, were let in, and had an an hour or two before Jacob and Henni and Talia arrived from Berlin. After the hugging, some gift-giving and general settling in, we headed out for currency, and to check out what would prove to be the least agricultural “farmer’s” market ever. Our prize? A piece of locally made “malachite glass”. I didn’t even know it existed before, but having done a little research, we ended up on the lookout for some “lapis glass” too!

5Window Seat and Krampus

From there a gander into the Anonymous Coffee Bar (with its V for Vendetta trappings), the massive comics store, and the Tesco – where a great deal of foods were compared, examined and eventually purchased for our week here in Prague. A sublime dinner of gluten-free pasta, sauce and salad followed later after the snacking (on rice cakes and Nutella, among other treats). Life in Prague is good.

After dinner we wandered west, down to the river. Lots of walking and talking. Crossing and crossing back. Coming home and falling into deep sleep.

We awoke to our last rainy day of the trip and headed out after breakfast. After carefully sampling the wares of delicious raw food dessert shop around the corner, we surveyed the pointy dark church at the center of the square a couple blocks up. We then wandered about, shooting reference of the nearby fin de siècle buildings and glorious architecture for an hour or two. When the rain got too heavy, we bid our friends goodbye and they ventured off toward the glorious city center. After a brief stop into the nearer comic store (surreal to see all that pulp printed in Czech), we came back to the apartment and spent the day writing postcards and doing a little drawing. When the trio returned triumphant at 10 pm they made a marvelous late dinner.

6On Monday we were out of the apartment at noon and spent a full day meandering through old town: being told that one shall not shoot photos of the sgraffito murals inside the Post Office (really?) finding the Mucha Museum in passing, photographing many motifs and details of incredible buildings, nipping into the astonishing Opera House (while our colleagues ate fortifying sandwiches on the front steps of the fortified Bank building), into shops, down alleys, past the famous Prague clock, across the pedestrian bridge (lined with ancient sculptures and happy generations of spiders), and slowly up the hill to the Castle.

7While our friends popped into a lovely little book store, we shot photos of on the building across the street on the Romanian Embassy – two chained slaves below, Day and Night above.

8We stopped a little more than halfway for a splendid meal of crepes, galettes, banana milkshakes, and the local speciality – cinnamon rolls put on rollers and served as tasty cylinders. So delicious!

9We topped the hill as the sun began to set, walking through the metal gates (featuring a sculptural stabbing on one side and a clubbing on the other) and around the ancient cathedral – so many mismatched textures, glorious windows and flying buttresses.

10We quickly figured out that the cathedral was a favorite place for couples to take engagement and wedding photos as we saw no fewer than three well dressed couples taking pictures. While we quite like the bright red gown we saw the first day, later we also saw a frothy pink gown which was a bit overblown.

11We explored the area around the Castle a bit more, admiring the views of the city below from the restaurants whose windows we could see through. From there, a short trip down into the orchard where Henni showed us what it means to be in the EU – freely poached fruit! And when none of us was tall enough to reach, Jacob put his years of circus training to use and Henni picked apples from his back.

12After passing through the orchard and back onto cobblestone streets, we passed the Embassies of Germany and the US. I was more than a little sad that the central crest (a crown topped by a gold cross) seemed so accurate a representation of the US. We continued downhill to the river, where we saw a line of lit yellow penguins and some of the bizarre black metal babies that climb the giant telecoms tower. Baffling, but hilarious.

13We crossed the bridge which I misread as “Most Legit” (let’s face it, I need all the help I can get). Sadly, no further legitimacy was conveyed as the bridge is really “Most Legii” which apparently means “Bridge of Legions”. Returning to our apartment along the Moldaur and up a long street, we were treated to gluten-free spaghetti pomodoro with sunflower seeds (Henni’s secret recipe).

Tuesday started slowly but beautifully, but we got out of the apartment a little before noon for some shopping under a cloudless sky. While Henni and Jacob worked the Farmer’s Market, Talia and I went to Tesco. After we returned, and had a sort of luncheon, we found ourselves out en masse – onto the subway and north – back to the northern peninsula where we’d stayed on our first night in Prague. This time, the reason was Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic. I’d heard tell of it for years of course, but aside from the very occasional, and far too small photo, I’d never seen it. When artist Jesper Ejsing visited it last year, his glowing reportage (in tandem with Jacob & Henni’s desire to meet up in Prague and with the city and Mucha heirs’ indecision about the Epic’s future) convinced me that the time was right. It was.

14The Epic is that – epic. Huge canvases, massive mythologizing, and incredible skill. And so worth the trip! I found some (largely those that interpose reality with spirituality and fantasy) better than others, but having surveyed the entirety of the Belvedere’ collection in Vienna, even the most prosaic and documentary pieces were extraordinary. While the Epic rewarded our hours of scrutiny in countless ways, the museum featured none of the photographic reference, thumbnails, cartoons or other studies Mucha made. Further, no mention was made of Mr. Crane, the American who financed this extravaganza of nationalism and, eventually, state-building. The exhibit ends with an almost fantastically slanted film telling the viewers about the ongoing dispute with the Moravian town that had held the Epic safe for so many years. As lawyers circle, money is raised and squandered, and no progress is made toward putting this masterpiece in a proper setting, the irony of Mucha’s efforts intensifies. His massive efforts of love and pride, of hope and union, reduced to a slap fight between incompetent bureaucrats and greedy heirs worried for the loss of copyright licensing. And the Czech book about the epic? A collection of shoddy photographs, massive inaccurate color and tone, loads of words (in Czech only, natch) and plenty of white space (the designer must have been so proud!), it’s an unworthy disaster. Strangely, the postcards of the paintings seem the most accurate to the colors Mucha really employed but are, perforce, the size of postcards.

We had planned to do a full Mucha day but after five hours at the Slav Epic, we were quite worn out. Our friends stopped at the V for Vendetta/Guy Fawkes decorated Anonymous Cafe for coffee on the way back while Venetia and I returned to the apartment. I drew while Venetia slept, and eventually our colleagues returned with presents – slabs of goat cheese so delicious that they barely lasted the night (don’t worry, we went shopping for more on Thursday!) Eventually, the kitchen horrors were vanquished by Jacob and Henni, and a splendid meal of rice patties and beet/zucchini compote was served. As we finished the meal, Henni’s friend Weibke arrived from Germany and Jacob entertained us with wax painting.

16As a side note, Prague has a cherub problem. Excepting Mucha’s glorious cherubim (haloed, with neither wings nor incipient diaper rash), Prague is positively infested with the wee bairns, getting up to all manner of theoretically-lovable mischief. The ones across from our apartment were especially noteworthy, as it is not every day that you see anatomically correct chubby cherubs of both sexes cavorting about.

17Wednesday, the theory was early-to-rise. The practice? Well, out-of-the-house-by-noon is good enough. A walk to the Mucha Museum proved less direct that planned, but we tacked well enough and got to our destination in time – crossing over several routes we’d enjoyed the previous day.

18Jacob and I both wore Mucha-inspired  mermaid shirts we’d designed to the Mucha Museum. The museum itself was far smaller and less extensive than one would wish. Some posters, a few paintings and possibly 20 drawings. That’s it. No wall paper designs, no reproductions of the other sites in Prague and elsewhere throughout Europe and the US. Little discussion of his seemingly idyllic home life (given his spectacular output, it seems he did little but paint and attend parties – supported by wife and children. Did he have staff? Apprentices? Assistants?) And, for that matter, why Gaugin wasn’t wearing trousers in that photo. The notion that Mucha’s works have until recently been protected by copyright, and that the estate must have made a fortune, makes their treatment of Mucha all the shabbier. Largely shoddy poorly-printed and inaccurate products, no reproductions of Mucha’s photography, his rare “le Pater”, or any of his illustration work for that matter.  Sad that such glorious work should be so poorly respected.

Having learned that Mucha designed Prague’s Municipal house, we went back to that building but were disappointed that the Mucha room was only viewable by tour ($$) and not for another hour. We did take a few more pictures around the edges, but missed the main attraction.

19After Mucha our party split into several groups. Venetia and I wandered, without any particular destination, towards the Moldaur, passing the Kafka statue and a stunning Synagogue.

20We walked by the first north facing (and park facing) bridge, crossed the second, and found ourselves in “Peacock Paradise”. The Peacock was a heraldic symbol of the Slavs, as seen on several helmets in Mucha’s Slav Epic, and they roamed the grounds freely. We came across a peculiar building – small, weirdly textured, and made of a dark concrete. No idea at all what it was or why it should occupy this spot. Is it a tool shed? With a might heraldic crest on its face? Bizarre.

22Though we could have walked over a different bridge each trip over the river, only four were central to the area we were walking so on our way back we walked back across the bridge of sculptures. This time we were startled to see a mob of Hari Krishnas blocking the far end. It seems forever since I’ve seen them in the states. Funny world.

22xAfter a long trip home and a few hours to rest, we were overcome with hunger and traveled about the neighborhood – first stopping at the kabob house for travel provisions, and then moving on to the Blue Wagon, where a fantastic deer sirloin with a coffee demiglace (accompanied by Parmesan polenta with asparagus) made us very happy indeed.

Our last full day in Prague started with breakfast, some runaround with the landlord about checking out and other arrangements kept us in the apartment until…. Noon. Apparently that’s just how we roll here in Prague. Of course we had to go get more delicious goat cheese (a marvelous variety with herbs and an aged slab piquant and salty).

23Cheese above is not the amazing cheese we ate but a different store with amusing cheese flavors

Because our first trip to the palace and cathedral had been too late in the day for entrance, we returned on our last day to view the inside of the cathedral and the stained glass window Mucha designed. We headed to the station north of the Castle and St Vitus’ Cathedral, happy to let the massive escalator (not our aching feet) get us to the top. What we didn’t expect was a sealed-off street detour and a ravine twixt park (with its stylish modern oragerie) and the Castle hill. And while we were, accordingly, 20 minutes late to our destination, we were pleased to find our colleagues 30 minutes late. Punctuality is not this vacation’s hallmark.

There was no way to pay one’s way into the Cathedral (to better view the Mucha window) without paying to see a bunch of other things that would have kept us indoors on this glorious day. So we did our best to shoot what was visible and moved on.

24Wandering straight down the steep eastern stairs involved a stop at the overlook and, more crucially to our survival, a spiral-cut potato on a stick (essentially one long bag of conjoined potato chips) and a paprika-seasoned sausage which we ate in the park at the bottom of the hill. When our friends caught up to us, we wandered past the couple blowing enormous bubbles, and west into the Czech Senate.

25We consulted a map and wandered a bit before finding the doorway to their courtyard to find the peculiar dark wall we’d seen from the Castle above – a dark wall that seemed related to the bizarre potting shed we’d seen in Peacock Paradise the previous day. The first part of the curious wall is an astonishing aviary holding 9 owls. The sculpted wall then ran on for a great distance – part nouveau fever dream and part concrete folly.

26Clearly related the garden shed, but just as bizarre. I look forward to learning more when I have a moment to do the research.

26bWhile our friends (and the handsome German Goth couple that had been mirroring our touristy viewings through the afternoon) ate their lunch on the benches, Venetia and I did a little yoga on the well-manicured lawn. Until the guard shooed us off, of course.

27Afterwards, our party split up again, with our friends going to the “Meat Factory”, a modern “art” gallery/museum, and us going home via a gorgeous woolen shop and the Tesco. I cooked up dinner in the form of a beet, carrot and mushroom sauce over the last of the gluten-free pasta we’d brought from Austria. Fortunately friends were timely, and dinner was served at 7 – in part that Henni and Wiebke could head out to a Czech punk club thereafter. While they gallivanting about, Venetia and I greatly enjoyed our visit with the Leftons left behind. And when I saw the message from a bellydancer we’d met months back (when she joined our friends from Winnipeg in Rachel Brice’s masters class) and who is moving to Portland and seeking a place to land, I mentioned it to Venetia as she’s continued packing in the other room. Imagine our surprise when Talia asked if it was her friend from Mass Arts. It was.

An aside amid the discursions: I have to wonder at the sheer bloodymindedness of the foreigners who cannot seem to call Praha by its name. It’s not rocket science after all, so why Prag, Praga, and Prague? Ah well, humans will be humans I suppose…. Though the corporate spelling of “Segway” (instead of Segue) is a mercy in Prague (which is overrun with them as a tourist conveyances), lest all pronunciation enter a black hole from which there is no return….

Leaving Prague, we were up at 8am, a speedy breakfast, some final raiding of the kitchen, and quick goodbyes followed. Talia stirred and got hugged even as Wiebke slept through some mighty alarms, but Henni (also out until 1am) and Jacob rose and helped us out. The first two will be off to Vienna while Jacob and Henni get a ride back to Berlin. We took a cab to the airport, and found it worth every penny. What a relief not to be schlepping bags from street to subway to rail to bus to airport!

We were first in line at the Brussels Air kiosk, and our two hour wait went speedily. The trip to Brussels as a short hop, and the layover seemed scarce a blink as we transferred to Iceland Air. Whereas sharing films wasn’t really possible en route to Europe, I chose the modern silent film ‘The Artist’ this time around and found we could both enjoy it (though only one of us got the musical soundtrack at a time). After our brief stopover for customs (and sushi) at Keflavik, Venetia followed the silent movie theme with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. And while I could not hear it, there was no shortage of goodness in it – from the period pastiches in Technicolor France, to Cyd Charisse’s turn in green (Starstruck’s Verloona come to cinematic life). Glorious. The views over the Atlantic were nothing but clouds, so as Venetia enjoys the X-Men on film, I’m typing this final dispatch of our trip to Europe. What a long remarkable trip it has been!

Addendum: Upon arriving in DC we discovered that Iceland Air had lost our bags. This turned out to be a bit of a blessing (especially as our bags were returned a few days later) because we were in DC for a wedding and therefore spent the afternoon before the wedding running about visiting friends and stores assembling items that were wedding appropriate. I borrowed a suit from Mark Barker which fit admirably, was gifted a colorful shirt from my dear friend Helen, and Venetia bought stripped heels that were an absolute hit at the wedding. We were thrilled to see my beloved friend Della marry Kevin and while we don’t know the groom well, we got to know his family at the reception and they were so absolutely splendid that we believe the groom must be a quality person himself.

28Center pictures from Kevin Donnell

We are now safely home in Portland until our next trip to DC in November. And it only took us an additional two weeks to get these blogs up!