Holiday Note 2016


2016 was full of adventure and personal triumphs, but also a lot of sadness at the deaths of too many creative icons and the brutalization and gas-lighting of our country.

We started the year with Venetia’s debut as the Muse of Whimsy at Arisia.


Afterwards, we headed to New York City. We arrived just in time to be completely snowed in with Lotus and Michael in their cozy apartment. This was no hardship as they were well provisioned with food and video games and Lotus and Venetia spent the weekend killing things in Diablo.

Our first real Broadway show, kindly recommended by Jack Lechner, was The Book of Mormon. The actors were amazing, the lead pulled off an eerie Tom Cruise impression and Grey Henson playing the ‘ticking time bomb’ Elder McKinley was so perfect in his role that we fell in love with him instantly.


Our hopes that the snowstorm would depress out-of-town turnout, and that we might somehow score Hamilton tickets were dashed when the snow turned out to be so impressive that all of Broadway shut down. The next day our attempts to go up the new World Trade Building were similarly foiled by the vast sheets of ice sliding off the angled top of that giant edifice. Instead, we met up with Tina Segovia and took in the view from a snow-encrusted Brooklyn Bridge. But just because we didn’t see Hamilton doesn’t mean it hasn’t been in our thoughts and on our iTunes and, in this case, in the Month of Love.


Safely in Portland, Venetia traveled to Lakewood Center (for whom Lee has made posters for many years now) for a class in ‘How to Tell Your Story’. There, she wrote her first short story and met her amazing new therapist.

Yoga continued this year with Lee forcibly leveling up. It seems that the new instructors were not sufficiently briefed as to the geriatric origins of this group, and brought some intensity that had been lacking. Overall, it continues to be amazing.

Due to a fascinating convergence of bad fish, heavy asymmetrical lifting, and bad luck, Lee arrived at the ER with all the signs of a heart attack. Turns out if you are clutching your chest in pain and throw up in the garbage can while being checked-in, you get to the head of line pretty quickly! Lee was very chill throughout and meditated like a champ. FYI, he’s fine!


In the early spring, we prepared a full pin-up show for the Naked Winery in Hood River. The previous pin-up show had been two years previous, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how the collection has grown. It might be time for a book soon!

NakedWinery2016_05 copy

In March, Venetia did a trial-run with Badali Jewelry at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con and loved it! In September, she joined them again at Dragoncon in Atlanta, Georgia (her first Dragoncon but probably not her last). While Venetia saw very few of these costumes (the dealer’s room restricts such unwieldily visitors) you might enjoy seeing some of the wonders created by the attendees.


Venetia’s birthday this year happened to be during a visit of author Richard Kadrey and after the reading, we went out together for an amazing birthday dessert.


In May we traveled to Wisconsin for waterslides and Wiscon, starting and stopping in Chicago. Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads and his delightful partner Baize joined us for the fun and we made it to not only 3 of the waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells but also a whole day of the House on the Rock and the Forevertron. Our first time at Wiscon was lovely – it was a warm, close convention with lots of love and heart. Also – killer dance parties! Many more details can be found here. Venetia got to spend time with Sarah and adorable children as well.


Lee’s summer trip to Boston was undertaken very much on the spur of the moment. While at M.I.T., he worked with folks from Lockheed Skunkworks, UTEP (the University of Texas at El Paso), and an amazing interdisciplinary band all of whom were nothing short of remarkable. He presented his work at the auditorium in M.I.T., a little ironic given that he hated the auditorium and spent a great deal of his time there redesigning it.


In addition to seeing friends old and new in Boston, he traveled to the wilds of New York state and the Hudson River Valley where it was his great pleasure to see and hang out with dear friends Elaine Lee (author of Starstruck and many other modern comic classics) and Steve Hickman (whose latest art book Empyrean is amazing). From there, Lee ventured to Providence Rhode Island where he got the full H.P. Lovecraft tour from Niels Hobbs. He was astonished by the jewel box quality of downtown Providence and has a much better understanding of Lovecraft’s own affection for it. That night, Niels and his wife Carmen hosted Lee amid their remarkable collection of relics and he learned more about Niels’ remarkable parents: the subject of documentary Alfred & Jakobine. He worked a couple more days upon his return to Boston (and on [and after] the plane ride home) and looks forward to whatever adventures in science and invention 2017 has to offer.


While we had many guests this year, we had a completely full house on three occasions. First, in March, we hosted Lotus at the same time as bellydancers for Rachel Brice’s annual workshop (as we will again this coming year.)


In July, our house was a hotel for Westercon and, along with the marvelous Alberto, we held a taco party for John Scalzi and Mohawk Dude. August brought guests for two events, the World Domination Summit and, concurrently, the Willamette Writer’s Conference. We utilized the classic Divide-and-Conquer Technique™ – Venetia going to WDS, and Lee holding forth on book covers at Willamette Writers.

Venetia took a surprise visit to Montana to spend time with Lotus and see Joanne’s new little girl, Sage. Immediately upon her return, we flew to New Mexico where Lee was the Art Guest of Honor for Bubonicon. Much more on this adventure can be found here and here. We brought home the most amazing work of art by the elusive Dawn Wilson:


One month later, we were back in the air on our way to San Francisco where Lee was the Artist Guest of Honor for Convolution, now celebrating it’s fifth year. We had been guests in their first year, and had fond memories. In part because it’s where we really got to know Jaym and first invited her to Thanksgiving, beginning one of our most cherished friendships. Unfortunately, this year Venetia got the flu and spent the whole week sleeping it off in the hotel room. Beyond that though, the show was such fun that Lee can’t wait to return next as Toastmaster!

After the convention, we drove down the beautiful and strange California coast to visit the Hearst Castle. Much like Rockwell’s Museum, we found the ridiculously over-reverent hagiography was more than mildly alarming. For example, when the tour guides kept repeating over and over again that there would never be another house like this, Venetia muttered that it was because rich American’s aren’t allowed to loot Europe any more. The tour guide’s response? “Well, if Hearst hadn’t taken those things, they would have been destroyed in the war anyway!”. When the National Park Service has been entrusted with mythologizing and lionizing rich Mama’s boys (lets face it, Hurst was born on 3rd base and was a Rupert Murdock-like tycoon of screaming headlines and propaganda) we should all be more than a little alarmed.

After a night and too-brief visit with Lis and Miko, we were off again to San Francisco. It was a picture-perfect day and we took in all the usual tourist sites (from the California Palace of the Legion of Honor to Coit Tower to Fort Point), and Lee did some extra China Town research for the Big Trouble in Little China game he was running at Ambercon.

At the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Lee again participated in Pickman’s Apprentice – the live painting event (always Venetia’s favorite). This year the competition was fierce with the redoubtable Heather Hudson as well as artist Guest of Honor William Stout working hard. Here’s the result of his one hour of painting (he tweaked the type when he got the image home).


Ambercon was wonderful as always this year, and this was the year Lee won an Award for Best Line: “I’m sorry, I try never to kill a total stranger on the first date.” But he was even more delighted to be nominated in the category of Most Heinous Betrayal (for killing an emo vampire on a first date.)

On the worst day of the year, we were flying south to Mexico City and managed to spend almost an entire day in ignorant bliss as we were welcomed to Mexico by our wonderful hosts Ann and Andre Aguirre. However it’s only possible to stay off the internet for so long. But there was no better place on earth to recover than curled up and cozy with sweet loving animals, amazing food, and one of the best shows on earth: The Master’s Sun. We’re happy to tell you just how incredible this Korean (K) Drama is and Venetia will be happy to rewatch it with you –  if you have the requisite 17 hours to spend.

We are currently in love with Mexico and already looking forward to returning. The step pyramids of Teotihuacan blew us away and we were both incredibly inspired by the art and beauty we saw in the Museum of Anthropology. Lee, as a docent at the Smithsonian for 10 years, can affirm that it is truly one of the best museums in the world. So much of the art we saw has already started to influence his work (including, obviously, the card this letter accompanies).


Eventually, we did have to come home and we’ve spent the past month mostly staying indoors and hibernating. Lee has been rounding out Small Gods to an even 400 and finishing the nigh-unspeakably-complex painting on Starstruck. Venetia has mostly been cooking, cleaning, and listening to audio books. We’ve both played a lot of Civilization VI since our return – It’s definitely a team game, there’s so much complexity going on it’s a huge boost to have both our minds working on it at once. We have such appreciation for Ann and Andre for their kind gift!

Other things we did this year:

The more complete 2016 Art Blog will be forthcoming but some highlights of the year:

We visited (separately or together) Seattle six times this year. Still not as often as we would have liked but each trip was delightful.

This Thanksgiving through quirks of fate, Venetia cooked the whole feast herself for the first time, including the turkey! with advice and finishing touches from Liz.

We enjoyed learning many games with Etch-a-Sketch master Jonathan Liu, and continue to love Code Names, Legendary (We’d played so much that Lee remade the board for our ease of play – let us know if you’d like one and we’ll send you the file!), and the still-new-to-us Mystic Vale.

Guests included:
Alaina, Accalia & David and Miu, our surprise bellydancing guest, Liz and Mikey, Gail & Rod, Janelle, Pat Smith, Scott & Larissa, Kim, K & Tamra (and ferrets), Stacy & Eric, Dan & Noelle-Marie, Charlie Thomas, Rob & Lisa, Lotus

Venture Brothers Season 6
Steven Universe – for a good part of the early year if you came over to our house for a few hours or stayed for a meal, Venetia would insist on showing you Steven Universe. Lee’s homage to the Crystal Gems was created with help from Marysia and Claire and he did his first executive cosplay as Garnet:

Chicago_WI2016_WisconArtShowMore Marvel: Luke Cage, Deadpool, Captain America Civil War
We particularly enjoyed Mr. Robot. We would have enjoyed it more if it’s subtitle, “Democracy has been hacked” had not proven so accurate to our own country’s tragic “issues”. Below, Lee attempts to embody the face of the F*Society at Halloween.


New Music:
Jason Webley
Hamilton and Book of Mormon soundtracks

Where to find us in 2017:
Venetia will be in Boston again for Arisia and Lee in LA for LogiCaLA (among other things) in January
Lee at Norwescon
Both at Phoenix Comic con and Worldcon in Helskini
Lee Toastmaster at Convolution
Venetia accepted a job with Badali Jewelry and will be attending these conventions with them:
Emerald City Comicon (Seattle, WA)
WonderCon (Anaheim, CA)
Phoenix Comicon (Phoenix, AZ)
San Diego Comic Con (San Diego, CA)
Gen Con (Indianapolis, IN)
DragonCon (Atlanta, GA)

Also coming soon:


Current Work

Creative professionals are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The real answers are seldom pretty:

One night I thought how odd it was that two utterly unrelated words could rhyme so perfectly.

Those words were ‘Lanyard’ and ‘Spaniard’.

Now, I hate lanyards and will go to great lengths to avoid them – so the notion of a full-on conquistador wearing a lanyard seemed hilarious to me. But to make this image as a Small God, I felt I should find out what language professionals called such a rhyming couple of culturally disparate words.

I took my question to the internet and asked (using ‘tipsy’ and “Gypsy’ as my examples, so as not to give the rhyme I intended to use away).

Many learned and kind people replied. Angela Brett suggested a ‘heteroetymological rhyme’ and Juliette Wade, ‘faux homophones’. My old High School pal John Pomeranz, ‘traveling rhymes or trans-global rhymes or (more pedantically) poly-dialect rhymes’. Even at their best, these were… well, a mouthful!

I went back to Lanyard (no help at all) and Spaniard. This latter proved helpful, because my entire ridiculous quest for a word to encapsulate this sort of rhyme was nothing short of quixotic.

So, a Spaniard in a lanyard who is the Small God of Quixotic Rhymes? I felt that that could work!

When it came time to draw it, there seemed only one logical casting choice for the conquistador – Hernan Cortes (aka Cortez the Killer). But ‘Hernan’ doesn’t rhyme with much, and it was pretty clear this SG’s name needed to match the rhyme scheme. Having discarded a variety common names – Juan rhymes with too many things, Diego too few – I found one I really loved.

Walking Joaquín, Small God of Quixotic Rhymes it was.

But… What’s on the lanyard? Is he attending a Windmill-haters convention? Well, windmills would work in the background regardless, so that idea wasn’t a dead loss. But no. I needed some reference to Don Quixote that would be unexpectedly connected with a lanyard. I thought of the varieties of backstage passes associated with music, and it came to me – They Might Be Giants!

The band took their name from a play by the great James Goldman about a man (played by George C. Scott in the film) who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. But the title is not a riff on Conan Doyle, rather it’s a rough translation of Quixote’s reasoning for attacking windmills – ‘They might be giants!’.

So, now that I knew what the lanyard was for, I needed to design it. TMBG had been The Mesopotamians on tour (and written themselves an excellent theme song). Should I go with ‘TMBG: The Aztecs’? It didn’t really work for me. Maybe if I just approached it visually?

Their album Apollo 18 had a very simple (and possibly parodiable) cover. But when I went to look at it, I realized that there wouldn’t be room for a proper cover parody in the tiny space allotted.

Happily though I saw that if I put a single space in APOLLO it becomes A POLLO – and that was what’s for dinner!

Better still, I had drawn a chicken a couple years back for Clucky Moriarity, the Chicken Napoleon of Crime. And he would fit the spaces between the type admirably. Which, of course, wraps the design back to the origin of TMBG’s name, adding some Conan Doyle arch-villainy to balance Goldman’s Holmes stand-in.

But despite all that (well…. really because of all that), the main rhyme might be lost. So what could I use to draw the viewer’s eye? Color!

I used bright green, the color-complement to the conquistador’s red, to that end. Then I wrote QUE all over it. Literally asking the viewer WHAT they were looking at. Hopefully the word ‘lanyard’ would suggest itself.

It did cause the waggish Kimmy Hale (whose effervescent SG appeared two weeks ago) to write, “What is the quote on the lanyard?”

The “Who’s on first” of lanyard comedy….

I think that covers most of it.

I like to say that each Small God contains between 0 and 5 jokes, but what constitutes a joke is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

In any case, here’s the Small God in question. Bon appetit:


Art Appreciation

Amy Crehore is a fine artist and musician.

After a long career illustrating for magazines like Rolling Stone and Playboy, her award-winning work is most often found in galleries these days (and sometimes on ukuleles).

She’s also an amazingly lovely person and friend (though I see her far less than I would like).