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!

SorceressFinal

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.

2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Neil Gaiman

Media is the message.
We are the Media.
And she is us.

Be afraid.

A year ago, my literary pin-up calendar was published by Pat Rothfuss’s wonderful charity Worldbuilders.
I sent a print from that 2012 Calendar to Neil Gaiman with a note that read something like:

“Dear Neil,
Please consider this year’s calendar a proof of concept. But instead of dead authors who cannot defend themselves, I’d like to make the 2013 calendar all about living authors*. I thought it would be especially apt and lovely if Amanda Palmer wanted to be Miss Neil Gaiman. Please let me know your thoughts.”

He did:And when she returned from Down Under, she did.
And there was much rejoicing.

But having a model before having a concept is unusual.
Who, among Neil’s roster of splendid characters, would we cast Amanda as?
Amanda as Yvaine? As Coraline? As Door? As Delirium? As Death warmed over?
No.

There were these photos to be taken into account:No matter how much fun it would be to have her play any, or indeed all those characters, Media was simply too powerful not to get her way.
Media is the message. And of all the curious forms of media communication, the Gregorian Calendar is one** of the strangest (Why not 13 months of 28 days? Why an ever shifting number of days?? With leap years!?!). Our calendar is the QWERTY keyboard of time. Sure, it works. But there ought to be a better smarter way.

As anyone who understands the history of the Hays Code or has wrestled with the arbitrary restrictions of iambic pentameter knows – restrictions of form can lead to happy accidents.
In the case of 2013, the month of June starts very late in the week, and the money quote from Media is an exchange she has with Shadow.
And since Neil is no stranger to sequential art… why alter the text when one could simply do it in comic form?And how would we arrange to get the reference shots we needed in a timely fashion?
Happily I was invited to Readercon in Boston this year, and so was my friend, photographer extraordinaire Kyle Cassidy. Both of us were on hand to participate in a remarkable storytelling experiment with Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear.
I named it ‘Dismembrance’ and somehow that’s how it stayed:

Kyle and Amanda go way back, even before he worked on the felicitous Who Killed Amanda Palmer book, and their collaboration continues apace (See: Yesterday’s Doctoral Dissertation).When we talked strategy I learned that he had already scheduled a photoshoot with Amanda in September. So if I could just get him a rough, he could shoot reference for me remotely.
Voila.Kyle and Amanda were good as gold and the reference photos came magically through the aether. Illustration reference is a different beast than “normal” photography in that I used no fewer than 5 of his 26 photos to inform the finished painting.
Some weeks later, the whole thing was done. I hope you like it.

Neil and Amanda and Kyle have kindly offered their time not just in the service of a nutty arty idea, but of a great charity. The calendar is currently available at Worldbuilders’s online store for preorder; all the profits go to Heifer International.

“Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth through the gift of animals. By giving families a hand-up, not just a handout, they empower them to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity, but their approach is more than that. By bringing communities together and linking them with markets in their area, Heifer helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty.”

* Sadly, Ray Bradbury did not live to see the finished calendar, but we are so honored that he agreed to be part of this project.

**Tom Lehrer famously noted forms still stranger: “postcards, neckties, samplers, stained-glass windows, tattoos, anything!”