2013 East Coast Adventures

Another fulsome novella: This time recounting our adventures in Roanoke, Charlottesville, DC, Baltimore, Chadd’s Ford and Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2013-08-03 at 5.38.14 PMIt seems that Venetia and I are becoming quite experienced travelers in the sense that we are learning to fall fast asleep on airplanes and thereby increase the relative speed of our trip and arrive well-rested enough for immediate shenanigans. En route to Atlanta, we awoke at even thirds of our journey for proffered sustenance. The trip from Atlanta to Roanoke was vastly more exciting, what with the whirl around the massive thunderstorm (lightning in the sky every few seconds) and the long crazy sunset where we flew between strata held aloft by pillars of gorgeously backlit thunderheads. Amazing.

13ThunderheadsAfter dropping off our luggage (TWO suitcases people, livin’ the Dream!) in the Mill Mountain Atelier beneath its animated neon coffee mug, we were treated to a nighttime tour of downtown Roanoke, culminating at a late night dinner at Macados where I indulged in a decadent mac’n bleu cheese. We stayed as late as was reasonable, catching up with my dear friend and host, Todd Ristau.

13RoanokeFriday morning we awoke at a leisurely hour and set out on the town in search of a print shop. We had been so busy in the weeks leading up to our trip, that we had failed to find the time to get the proper pieces ready for the North American Discworld Convention a weeks hence. Roanoke is a charming city and one of its clever features is permanent stalls lining the sidewalk downtown for a daily market. Venetia spotted a stall with professional photography prints and we inquired after a fine art printer. The man we spoke with consulted a colleague a few stalls at who affirmed that that the best place for prints in Roanoke is Photo USA and moreover, his car was just around the corner and he could take us there. So we hopped in the car with Bruce Muncy and he drove us through town to the print shop. On the way back from our successful mission, Bruce described the business workshop he teaches for photographers – about success brooking no impediments, about living free of resentment and bad habits. All principles I strive to enact in my own life.

Back in town, we sampled frozen yogurt and took advantage of the store’s Internet. Shortly before 5pm, we set out on search of a smaller print shop to get my Small Gods templates printed, for use in coming days. Venetia had scouted ahead online, and even called to confirm that the print shop down the street could indeed print the templates either from an email or her thumb drive. What the woman on the phone failed to mention, however, is that the provincial and Luddite Sir Speedy’s will only print files from thumb drive or emails after an up-front fee of $25. Because apparently technology is hard.

By this time, after a bewildering conversation with the clerk during which she admitting to being the same person on the phone who declared to Venetia that of course they could print from a thumb drive but failed to mention the $25 fee, we discovered that it was now exactly 5pm and all others stores in walking distance were closed. We returned to our home base where I immortalized the poor service with this Small God:SG13At 7:30pm Todd and his talented (and decidedly non-persnickety) librarian wife Joan took us to dinner at the delicious Rockfish next to the infamous coffee shop Cups. We had a roasted beet salad and pecan-encrusted trout and both the food and the company was splendid. Venetia’s favorite moment came at Pop’s Ice Cream (and gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich) shop around the corner where we went there for desert. After trying the butter pecan, peanut butter, and black raspberry flavors in succession, Venetia decided that the later was the most delicious, only to later renege on her decision and surreptitiously steal bites of my butter pecan half-way through her scoop.

Friday night in Roanoke Virginia is, as it is in many cities across the country, the night of No Shame Theater. I had flown into town a couple days before my presentation and workshop specifically to take part, premiering ‘No Nude Bathing’ – the hair-raising true story about my accidental visit to Black’s Beach with Keith Baker after a long-ago San Diego Comic Con.

13Todd&Lee(Todd and I: Photo by Chad Runyon)

Peter Ullian’s piece featured 2 puppets: a kindly dragon and a messianic sheep. Todd’s performance as Bertoldt Brecht and his song about Alex Jones’ grotesque influence on American Thought (to the tune of Total Eclipse of the Heart) were clear highlights.

After a mixed group of grad students and teachers headed back downtown for drinking, food and much talking. The horrid screechings from Flanagan’s karaoke night led us back to Macado’s once again. When a nearby drunk skipped out on his bill, we were ineffectively shamed by a clueless passive-aggressive waiter.

Saturday morning was bright and sunny – or rather, the afternoon was. Having stayed up well past 2am the previous night, we felt quite justified in rising late. We finally left our digs around noon and headed downtown in search of something interesting. We found it after only a few blocks: an old car show! The next two and a half hours we walked up and down the blocks, admiring and taking copious pictures of beautiful and well-cared for cars. The details on some of them were amazing and Venetia mourned for the loss of  such fancy features and personal touches in modern cars.

13BeautifulCarsAfter a touch of frozen yogurt and a nap – both to combat the heatstroke – my old colleague Matt Hulan picked us up and drove us out to his charming house in Grandin Village. We greeted Nancy and Luke while befriending their delightful rescue dogs and Matt grilled us up delicious chicken. Venetia was thrilled to discover our host’s proximity to last nights treat: ice cream at Pop’s. We strolled over and this time Venetia correctly chose the butter pecan, despite other tasted temptations.

On the way back, I engaged in a new weight program: small boy-lifting and spinning. Luke then proved he was not in the least tired out by all the jumping and screams of laughter by challenging Venetia to a game of first Forbidden Island – a game much like Galen Ciscell’s Atlantis Rising and then a long game of Catan. Venetia, a life-long lover of all things Catan, was overjoyed. And while she roundly defeated both Matt and Luke, I drew up the Small God of the night, that of Meglomanical Boy Geniuses:

SmallGod14Sunday started off right with brunch with Todd and Joan and then a tour of the historic and sophisticated Hollins College. Venetia had serious academic jealousy seeing all the beautiful brick buildings and I admit to being sorely tempted by Todd’s description of his graduate playwriting class (The ‘First Drafts’ class alone)! Maybe in a few years when I can take some time off to write….

My workshop was in the stately new library in an airy 3rd floor room devoted to books by alumni and overlooking the campus. I brought lots of examples of posters and designs  and had a good solid two hours of show and tell. Afterward, we dined on soul food which Venetia found as scrumptious as its origins were alarming. After such a huge meal more ice cream at Pop’s was sadly counter-indicated. The rest of the night was spent looking over all the pictures in my portfolio and planning how to present 35 years of my life and work into 35 minutes of talking.

Todd picked us up Monday morning and took us to the TV station where I was totally wrong-footed. The local station is rightly spotlighting the amazing people Todd is bringing to Roanoke, but my interview was… well, not my finest moment.

13TVinterviewWe did the all-important check to make sure my fancy slide-show would indeed show that night and had a fortifying and delicious dinner. My talk on “My life in the arts” aka “35 years in 35 minutes!” went quite well and Venetia assures me that it was indeed both entertaining and informative. I was later informed that I was “on fire”. I was not put out in the slightest to hear it….

13RoanokeTalk(Photo by Chad Runyon)

We blew town first thing in the morning and enjoyed a nice overcast drive to Charlottesville where I toured Venetia around to various sites in my history before lunch with genius playwright and director Clinton Johnston. I also showed her a statue which illustrates quite clearly why I prefer the West Coast to the East. In Portland we have a state of Sacagawea. Can you spot her in Charlottesville’s version? Oh my white brother…..

reasonsnottolivehereWhen we reached Arlington VA later in the afternoon, I gave Venetia a similar tour, though this time many of the landmarks I meant to point out no longer exist: the house my parents lived in having been bulldozed under in favor of a vasty McMansion™ and Yorktown High School? Unrecognizable in every particular (not that that’s a bad thing per se).

Our hosts for our far-too-brief stay in DC were the splendid Barker and we joined them along with FB friend Grig Larson at a confusingly-named fish ‘n chips restaurant in Falls Church called “Clarendons” (well, Clara and Don’s… but some homophones are best left alone).

Venetia received her third tour of the day when I took her into DC proper and we drove first up to the National Cathedral – which was under repair due to earthquakes! The testing of the scales for the bells was shocking and I can only imagine the distress of the neighbors. Just glad we weren’t there for the quakes themselves. After my near-miss on September 11, people might have started to talk….

This was Venetia’s first time in DC, and she was treated to a special Capitol red, white, and blue sunset. There was some upset at the White House so we were unable to see it closely due to the police car barricade. Later, I joined Mark and my beloved Della at their dart competition and had a wonderful night catching up.

13CapitolTHE DAY arrived. Because of the curious confluences of scheduling this would be our single day in DC!

First, we met up with my old Smithsonian “supervisor” Helene at the elephant in Natural History at 10. From there it was a whirlwind tour of skeletons and gemstones for two hours. We ate lunch with my cousin Rachel at the Native American Museum – easily the best meal on the Mall. We dined on baked salmon, roasted golden beets, wild rice and cranberries salad, and were appalled by the people at every table around ours eating fries and breaded chicken that looked as though it could be purchased at any KFC. We took some precious time to explore the top two floors of the museum which were absolutely stunning. Then we said good-bye to Helene and literally ran (or at least power walked quickly) through Air and Space with Rachel. Then it was off to the National Gallery! Venetia’s two favorite pieces were John Martin’s “Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gideon” and the Dutch masters, though we also saw an amazing collection of icons and pre-Raphaelite books. It was an especial treat to introduce my classically beautiful cousin Rachel to Ginevra, one of the Da Vinci paintings that had inspired me to paint her some years previous.

John-Martins-Apocalypse-006After this mad dash through the National Gallery we now said farewell to Rachel and continued on to conquer the Freer. Around 5pm we decided we simply could not go on and returned to Arlington to prepare for dinner at the Carlyle (no longer grand.) We discovered upon arrival that the tables were bolted to the floor and therefore we could not combine forces as our group was too large for one table. The solution: to have dinner with one table and dessert with the second!

969332_10151754724092008_1243352579_nThere is only one place to spend the 4th of July in DC and that is at the Bungalow.

John and Kathi did not disappoint with a house and lawn full of friends, lots of meat and liquid nitrogen ice cream. Amazing to see that Kathi and Jim appeared utterly unchanged.

Glorious to see Kate (even if she resembles her Uncle Walter more than I’d have guessed) and so many others. My conversation with Bill K produced a surprising present upon my return home, but that’s another story altogether.

13icecreamEventually we were forced by necessity to depart that lively company to drive to Baltimore, passing through the typically-charming Ellicott City on our way.

Baltimore was all turned out for the 4th and we enjoyed a slow long drive full of people-watching to the hotel for the North American Discworld Convention. The convention staff was having a cozy meet and greet and afterward we hurried up to the pool deck to watch the fireworks over Baltimore with ace Daily Bugle shutterbug Kevin Hollenbeck, whose marvelous lens lit the night after the fact.

2013July4th(Photo by Kevin Hollenbeck)

After the first Discworld party thrown by Emily (who I hope will one day embody my version of Pratchett and Gaiman’s Polution [and yes, that is a compliment]), we stayed up late to witness the creation of the Small God of Terminal Hunger who had recently been vexing Kevin.

1000750_10151781103282495_1549632362_nFriday was the first day of Discworld and we started by hunting down frames for my prints. Walt Carter met us for lunch amid the glamour of IKEA in White Marsh. He too looked exactly as he is fixed in my memory. It’s been too long since we’ve gotten to work closely. The art show took two hours to put up but when it was up, it was indeed a thing of Ankh-Morporkian beauty. Opening ceremonies were highly entertaining as the chair, Richard, taught us Americans how to pronounce some of the guests’ names. For example Bernard Pearson, co-founder of the Discworld Emporium and my favorite raconteur, is properly pronounced “brrrrr” + “nerd”. Though one suspects he’s been called a great many other things in his long and storied life….

At dinner I indulged in gluten and dairy, two things we rarely eat at home and had a delicious lobster mac’n cheese. Afterwards we were joined in our room by Doug and Lisa who demonstrated important apps we needed to have – including Find My iPhone. So good to see them, and so invaluable to learn a trick or two into the bargain!

Saturday was such a whirlwind day I scarcely can recall all the details. We got up early enough for breakfast at the scandalous hour of 9am. My first panel was “Illustrating Discworld” and I lost my “moderator” badge in the first seconds to that rapscallion Bernhard. But I got a little of my own back midway through through the event when he got his back up at my assertion that “You can absolutely do art on a little digital drawing pad”. “No no no!” he thundered (and really, thunder should be half so effective or interesting). But when I asked if I might emend my errantry, he demurred. After a brief pause, I replied “When I said you can absolutely do art thus, what I should have said was…” another slight pause here for effect “that I can do art thus.” The crowd roared, and I think Bernhard forgave my insolence. I do hope so ;) The panel was a wonderful success in large part because of the cooler (and saner?) heads between us – those of the Discworld Emporium’s brilliant Ian and Ray Friesen, designer of the astonishing Discworld “Hawaiian” shirts. I’m not sure that they prevailed exactly, but overall, I think the crowd enjoyed the heck out of it.

I later gave a portfolio critique to several young artists (and met a sly gnome of Zurich who, as gnomes are won’t to do, snuck in without portfolio. He was apparently curious to see what words I might have for the artistic youth of Ankh-Morpork). I then went straight to judge the art show, where I gave the 3 awards. Best in Class went to an amazing carved-wood unicorn. A unicorn I tell you! A first (and probably a last) for me. They’ll drum me out of the Union should I lapse again, but you can’t beat craftsmanship, even in the service of such (uni)corny subject matter.

My dear friend Sally had come up from DC and we ventured into Little Italy for dinner before I was called upon to be a judge for the Masquerade. While seeing Marty Gear is always a pleasure, I’d never before gotten to work with him on a Masquerade (my presence there a kind gift from Bernhard. Like Sir Terry himself, Bernhard was a force even in his absence). Venetia and I both chatted with Marty at length outside the confines of the Judging Room too. And I thank my lucky stars for the time. Marty is (and will be) much missed.

Although she didn’t enter into the Masquerade as a contestant, one of my favorite costumes of the whole convention (and a splendid person to know as well) was the bold and fierce Angua of the Night Watch.

AnguaOn Sunday I woke up far too early with a piercing pain in my ear, necessitating a trip to the ER. While waiting for doctors and medication I drew two small gods. Venetia slept in a chair beside me and missed the great people watching that can take place in the ER on a Sunday morning; the gang banger with the two teardrop tattoos, the man carrying on into his cell phone about how some woman had absconded with one of his two Maseratis “The one that was ONE payment from paid OFF”, the firemen talking about Game of Thrones, financing and world travel. Nothing like it for ambiance!

1069220_10151780592507495_1189706365_nAfter finally getting the required antibiotics, we drove back to the hotel in time for breakfast. Venetia went back to sleep while I got a quick massage and then went to my panel: The Dictionary of Eye-Watering Words. Crivens! The crowd was so vast that we were relocated (with the audience trailing) to the back of the vast auditorium. John Singer and Bernard held down the left flank. The good doctor and I took the right. There may have been some Welshmen with burning ears, but no other harm was done, save to the language.

999476_10151549470102613_117985601_n(Photo by Tim Van Holder)

My koffee-klatsch was next and was filled with interesting people including Monica Welham, the clever librarian I had suggested to Discworld to write an article for the program book. They had liked her article so much, they invited her to be a panelist at the convention. Brava! Concurrently, the charity auction was a huge success, and I drew the “Death of Crabs” at the urging of the members of my koffee-klatsch as a last minute entrant. I wish I’d been there to see the bidding!

After the charity auction came the art auction and then Venetia and I dismantled the sparse remains of the art show. Then it was time for my nap, after which came the Grand Gala. The first lady of the 2013 North American Discworld had really outdone herself. Not only was she splendidly arrayed in a most beautiful and clever gown, but each table was specially themed to a different Discworld book. I sat at the Wee Free Men table (quite apropos as I’d just finished the audio book just before the wild journey) and feasted on the sweeties from the iron pan in the center of the table. Venetia joined me after her second nap of the day (waking to an emergency really wears one out!) and we spent a lovely evening talking to four sisters of Discworld. Venetia was especially taken with the sly gnome of Zurich, whose CV held many secrets of forgery (and much else).

On Monday morning we braved the sun and heat to journey around the harbor to the Baltimore Aquarium! The multitude of turtles and tortoises we saw seemed to fit quite well with our Discworld theme. Our hosts, Yvonne and Dirk, were wonderful fonts of sealife knowledge, however we enjoyed introducing them to the magical delights of the Mantis Shrimp.

13MantisShrimpA delicious luncheon with my old friend Dan and Noel-Marie followed. Then we hurried back for the closing ceremonies. Immediately follow by more napping. There was a late evening party for the guests and we slept right until its start. Venetia was first sad to see that there was nothing in the munchables that she could eat, until she discovered the secret meat skewers that had been set aside especially for the gluten-free request and soon had other guests coming up to her asking for the secret password to share such treats.

After some time we adjourned to my room where I worked on another Small God during an interview by the vivacious Emily which lasted until quite late. Who would imagine how loquacious we would manage to be? We made the final rounds down at the bar to bid adieu to our hosts and fellow guests and thus ended our Discworld convention, though the Discworld adventure currently sits in the “to be continued” category!

Venetia’s highlights of the convention included having her hand kissed by so many charming (and wicked) English men and sharing a long conversation with Marty Gear.

Tuesday morning we were up surprisingly early  off to Philadelphia. We stopped for lunch at a fancy garden shop, that turned into a 3 hour conversation with Charlie Thomas. Best lamb burger ever. And amazing (but expensive) raspberry lemonade. After such an epic discussion, we had only an hour to spend at the NC Wyeth museum but we made the most of our time there. I love studying the masters and seeing how fearless and free their brush strokes are. There is always so much to learn. We wound our way through west Philly to the home of photographer athlete Kyle Cassidy and haunting actress Trillian Stars.

47406_10151780592702495_106360584_nThe first thing I did upon entering their home was start up the pin-ball machine. Unfortunately it loses the third ball and so I was unable to complete a game. On my next visit, Venetia and I will clearly need to do some repairs. On this visit to their fine home, I satisfied my philanthropic and creative urges by turning Kyle and Trillian’s bathroom into a mini library. Kyle sums up our visit quite eloquently and took a beautiful photograph with one of his amazing lens of the new “library”.

the-lee-loo-libraryVenetia got to read multiple books during our stay and got her second haircut, this one even shorter than the last. After walking slowly and sedately around Philadelphia in the summer, I am even more impressed with Kyle’s running stories, having experienced just a little of the running conditions. (Hint: muggy, hot, and hard to move in. Like treacle, but less tasty).

There was much to inspire and bring forth Small Gods in Kyle and Trillian’s house and accordingly, I made my homage to Roswell, Small God of Cats on the Internet:

1004771_10151780593112495_848069820_nWe made it safely back home on Thursday but found our busy 4 days between trips too brief to finish posting up this blog before…
San Diego Comic Con!

2012: Art Year in Review

2013 took off like a rocket with work and adventures (and a flu that allows me a moment to look back on the wide variety of work I did in 2012). As Rod Serling might have intoned, “Submitted for your approval, the work of one Lee Moyer hanging here, in the Twilight Zone.”

The largest grouping of pieces is of course my calendar. It’s my favorite project ever! Not just because of the work, but because of the amazing writers I got to work with and the fact that it raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity (it’s also eligible for the Best Related Work Hugo award. Just sayin’.

2013 ‘Check These Out’ Fantasy Literary Pin-up Calendar

2013CalendarCoverBack copy


A Red Sun Also Rises and The Warlock’s Curse

BookCoversAlso check out my journal entry on the making-of A Red Sun Also Rises and my essay on Mary Hobson’s previous covers, wherein I try to understand why the first worked and the second failed.

A Stark and Wormy Knight and Confessions of a Five Chambered Heart

BookCovers2Axe Cop


Honey West: Murder on Mars!

MurderOnMars2©LeeMoyerShadowrun: Jet Set

ShadowrunUnpublished color work:

I spent a lot of time last year working on 13th Age. The game is still in it’s final stages of pre-print and will be published late spring:

13thAgeIconsThe pieces below are from Aaron with my art direction and occasional emendations:

13thAgeSceneseThe book is the work of noted game designers Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet with me and illustrator Aaron McConnell. Even as this first book goes to press, work on the art for the expansion, 13 True Ways is already underway. It will include maps like the one below:

13thAgeMapMisc. Fun Projects:

2012 marked the end of Dan Garrison and Zephy McKanna’s remarkable Exalted game. This set of Exalted trumps were a collaboration with Felicity Shoulders and Sarah Barker, and served as a tribute to Dan and Zephy’s work:

ExaltedDeck2This year also marked yet another successful Ambercon NW ( portraying that young chowderhead Bertie Wooster is always a delight) and another Ambercon t-shirt design (this, the first to work on a tie-dyed shirt):

Amber2012Working for Wizards of the Coast is always interesting. One never knows quite where work done for a book will appear. In this case, on large exhibit-screening banners at PAX.

DrowSymbols_PAXMy yearly posters for Lakewood and NorthWest Children’s Theater 2012-2013 seasons:


NWCT12-13SeasonThis is the design for a spinnaker, recently seen intimidating the other racers around the San Francisco bay:

BoudiccaTrioThis surprise book cover from Readercon 2012 is a collaboration with authors Michael Swanwick, and Elizabeth Bear, and photographer Kyle Cassidy (and audience members like Bracken, Tom and Venetia):

DismembranceA just-for-fun Christmas Dalek to wish all my friends happy holidays. Rumor has it that a couple crew members of BBC America put it to good use. And this Circus Shoggoth hails from last year’s Pickman’s Apprentice competition. The masterminds at Sigh Co. are already Kickstarting the HP Lovecraft Film Festival.

Shoggoth_DalekSometimes I get surprisingly interesting commissions quite out of the blue. This time I was asked to draw a series of rare antique telephones:

RarePhonesThis year I was asked to do my first piece of art for the McMenamin brothers for the new wing of their splendid Kennedy School. At any other time I’d have been happy to paint from The Two Towers, The Wizard of Earthsea, or 100 Years of Solitude. But the opportunity to honor my father who died last summer in a painting from Sometimes a Great Notion was too much to resist. Elmer Moyer is the man in the middle:

SometimesFlatAnother Kickstarter I worked on was for the logo for Broken Continent:

BrokenContinentLogoAnd finally, some random memes for 2012:

Trouble_with_the_ChairReallyKeeblerNumberSpiceThere are of course still more projects I worked on in 2012 that have yet to be revealed by my clients. I hope to share them as they are revealed in 2013.

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?

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!”

Explorations of the East

This is the first year in a decade that I haven’t gone to the almighty San Diego Comic Con. But it was a worthy sacrifice as Readercon was a fantastic experience and a top notch convention.* And let’s face it, I’m not even a small fish amid the whirl of SanDiego (more like a small but stubborn barnacle). But to be the only artist invited to a convention of great authors, editors and readers? Priceless.

Flying into Newark, we had the extremely exotic experience of being the only people seated in the entire row of seats. This meant that as the plane descended we were able to quickly move across the isle to be on the side of the plane with the view of New York City. This was Venetia’s first view of NYC, and my first sight of the new World Trade Center building. From the air it looks suspiciously like a Transformer. Which is a rather brilliant defense strategy and we are very happy that the Transformers are so clearly on our side.

Untransformed Transformer

We spent a few days in New Jersey with Jim and Rhymer where a rare gathering of distant friends and family occurred, and where all food comes from diners. Fritz kindly gave us a ride north into NYC to stay with the gracious (and very talented) Michael Kaluta. His apartment in the upper east side is filled to the brim with art, books, and all sorts of fun objects like fighter pilot masks from different eras (and a few historical gas masks.) Venetia felt quite at home among the books, but the best book of all was the one that Michael gave her: “Venetia” by Georgette Heyer. Within the space of just two weeks she discovered that she is the star of two stories! (More on the second story later.)

We headed uptown for lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant with man about town Jack Lechner, but first stopped at the Nicholas Roerich Museum. It is a small but elegant three-story apartment, each room filled with art. Venetia was enthralled and after lunch, we returned again (this time with Jack) to marvel at the colors and vibrancy of the art, which is sadly lost in reproduction. His works are mostly done on canvas in egg-tempera and come from the mountains of Tibet and India where Roerich painted them.

Jack aided our explorations of the Upper West by bringing us to the cathedral of Saint John’s the Unfinished. While properly imposing on the outside, it was even more stunning within, both in the grandeur of its high arches and stained glass windows and the fantastic detail of the individual alcoves. One of the greatest things about a mighty cathedral is that there’s no need for sameness. It’s bigger than any one builder and it’s only mete that the styles reflect the mass of humanity within and without.

Upon leaving the cathedral, we hopped on the subway and headed down to the Village for our dinner engagement. We were a little early so we walked down Christopher Street and wended our way to the fountain in the middle of Washington Square where Venetia cooled her feet. Dinner was sushi with Lindsay Ribar a colleague of Venetia’s whose first book The Art of Wishing is about to be published. Though not at all a business dinner, everyone at the table enjoyed their jobs enough to talk primarily of business-related topics, which in our line of work means books and art and the publishing world.

After our dinner on 3rd Street and we walked along through the canyons of Tisch and NYU a while before coming to Broadway. It was a hot night, but our guest quarters were only 80 blocks north and Venetia needed to see the city. It was a surprising walk for us both, Broadway has changed in extraordinary ways since I was last in New York. We passed an aluminum Andy Warhol north of Union Square and enjoyed the generous space given to pedestrians now that the street is no longer a traffic-jammed diagonal thoroughfare, but a curious one-way side-street. Times Square proved that even such a good idea could make for a splitting headache. Having crossed it once, Venetia is of the opinion that it would be worth going out of her way to avoid in the future. It is loud, full of flashing lights and tight crowds of people; altogether a stifling and dizzying experience. We noted the bleachers set about at intervals, wondering if they indicated particular events that required crowd seating but at the time of our visit, they seemed to hold nothing more than tired tourists taking a moment to sit down and gawk at one another. 80 blocks later we arrived at Michael’s aerie once more, pleasantly exhausted, filled with frozen yogurt and ready to fall immediately asleep after making quick plans for the morning.

Saturday was all about visiting with as many people as we could manage; beginning with the talented Tina Segovia and ending with a lovely dinner with Starstruck creator Elaine Lee and her brilliantly talented sons, Brennan and Griffin. Kickstarter and Starstruck were both discussed at some length. After dinner we went for a walk through Central Park with Tara Torre, a childhood friend of Venetia’s. We only walked through half of the park, not quite the same scope as the grand walking tour of New York the night before, but delightful nonetheless. Here, Venetia took here rightful place in Gotham’s Wonderland.

On Sunday, after a brief teaser of Sherlock and breakfast with the delightful Selena, we left the city. On our way out, we randomly stopped at a burger and milkshake joint for the best milkshake Venetia has had thus far. (We mentioned this to another New Yorker friend who immediately identified the name of the restaurant when we told her the location, so clearly we are not alone in this assertion of deliciousness.) Despite the wonderful start to the day, heading to Newark for our car rental we found what turned out to be the car rental from hell, though we were told at the counter that we should have expected nothing less at that price. Needless to say, this answer was not at all satisfactory and we were not happy with the deception of the Alamo car rental at Newark airport. In short: AVOID.

The ride up the Hudson was beautiful and green and we stopped frequently at the turnouts to admire the view of the city and river. We were additionally treated to a new view of the World Trade Center building and realized that it is not a transformer as we had previously believed, but in fact is the mounting space for a great, lidless eye, ever watching… Too soon? For dinner we had planned to stop at Mohonk Mountain House but after a remarkable trip to our nation’s great wonders in Glacier and Yellowstone, I forgot that the rich don’t much care for itinerant artists. We were turned away in the most snobbish and class-tastic fashion. So we stopped briefly in New Paltz and carried on.

We found our hosts, Stephen and Vicki Hickman, on their back porch enjoying a cool evening. They prepared us a delicious meal of chicken and corn on the cob. While I haven’t painted in Steve’s studio for years (not since we both lived in the Virginia suburbs), we stayed up well into the night discussing art and books and PG Wodehouse, and our curious industry.

View from the porch.

The next day was our excursion into Woodstock with Elaine Lee and her partner in crime Richmond Johnston – bagpiper extraordinaire. I’d been speaking with Richmond on and off for years, but this was my first chance to meet him. Woodstock did not live up to any possible expectations; we found it quaint, in its pipe and patchouli way. Upon our return, Steve took us on a tour of Red Hook, including a stop at the local ice cream shop where we split a giant milkshake. Venetia finished her namesake’s book while Steve and I got deep into the process of designing him a proper art book. Sobering to think that his last small folio is 2 decades old, and his new work is seldom seen (save for lucky collectors and those who commission his work). It was a long and productive night that included masses of show and tell (the sketches for upcoming paintings are simply spectacular). We left happily the next day, in possession of our own Stephen Hickman painting!

Before we left, we were given the helpful reminder that the Norman Rockwell Museum was in the area. After a tour of the New Barrington estate of Ethan Ham and his wife Janet (where V enjoyed some baby-toe-nibbling) we made the necessary detour to find the museum. The work is amazing. And Rockwell’s ambition was matched again and again by his results. We spent a good two hours admiring the Rockwells. And commenting on the heroification we observed in the descriptions of the paintings, the hagiography of Rockwell’s life, and the attitude of the hovering museum attendants. When so much truth can be found, when so much great work can be displayed, when so much actual scholarship exists, why dissemble? Why try to make a myth from a man? Who does it serve? I found it backward, unseemly and utterly unnecessary.

We were also surprised, but extremely gratified, to discover that the special exhibit this month was of Howard Pyle’s best paintings. While I had been a little sad to only have 2 weeks on the east coast, it was as though fate knew I couldn’t get to Delaware to see these old friends. And they had brought all the big guns: Stranded, The Flying Dutchman… glorious.

Interestingly, Rockwell’s entire studio had been transported to the grounds of the museum, which at first deceived us into thinking that he had actually painted in such a idyllic local. Too bad for him he didn’t. Too bad for context.

From the Rockwell Museum we headed into Belchertown, an apt name for the location of Jacob Lefton’s smithy. We received the grand tour of the forge and then of the charming town of Amherst, which of course included the local ice cream parlor. Travel in summer is difficult, and ice cream, it’s greatest reward.

As we settled in for the night at Jacob’s, various friends and roommates joined us for a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, at which I eventually ruthlessly triumphed. In the morning we journeyed out by foot for fresh blueberries and cream-topped honey yogurt for breakfast. Given the lateness of the day by the time we left, we decided to drive straight to Boston, or more precisely, to the town of Melrose north of Boston. We had a wonderful family dinner with my old friends and hosts Scott and Rachel and their extended family. Scott débuted his new ice cream flavor: spicy apricot. There was much rejoicing.

The next day was our excursion into Boston proper. We took the T out to Davis Square and then walked via Harvard Square back to Cambridge out to the river which was teaming with beautiful boats. The extent to which there are less-that-perfect neighborhoods within blocks of MIT startled me. I would have thought that Boston’s horrific traffic might have led to more gentrification. Later, we met up with the lovely and formidable Sara and helped her make some fantastic dress choices at The Garment District. After another delicious home-cooked meal of steak tips, we ran off to Readercon for my first panel, a discussion of the visual media in relation to creating. Can one ever truly create without the undo influence of film? It seems that the panelists (including Elizabeth Hand and Caitlin Kiernan) could have joined me on the PR team for Blade Runner, should that need ever arise (Ridley, call us). Elizabeth’s points about the Sublime tallied well with my own, and with my recent trips to see the sublimity of the NW. At the end of the panel we joined Caitlin and other worthies for a rousing discussion of movies and literature in Caitlin’s room. Ed Wood was a particular point of admiration and disdain. Unsurprisingly, Caitlin and I were on the admiration side. Upon our return home we got a tour of Scott’s basement workshop, filled with even more exotic metals and ancient mechanical contraptions than the last time I’d stayed.

Friday, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before the whirlwind of the convention – I somehow ended up on a total of eight panels over the course of the weekend. After sharing the final kaffeklatch of the evening with the redoubtable Kyle Cassidy, we headed down to mingle with fellow attendees and happened to run into pretty much every person we needed or wanted to talk to, including Ty Franck to discuss a secret project and Michael Swanwick to get a book signed for Jacob. Michael was at first suspicious to see the book under Venetia’s arm, thinking it an unauthorized trade paperback edition but she quickly explained that it was an ARC, the very ARC in fact that I had read through in order to create the cover for Michael’s “Best Of.” Jacob was the current owner of the book, however, and he had insisted that Venetia borrow it for the weekend when he heard she had not read any Michael Swanwick. In return for the introduction to such an amazing body of work, Venetia got Michael’s signature in the book for Jacob. A happy ending to a happy story about a compendium of wildly impressive and not-always-happy stories. I love it when a plan comes together.

On the left, the renowned Boris paints a bull’s backside.
On the right, I paint a cover showing and hinting at the book’s actual contents.

My favorite panel of the convention was the “Book Covers Gone Wrong” with panelists Liz Gorinsky, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Daniel Abraham, Jacob Weisman, and Katherine MacLean. I led a lively discussion of bad book covers and the resulting sounds of the crowd’s appreciation managed to drown out any competing laughter from the neighboring “Bad Prose” battle. Victory!

The majority of my time at Readercon was spent on the multi-day panel: A Story from Scratch. The plan was for Elizabeth Bear and Michael Swanwick to create a story based on characters from the audience and props from the guests of honor. Kyle Cassidy would document the scenes from the book, and then I would create the book cover. Due to her lovely cheongsam, Venetia was chosen as the hero of the story – the proprietor of an Asian restaurant. After proposing to Eileen, the woman who would be her wife for the story, and, menaced by the evil Bracken and Tom Purdom (but really, they were both wonderful), she spent much of the subsequent panels in photoshoots with Kyle. I sat and sketched in the panel room as the story evolved, and Saturday afternoon I worked more closely with Kyle, directing a few shoots so that I’d have the grist for my cover. Much to my surprise, Bracken’s extraordinary tattoos supplanted the cheongsam as my background, and allowed me to show that he and Tom were the same person, decades apart. And really, could there anything more fun than tattooing Tom? Later Saturday, I began working on the cover in front of the panel audience. It took longer than the time allotted for the room, of course, but all was completed, including my choice of title, by the appointed hour on Sunday when Michael and Elizabeth read the story aloud while Kyle showed his photos. While the story itself is not yet available on the interwebs, here is the first viewing of the cover. When I asked the authors what they wanted me to call it, Michael told me I could call it whatsoever I desired. But that he and Bear would have veto rights. They didn’t veto it.

The panel finally ended on Sunday and after one last rowdy lunch with friends, we departed. We stopped to pick up the newly framed Steve Hickman painting and then headed out to a remarkable gallery opening of fantastic glass and electricity.

Monday was our last day in Boston and we spent it lounging about on couches in front of the electric fans (though we roused ourselves to head into Boston proper for a delicious Thai luncheon with the delightful Lindsay and Alex, creators of Baman Piderman.) Tuesday we drove back to Newark, stopping briefly in New York City for more Thai (our traveling food of choice) and the company of Allison Taylor, whose own Apple Core Theater Company I once had the pleasure of branding.

And thus we returned to Portland, to dive back in to the exciting new projects (soon to be announced) awaiting our homecoming.

* We were very pleased to read on Aug. 5th that the Readercon board resigned and the Readercon committee, many of whom we met and interacted with at the convention, had issued a public apology. We enjoyed Readercon as a convention a great deal and hope that it will not be ruined by the disrespect shown by its former governing board.