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.

LeeMoyer_Pratchett

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Small Gods – In the Beginning

The first week of my Small Gods Project is finished. For your edification, I have rounded up all the usual deities.

I will continue drawing and painting through the week, and into the coming weeks of travel. First, I will be in Roanoke, Virginia as a Guest Speaker at the Hollins University Playwright’s Lab for July 1st, then it’s up to the DC area to visit friends and museums. 999327_537599532944387_1425940212_nFrom July 4th to July 8th, I will be in Charm City for the North American Discworld Convention. And then I have some adventures planned for Philadelphia.

If you spot me in any of these places, I will have my sketch pad and watercolors with me and you may even witness the macabre spectacle of a Small God’s creation.

SG1SG2SG3SG4SG5SG6SG7Please keep your Small Gods suggestions coming!

Thank you!

Influence, Inspiration, and Homage

When I began to study pin-ups in earnest, it was no different than studying all the other great illustrators that line my library shelves. The best were astonishing craftsmen and there was much to learn. But pin-ups needn’t exist in a vacuum, especially where there are specific characters to portray, and other worlds to depict, however fleetingly.

Below is a selection showing the inspirations for the new calendar and my finished paintings:

Patricia Briggs and George Petty

I grew up never knowing about Petty, but I admired the work of his less-expensive replacement Alberto Vargas. For all his skill, Vargas never surpassed the man he’d been hired to emulate. Petty was so famous in his day that Hollywood made a film called “The Petty Girl”. His style often involved the use of contours painted as vermillion watercolor outlines – even when they overlaid or interacted with a fully-painted figure. The discovery of Petty’s work was one of the reasons I wanted to reconsider the Pin Up, and the satisfaction of those red lines cannot be understated.

I also altered my signature in homage to the great man.

Calendars and Auto Repair

Calendars and Auto Repair have gone together since the very early days.
Because Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson is a mechanic, I wanted to create an old-school garage calendar that would (as nearly as possible) match the format of those classics where a single pin-up would be printed on a tall piece of thick cardstock and a block of 12 thin pages would be affixed below the painting for the months.

In this case, I used a permutation of Dan Dos Santos‘ logo design for Mercy’s shop (as seen on the cover of her book Iron Kissed) instead of the simpler type designs that most garages had back in the day. I made up the motto below her feet, and was delighted to find that the quote Briggs chose above was also about trust.

N. K. Jemisin and Noah Jemisin

Oree is a blind painter, an artist who sees magic and makes her own.

In this case, the artist whose work Oree’s most resembles in style and substance is that of author N. K. Jemisin’s own father, Noah.

But rather than the wonderful scenes and subjects Noah has painted, I wanted to do something that would resonate with the setting, and what better than an impressionist gloss on the cover to the very book Oree hails from – The Broken Kingdoms?

I would never have have thought to include anything like great American Impressionism in a pin-up calendar, but for N.K.’s descriptions and suggestions.

I love watching people’s expressions when Jemisin’s pin-up opens in front of them.

Terry Pratchett and Gil Elvgren

Because Terry Pratchett didn’t ask for a specific character to be portrayed, I had my fun at the expense of the Unseen University of Ankh-Morpork. I didn’t attempt a direct homage with a particular pose, but the legacy of Gil Evgren clearly informs the piece.

And while I didn’t ask model Clare Grant if she was familiar with Elvgren’s work, she embodied its spirit brilliantly:

Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Maguire

Ray Bradbury was my hero – my favorite author. Forever.

It was my amazing pleasure to speak with him many years ago in Atlanta, and an incredible honor to have him among this year’s authors.

Both Bradbury and Maguire came up in the wonderful world of pulp, and when I learned that Bradbury had chosen Fahrenheit 451 for his pin-up, I just instinctively felt that Maguire was somehow the right artist to guide my approach. The painting is informed not by a specific piece, but by a mood, a period and a focus. Like so very many of the artists I admire, the culture they worked in didn’t allow much room for cultural or ethnic variation, but I hope this piece would please both men.

Robin Hobb and Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

Malta, the amazing woman portrayed in the calendar, is part dragon. She’s tall and thin, and partly scaled. And she has a comb like a chicken. She’s so unique there isn’t even fan art of her!

But in painting her I dredged up my memories of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema. I didn’t break out my books, but there was really only ever one painter whose work was all about marble, silk and that certain sort of fantasy high life that got Alma Tadema derided in his time as a painter of “Victorians in Togas”.

One painting in particular ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus‘ proved an important inspiration, though my petals are intended more as festive confetti than the lovely implements of torture and death Alma Tadema intended.

Jacqueline Carey and Gustav Klimt

Phèdre nó Delaunay is not Austrian. And Klimt never knew Naamah’s service. But the sort of luxe and deeply romantic European milieu that Jacqueline Carey so beautifully describes could really only summon that lover of ladies and gold leaf – Gustav Klimt. Again, I didn’t break out any books or reference, but the goal was clear as finest crystal. And Klimt’s incorporation of geometric forms gave me a similarly clear view of how to incorporate the calendar page.

Peter S. Beagle and Alphonse Mucha

Art Nouveau was known as the “Cult of Nature”, so what better style for ‘The Last Unicorn’ herself?

And what better practitioner of the art than Alphonse Mucha?

I started this piece more outlined than it finished up, but I had Mucha in mind throughout. The iron work of the frame around the pin-up and of the Portcullis of the calendar page below it are entirely inspired by his work.

Charlaine Harris and J.C. Leyendecker

This is an homage, plain and simple.

And the piece in question is one that others have famously homaged before (Alex Ross‘s painting of the Joker and Harley Quinn is probably the most famous).

Where Harris’s True Blood characters are well known, Leyendecker’s aren’t. He was in many ways the best and most important illustrator of the last century, and his Arrow Collar Man was to his sex what the Gibson Girl (and later, the Petty Girl) were to hers. But for all that Leyendecker invented or popularized our conception of Santa Claus, the Baby New Year, the trademark look of the Saturday Evening Post – for all that he basically invented Psychedelia in 1934 – for all that he was neighbor, beacon and teacher to Norman Rockwell (who would take his place at the Post) – for all that, he was nearly forgotten. And why? Because he was gay, because the Arrow Collar Man was his lover and muse, and because Rockwell made sure that the public kept its attention firmly on Rockwell. Happily Leyendecker is being rediscovered, and his name and work restored. I hope I am doing my little part for that reclamation….

But whether or not I think Leyendecker a genius (I do), this scene of Sookie and Quinn in their specific raiment at this particular point of a party rapidly turning into a battlefield from Definitely Dead just cried out for this specific homage.

I hope this brief look behind the scenes has been as fun for you to read as for me to compile. If you’d like to order the calendar (benefiting Worldbuilders and Heifer International), please do so at The Tinker’s Packs web site.