Now that they've been published, I am able to share a couple illustrations I did for Fantasy Flight's Call of Cthulhu collectible card game. I hadn't done any card illustrations in a few years, but at one point I did them more than any other kind of work. Around '95 or '96 there was a huge boom of card games which flooded in after the initial success of the Magic the Gathering card game, and as an artist this was a rather exciting time because there was suddenly a huge demand for color art (they generally needed a couple or more hundred pieces to start a game or release an expansion). It would not be common to get calls from art directors asking how many pieces one could take within a short deadline, and I would often have to paint a few each day. It was great practice for color painting, because normally most jobs were black and white interior pieces and just one color image: the coveted cover! The double edge to that great time was that the cost to commission so much color art and print it on thick glossy paper stock meant that the games were very expensive to produce, and unfortunately that ended up creating a lot of financial drain on these already small publishing houses. While it lasted it was a blast!
It was fun to revisit this kind of assignment, as what makes it so unique is the tiny size the card art gets printed- generally an inch or two each way. So the art needs to be readable at that size yet still be interesting at a large scale. It's a balancing act.
Above is 'Scientist from Yith", featuring one of my favorites of Lovecraft's alien species. Acrylic, roughly 7x10". One interesting challenge and aspect of fantasy and science fiction is a request to make something both alien/magic and understandable. Here we have an alien scientist doing some sort of experiment- but exactly what is he doing? Well, if that was clear it wouldn't be so alien or shockingly advanced, would it? So, it needed to have just the right balance of clear and unclear.
This next one is called "Interstellar Migration". Here we see some form of alien consciousness traveling from one system to another. I had fun painting the astronomical features. Save the date!: On July 28 2013 I will be part of a one night group exhibition in Boston's theater district. The event is organized by 'RAW artists' who focus on emerging local artists (they have chapters all over the US as well as other countries), this will be the first time I've had a good opportunity to exhibit my art in Boston since I came here (Boston retains a lot of it's puritanical roots, and my art isn't terribly traditional). I've attended two of their events and had a lot of fun, it's held at a nightclub and features artists, apparel and accessory designers (even with a fashion show), live music. It's a nice laid back un-snooty atmosphere, if you'll be in the Boston area please come by! In a future blog entry I will include info about tickets and other details.
Acrylic on board,
11x15" , currently untitled. Names and titles have always been tricky for me, when I do illustration there is often some sort of working title that I can use or modify. But, with the personal pieces the titles seem to be more important. They can greatly influence the viewers' interpretations, and I don't want to spoil the discovery for them or sway them from their own unique takes.
This is another of my un-planned pieces (starting with sweeping
abstract brush strokes until I start to recognize shapes, much like one
might recognize things while gazing at clouds in the sky. Then I refined
those shapes and ran with my stream of consciousness). The eye was the
first part I saw, after that became a desire to see the eye set back in
space to give it a much grander sense of scale. My earlier ideas made
for an even more precarious walkway, though after discussing it with a
friend I realized that it wasn't my ultimate goal to create so much
unease for the viewer (that's no way to thank them for viewing my art,
is it?). Even as it stands, sans rubble and packs of wild monkeys, it
is still a rather precarious situation! As for the stairs and walkway, I
think it has something to do with making choices in life.
As always, I enjoy everyone's interpretation and input, especially this one because it took me by surprise!
I got a package in the mail today, it contained my complimentary copies of Tales Of the Sleepless City by Miskatonic River Press and I was quite impressed! In case you're wondering what kind of book this is, it's a collection of New York city themed source material and adventures for Chaosium Inc.'s Lovecraftian Call of Cthulhu role playing game. Here's a link to my original blog post featuring my cover artwork for the book, note that while the above graphic has the colors a bit more vivid than the original, the published product represents the original artwork quite nicely!
Why am I writing about this? Well, Miskatonic River Press had a bit of a bumpy start, one could say, and despite many challenges they have produced something very impressive. Childhood friend and gaming buddy, Thomas Lynch, offered his services to MRP only to have it's founder, Keith "Doc" Herber pass away shortly thereafter. Doc was sorely missed and the future of MRP was up in the air for some time, but through baptism by fire Tom and a group of dedicated friends and colleagues pulled together and have been producing some excellent things. Making games isn't just about making games, it requires a lot of knowledge about publishing, printing, distribution and a lot of other mind-numbingly tedious yet crucial details- and all of these things had to be learned in a short period of time. I examined the book today and was very impressed with the design of the book, it is chock full of very attractive art, maps, handouts, reference material and inspirational content. Congrats to Tom, Oscar Rios, Badger McInnes, Scott David Anilowski, Dan Harms and the rest of the team, it's clearly a labor of love.
On a related note, I am late to learn the saddening news about Lynn Willis' passing. For those who don't know of Lynn, he was an editor, writer and game designer for Chaosium, Inc. Though he was not technically the first one to hire me to make some Lovecraftian art (that would be Pagan Publishing), Lynn brought me on board shortly thereafter and kept me busy for years with many projects. He put a lot of faith in me, held the reins loosely and was quick to forgive some of my less impressive results, without him I might not have pursued the Lovecraft niche so enthusiastically or at all- it makes me wonder what I would have been illustrating for all those years without his support. Thank you, Lynn!!
I guess I'll dive right into some new work. This one was another of those unplanned pieces, as with 'Library Amorphous' I started with a middle toned grey background and worked in lighter and lighter values. 10x15" acrylic; 'Clouds':
As I just kind of went with this one, I can't fully explain what it is about. I think it has the similar 'astral' feel that my prior pieces do, and I think I was looking to diversify the architecture to suggest how the idea of buildings and structures might be redefined on another plane of existence.
Next up is 'Take Flight'; 12x15" acrylic:
I spent a bit more time on this one, I even paused to do a thumbnail sketch at one point to clarify my direction as I felt a bit more focus and intent with this piece. Assuming this is another out-of body journey, much of what we see could well be more symbolic than literal- the way a mind might try to explain, interpret or categorize something which is highly alien. From the perspective of the viewer and the off-kilter angles, it seems to me that the viewer is perhaps flying or levitating. In the foreground we see what seems like an impossible obstacle which is dark and foreboding, yet the background seems like a worthwhile destination to me. I see the gate as something which represents how unnecessarily difficult we can make things for ourselves, but thankfully we are in flight and from this new perspective we can see how easily the trap can be avoided.
Because this piece is a bite more detailed than usual, here's a close-up of the lower right section:
My interpretations are simply just one possible take, it's no more true or right than anyone else's. As always I love to hear how the art reflects in others.
Here's my latest creation in my
series of unplanned explorations. As I painted it I contemplated and
pondered just how subjective the illusion of reality seems to be- if
only we could truly see the world through another's eyes, even if only
for a brief moment. How different might it be if there are seemingly an
infinite number of things we can focus on and edit out. Between two
given people there could be no overlap at all. Things we focus on (out
of fear, fascination or otherwise) come into more focus, while the
things that don't pertain to our personal world are left undefined or discarded.
10x15" Acrylics on illustration board
If you were hoping to get one of the last Cthulhu statues, there are still a few remaining!
I hope the best for all in who were in Hurricane Sandy's path. Boston overall fared well, so it seems. At one point it was raining enough to seem as if someone were pointing a hose at our windows. My thoughts go out to those who were less fortunate. That's twice in two years now that this region has experienced rather bizarre storms right at Halloween.
As I've mentioned before, the Cthulhu sculptures are limited in number due to the master and mold both breaking. It's a mixed blessing, on one hand it makes them more precious and rare, but on the other hand I am sorry to disappoint those who hoped to acquire one. There are seven left, and they are now available in a final series.
Taking what I had learned from all the previous color schemes and finishes, I chose a finish which I feel plays to the strengths of the sculpture. This time I went with lots of iridescent and transparent colors combined with clear resins to give a more exotic and alien feel. Areas of pooled clear resin give quite a nice glistening slimy feel- hence my nickname for this series- "SLIME". The base is painted in a fantasy marble theme, a deep blue stone with copper and golden veins. As always, this series is hand numbered and comes with a corresponding signed mini print. Protecting the underside of the statue is a pentagonal purple felt pad. The statue itself is hand painted solid resin, approximately 8-1/4" and weighing 1lb 10.5 OZ. Shipping is free (USPS priority for US customers, and 1st Class International parcel for others).
Update: these statues are sold out!
Scanning my two-dimensional artwork can often be a challenge, photographing an iridescent, highly textured and glossy statue is as if not more challenging. I wondered, "how am I going to be able to get the idea across via a photo? If only they could hold it in in their hands, and see the way the light moves across the surface." My solution seemed like the next best thing- a video of the light moving over the surface.
I had fun with it and perhaps got a little carried away, but I think people will enjoy it even if they are not in the market for a Cthulhu statue. Earlier in the video, details are a bit more mysterious for dramatic purposes, but by the end you can get a better sense of the clear resin-especially where it has pooled near the eyes and brow area.
I realize that the economy is still a bit shaky, and not everyone is in the position to afford one, and for that I am sorry. However, there may be a newer design coming out at some point- something smaller for the less flexible budget.
Since my last entry I've run into some of you in person, and there were some questions about whether they had stopped receiving the notifications about my blog updates. Actually, I simply haven't done any blogging in a while. Some of my business-minded friends might remind me that it is important to regularly update them, but I haven't had much to share in a while. Some of the jobs I've been working on are the "hush hush" types that I can't share until they see print, and I didn't want to waste anyone's time by making entries with no real content ("hey guys, guess what I had for breakfast??"). So, I guess one could say my approach, wise or not, is quality over quantity.
I had such a wonderful time creating the last few personal pieces and felt compelled to forge onward in that direction, especially after some particularly restricting commissions. I've mused that I am 'cleansing my palette' by diving back into a wholly personal piece. Again, I made some random shapes on the board and then much like gazing at clouds and identifying shapes, I refined the discoveries into more highly polished representations. I ended up seeing a shape which reminded me of the hooded figure in my piece the Guide, it's starting to feel like some sort of personal mythology is unfolding before me. So, here is is, Akashic, acrylic on board roughly 12x16"
One nice thing about personal pieces is that I am not constrained by a deadline, which can sometimes mean I have to call something done before I would ideally do so. I can be a lot pickier, and many sections were entirely worked over three or more times. The danger with unlimited time is that you can then risk over-working the image until it becomes too stiff.
As I painted it, a concept unfolded. The title is a nod the Akashic records, which is a concept of a collective of all thoughts and knowledge popularized by the theosophists. I imagined that the viewer of 'the Guide' has followed the robed figure though the dilapidated doorway and into the subconscious or a gateway to infinite possibilities (much like the overwhelming possibilities for an artist settling on a subject to paint). This painting risked becoming too busy, yet the desire was to convey those multitudinous choices. I also contemplated how so many people pursue different types of activities to get them ultimately to the same place (joy, enlightenment), it is often merely just a different guise or flavor on the surface which makes them seem so different. Here we see a few different potential portals for self discovery, pick one and jump through!
In a few weeks I expect to be ready to sell the final series of the Cthulhu statue. Sadly they are small in number, I anticipate them disappearing quickly!
Thanks for looking/reading, I always love comments and questions if you feel so inclined.
If you tuned in to watch Supernatural last friday night, you may have been scratching your head wondering if you saw any of my art or not. You didn't! Interacting with the art department for the show has been a real eye opener, and it's made me appreciate all the work that goes into set design, even if it is something as every day as an office cubicle. Scouring the episode helped me be aware of this, everything down to pens and a water bottle had been considered as a means of rounding out a character. They make a complete set, and then it's up to the directors and camera crew to select the angles, and so not every part of the set will be guaranteed to make it to the show. In last year's episode I hit the jackpot and got a great deal of exposure, but this year it looks like the area of the set with my art was not in any of the shots. Ah well, that's the way it goes! They were kind enough to send me a production still of the art, my guess is that this is the cubicle of Charlie's co-worker:
For those unfamiliar, both of my pieces are on either sides of the cubicle's wall seam. On the left is a portrait of H.P. Lovecraft, and on the right is 'Azathoth'.
I'm ending this blog with a teaser, it's what I've been working on recently.....
Longer term readers might recall back in the distant past..... the year 2011, my Cthulhu sculpture and several of my Lovecraftian illustrations were featured on the CW's TV series 'Supernatural'. Here you will find info and set photos, if you're interested. My art had never been utilized in that medium before, and it was a lot of fun to get to interact with showbiz folk. I'm happy to report that they wanted to use me again this year for the new season! The episode airs on April 27th (IMDB link) and I would imagine as with last year that it will be available for streaming after it airs. The one catch is that we don't yet know how much of my art the camera will catch (last year it was quite visible), so I'll just keep my fingers crossed. As with last year I ought to be able to get some production stills to share, so either way we'll get to see how the art was used on the set.
To find out when and what channel, visit Supernatural's official page here In general, the show airs on Friday nights, 9/8 central.
tune in next time, SAME SQUID-TIME, SAME SQUID-CHANNEL......
I'm happy to announce that the long-anticipated collaborative Lovecraftian anthology 'Aklonomicon' is finally available for order.
It is my understanding that once the expenses are covered, the subsequent profits will be split amongst the creators- this is fairly uncommon in this field, but most appreciated!
Many thanks to those who gave input to my Lovecraftian art book concept- I am still very interested in hearing what people would like to see. Some have expressed interest in seeing sketches as well as some writing about how I got into Lovecraft and some of my thoughts about the subject. Some would also like to see a few new pieces in the book. I like all of these ideas- thanks again and keep 'em coming!