Friday, December 7, 2012

Illuxcon 2012

 Some of you may be doing the match and realizing its been about a month since Illuxcon. Why the stunningly overdue report you may ask? Well, I've been busy. And out of town. And also busy with the art I should have been doing while out of town. And then out of town get the idea.

"Better late then never!" is what people usually say, but art directors hate that kind of statement, so I'm going with "I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I couldn't put metaphorical pen to paper until I unknotted my brain from the rubicon-like pasta it had been scrambled into by the pure awesomeness of Illuxcon." Which is actually pretty accurate anyway.

This was a strange convention for me, as I had nowhere particular to be. No booth, no volunteer badge, no panels, nothing...just a ticket to get in the door and a desire to see and experience a great deluge of talent, undiluted by other kinds of booths the way most conventions are. Don't get me wrong, I love games, comics, publishers, and movie companies, but sometimes conventions are so full of all those things that the humble artists get lost in the crowd.

Seeing them all in one place is a great, almost zen-like experience for the fantasy art fan. And no one in the business is just an artist, we are all fans of the medium first, and artist second. Maybe that order changes over time for some of us, but it simply isn't a genre you can paint without holding it close to your heart for years beforehand, and learning its complexities and nuance. It's a genre of both pure imagination and historical reference, and has just as many tropes and clich├ęs as it does original ideas never before seen or painted, and knowing how to traverse that landscape of the unreal correctly, is the difference between a practiced hand and a rank amateur, regardless of talent. Though talent helps.

As I walked off the plane (I use the word "plane" rather loosely here, it was more like a miniature version of the planes I had flown on previously) I found that, not surprisingly, Altoona, PA ha a rather tiny airport. It isn't the tiniest I've ever seen, but very nearly. And it also sports a distinct odor of fertilizer, which I took at first to be some sort of nearby septic malfunction, but later realized it was simply a matter of the airports location out of town, and surrounded by farm land.

I then arrived at the Ramada, the hotel which has been both the secondary location for the conventions official events, and the watering hole for artists and attendees after the show has closed down for the day. The bar was mostly empty, as it was still afternoon and most of the show was still setting up at the convention hall downtown, so I went to the restaurant across the street for some tasty and terribly unhealthy mexican food, combined with a "medium" margarita (note: whenever a mexican restaurant has varying sizes for alcoholic drinks, two truths become self evident, that they will be very, very large, and not great. But I have always found that the first rule discounts the second!)
After I finished dinner, I went back to the room for a while, and later returned to the hotel bar, to find it populated by a few familiar faces. William O'connor had just arrived, Ralph Horsley, and a number of other artists who I instantly recognized from the convention circuit. I then proceeded to have a ton of great conversations over the next several hours that I can remember very little about.

The next day I attended the show itself, and was able to take some photos from the convention hall:

Here Steve Belledin is trying to decipher the hidden phallic codes Chris Seaman has hidden in his portfolio, while Chris is trying to decipher how Steve could both see and purchase that shirt, at the same time.
Chris Rahn has some incredible work. It will melt your face. You will find yourself wanting to cry from how awesome the work is, and then you will realize your tear ducts have melted down onto your chin, which is also kind of sad. Steve Prescott is in the background, also melting faces, but with his awesome facial hair arrangement.

Mark Poole is incredibly photogenic. Let me explain: This is an ambush photo, and he still managed to turn and smile in exactly 1/100ths of a second. Its unnerving. Had I been a snake, he would have bit ME.

the booths of Michael Whelan and John Palencar right next door to one another (which is pretty crazy in and of itself). Note neither artist is in attendance, as is a common sight at Illuxcon. Most of the big names like to roam the floor, and stop in at their table to do the meet 'n greet thing when they get tired of standing. Let me be clear: this is an awesome thing. It is both the antithesis of most conventions for artists, and also means you can have a real conversation (instead of a "behind a booth convention style conversation) with any legend of the business that you can spot in the hall.

Donato's booth. I think it needs more stuff, but other then that its pretty cool (hah!). He actually had a lot of space to display, both his originals and a sketches portfolio, and let me tell you, if you thought his originals were big, his sketches are just as huge. This is not a common thing, most of us draw small and paint big. But I guess taking that extra time is working out for him so far, so I think it's safe to say he knows quite a few things the rest of us are missing.

Here is Donato at work, touching up his latest LoTR piece. Unbelievable subtlety and detail goes into his work. Also, though I didn't get a picture due to people standing in the way, about ten feet behind Donato was Boris Vallejo, also working on a painting. Only at Illuxcon does that occur, and in a space where people can watch!
 The following few days and nights turn into a bit of a blur, attending the main convention building and alternating between the main hall, where the art and artists are setup, and the auditorium and classrooms next door, where the panels and movie screenings take place. I saw some great panels on freelancing, art directors, branding, and the industry as a whole. Really great, inspiring, informative stuff.
And as you have probably guessed, the evenings mostly took place at the Ramada bar, and consisted of great revelry and consumption of alcohol.

Friday night was the "showcase" where 50 artists not displaying their work in the main hall, were invited to come display in one of the hotel ballrooms, for 4 hours, one night only. It was very cool, and opens up the show to a newer generation of artists, since the main show is so hard to get into, this is a great way to get your work seen by all the big names, and more then a few art directors as well.

Saturday night was the Illy awards, where Omar Rayyan took home the big award of the year. It's a different trophy every year, and this year was a grotesque, sculpted mutant zombie like head. So, it should look pretty cool in his living room ;)

And finally, the last night consisted of a very long meal at the nearby Outback restaurant, and then drinking with the likes of Larry Elmore (who kindly gave us a preview of his kickstarter art book, which is still ongoing at: and Todd Lockwood, for a number of hours before closing down the bar and bidding them a fond farewell.

Convention season may be over for this year, but hey, 2012 itself is also almost over, and it was a fun one, so I can't wait for another big season next year!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back from Comic Con

This was another crazy year in San Diego. The Hobbit, Total Recall, Pacific Rim, among other movies, all had a really strong presence, as well as a ton of toys, action figures, sculptures, video games, and a little fantasy art too. Also there were comics. But lets be honest, not that many.
I also had a chance to debut my new comic Downfall's promo issue, which can be seen online at which got a stellar reaction from everyone, and basically flew off the table non stop. Apparently comics sell well at a comic convention. Considering the slow leaking of actual comics from the conventions larger composite shape as it stands today, this is a surprise.
This was the first chance to really show people what I and Drake had been working on for the last few months, and it was great to finally get feedback face to face. And the fact that it was overwhelmingly positive didn't hurt any.

It was a great time, had a lot of fun seeing all the usual faces and meeting lots of new ones. One of the best parts of CCSD is getting to catch up with the friends you only see once a year, and sharing in the strange spastic nuclear blast of genre media that is a convention of this size.
Am I tired of fighting the crowds which somehow get bigger every year? you bet. Am I going to do the same thing next year? Wouldn't miss it for the world ;)

Next up, Gen Con in Indianapolis.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

another Magic card from Innistrad block

Almost forgot to include this one in todays post. This was another extremely fun project, a Zombie that has a lot more to his description then just your usual zombie template blood and guts.
He was also a good place to try playing with some unusual color balancing, and to see if I could make that green slime brightly contrast to an almost cartoonish level, and still keep things kind of gross.

A promotional card

Every once in a while, I get lucky enough to get tapped on the shoulder by an art director, asking for a special promotional image. At times like those, all you can do is allow for at least double the usual completion time, and put in a lot of time sketching, composing, color concepting, and just plain nose to the grindstone refining. When you think your done, go back and work some more. Thats how you do an image thats worth showing itself as the face of a game thats bigger then any individual artist.

There's always a bit of the unknown outcome in any creative business, and illustration probably more than most. Sometimes it turns out good, and sometimes not. The only way to manage that random quality is to put in the time necessary to correct any problems that keep the image from being as good as it can be.

Now that I've commented on the philosophy at work here, let me also say that those branches were a lot of fun to draw. And thats why there's so damn many of them. I'd like to say there's some kind of artistic theory at work, but it's just that I like drawing branches. Sometimes thats how art works too.

New Legend of the Five Rings art

Here are a few of my latest contributions to the card game world of Rokugon. These are a bit on the varied side, which after a decade of illustrating for this one game, is definitely preferred.
Sometimes the hardest thing in art is finding a new way to illustrate a concept you've drawn dozens, if not hundreds of times. This is made a whole lot easier when the concepts themselves come with some built in originality. Never underestimate the power of a good, fully realized idea.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blood Legion Warrior

This one was recently previewed on ICV2, it's the cover to the new Thunderstone expansion set titled: Caverns of Bane

You can see the rest of the article here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Legend of the Five Rings card

This is a character card for Legend of the Five Rings new expansion set, Embers of War.
It was just featured on AEG's website. A print will be up in my stores L5R section in the next day or two.
You might notice the sketch looks a bit unusual, due to the digital sketching method I sometimes use, especially on card games where the deadlines can be very short.
This character is based off a design originally done by the talented Jim Pavelec:
his main gallery can be found here:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 convention schedule

Every year I do attend conventions and make public appearances, and every year the schedule changes slightly. I'm not making as many as I have in the past, but neither am I missing out completely.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (5/17-20) this show has so many great artists attending, it is purely rediculous. The talent is going to leak out of the building and start pooling on the sidewalks.

Comic Con International in San Diego (7/11-15) This is the biggest media circus of its kind anywhere in the states. It is a thing of great chaos and molten excitement. Also tons of people should be there.

Gen Con in Indianapolis (8/15-19) This show I have attended for the past 14 years. I couldn't stop now even if I wanted to. Not that I do, it's only become bigger and better over the years.

and finally, I am also attending Illuxcon (11/8-11) but as this show is mainly for painters of the non-digital media, I will simply be showing up to be whipped and mocked by the traditionalists, while admiring their great works and trying not to step in any actual paint along the way.

Somthing new this way comes

I've had a little spare time over the last month to finish a couple more personal works, they are not related to any products or themes beyond being somthing I really wanted to draw.

Lords of Waterdeep

Wizards of the Coast has been trying their hand at board games (again) lately, and I have to say, they have been succeeding well beyond expectations. So when they asked me to illustrate some cards for a game set in Waterdeep, I had to say yes.

Classic Forgotten Realms material, with intrigue, politics, subterfuge, and a little action, it was virtually the opposite of illustrating more combat based roleplaying products, so it had a lot of variety to offer in visual concepts, and was a lot of fun to work on as a result.


Last year a convention in Germany called Ringcon approached me about doing the promotional imagery for their show. At the time, I was simply overloaded with work and had to pass on the job. But they came right back and said they needed work for next years show as well, and the deadline was much further out, so I said absolutely!
You can read up on the convention here:

Here is the resulting sketch and final image. It features characters from the Lord of the Rings world, but no one specific. Except for the dragon, the dragon is Smaug. I rendered him a bit more modern in terms of creature design then he has been drawn in the past, but I wanted to bring somthing new to the table with a character that has been done so many times and in so many different ways.

Metamorphosis Alpha

A couple years ago, an old friend asked me to go to lunch while we were at Gencon. His name is Jamie Chambers, and we had worked together many times over the years while he was at Sovereign Press on the Dragonlance roleplaying books for 3rd edition D&D.

He wanted to tell me about a game he was publishing soon, a game which had been around for a very long time. One of the "old guard" of roleplaying games, first published in 1976. Now, that isn't all that old for some people, but for me, that was three years before I existed. So it sure seems old to me.
You can read up on it here:

It's a really crazy setting, with a very classic sci-fi kind of premise, and he wanted me to do the cover. It had to show the inside of a spaceship, but a ship that was overtaken with undergrowth. And mutants. And holographic landscapes. And old, damaged pieces of technology showing through around the edges.

This was one of the more unusual covers I've done, and for a while I had no idea how I was going to illustrate such a wild concept, but when Jamie sent me the cover design, it kind of left me with the perfect opporunity to do somthing a little different.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Innistrad, Dark Ascension

And here is the second batch. Now that they have been posted on Wizards site, here is the latest and greatest of my contributions. Say what you will about Magic, but they're art orders ask a lot more then most in the fantasy game business. I can say I've never before been asked to paint a bear, or a "first person" image, and yet they both fit the setting perfectly.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Innistrad art

I was lucky enough to be included in the production of all three sets of the Magic: the Gathering expansions for Innistrad, which each featured some of the most stylish design bibles I've ever seen. Which makes my job that much easier. This is just some of the work I can now show, and there will be a lot more to come as the sets get released over the coming months.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Previews from the new book

Here are some sample page spreads from the new book currently on the anvil, as it approaches completion, I'll be adding more previews as well as a look at the as yet un-designed cover. I think I'm still waiting to see how the rest of the art turns out before selecting a cover image. Regardless, this is what the inside is going to look like.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some new work

Over the past few weeks I have split my time between a number of paying projects for regular clients, finishing my new website, working on my new art book, finishing the art that is intended to go into said art book, and getting my new print fulfillment solution completed. (you can check it out for yourself here:

So, to sum up, I've been a bit busy lately.

Anyway, I somehow managed to scrounge together enough time to complete a few fine art images I've been fiddling with over the last month, and since they are destined for no client or far off product shrouded in a field of "non disclosure" contracts (as is the unfortunate case with most of my work), I can show them to you here ;)

Building Character

So, I do a lot of art for games. That's not really a secret. As a matter of fact, it's hard to imagine you reading this for any other reason than having seen some of my game artwork from time to time.
If you've ever seen me at a convention, chances are pretty slim, but you may even have convinced me to draw a character sketch or two. It's happened plenty. It happens still. By no means is that a guarantee for the future, but usually, if I'm not feeling too hungover, I am more then happy to comply with such requests.
I bring up the topic because as a result of that particular specialization, I also have been known to actually play some of the games I create art for. This in turn requires that I create characters for the exclusive purpose of playing those games. I have also been tasked with the job of illustrating my friends characters as well, since it is difficult for me to sit for hours at a stretch and not draw the personalities caught up in some epic imaginary struggle on the table in front of me.

So, having built up a collection of such character drawings over the years, I thought I would leave a few of them up here for your amusement. I will likely post more from time to time. Cause, you know, as blog posts go, easy to do ;)