Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Illux-Chronicles

A Personal Foreword:
I had a difficult year, artistically. I don't enjoy making excuses, but for the record, I felt a bit pathetic in my art efforts in 2010, especially after renovating the house and changing day jobs. I spent the better part of the Summer without much internet access at home, so my online community interactions flagged. I stopped freelancing completely for four months, between late May and September.

And while it really was necessary to get my life in order, the not painting part SUCKED!!!

Because of this, I was nervous about attending Illuxcon this year, obsessing over the fact that I didn't have much new work to show and my artistic "game" was somewhat rusty. But as I was packing up the last of my Showcase display three days before the show, I got a game-changing email from Jeannie Wilshire, who along with her husband Pat, runs the convention. Justin Sweet had to cancel at the last minute and I was next on the waiting list for a table in the main event. "Holy...!" I thought. I HAD to find a way to make it work. Failure to do so was not an option. Jeannie was incredibly comforting, and somehow her faith in me restored some of my lost confidence.

There were jokes among friends that Justin's shoes wouldn't be easy to fill, which is most certainly true (and I joked back that I hope he wears a ladies size 7). I felt like a kid who just got away with ordering a drink at the bar...

With very little time to prepare, I immediately sent my husband out on an emergency Dammar varnish run, ordered some frames to ship overnight, and started sketching out what pieces I'd put where on a 4x8 panel. I experienced about 8 different kinds of panic over the next 3 days. The good kinds.

Matting and framing my work the night before the show, 11/10/2010

In the end, Illuxcon 3 was wonderful. The table, the amazing art everywhere, the old and new friends, the conversations... all of it was more than I could hope for. For the first time in months I felt like I was awake again, in my own body - there was so much support that I can finally put 2010 behind me, and work toward a strong artistic year in 2011. I'm so motivated I could explode.

There's so much to take away from this event that it's hard to write it all down in one place. Like last year, I traveled up from Virginia to Pennsylvania with artist Laura Diehl and her fiance Chris Kozlowski. After helping me unload my artwork at the show (thank you again, guys!) we checked in at the Ramada, and headed out to our second annual kickoff dinner at the Altoona Red Lobster. Included in the group was Lauren K. Cannon, with whom I've shared a few Q&A pages in ImagineFX, Aaron Miller, Joe Wilson and Mike Sass, who are some of my best friends, as well as fantastic artists. And I met a couple new fellows, John Stanko, Chris Simmons, and Joe Slucher.

From L to R: Lauren Cannon, John Stanko, (me), Laura Diehl, Chris Kozlowski, Joe Slucher, Chris Simmons, Aaron Miller (behind Mike), and Mike Sass

Out of the three years the convention has been running, this was by far the busiest it's been on a Thursday night. It felt almost like the pace of Saturday from the 2008 exhibition. Throughout the whole event I had trouble sitting still at my table. I've gotten to know so many awesome artists who I consider to be my extended family, it seemed silly not to spend a lot of time hanging out with them. Thankfully my wanderlust was satiated at the artist's reception that evening. All the main event artists got to socialize and look at each others' work. As usual the display was amazing. I was certainly not the only one who felt humbled by the sight of it all.


Even though it doesn't have a "drinking party" reputation like some bigger cons, I did drink a lot this year, and almost every night (fun, but very exhausting!). At the bar I was able to get reacquainted with some of the artists I'd been out of touch with for a while, like Eric Fortune, Dan Dos Santos, and Michael C. Hayes who brought along his awesome artist table-assistant Thomas Babbey. Yes, Thursday definitely set the tone for great things to come.

Friday was insane. I spent most of the day at the Heritage Center either at my table or at Le Bistro. Most of my friends either had tables of their own to watch, or went over to the Devorris Center to watch lectures (which I unfortunately missed out on this year). I may not have been there, but I heard many a joke about Donato's "hand commissions." (good one, D!)

While the artists in the Showcase were setting up, I grabbed dinner at the hotel with Daniel de Leon, Kyle Thomas, Jean Scrocco, and (the legendary) Greg Hildebrandt. Jean (who is not only Greg's partner but also his agent) recounted stories about the art trade and how some of Greg's work was devalued in an estate sale when a collector died unexpectedly without leaving a will. Among other things (including a great rant about how modern art is the biggest joke ever played on society), Greg talked about his foray into pin-up art, and how he loves working with the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

After dinner I toured the Showcase a bit, but it was so packed with people I could barely see the art! (How cool is that??!) Read more about the Showcase at my pal Laura's blog.

I also had a portfolio review with Jeremy Jarvis, Senior Art Director for Magic: The Gathering, that night. It was a good review. Jeremy's cool, and very easy to talk to. He made some keen observations about my work, like the fact that it's mostly figurative, but I rely mainly on environment for narrative. Very interesting - really made me think about my approach. Best of all, I'm looking forward to doing some work for Magic next month.

Friday night culminated in what was possibly the best hotel party I've ever been to, thrown by Grant "The Apparatus" Cooley, our resident p(ART)y animal. ;) I left around 3 AM, and there were still people going strong.

"Where did she go?" "I'll bet she's out drinking with those weirdos again."

I think it goes without saying that I was a complete zombie on Saturday. Breakfast was fun, but my head hurt increasingly as the group I was sitting with started waxing philosophical about politics... I digress. I spent more time at my table on Saturday, and it was a bit more fun with the increased amount of students in attendance. I love talking to students. I had a wonderful opportunity to review two student portfolios, and I think I was able to offer sound advice, despite the sleep deficit.

Saturday night we went out to a brewpub and chased our dinner with the first annual Illuxcon Art Jam! featuring multi-talented artists performing live music.

The Musical Stylings of Harchar and Zug

I'm not *entirely* sure how I was still upright long enough to go hang out at the Ramada bar yet again, but I had the pleasure of learning to speak Irish with the spry and infamous Patrick Jones, and sipping some Irish whiskey and bourbon with new acquaintance Tim Winkler.

Sunday had a mildly somber tone to it, mostly because we all knew we had to leave soon. (I waited to break into a full cry till I got home). Still I enjoyed the last day at the Heritage Center, minding my table, signing books, selling prints, and talking to curious onlookers. The show was open to the public on Sunday, so there's an interesting (or boring) shift in the questions people ask. You get a lot of "how long did that take you?" and "Where do you get your ideas?" etc. etc. Not that people shouldn't ask these questions necessarily, but sometimes I think people just talk for the sake of talking.

I still couldn't sit still, so me and Eric, along with Laura and Chris, hiked over to Sheetz to buy Dan a giant can of Red Bull.

At around 3:00 I took down my booth. Poor Lauren was waiting on me to go to lunch, yet I had forsaken her, and she lamented as she ate a stale pop tart to keep from starving. ;)

I did have a chance to thank Pat before rolling out, but it never feels like enough. I didn't make a whole lot of money (almost sold an original oil but the couple decided to buy another painting instead), but what I did make on print sales I used to buy other artists' prints (Hooray! I can finally add to my growing collection of Lucas Graciano prints hanging in my studio) and donated the rest to next year's Illuxcon scholarship fund.

It's ridiculous how much I haven't mentioned here. There just isn't enough room in my brain or on a page to recount everything in one go. If you have a memory we shared, or of something else cool, please write it down and send it to me.

To The Continued Success Of The Fantasy Artist Community.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Illuxcon 3 - Another Amazing Convention!!!

The fantasy illustrator family is alive and well, and for the third year in a row IlluXCon was a magical place to be. We all shared our images, techniques, critiques, and the vast amount of inspiration that comes naturally when you put a bunch of creative people together.

Photo by Laura Diehl

A very special THANK YOU to Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire for being so wonderful and accommodating to all of us. You outdid yourselves again this year!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Illuxcon 3 UPDATE

Due to a last-minute cancellation, I will be participating in this year's main show! This is an incredible and exciting opportunity, and I owe many thanks to Pat and Jeannie for their consideration!!

Since I was originally going to participate in the Showcase, I have a lot of prints already made, but am currently scurrying around trying to find/make bigger work to hang. This should be lots of fun, and a whirlwind two days in preparation... Here goes! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Portrait of Joe & Cassie Graus


On request, Joe is wearing modified Dawn of War scout armor, and his wife Cassie wears a purple and green "space fur" stole. The portrait also features their 4 cats (of Animal Planet's CATS 101 fame), from L to R: Templeton, Caruthers, Walnut, and Fergie.

Oil on illustration board, 22 x 30 inches.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


After a year of renovations and repairs, a hefty loan, all of our savings, and months of schlepping, hauling, and backbreaking labor, we are FINALLY moved into our new house.

Some before and after shots, taken before we painted and moved our stuff in:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Aaron Sikstrom in DPI Magazine

Taiwanese publication DPI Magazine featured Aaron Sikstrom & his delicious collaborations with me and other artists:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thoughts On Creative Burnout

I randomly clicked a link to an online company called ReCourses ( whose aim is to provide helpful content to creative businesses.

The first position paper I downloaded was titled Creative Burnout, which stuck out since it's a subject I've become too familiar with lately. The writing overall is a bit purple in places, but there was a passage in there that I feel is worth sharing over and over again. It's a concept I've thought about many times but never heard put so simply:

"There is no such thing as creative burnout... Creativity is what happens when everything else is okay. In other words, when you aren’t creative it’s because other things are wrong. Unbound, creativity is inevitable."

The last line of the paper is cute and to the point: "Make them okay."

That's what this month is about for me. By next month I will finally be finished moving into the new house. My studio will be set up and not in boxes and half-moved disarray. I'm saving up to purchase some better-working equipment and my own internet connection. I have a few other fresh starts planned that should (hopefully) reduce some of the stress that's made 2010 a very slow year for me so far, artistically. It's worth it to stop and take stock every once in a while, and figure out what's hindering your progress toward your creative goals. And when you find them, fix them!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Cover Art

Just released on the client's blog today: Cover artwork for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

But wait, there's more! See the full version over on the LotFP blog.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spectrum 17

I just received word yesterday that my work has been accepted to Spectrum 17. I'm thrilled and extremely honored by this, and it will be a long few weeks waiting to find out which piece(s) will be in the book. Congrats to all who made it, and all who entered!

For a little back-story, Spectrum is important to me not just on a professional level, but on a personal level. I've told the story a few times. My granddad (who loved sci-fi novels, D&D, etc.) bought me a copy of Spectrum when I was a teenager, and that act turned out to be the single biggest turning point in my artistic focus; I had always wanted to be an artist, but until reading that book, I didn't realize I had such a passion for fantastic art. Exactly 10 years later, I got to tell him the good news that one of my pieces had been accepted to Spectrum 15, just before he passed away. So the publication itself brings back good memories of growing up, and serves as a reminder of things coming full circle.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting it Together

I've been thinking about giving this blog more of a 'for up and coming artists' twist for a while now. I have a short list of topics to cover, but I keep coming back to time management, partially because it's something I've gotten much better about over the years, and partially because I feel I still have so much room to grow there.

Two weeks ago an old friend was shot and killed. It was an epic event that ground all gears to a halt among my circle of friends, as everyone mourned and put together an absolutely unforgettable wake and funeral, and we all supported each other.

While it was great that the tragedy brought so many people together, I couldn't help but notice how badly my art schedule was suffering. Two weeks is a VERY long time, especially in the illustration world. Normally I could have 1 or 2 finished pieces in that span, even with my full-time day job to contend with, but instead I've got a backlog, and nothing to show for that time.

So I'm determined not to let it overwhelm me in March! Here's my step-by-step plan for getting back in action:

Step 1. Purchase several cans of strong coffee. I drink Cafe Du Monde original New Orleans Coffee & Chicory because it's cheap, strong and awesome.
Step 2. Give updates to all clients, even if they're small updates. One of the worst feelings in the world for a client is thinking their illustrator has fallen off the face of the earth.
Step 3. Make a to-do list, and prioritize it. Know it like a mantra: The portfolio pieces I didn't get to do last month CAN and WILL still happen. I WILL get everything done.
Step 4. Update my @#$%# blog. I'll let you know if all this works.

I'll write more about time management later... when I have more time. Ha.

As a side note, I found one of my character illos for Dragon #384 on the Wizards site:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

From ArtOrder- "Can I be a Cover Artist?"

Another great post by Jon Schindehette in his ArtOrder "Ask the Art Director" series; every up-and-coming fantasy illustrator should read it.

January in review

Well, I made it to February! Artistically, January was the busiest month I've EVER had... So far.

One project that was ongoing between December & January finally got released last Friday: I switched up my style a bit for the oil-painted cover of issue #1 of the UK startup Thru The Portal magazine.

[process pics]

I also finished up the Peter Pan collab with Aaron Sikstrom ( He titled the piece "Trust," which is remarkably appropriate, considering collaboration relies on trust to work, and it's something I've been getting very well acquainted with lately.


I still have at least 4 other pieces from January I can think of off the top of my head that are under NDA until later this month. This month is already getting booked quickly- a couple ImagineFX Q&As on the horizon as well as a really awesome piece for a game box set cover. I'm going to try to make time for a personal piece as well... hopefully.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beautiful Grim, final artwork


As Mike Sass suggested I'll probably hit the dress with one more coat of glaze to pop the color, but otherwise this is finished. Read about the progress in this previous entry.