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31 Jan 2017

On Faces, Seeing, and Things Magical

WHEN I LAUNCHED the Mages and Sages project on Patreon three weeks ago, I hoped a few people would be interested in what I proposed: that I wanted to make new art on a theme of the magical and the fantastical, the wise and the wizardly, and I needed help to make that possible.

wizard, bearded, male, man, mages, sages, Liz Danforth, magical, magician, Patreon

Two dozen people came forward saying “I am interested. Please do this thing.” That message felt magical in its own right, and I took it to heart. I feel proud and humbled and beholden to every single one of these folks.

After all, it’s one thing to stand up on in a public venue and declare “Hey, I’m a Maker, hear me roar! Rawrr!” (In truth, that’s the essential first stage: faith in myself combined with passion for my work. )

 It’s quite another to have others shout “I believe in you! Please Make more!” I don’t know all the individuals supporting me, and few of them in real life. This is scary. It is wonderful. It is magical. And when one of the backers writes the words you see below, telling me why he’s backing my project? This is motivating as hell, let me tell you.

paper, mask, art, sculpture, non-profit, arts, Zenith Community Arts Foundation, ZCAF, Transformative Power of Art, Greater Washington DC Continue reading

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24 Jan 2017

Test post

IF YOU GOT a message about a previous password-protected post? That was a test and only a test. I expect to have a REAL post for you in the near future.

Meanwhile, here’s a little love for you. Just because.






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8 Jan 2017

Art, Lemons, and Plans

I AM EXCITED. Something pretty astounding happened last week. How often does a person get to hear that the work they’ve been doing for decades is truly respected and appreciated? Not just in ones and twos, but a veritable chorus of love and respect for my work, my art, and my contributions to the gaming industry and the hobby we share?

Really, I didn’t know. I knew I had some fans of my work, and maybe fellow professionals remembered me from the old days, but … 

Thanks, thank you, you like me, you really like me, you love me, Oscar, speech, pop culture

Sally Field is consistently misquoted for her Oscar acceptance speech from 1985.

With that awareness made manifest, I am going to ask a favor of you. (For the tl,dr version, you can go straight to my Patreon page.)

Wednesday evening I got an email from the GenCon Art Show: “We regret to inform you that your submission was not among those chosen for inclusion in the 2017 show.”

Oh how I’m dating myself here.

For the non-gamers who read me here, GenCon is bigtime game convention that has been around since 1968. What started as a wargame convention on a college campus in Lake Geneva (WI), the four-day convention now takes place in Indianapolis and draws more than 60,000 attendees.

I attended as a professional pretty much every year from the mid-70s until the late 90s, when “life-in-progress” swept me away. Each summer I would go to Origins first (another big game convention) where I reconnected with my friends and professional peers, talked shop and upcoming projects, shared dinners, drinks, and parties. A few weeks later at GenCon, I’d seal the deals for projects discussed at Origins. That one-two rhythm pretty much defined my worklife from one year to the next.

When things changed, I spent too long down that “life-in-progress” hellhole. Slowly I got my act together again, announcing my return by “rebooting the freelancer” six years ago. I have climbed steadily upward ever since.

update reboot life Universe restart

With the show’s 50th anniversary celebrating gaming’s past, I thought “Well, I was not an insignificant part of that history. No better time than now.” I submitted samples of my work to the art show’s jury, and hoped they would recognize my signature, my style. I hoped they would like my work enough to bring me on board.

original art, painting, mage, magician, Tunnels & Trolls, beautiful, wizard, elephant, Iron Crown, MERP, ccgs, inkwork, illlustration, elegant, fairy

Samples submitted to jury. The presentation was more orderly.

So I was disappointed by the rejection, of course, and somewhat surprised. Honestly, I was not particularly upset. I’d been MIA from the show for many years, and hey, maybe the judges just prefer digital art or newer artists.  Still, I had Facebook open in another tab when I got the email, so I posted that Wow, I wasn’t accepted. *blink*

To swipe a headline from those ghastly clickbait websites, I had no inkling what would happen next.

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30 Dec 2016

Facing Bravely Forward

2016, the old year, despair, grief, loss, endings, new beginningsWHAT A YEAR.

I expect many blogs and articles will start with those words. At the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one, we (humans in general) always look back and forward, no matter what calendrical system we use.

I have a few friends for whom 2016 was (to quote one) “the best year of my life.” They express dismay that their friends can’t wait to see 2016 end, GTFO and don’t let the door hitcha on the way out.

Time is a very human concept, or at least the demarcation of it is. Consider the twice-yearly arguments about spring forward, fall back! Years are likewise arbitrary demarcations, but I assert they are part of how we grasp our place in time. Our birth year. When we graduated. A wedding. A divorce. A death. Dates are part of the mental metadata.

1066. 1492. Those string of numbers contain a world of information and food for thought to those educated in Western culture.

I doubt 2016 will be remembered as so important a watershed year.

Or rather, I hope it will not.

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31 Oct 2016

Illuxcon IX: A Brain Full of Change

A WEEK AGO, I was at Illuxcon IX in Reading, PA. This week, I am back home in Tucson but my mind, my heart, and whatever passes for my artistic soul lingers behind. No other event is quite like this one; at least, not in my experience. This post will be more than a “con report” (or at least, that is my intent) but let’s see what I can cover.

Illuxcon, imaginative realism, artwork, original art, painting, fantasyOMG THE ART
Two thousand works of art of “imaginative realism” by some of the most revered, respected, laureled, and accomplished names in the business. Donato Giancola. Michael Whelan. Greg Hildebrandt. Don Maitz. Stephanie Law. Tom Kidd. Patrick Jones. Winona Nelson. Some are names you don’t know. Other names you should know, or learn, like Matthew Stewart and Annie Stegg and Chris Seaman. [Not all artists maintain personal websites, to explain some lack of links.]

There were sculptors too, like Thomas Kuebler who created one of the show’s iconic images (“Medusa”) which I found unsettling every time I entered the Goggleworks building. Or Kristine and Colin Pool, whose “Hot Diggety Dog,” always tastefully photographed in publicity shots, is wonderfully well-executed and quite NSFW.

medusa illuxcon Kuebler art sculpture fantasy imaginative-realism

Folk I knew from my early gaming days had art on display, showing robust skill and vision that you might have underestimated 20 or 30 years ago. Or not — they were remarkable and recognized even then. Jeff Easley was there, and Rob Alexander and April Lee and Mark Poole and Tom Baxa and Jeff Menges.

Screaming with Frustration

The galleries overflowed with works of excruciating photorealism, graphical designy works, and gestural surrealism approaching non-figurative abstraction. Some works seethed with violence, some were gentle as gossamer, and there was everything between. Dave Seeley, an exceptional artist in his own right, shared 197 photographs of the three floors of the show. Click over, and then imagine what it was like to be there in person.

As I walked among these works, my emotions spanned a dozen dimensions: awe, amazement, delight, horror, respect, heartache, love, affirmation, envy, laughter, occasionally shock. Often, I drowned in a depressive despair spawned of extreme feelings of inadequacy.

This show was the first place I’ve ever taken a cane with me to help walking around. I spent decades as a runner in an effort to battle my weight, eventually pounding a rotten ankle to scar tissue and arthritic flinders. The other leg has a bad knee. Walking a few blocks or standing for a time is no longer easy any more.

I thought the cane would help. It did, but not enough. Friends and fans took up the slack.

Foremost, Tina and Jason Rak really stepped up to the plate. I first met them on a Magic tour in 1995, and Jason has never lost his deer-in-the-headlights expression around artists. They even took it with good humor when we lost our collective minds searching my Showcase booth for a painting we were certain was there, but which was nowhere to be found. (We had been looking at pictures of my work on Tina’s phone earlier, and somehow this translated to “I know I saw it here today!” It was, in fact, back home.)


L to R: Harold McNeil, Quinton Hoover, Jason Rak, and me. © 1995 Tina Rak Used with permission.

I crossed paths with Josh Newberry early in the show, and he and his companions checked in with me early and often. Tony Manion saved my bacon by giving me a satchel in place of the one I’d forgotten to pack. At the end of the show, Seth Polansky, Kelley Slagle (the director responsible for the oh-ghawds-go-see-it-naow film Of Dice and Men), and Brian Stillman toted boxes of my unsold art up to their hotel room, and over to the Goggleworks for shipping the next day.

I literally could not have managed it alone, and I am deeply grateful to all these people. Next year, I need to make better plans. I’d rather just hang out to enjoy the company and companionship of such friends, and not impose! (But thank you again anyway, all of you.)

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9 Oct 2016

Life in Progress: Art and More

YEAAHH…. LONG TIME, no see. Again.

Since we last talked, many projects have eaten my brain: artwork for MetaArcade‘s Tunnels & Trolls and story creation app, for GroupSNE (the Japanese translator and publisher of the Tunnels & Trolls rules and their support magazine), for Lester Smith’s Patreon, and recently a slew of paintings for a board game from Jeff Tibbett’s Pacific Rim. There were private commissions too, some small card alterations and also regular paintings. I even worked on several short stories and began cobbling together a new RPG adventure I’d like to finish and publish.


The desire to blog is there, but not the bandwidth. More below…

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Comments Off on Pictures Have Stories: Get the Picture?
19 Jul 2016

Pictures Have Stories: Get the Picture?


Earlier this year, a nice spring morning brought me an exceptional email. The writer, Brian, introduced himself as a longtime fan of my work, someone who played Tunnels & Trolls from as far back as the fourth edition, and who even contributed a few snares into the Grimtooth’s Traps books.

Tunnels & Trolls, T&T, sorcery, sorceress, cat, magic, magician, adventurers

Fourth edition cover of Tunnels & Trolls, 1976.

Brian wanted to know if I might create a picture as a gift for his friend—in fact, a gift for the fellow who’d introduced him to gaming back in 1977. It would be for his friend’s upcoming 50th birthday. Was I interested?

No way…! I wasn’t just interested, I was hooked. Tell me more, I said!

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2 Jul 2016

Going Mobile

TO MY AMAZEMENT (and perhaps to yours) months have not passed since my last update. It’s not even two full weeks! How long can I maintain this frenetic pace?? Only time will tell.

The last couple of weeks have been full of wonderful things. I have too many things I’d like to share, so let’s just go with the really big news.

On June 30th, VentureBeat carried the exclusive announcement that MetaArcade’s David Reid had partnered with the Fellowship of the Troll to bring Tunnels & Trolls to mobile gaming. Users will get to play, create, and self-publish their own narrative adventures, with iconic T&T material as the initial playable examples and subsequent launchpad.

mobile, phone, app, application, Tunnels & Trolls, T&T, MetaArcade, fantasy, role-playing, narrative, adventure

Sceen mock-up as imagined by my Fellowship colleague Steve Crompton

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20 Jun 2016

Life is Change

AT THE BEGINNING of the year, I had a clever plan. I would write a blog post at least once a month, preferably once every two weeks. I didn’t think that was too ambitious, and I had plenty of ideas.

But it was indeed too ambitious. I couldn’t make time to turn out even short pieces. I had too much on my plate, too many fires to light or to fight. I freaked out in March when I realized I wasn’t going to hit even that once-a-month target, and by April I realized it would remain hit or miss until at least May. I was so tired. To quote Bilbo:

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

What was special about May? It was my self-imposed deadline: time and, perhaps past due time to take a leap of faith.

Bilbo says he needs a holiday in that video clip. It wasn’t a holiday I needed. I needed a major change.

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20 Feb 2016

Ten Things You May Not Have Known About Me

I WAS HAVING a groupfest dinner at IlluxCon a few months ago, and found myself in a peculiar but recurring situation. One of the fellows at the table only knew I did Magic cards. One kinda knew I had a history in old school tabletop games. None were really familiar with what I have done over the years.

Then just today, I found another slice of my history being described (mostly but not wholly accurately) at Jimmy Maher’s The Digital Antiquarian. It was actually nice to see what he had to say, because I sometimes feel a bit “disappeared” about projects I’ve been involved in, and places I’ve appeared. (So thank you again, Jimmy.)

It seems the universe is telling me to fill out some of my history. This post may not be a formal “Top Ten” list, but since you probably know some things and not others, I expect you’ll stumble on ten new things. Maybe more!

Widget 10

Truth is, trying to explain (much less remember) all the things I’ve done in the last forty-odd years can be weird. First of all, I see all the things I’ve done as related, even if others do not. If you know about artwork in games, how could you not know about the artwork and maps in novels and anthologies? If you know something of my computer game work, why not the tabletop game design work? Mosaics, T-shirts, dog art, essays about gaming in national magazines? Aren’t they all of a kind?

Then it gets more complicated, because I tend to focus on what I’m doing now, or what I am planning to do next, and not looking back at what I’ve finished. (I’ll note that this accrues both benefits and disadvantages. I’m not sure which predominates, so I must say this is just how it is.)

Intellectually, I know people do not (can not) pay attention to All The Things others do. Even the fantastically famous have obscure movies or publications, things only their most ardent or obsessive fans remember. I make no claim to being one of the “fantastically famous” but I figured I’d try to put together a few things about me that you might have overlooked. And I hope you’ll find some entertaining or at least amusing.

For the tl,dr version, look at my somewhat incoherent and incomplete Bibliography here on the site. I’ll be doing formatting fixes and content updates when I can, but right now much of it reads like a disorderly pile of notes. For a more visual array (but even more incomplete at the time of this writing), I’ve started a Pinterest page of “Projects I’ve Worked On.”

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