TIME TO DUST off this blog! To say “I have been busy” is lame; we are all busy these days. Help yourself to a mix of upcoming news and a look at what I’ve been up to.
I AM STILL LEARNING
The prospect of attending the virtual SmART School under Donato Giancola, starting next month, excites me more than I can say. I was fortunate to land one of only eight slots he makes available here.
Donato and I have been friendly acquaintances for decades. I got to know him a bit back in 1998 when my ex and I brought him to town for a phenomenal science fiction event for the Phoenix Library system. Donato and space artist Bob McCall showcased the visual arts for the event, while the likes of Saberhagen, McKiernan, Turtledove, Roberson, Rawn, Lindskold, Vardeman, Zahn, and Foster spoke of the craft of their writing in the genre.
Donato’s professional star has gone supernova since then, and we have touched base when I attended IlluxCon these last few years. Studying under his mentorship directly is going to be a significantly different experience.
AS RECENTLY AS seven weeks ago, I expected not to attend this year’s Gen Con until, on June 23rd, David Reid of MetaArcade asked me to reconsider. These are the folks bringing Tunnels & Trolls™ Adventures to mobile gaming, and I’ve written a little about them before. MetaArcade’s PR team wanted to bring me to the show, to feature me there at the booth.
After the silly kerfluffle about my not being accepted into the Gen Con Art Show, I really didn’t have good enough reasons to go. Yes, I wanted to see friends, but professionally it made little sense. MetaArcade changed that.
META/ARCADE’S META MetaArcade launches the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures app on the first day of the show, August 17th, and I’m coming along to help them celebrate. They jumped through the hoops to make the game available for free in the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. You’ll be able to play some of the mini-solos from Sorcerer’s Apprentice magazine and classic solitaires. If you want to skip the ads, the cost is pretty minimal even by my frugal standards.
I am really kinda jazzed to see what comes next. The Adventure Creator (allowing you to script your own adventures) definitely excites me, although that part is still in the works. Even so, you might get a glimpse of where it stands while you’re at the show.
GOING TO GEN CON 50
David told me the first press inquiries specifically asked to talk to me. (Seriously?? Not David, not Rick Loomis?) I found this a little daunting, but David seemed to think I have plenty of stories to tell.
As usual, my artwork takes pride of place, being what I am best known for. My art, old and new, features heavily among the images you see in the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures.
(I do share virtual space in the app with that awesome Josh Kirby fella. He illustrated a lot of early T&T books published in the UK. However, since passing away 16 years ago, he is, alas, not producing new T&T art like he did back in the day.)
Prospective interviewers might explore more than my industry credentials as an artist. I am among the earliest of the female professionals in the role-playing game industry, with credits in writing, editing, and design-and-development for both tabletop publications and computer games. I am a 1995 Hall of Fame inductee into the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design, and I have been working in the field for nearly forty years.
So yeah, I guess I have a few stories I can share.
A NEW PAINTING
As part of launching the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, MetaArcade asked me to create a new painting just for the show. David gave me full creative freedom to choose the content, and after considering a few ideas, I hit on the perfect idea.
Remember this, the picture on the left? I wrote about it back when I sold the original, calling it “Into the Tunnels.” This picture perfectly captures the swords-and-sorcery aesthetic of the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures. A mixed group of adventurers have partied up for some mayhem, some mischief, and some sweet rewards at the end of their hair-raising escapades.
I always felt it was one of my better images but nevertheless incomplete. I’d wanted a tunnel scene beyond that “moongate” from the beginning, but feared to ruin the clean lines of the main composition. Therefore, I did the background image as a separate drawing, a stalactite-draped cavern, and we popped it into the moongate’s “window” after-the-fact.
It worked out, and the results looked like the yellow box image on the right: sufficient for the purposes of publication, but a little unsatisfactory artistically.
Revisiting the image for MetaArcade’s launch of the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures at Gen Con? This was just what the doctor ordered. I could make the piece look the way I wanted it in the first place, only even better. I would integrate the cavern into the whole, and this work would be in full color… and I would muster decades of additional experience as a painter.
You are looking at the first public view of the results below. I’m calling this one “Front Gate.” Responding to their call to adventure, our heroes will cross that threshold, and their world will never be the same.
Press folks will be able to get a conventional print of the picture, with a splash of logo soup that celebrates the launch of the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures app.
From me, you will be able to purchase a fine art giclée print with archival inks, a signed edition limited to 40 copies, printed on Hahnemühle Harman Matte Cotton Smooth (300 gsm) pure cotton art paper. You can thumbtack it to your dorm room wall if you must, or you’ll be able to frame it as an heirloom to hand down to your grandkids. I am carrying only 10 with me to the show, so if you want to take one home with you, come to the booth early. (I will take orders to ship after I get back from the show, if necessary.)
COME SEE ME!
Come say hi, at least; that will mean a lot to me. If you want something to purchase, I can offer a selection of large and small prints of my older art, some original works, and even some of my playmats (courtesy of Josh Krause of Original Magic Art). I am bringing less than if I would have for a booth in the Artist Alley. Space considerations limit me, but I also have other professional obligations during the show.
Please bring your Magic cards to be signed, or for any of the other card games I worked on over the years. (My card list of 187 images is here, for Magic and other games.) Please be aware that I am asking $1 per signature for autographs on cards, for all the same reasons I talk about on my card-signing page here on the website.
I will not charge to sign any items purchased in our Flying Buffalo + MetaArcade booth, but if you bring in a stack of 200 cards, I’m definitely going to hold you to the signing fee (and may ask you to bring me just 20 at a time if other people are waiting).
On the spot, you will be able to commission alterations or sketches on cards or playmats or in sketchbooks. If the request is complex, I might have to take your information and do the art after I come home. I will have a selection of white-back Artist Proofs of Magic and maybe even some AP Battletech cards with me for sale.
FLYING BUFFALO You’ll find me in the middle of things: Flying Buffalo on one side, and MetaArcade on the other. I think this entirely appropriate as I have my feet in both camps! We will be at Booth #509 in a large 20′ × 10′ space near the Paizo people.
Take the time to meet and chat with most of my stalwart co-conspirators on the Deluxe edition of T&T! Although Ken St Andre opted out of Gen Con, the other members of the Fellowship will be in attendance with me: Bear Peters, Steve Crompton, and Rick Loomis. You’ll be able to pick up a copy of the tabletop Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rulebook if you missed getting one before now, and plenty of other goodies… even some pretty cool stickers to declare You Were There!
Be sure to congratulate Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo: he started attending Gen Con 41 years ago, and has never missed one since. No other publisher or vendor has been there for as long and so consistently. Rick is definitely one of the unsung heroes of the industry.
I lamented the idea I wouldn’t be seeing old friends when I thought I would not make it to Gen Con 50. Now that I will be there after all? I am eagerly looking forward to seeing everyone!
I hope I have time — and stamina — to do so. During the Magic Grand Prix Vegas in June, I found out just how much my crappy-bad knee and arthritic ankle have begun limiting my mobility. I can walk but not far, even with my noggin-knocker of a blackthorn shillelagh cane. Gen Con exhausted me when I was considerably younger! Friends have promised assistance if I need it, but I do dread the physical challenges of the show.
So for now, my old friends, don’t freak out if you see me in a wheelchair, or if I don’t make it to all the after-hours dinners and shindigs I would have gone to in the past. When someone asked at GPVegas, “Liz, how’s your health?” I was honestly able to answer “Better than it looks, actually.” I anticipate some significant and beneficial procedures before the end of the year, and my doctor is pretty impressed with all the indicators to date. Unfortunately, it looks bad for now, but trust me, it’s gonna be better.
By Gen Con 51, you won’t even recognize me. Come hunt me down for this one so you can take before-and-after pictures, and we’ll celebrate together next year!
HEY THERE! Long time, with no updates getting written here? Sheesh*. But it’s high darn time I say something about Grand Prix Las Vegas, since I’ll be there in just a few days.
The last few months, I have been preparing for my first Magic the Gathering Grand Prix event. (Grand Prix Las Vegas, June 14-18.)
I’m excited and stressed in equal measure because I don’t exactly know what I’ve gotten myself in for, despite generous advice and librarian-class research. I already know there’s more I should have done that’s not gonna happen before I leave town. It’s… a learning experience.
Because of the Vegas Grand Prix, I expect some people will come to this blog who never set virtual foot here before. Let me give you some shortcuts for the things you might be looking for…
Caveat: the website overall is woefully out of date. The card list is current primarily because I haven’t done new card art in years. Everything else? Hahahahaha! I have been working a lot, making new art and even going to shows like IlluxCon. Keeping up the website remains low on my priority list. For now, assume it’s cobwebby.
Magic the Gathering (Wizards of the Coast)
Middle Earth ccg (Iron Crown)
Legend of Five Rings (AEG)
Legend of the Burning Sands (AEG)
Vampire: the Eternal Struggle
7th Sea (AEG)
Wheel of Time (Precedence)
War Cry: Siege of Darkness (Sabertooth)
Dragon Storm (Black Dragon)
Xxxenophile (Palliard Press)
Everway (Wizards of the Coast)
AT THE SHOW
Look for me beside this sign.
I’ll be available for signatures, and I will do small sketches and minor card alterations. I may set up a sign-up system for sketches and alters, but I have to see how things flow. Bear with me, please.
Here’s what I’ll have available for sale:
Original art. I’m driving, which makes this easier.
Almost all MtG originals have been sold long since; I’ll bring what I have. I am also bringing a selection of paintings and artwork for other games.
Prints. Some Magic, some not. Some larger (full press-run print runs, signed limited edition), some postcard-sized mini-prints.
APs, Tokens, and Pre-made Alters. It’s a mixed bag of experiments, weirdness, and “hold my beer; what happens if I dothis?”
Playmats. In partnership with Joshua Krause of Original Magic Art, I will have two playmats on offer: the official Hymn to Tourach image; and a reimagined rendering of the floor visible in that card, proportioned to playmat format.
Books. I have a few copies of The Gathering in hardback and soft cover. I have copies of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.
One of a Kind Specialty Items I got into storage and found…
– Hymn to Tourach wristwatch. Doesn’t work. Not sure it ever did but it’s pretty cool!
– 1996 Magic the Gathering Calendar, in original wrap.
– Official WotC T-shirt with Quentin Hoover’s Vesuvan Doppleganger, XL. Barely worn. SOLD
Not going to be in Vegas? Have questions about this, or anything? Drop me a line! Or, y’know, say something in the comments. That works too.
*Well, unless you caught that accidental “Publish” of a draft post. Sheesh twice over! **
**Excuses or reasons why I haven’t been posting? Lately, my Patreon page gets a lot of the kind of attention I’d have put into writing blog posts. I should cross-post what isn’t exclusive to my backers. (A lot is, but not everything.) But hey, I even made a video! [Link explains context, or just watch the fun below.]
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.
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.
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 …
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.)
LEMONADE BEGINS WITH LEMONS 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE KINDNESS OF FRIENDS
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.)
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.)
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…
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.
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!