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!
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 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!
LOOKING BACK THROUGH TIME
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.”
STOPPING IN TO let you know I updated a couple of pages in the website.
You can now find updated information about card signings. I remain happy to sign cards but I am making some new requests for how to handle it. I hope this makes things clearer and more consistent across platforms, and brings everyone onto the same page. That’s the intent, anyway.
I also fixed the formatting of my story “Imp Possible Situations” which got messed up when I moved servers a few years ago. Many old posts still have those formatting errors, but if I have to do them all by hand … well, it probably won’t get done. (Website savvy friends are invited to explain how to do this globally, but right now, I’m doing it quotation mark by quotation mark, one at a time.)
Regardless, the story should be more readable now.
I’ve been tinkering elsewhere in the site. There are some small details added into the Bibliography (not much; it needs a LOT of work) and in the “About Me” of other sides of me, which was getting a bit long in the tooth.
But hey, so am I. The website, though? That I can renovate! There should be more to come as I can find time.
Last tidbit: if you’re a Pinterest person, I have committed Pinterest. It’s a bit weird in places. Then again, so am I. I’m thinkin’ you already knew that.
ETA 19feb2016: For no apparent reason, WordPress has decided to turn comments off for this post. I don’t know why this should be, but it is Not Working As Intended. I monitor posts but do not turn them off as a matter of habit. If I get this figured out, you’ll see this message go away!
January 1st is just another day on our Gregorian calendar, the arbitrary mark of a new year, but every culture that marks time … which is to say, pretty much all of them … considers their new year to be a time for reflection on the past and assessment of the future. Doesn’t matter if it’s Rosh Hashanah, Samhain, the inundation flooding of the Nile, or the year of the Monkey that is coming up next. Janus is a universal metaphor.
Here I write at the end of the day on January 1st, thinking of the past and the future. The cusp of the year won’t let me go quite yet, so I’d like to natter at you a little bit. Then, maybe, I’ll get on with the program that is going to be 2016.
ILLUXCON WAS EVERYTHING I hoped for. I came away inspired in heart and mind, with a renewed determination to be and do the creative work I love. In the process, the show delivered many unanticipated surprises, some good and some not so welcome.
ILLUXCON IS JUST a week away now. I started a post for the blog long before now, but preparing for the show has captured my every waking moment. What art should I take. Do I need to make new prints; should I even take prints to a top-tier show like this. Would the attendees be interesting in this odd-ball thing I do, or that. So many questions.
If you want to see something about the show, this trailer is a few years old but epitomizes what I have to look forward to. To me, IlluxCon is exciting and daunting in equal measure.
There are, of course, all the usual worries about any trip. Airline craziness, hotel reservations, dogsitting arrangements. I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending conventions, so it’s like re-learning to ride a bicycle. On a high wire. In a stiff wind. With monsters waiting on every side.
I make a lot of lists. Things to do: pack up art and get it shipped off; put together a walkabout notebook of representative work. Lists of things not to forget: business cards; things to draw, sketch, and make notes with; a sketchbook or two; my strongest glasses I need when drawing; cables for my hardware; flyers and handouts. Clothes that aren’t an embarrassment but are comfortable to move in, work in, stand in, something nice go out to dinner in.
I fight off what Amanda Palmer calls “the Fraud Police” pretty much daily. (If you don’t want to watch the video, here is the transcript.) Yet I’m truly looking forward to attending. I am excited by what I’m going to learn. I’m eager to see old friends, as well as wondering what cool people I’m going to meet up with, some who are strangers and some of whom I have conversed with via email.
And though it all, I’m hungry… hungry… for the inspiration and revitalization I am sure will result. I’ve been working alone in a vacuum for far too long. I’ve already started tinkering with this website, and will do more — probably a lot more after I return. And I will most certainly be planning new plans, new paintings, new projects. Transformations.
If you come to IlluxCon this year, look for me among the Showcase Artists. No, scratch that. Yes, you WILL find me there Friday and Saturday evening, but mainly you should look for me attending the panels and demos and talking with those whose work I admire beyond all words. I’ll be out finding new work to be awed and inspired by. I am going to go and soak up all the good vibes, the joy and love for the genre, the will and determination and the explosive exhuberance of being a creative person at heart, surrounded by astoundingly creative, accomplished, skilled people and those who love them.
I am grateful to have this opportunity, and I plan to make the most of it.
Also? I’m looking forward to what I’ll have to write about on this blog, afterward.
Blogging fell off my agenda, one of many things. And by “blogging” I mean the chatty or philosophical posts, not the ones begging you to please buy mah artz! I’d like to get back to talking with you, whoever you are out there, even if I don’t post like clockwork.
At some point, I may write about what a wild ride this project was. It was epic. We used and over-used the analogy of the Fellowship of the Ring, first in silly jest and later in gritty deathmarch determination. The effort to get the Ring to Mount Doom (getting the book to press) seemed to be all that.
It seems to have been worth it. The Ring has been delivered, I still have all my fingers (not for lack of trying to burn one off early in the project), and the Shire is cleansed. Fans seem happy with the new edition and all is right with the world.
Well, what next? Follow me over the jump and let’s talk about that.
HYMN TO TOURACH was not a title that made an impression on me initially. At the close of a long convention — Origins, I believe — I was saying goodbye to Sandra Everingham who was then Magic’s art director with Wizards of the Coast. Around us, booths were being torn down, curtains between stalls shoved aside as people loaded boxes to ship home, forklifts and pallet loaders rumbling by.
“I’d like to have you do this card,” she said.
The name went in one ear and out the other, half-heard in the din. “What is that supposed to be?” I asked.
“Three or four people working together to cast a spell.”
“All right,” said I. “I can do that.”
I had no inkling the picture would be the most iconic Magic card I would ever paint.