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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.

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.)

rak-harold-mcneil-quinton-hoover-jason-rak-and-me

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.

samples

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

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19 Jul 2016

Pictures Have Stories: Get the Picture?

SOME COMMISSIONS ARE special.

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.

TUNNELS & TROLLS GOES MOBILE
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

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.”

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22 Jan 2016

Minor Updates

cards to be signedSTOPPING 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.

Jakrista and the Imp
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!

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1 Jan 2016

A New Year Awakens

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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.

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6 Dec 2015

Driven to Distraction

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.

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13 Oct 2015

IlluxCon 8

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 call it "High Wire." It's what my life feels like most days.

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 don't write much by hand, but I intend to take a lot of notes while I'm away.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.

Consider yourself warned.

 

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