2 COMMENTS
29 Dec 2018

Good Intentions: Retrospective

DORMANT, NOT DEAD: this blog, that is. The simple truth is that I have had another craaazy year. A lot of new art was created, and I did a little more travel than usual, plus a couple of surgeries. Nothing like rehab to knock one’s good intentions ass over teakettle! Still, writing a year’s-end retrospective now is in order.

A spell-casting magician, with a header "Liz Danforth is Creating Mages and Sages" with a link to patreon.com/LizDanforth

Over the last year, Patreon has received most of my attention. There, I talk about my art and show off my creative efforts. Fear not: you can read many public posts. In other cases, I let my supporters see what I am up to before a post goes public. And about half of what I write is for my patrons alone.

You are genially invited to become a supporter! Patreon support gives me time to do projects I wouldn’t otherwise be able to undertake. It buys me time to make Wonderful Things, and share these things with those who make it possible.

So Much to Learn

What else has been happening? The mentorship I took under Donato Giancola this spring was everything I hoped for, except I have much more I wish I could have done. I poured every day into painting my fingers off, learning, studying. Yet had the class lasted 30 weeks instead of 13, I would still have more I wanted to do: more to learn, more to accomplish. And especially more I wanted to finish.

The incomplete work-in-progress, below, is an homage to the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Begun during the class, I have not been able to get back to it. I did a lot of work on two other pieces during the class, also unfinished. Because they may fit into a specific project I have ahead of me, they might get completed sooner rather than later.

Painting of a golden-metallic "Dr Frankenstein" building a human in a steampunk-like laboratory while a storm rages out the window.

Talking about these pieces as I worked got a lot of my time on the Patreon, by the way. I shared sketches and thumbnails, noodling about how I got from initial concept to this stage of completion, and more. If you like getting into the weeds, looking behind the scenes of my work, Patreon is the place for you.

Travel: Denver and Anaheim

I travelled a bit this past year. I attended two Magic Grand Prix events (but more on that below). In October, in Denver, one of my oldest friends, Rose Beetem chaired the 50th anniversary of the venerable MileHiCon convention. MileHiCon is a literary/fannish convention where I was Artist Guest of Honor back in 1997. (Those in-the-know remember it as the infamous “DonnerCon” where the entire convention was snowed in by a record-breaking blizzard.) For the 50th anniversary, all the previous (still surviving) GOHs were invited to return, and I did, gladly. I visited with Rose and many other old friends, even if their lives, their changes, and the distance of time passed made some almost unrecognizable.

A clear Lucite star commemorating MileHiCon 50, 2018, Special GOH Liz Danforth.

MileHiCon made me feel like I’d come home. Fannish conventions are where I started, after all. One of my first-ever cons was WesterCon in San Francisco, 1973, where I discovered the truth of that cliché about the coldest winter being a summer in that city by the bay. Silly desert rat that I was and am, a sleeveless shirt was NOT suitable despite the midsummer season. I made a similar mistake going to I-Con in April in Long Island NY, many years ago. April in the desert is already HOT, so I left my jacket in the car at the airport. I froze the whole time!

At that early Westercon, artists Alicia Austin, Tim Kirk, and George Barr were all the rage at the time, and I remember one of Alicia’s pieces going at auction for the unheard-of price of over $100 dollars!! The audience gasped and applauded; you’d have thought it was a previously-unrecognized da Vinci painting. I thought Wow, people sell their ART at conventions like this?! I can do that! How awesome would it be, I thought, to be able to travel and have it subsidized by people who wanted to have my art for their very own! (This theme will reappear in a subsequent post next year.)

A staged picture of Liz Danforth (teenaged) with Spock-ears and eyebrows, playing 3D chess.
Straight out of Geeks’R’Us.

It was about the same time I attended one of the earliest Star Trek-focused conventions. (I told you I was a hardcore Trekkie back in my early days!) That convention was Star Trek Lives! if fanlore is accurate. Regardless, I was in the Big Apple for the first time, freakin’ New York City… and I revelled in it. Admittedly, I spent as much time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2.5 days) as I did at the event. Travel provides such opportunities! Gene Wilder’s agent’s offices got a spontaneous, impromptu visit (because I had been a pesky fangrrl writing him fanmail for awhile. And yes, he generously replied, letters I treasure to this day). The day I left town, I had the unnerving experience of being so utterly directionally-challenged that my brain SWORE that I was watching the sun rise in the south. I love to travel but this is an experience I’ve had since–my sense of direction sometimes goes completely haywire.

Returning to the present day: I also attended my first BlizzCon in several years, the annual wallet-extraction extravaganza put on by Blizzard Entertainment for those who love their games. Yes, I still play World of Warcraft (and have since 2005), as well as other games in their franchise, but this was my first opportunity to meet several of my <Smash Mode> guildmates face to face. I got to touch base with Christie Golden, someone I’ve known since we were both just launching our careers. She has been far more prolific and successful than me, with the former doubtless empowering the engine of the latter!

Photograph of Christie Golden and Liz Danforth at Blizzard's autograph booth, November 2018.

The coolest part of going to BlizzCon was not, in fact, the convention itself. As noted elsewhere, it’s the other stuff that happens at the same time. Stuff that happens because one is in the right place at the right time.

Christie was too booked with appearances to get away for even a cup of coffee (unsurprisingly), but my guildmaster (TheMock) knew another Blizzard employee, Carl. Carl kindly led an insider’s tour of the Blizzard campus, Mock and me along with the self-styled President of Kilrogg, guildmate Docworm. While much was (understandably) off-limits, there was a mini-museum, sword-and-shield displays for veteran employees (and you just got a lapel pin for your 5- and 10-year work anniversaries, right?) along with many other wonderful sights. I grinned myself silly over iconic statuary and a Hearthstone tavern, and had an excellent lunch in the on-campus cafeteria. Thanks again to Carl for the kindness and the tour, and to Mock for setting it up.

A twice-life-size statue of the character Illidan from World of Warcraft, a bat-winged and massively-horned night-elf character. The sculpture appears on the campus of Blizzard Entertainment.

More Travel: Magic Grand Prix Events

Less fannishly, I trekked up to Seattle and also to Las Vegas for the Magic Grand Prix tournaments. In both cases, I was able to visit friends I don’t see nearly often enough. During the events, I made sketches, sold prints and cards and books and playmats, and signed a bajillion cards for the fans and players attending the high stakes tournaments.

Announcement of the Magic the Gathering Grand Prix, Seattle, April 5-6 2018.

There is a controversy growing in the artist community about the GP events. I definitely have mixed feelings. On one hand, I agree with those artists boycotting the events: if we are expected to be featured guests whose presence and activity increases attendance as a value-added benefit, then the organizers should make it easier and provide more support than what they do. (Generally, they give nothing more than the cost of an unmonitored table. If you’re lucky, you might get a hotel room but that’s rare.)

However, for now I choose not to boycott, because I see other benefits to attending. Nevertheless, the lack of significant support is altering what events I will go to, and how I participate when I am there.

Although I write in this blog erratically, watch for another after the first of the year that I am calling “Good Intentions: Anticipation.” I plan a look forward into 2019, a Janus-headed pairing to go alongside this retrospective. And I will talk more about this subject then.

Health and Wellness

This has generally been the year of A Turn for the Better for me. I am not so young as I once was (who is?). But a couple of surgeries later, I anticipate being able to keep Making Wonderful Things for more years than I thought I was going to get.

In 2011 after attending GenCon, I mentioned being unhealthily overweight and redoubling my efforts to get into better condition. Despite my best efforts, I began to reach the point where my weight was significantly disabling me. I had broken my left ankle in my 20s and spent years running on the scar tissue and growing arthritis. After I tore the meniscus in my right knee more recently, combined with the bad ankle, I began limping which just made everything worse. I started to use a cane during IlluxCon in 2016. I declined some highly desirable conventions in 2017 because I doubted I would have the stamina to make it through. Sometimes I needed a wheelchair or walker to navigate the places I did go.

This spring, concurrently with my SmART School work under Donato, I underwent VSG bariatric surgery. As I write this nine months later, I am unhungrily eating a few hundred calories a day (mostly protein) and weighing 100# less than I did the day of surgery. I stopped needing the cane for everyday matters in short order. I used a walker to get around BlizzCon because it was so spread out, but by then, it was mostly my knee giving me trouble.

So I got a new knee for my birthday in November this year. I got off the nastiest pain meds in about 10 days, and now I walk my dog, drive safely, and get around without the difficulties I had before. It is the difference between day and night. Physical therapy continues for awhile yet, but I signed up for a workout class in January with the city’s Parks and Rec Department. Rapidly, I am building back the mobility and strength I used to have.

On the left, an X-ray of a titanium knee replacement; on the right, Liz Danforth in a hospital bed selfie.

Of course, nothing is the shape it was when I was last at this weight (in college!). That’s okay. I do not anticipate running 10Ks or even 5Ks as I did in my 30s and 40s. That’s okay too. But instead of wondering if I had my end-of-life paperwork in order because I might need it soon… Well, I still need that paperwork, but I should have a little more time to take care of it. Meanwhile, there is a lot of new art and creative works I can plan to make and share, and—if the Fates are kind—time in which to do them.

Speaking of Paperwork

I am bemusedly watching the hobby I have been part of for four decades being (finally?) captured in documentaries and films, articles and books. Once we were the Young Turks, but now we are beginning to age and pass away. Catch us before we’re gone!

One such example is the recent release of The Eye of the Beholder by friends Brian Stillman, Kelley Slagle, and Seth Polansky. (No, I’m not in it. I did a little art for Dragon magazine once, and for some Elminster’s AD&D supplements, but I am definitely not notable as “a D&D artist.”) This film took Best Documentary 2018 at GenCon, and I cannot wait to see it! It will surely garner even more accolades yet to come.

Logo for movie "Eye of the Beholder - the Art of Dungeons and Dragons."

Brian has long expressed interest in my stories about the early days of Tunnels & Trolls. He is not the only documentarian to have shown interest in my memories of RPG gaming’s early history. That said, Shannon Appelcline’s 2011 Designers and Dragons has information about me that someone transferred to my Wikipedia page–and it’s just wrong. (Makes me wonder what else is wrong in there. I have put in a request for it from my library’s Interlibrary Loan to have a look-see.) For now, what showed up in Wikipedia is where my gripe lies.


Danforth left Flying Buffalo after its 1985 move to Scottsdale, Arizona.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liz_Danforth

See, Flying Buffalo has always been in Scottsdale, Arizona. It isn’t a big gripe, but neither would it be difficult to fact-check. So it irks me. Flying Buffalo’s president Rick Loomis comes from an old pioneer family that settled in the area, ranching there before the town was even “a town”. I believe Flying Buffalo’s articles of incorporation were done with Scottsdale as its headquarters of record.

I submitted my first paid professional drawing ever, to Rick for Flying Buffalo, as a cover for his newsletter Supernova, probably about 1974. It was a simple line drawing of a blazing sun with a slew of spaceships swarming around it. I had been paid for my art as early as my freshman year in high school, someone’s poster for student body president. I’d had my art published in my high school literary magazine, but of course that wasn’t paid work. I remember walking up to Rick’s house (in Scottsdale), knocking on his door and saying “Ken St Andre said you’d pay $10 for this drawing for your newsletter.” Rick nodded, asked me inside, and paid me.

Ink drawing of a sorceress casting an enchantment in a glowing bowl. A cat sits nearby. Adventuring heroes enter the room's door behind her.

I freelanced more art for T&T’s earliest supplements, and for solo adventures like Buffalo Castle, Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon, and Labyrinth. In 1977, I had moved to Flagstaff to work for the state, but didn’t like living there. The following February, Rick hired me (back to Scottdale) as Flying Buffalo’s staff artist. The publishing arm of Flying Buffalo grew, and I eventually became the head of the productions department, overseeing about 15 crazily-creative people. (For a time, we were Blade Publications, a subsidiary of Flying Buffalo, to distinguish our work from the popular but very different play-by-mail side of the company where it all began.)

Although Flying Buffalo was briefly headquartered behind the company’s game store in Tempe, otherwise all the offices during the nearly-seven years I worked there on salary were… in Scottsdale. City directories and historical phone books would provide readily-accessible verification of the company’s address. When I left Buffalo in 1985, I left some very nice offices… which were and had been in Scottsdale for awhile, in a small industrial park location. That is what the historical record would show to anyone who went to the trouble to do their research. (Please note my ETA corrections at the bottom of this post.]

A street-side photograph of an industrial-looking building, the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix Arizona.
Burton Barr Library, CC BY-SA 3.0 Visitor7

I left Buffalo for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was the opportunity to work part-time at Phoenix Public Library’s Quick Reference Department at the Burton Barr Central Library. Working half-time, I could earn about two-thirds as much pay as I’d made from Buffalo working full time. (Not to cast aspersions on Buffalo’s paychecks–the library paid its part-timers well.) With half-time work to stabilize a freelancer’s income, and enough shortfall to motivate my gumption, I could freelance in the other “half” of my workweek. I worked for almost every large-ish company in the industry, Buffalo included. I made more money overall and took control of my own destiny.

I stayed with the library system another 18 years. Sometimes that was 20 hours a week, but often far less when I had a bumper crop of assignments. The library fostered many creative types: authors early in their careers like now-superstar Jenn McKinlay, Chris Orf (her musician husband), at least one orchestra musician, someone running a small yoga studio, and other artists and illustrators like me. We had no benefits, but could manage our hours around our creative efforts.

While working on the Tunnels & Trolls computer game Crusaders of Khazan, I took a 3-month leave of absence to do nothing but write. If I had to travel to GenCon or Origins, I could. Guest of Honor for a convention somewhere? No problem. Asked to do a signing gig crosscountry or even take international trips for Wizards of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering, or Iron Crown’s Middle Earth game, sure! I could go for as long as I needed to… and did. Other part-timers could pick up extra hours, and everyone was cross-trained across every department.

Box cover of computer game Crusaders of Khazan.

Eventually I quit the library. I was being offered more freelance assignments than I could accept. But even so, I went back some years later. I missed it and its hours gave some structure to my life without making heavy demands on my time. Heck, it was just nice to get out of the house to do more than go to the grocery or (as I was back then) train to run another 10K.

When time moved on (as it does), I became caregiver for my mother as her health was failing. The library provided a reliable paycheck when caregiving and other problems of Life-in-Progress sapped my energy and stamina, wearing me down with fatigue and depression. I could not keep being consistently creative and motivated when my creative well was bone dry.

It took a time for me to recover. My post on this site about “Rebooting the Freelancer” is where I really mark my return to Being a Maker, in December 2010. It had started before that, but this is where I went public with my intent to make creativity, once more, the primary focus of my life and my work.

Ink drawing of an elf surrounded by monsters, undergoing some kind of painful transformation.

I think I have written enough now. Maybe more than enough for a retrospective, of 2018 but also to touch on many past events in my history.

I cannot promise to write here regularly. Unlike Patreon, this blog is still work but unpaid work (seven hours and counting). This blog cannot be a top priority; I have to make choices. You will, however, get another post after January 1st, as promised. I want you to know what I am looking forward to, and when I might be travelling your direction for a convention or other event.

I am also looking seriously into a complete overhaul of this site. (Squarespace, are you really a better option? Or would a more up-to-date theme salvage this site where it sits?) This website needs to highlight my artwork and portfolio of works, but I’d still like to offer the occasional post like this one. For me, writing this is more like a quiet conversation with friends and acquaintances. Wine or beer optional.

Time will tell. Check in occasionally, or sign up for a subscription to be notified when I pop in. I’d like to know you’re out there.

ETA Correction:

As I was writing this post yesterday, I dropped an email to Rick Loomis asking him if my recollections were correct, and for permission to expand on something he had posted online but in a closed forum. He responded after I published here, so it didn’t get into the main body of this post. I felt it incumbent on me to share his information here at the end, with his permission.

“You are mostly right – Flying buffalo’s OFFICIAL
location, according to the IRS, has always been my house in
Scottsdale. However that nice building in the strip mall … was in Tempe, not Scottsdale. It was at the corner of 52nd St and University. Definitely in Tempe. But all along, the official address was (and is) Scottsdale. All that time our PO Box was still in Scottsdale of course.

Rick Loomis, quoted with permission, private communication 29 December 2018.

Rick wrote in the “Let’s Talk About Tunnels & Trolls” forum on Facebook, saying Flying Buffalo went into a rough patch because of some shenanigans at the printing company where we had our line of credit. (I won’t repeat unsubstantiated rumors, but Buffalo was not the only business affected and it was through no fault of Flying Buffalo’s that chaos ensued.) I left Buffalo’s employ to work for the library because of that chaos. And Buffalo did close up that industrial strip-mall location, with the business run out of Rick Loomis’ pioneer-era(?) Scottsdale home from then to the present day.

So Appelcline’s quote is almost correct if you squint and keep one eye closed, except I left Buffalo before they moved the offices back to Scottsdale. And the move itself was unrelated to why I left, which the Wikipedia quote implies. Correlation is not causality. Ultimately, Flying Buffalo was always a Scottsdale company and remains so to this day.



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3 COMMENTS
18 Jan 2018

News, Conventions, and Nattering

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.

A page of mostly text describing the SmART School Mentorship with Donato Giancola, and a picture of Donato against one of his Middle Earth paintings.

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.

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6 COMMENTS
12 Aug 2017

Gen Con 50, MetaArcade, and Flying Buffalo

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.

Fantasy art, monster fighting warrior, logo "Tunnels & Trolls Adventures"

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.

Fantasy art, crouching character looking back over her shoulderAs 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.

Adventurers, inkwork, line art, printed boxI 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.

Fantasy adventurers standing before stone gate into cavern

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 Playing card of "Rust" for Magic the Gathering, with shadow signature by Danforthfor 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!

stickers, coins, "purchased from Flying Buffalo at Gen Con 50"

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.

SEEING FRIENDS
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.

Shillelagh, wooden club, cane

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!

See you in Indy.

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Comments Off on Grand Prix Las Vegas 2017
11 Jun 2017

Grand Prix Las Vegas 2017

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.

GRAND PRIX!
The last few months, I have been preparing for my first Magic the Gathering Grand Prix event. (Grand Prix Las Vegas, June 14-18.)

Fabulous, Las Vegas, Magic, the Gathering, #GPVegas, tournament

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.

HERE IS my Card List. I did cards for:

Magic the Gathering (Wizards of the Coast)
Middle Earth ccg (Iron Crown)
Legend of Five Rings (AEG)
Legend of the Burning Sands (AEG)
Shadowfist (Daedalus)
Deadlands (Pinnacle)
Vampire: the Eternal Struggle
7th Sea (AEG)
Wheel of Time (Precedence)
Battletech (FASA)
War Cry: Siege of Darkness (Sabertooth)
Wars (Decipher)
Warlord (AEG)
Dragon Storm (Black Dragon)
Xxxenophile (Palliard Press)
Everway (Wizards of the Coast)

AT THE SHOW
Look for me beside this sign.

original art, card art, illustration, Danforth, Original Art, Prints, Books, Artist Proofs, Signings, Alterations, sketches, commissions, Hall of Fame, Academy of Gaming Arts and Design

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 do this?”

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.

Hymn to Tourach, playmat, unboxing

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

 

Quentin Hoover, artwork, Doppleganger, t-shirt

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.]

 

 

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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.)

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.

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
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.

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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