Monday, December 28, 2015

Corvid Master

This will probably be my last sketchbook drawing for 2015. 
Onward (already?!) to 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Season's Greetings from Pierre Noël!

"Hey, 'dis cake has my name on it!"
Not everyone receives a visit from Pierre Noël at Christmas! We're very lucky. Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

I did not make the pretty yule log –– it was baked by Crystal Rice of Violet Sweet Shoppe.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Case of the Cyber Mondays

The Cyber Monday sale at my Etsy shop is on now! Get 20% off anything in my shop from now through December 2nd by using coupon code ACASEOFTHEMONDAYS upon checkout. I rarely offer discounts this big, so get it while you can!

After December 2nd, the sale will continue at a lower discount of 10% off through December 19th with coupon code HOLIDAYS2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fabled Earth Art Holiday News

Once again, I must interrupt this blog to advertise my wares...

Holiday greeting cards are back at my Etsy shop, Fabled Earth Art! There are two options: Cute Critter and Old Man Winter, a design by Vinod. Both are available as individual cards and in packs.

Cute Critter card

Old Man Winter card

Starting Monday November 30th and ending Wednesday December 2nd, everything in my shop is 20% off! This is the biggest sale I've offered all year! Just spend at least $5 and enter coupon code ACASEOFTHEMONDAYS upon checkout to receive your discount.

After December 2nd, the sale will continue at a lower discount of 10% off through December 19th with coupon code HOLIDAYS2015.

The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures

I also have signed copies of The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures available if you're looking for a unique gift for an aspiring young artist or creature enthusiast. Please contact me through my website for info on how to purchase.

Thanks for supporting my work!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I apologize for not posting much lately. I've recently become busy with a new project. Over the past several months I've been trying to post interesting things on a somewhat regular basis, but I'm afraid I might need to make the jump to another platform in the near future as Blogger might be growing obsolete. Even if that happens, I'll keep writing here, too.

Anyway, today I'd like to share what it's like to sell original art and what happens to it afterwards. Despite the fact that I've been working professionally as an artist for fourteen years now, it's still thrilling to make an art sale. It means a lot that someone is willing to spend their hard-earned money to hang a picture I've made up in their house. Interacting with fans and knowing that someone has formed a connection with one of my paintings is what helps to keep me moving forward during the moments of doubt and despair I might be feeling about my artwork. I'm guessing this is a feeling shared by many artists.

Earlier this year at Gen Con, I sold a painting that I did for the cover of the Pathfinder Player Companion, Familiar Folio

I titled the painting "Spell Study."

Gen Con is an interesting situation because Vinod and I have to travel by plane to the show, so we're unable to bring pieces framed. That means we can price them a bit lower, but the framing is up to the buyer. In this instance, the buyer was interested in having me frame the painting and ship it when it was ready. I was happy to oblige and it was fun picking out mat and frame options for the piece.

The narrowed down frame and mat combinations.
The finished product can be seen below. The natural wood grain of the walnut frame complemented the warm browns in the painting beautifully. To read a little more about the framing process, check out the story posted at Mainframe.

Here are a couple more photos people have shared of my paintings they've purchased:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Halloween Stuff at Fabled Earth Art: Last Chance!

At the beginning of October, I listed a couple of items featuring the Halloween-appropriate Elven Mage (above) at my Etsy shop, Fabled Earth Art. This is the first time I've made prints featuring this painting available online. There are two sizes of prints and a note card that either comes with a Halloween greeting or can be left blank inside for any occasion. If you're interested in ordering these goodies in time for Halloween, please check them out ASAP!

More interesting blog posts are forthcoming...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mermaid Monday

It's your last chance to get my new sketchbook at 10% off! The sale ends this Wednesday night, September 30th. Don't worry –– even if you miss the sale, you always get an original sketch in your book!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

ECCC 2016 Tickets Go on Sale Wednesday

Emerald City Comicon is getting bigger every year. In 2016, ECCC starts on a Thursday, making it a four-day show for the first time. Passes for the con have started to sell out earlier each year, and for the last couple of years they've sold out well before the start of the convention. If you're thinking about attending ECCC in 2016, get ready! Tickets go on sale at 12 PM Pacific this Wednesday, September 23rd. I'm happy to report I'll be back at Artist Alley. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When in Doubt, Draw an Elf

A recent sketch drawn in a copy of my new sketchbook, Fabled Earth.
Don't forget, the 10% off sale (and free shipping for Gen Con customers) ends in two weeks!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Building a Fictional World

Just because it's The Wasteland, it doesn't mean that people can't make beautiful things.
– George Miller

A few years ago, I discussed an exhibit displayed at Seattle's EMP Museum about the movie Avatar from the standpoint of fictional world-building. Last week, Vinod and I sat down to watch the extras on our Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray, looking forward to similar insights into the world of Mad Max. Though we were disappointed there was no audio commentary for the film, the making-of featurettes were very interesting. They did a great job showcasing the thoughtful attention given to the creation of a post-apocalyptic dystopia that both expands and builds upon the world imagined by George Miller and Byron Kennedy beginning with the original film and continuing with my favorite of the series, Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior. My favorite featurette was Tools of the Wasteland, which covered the creation of the costumes and props.

When director George Miller says,"When you're trying to create a world that doesn't exist, you have to have some very solid ground rules," he succinctly points out what it is that sets sci-fi and fantasy movies with plausible worlds apart from those that fail to successfully immerse the viewer. You can extend the same train of thought to world-building in any creative medium. If the audience asks too many questions about aspects of the world that don't feel authentic, the illusion collapses.

Another great series of videos was released with the Blade Runner 5-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" DVD and "Complete Collector's Edition" Blu-ray sets. (That's a mouthful!) The feature-length documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner covers almost everything from the writing of the script to the concept art (see Syd Mead's incredible paintings in the video below) to the fraught production of the movie itself. Additional featurettes examine graphic design and costuming. So much attention to detail went into the creation of 2019 L.A. that artists working on the film even invented magazines about weird future subjects, illustrated the covers, and stocked them at newsstands barely seen in the background during street scenes. This is the dedication needed to build the kind of depth the best fantasy and sci-fi can offer. There's a reason both Blade Runner and the Mad Max movies have had such a massive impact on sci-fi visuals and filmmaking.

I encourage anyone interested in creating a believable (and beloved) fictional world to look for these making-of films. Please keep in mind these are featurettes for R-rated movies, so view at your discretion.

Do you have any favorite "making-of" featurettes or documentaries? Share them in the comments!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Playmat Art

At Gen Con this year I was asked to do a playmat commission by a satisfied customer for whom I had done a smaller playmat sketch years ago. I accepted with a bit of trepidation. Playmat sketches combine a couple of art fears of mine: inking, which I don't do often enough, and the inability to erase or otherwise cover up mistakes.

I started with a rough pencil sketch and then used Micron pens in sizes 005, 01, 03 and 05 to complete the drawing. It turned out to be a fun challenge and I enjoyed working on it. And luckily my customer was satisfied once again!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My New Sketchbook Is Here!

New painting!

I'm excited to announce I've finally made another sketchbook! My last sketchbook, Journey, was printed in 2009. It seemed like the right time to put together a new one.

The fourth in my series of sketchbooks, Fabled Earth has a color wrap-around cover featuring a new painting, and 68 pages packed with character and creature designs, rough sketches, finished drawings and even a couple illustrations in full color. The book's content spans the last several years' worth of my drawings for clients such as Cricket Magazine and Paizo, as well as personal work and development sketches for The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. The matte finish on both the cover and interior pages does a nice job replicating the color of my paintings and the softness of my graphite drawings. And all the paper is recycled if you care about that sort of thing.

Each sketchbook measures 6 by 9 inches and comes signed by me.

New book!

The book has both rough development sketches and finished drawings.
An example of one of the full-color images in the book.

Pretty rocks in photo not included.

To buy a copy visit my Etsy shop, Fabled Earth Art. I will also be adding the sketchbook to my (new! improved!) website shop page soon. It will be 10% off until the end of September. Neat!

For those of you who picked up my promotional coupon at Gen Con, don't forget to enter the code when you check out on Etsy. Please note that the free shipping offer ends on September 30th, 2015. If you choose not to order on Etsy, once I put the book up for sale on just include a note to me with the coupon code and I will honor it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gen Con 2015 in Pictures

Hello there.
Another Gen Con has come and gone. We did not attend in 2014 so it was nice to be back this year and see familiar faces. Thank you to Art Show coordinators Barbara, Diesel, and the rest of the Gen Con staff; all of the artists, attendees, friends and everyone else whose enthusiasm encourages us to return year after year.

I've mentioned in previous Gen Con posts that it's sometimes difficult to come up with something new to write about the conventions I've attended for years, so this time I thought I'd let the few pictures we took do the talking.

That's...a lot of people.
I did not take this picture, and I'm glad that I didn't! Wielding the power of my Exhibitor badge, I think I was safely inside the Art Show area by the time this huge crowd had formed outside the exhibit hall. Check out the Gen Con Facebook page if you'd like to see video of the doors opening on Day One. (And see if you can find Waldo.)

No, I'm not the artist, I'm just scribbling in her books.

My favorite cosplay this year.
We had to switch hotels for the last night of our stay and were greeted by Washcloth Dog. This hotel was way better than the first one!
Here are the sketches for 2015 drawn in the last few copies of Journey. There is only one book left which will be listed on my Etsy shop when it reopens in a few days.

For more pictures of the Art Show including the award winners for this year, check out the Gen Con Art Show Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Con Survival Tips Redux: Gen Con Edition

Gen Con starts on Thursday! Come look for me in the Art Show where I will have my usual goodies including a few new prints and paintings. The 2015 Exhibit Hall map is below:

Click to enlarge or go here to download at full size.

We are once again in a mad dash to pack up all our stuff for the Gen Con Art Show. A trip to exhibit work at Gen Con is not possible without a lot of advance planning. Simply attending any busy convention can take some preparation (or at least a few tips) especially for new con-goers. I've come up with a few after participating in conventions in some capacity for the better part of two decades. Most of the following tips are specifically for Gen Con, but many apply to any convention.

DOs and DON'Ts at the Gen Con Art Show


Please do:

•Talk to the artists. There might be vampires at the convention, but I promise the artists won't bite.

•If you like a particular artist's artwork, strike up a conversation even if you can't or don't plan to buy something. Feel free to ask questions about their work. Artists come to the convention to show their work and interact with people, so they will be happy to talk to you. I know this can be harder than I make it sound. Though I'm used to sitting behind the table, I myself feel bashful when approaching another artist at conventions or art shows.

•Look through stuff! Unless for some particular reason you're asked not to, it's perfectly ok to touch all the stuff on the table–it's there for you to view and buy!

Please don't:

•Take photos of booths (or the people sitting at them) without asking. Some artists prefer that their work is not photographed.

•Line up blocking the aisle in front of someone else's table to get to the artist next door.

•Put your bags on top of an artist's table–they don't want their work or product to be damaged.

Paying at the Art Show

Gen Con has a payment system that's different from most other conventions. Rather than paying the artist directly at their table, there is a cash register set up for customers in the central area of the Art Show. The system works like this: the artist you're buying from fills out a slip that describes the item you're purchasing and the price. You take that slip up to the cash register and pay. You will receive a copy of the slip stamped "paid" that acts as your receipt and you bring this back to the artist to pick up your item. While this might seem like a hassle, it is helpful in that it allows you to pay with a credit card instead of just cash and the artists don't have to worry about handling plastic or providing change.

Tips for New Attendees:

•Buy your tickets/badges in advance. These days, popular cons sell out weeks before the start of the convention. If you're sure you want to go, buy your ticket or badge as soon as possible.

•If you aren't in a rush to get into the show, if you need to buy your ticket the day of the convention (assuming there are any left) it's usually less crowded at the ticket booths later in the afternoon.
•Bring a backpack especially if you're going to buy a lot of stuff!

•Plan to do a lot of walking. And a lot of squeezing between people and navigating crowded aisles.

•Maybe this advice is outdated in the Paypal and credit card age, but when I used to walk a convention floor, I would keep spending money in a separate place from money meant for food and other essentials. This would help me stick to a budget. (Once it's gone, it's gone!) When I used to attend a lot of conventions in high school and college I would carry my spending cash separately in an old brown velcro wallet with a white line drawing of a Cabbage Patch Kid on it for some reason. I wonder what happened to that wallet?

•Eat outside the convention center. Con food=blah. Sorry, conventions! Get better food!

I hope these tips might be of some help. Have a great con, where and whenever it may be!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

DAICON IV: A Love Letter to Sci-Fi and Fantasy

In honor of convention season, I would like to share the 1983 short film DAICON IV Opening Animation.

I can't recall exactly when or how I was introduced to DAICON IV. It must have been on tape, perhaps shared by a fellow nerd. It was certainly before the YouTube era. Though my memories of discovering DAICON IV are as hazy as the low transfer quality of this video, what is not hazy is how much I enjoy it every time I watch it!

DAICON III and DAICON IV were created to open the annual science fiction and fantasy convention held in Osaka, Japan. DAICON means "Osaka Convention," using an alternate pronunciation (dai) for the first character used to write the word "Osaka." (If you know your fruits and vegetables you might have noticed another cute play on words: it's a daikon that transforms into the spaceship DAICON in both films.) The DAICON animations are familiar to anime fans not only because they're so impressive for a small group of young, amateur animators to have made, but also because they led to the formation of the famous animation studio Gainax.

My favorite part of the video is near the end when the camera swoops over hundreds of sci-fi and fantasy characters. Almost any character you can think of that existed by the time this film was created is rubbing shoulders in that crowd. It happens so fast – literally just two or three seconds – it's difficult to make them all out. I'm still discovering characters that I hadn't noticed before. It's a fun challenge to spot as many as you can!

Most recently I found Deckard.

To me this film encapsulates what it means to be a fan, of whatever it is you are a fan. The feelings of excitement, nostalgia and appreciation are obvious. This enthusiasm is what inspired me to become an artist and make a career out of creating things. It may not seem important compared to all of the other difficulties the world is faced with, but I think creating something that brings people joy has worth.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Gen Con 2015

Gen Con is fast approaching! I'll probably be posting here less than usual while I prepare for the convention. I'll post more information later this month, so stay tuned.

Have you been watching the Gen Con Art Show Facebook page? Every day there's a new post featuring the work of one of the artists that will be at the show. A lot of great art has already been posted. Check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beginnings and Endings

Cricket Magazine's Crowd Sorcery project which evolved into the fantasy story "The Girl Who Writes the Future" began just over a year ago and has come full circle. The first group of my Crowd Sorcery character sketches was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Cricket and the final part of "The Girl Who Writes the Future" printed in this year's May/June issue. If you missed any issues the entire story is available to read online. Now that Fable's adventure is complete, I thought I'd look back on the illustrations that opened and closed her story.

When I say "look back on the illustrations," I don't mean that I've already forgotten how they look! But while working with deadlines on a long-running project such as this, it's sometimes difficult to take a step back and evaluate all the work I'm doing with a fresh eye. I thought it would be interesting to compare side-by-side the first and final images I painted for the story to see how they relate to each other visually and thematically.

Fable reads by the light of the setting sun before she is suddenly thrust into a harrowing journey.

The first thing I noticed about both illustrations is that they have similar palettes. Both have a triadic color palette of orange, green and violet. I didn't plan this in advance so it was a happy coincidence that helped bookend the story. Both illustrations also feature warm light: in the opening image it's the rosy hue of a setting sun and in the closing picture, a luminous light radiating from the face of a sculpted full moon.

In the middle of the story, Fable and Luminè descend into darkness and mystery. Many scenes take place at nighttime or in the corners of ancient buildings and forgotten passageways, so for those images I frequently made use of a cool palette and a lot of blue hues. When the girls are successful in their journey they come back into the light once again.

I took a risk with the closing illustration and tried what I felt was a bolder color palette than many of the other images I painted for the story. Even though the palette included the same triad of colors as the illustration that opened "The Girl Who Writes the Future," the way I used them was a little less conventional. The swath of bright orange-yellow against violet could have been a disaster, but luckily it gave me the magical look I wanted. My art director and I worked hard to find room for this illustration in the space allotted for the final chapter, and I'm glad we were able to squeeze it in. It turned out to be one of my favorites. I hope that when readers look at this picture they feel the same satisfaction, relief and triumph Fable and Luminè do at the end of their adventure.

Luminè and Fable, exhausted but triumphant after completing their quest.

I write frequently about my creative process and I thought anyone reading this might like to hear about the creative process from the perspective of a writer. Frederic S. Durbin, author of "The Girl Who Writes the Future," shared his insights about the development of the story on his blog. He also wrote about the interesting relationship between authors and their characters here. I really enjoyed his posts and I hope you will, too!

Friday, June 5, 2015


The original sketch

I just lost a lengthy blog post I was planning to publish today which I now have to rewrite entirely. So instead, here is an old drawing I recently came across while reviewing sketches I'm considering for inclusion in my new sketchbook. These mother and daughter gorgons are from the book A Practical Guide to Monsters. I've forgotten the reason why my art director felt the character should be younger, but I was asked to change the daughter from a teenager to a little girl.

The revised version

Monday, June 1, 2015

Artist Privilege

"Being crazy...that's the privilege of being an artist."

From Overheard at the Museum by Judith Henry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Children of the Forest

The Marriage is a Work of Art show has come to a close and my painting "Children of the Forest" has gone to its new home. I haven't made a process post in a while, so I thought I would share how this painting came together.

When we were invited to exhibit in the Marriage show I wanted to come up with a way that Vinod and I could tie our work together other than the incidental ties our art has as a result of our relationship as artists over the past 20 (!) years. I didn't want to just hang whatever it was that we had been working on lately and call it a day. We don't really collaborate on artwork other than offering each other critiques and we definitely don't work on the same painting together. (I don't know how Leo and Diane Dillon did it!)

Last fall, Vinod had painted a personal piece called "The Green Man." I was looking at it hanging on the wall in our studio one evening and decided that I could do a companion piece that would complement his painting and form the centerpiece of our wall at the Marriage is a Work of Art show.

"Children of the Forest" embodies many of the themes I explore in my work: mythology, folk tales, and nature and animals seen through a fantasy lens.

I knew the story I wanted to tell, but as I drew, other elements I did not plan in advance developed organically, like her flower "heart."

When we moved into our house two years ago, we set up our studio in a room facing our backyard which is adjacent to a woodsy green belt. Squirrels and many species of birds visit our feeders and bird bath visible from the window in front of my desk. This is the first time we've lived in a house with a window looking out onto so much wildlife activity. I love it. For "Children of the Forest" I decided to paint some of the birds that visit us I and picked a dogwood tree like the one in our yard for the dryad.

A little over a day into the painting.
A butterfly was one of the unplanned elements that revealed itself to me while I was drawing, and I decided to make it a monarch. Growing up in Michigan I would see monarchs and I remember a trip we took to look for them at Point Peele National Park, which is a rest stop for migrating butterflies.

A close up of the dryad's face.

Almost finished...

Deciding the crop of the finished painting using the mat.

This is pretty typical of the way my table looks during a project.

The title of this painting comes from a book I was referring to for bark textures, moss and general forest imagery called Secrets of the Old Growth Forest. Most of the time I was working I had the book open to a page with a photo of the massive trunk of a cedar tree. When I was finished and it was time for me to come up with a title for my piece, I happened to glance over at the open book and saw that the chapter title was "Children of the Forest." I thought it expressed the theme of my painting perfectly.

The final piece.

The framed paintings side by side.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Crowd Sorcery Sketches: The Villain Khaos

It's time to reveal the last group of character development sketches I did for Crowd Sorcery: Khaos!  


The Villain: Khaos

Created by Brooke E., age 11
The spirit of a wicked sorcerer who was killed in a huge battle that wiped out his monsters, he lives in a huge, ancient cave—a shrine for worshipping Mael-Koth, the pagan god of death.”

Khaos actually appeared in the very first part of "The Girl Who Writes the Future" but not in his "true" form. He was described by his creator as "disturbingly handsome" and Fred tells us that he has "dark hair...slicked back from a face so handsome it might have been that of an angel –– except for its cruelty." I had my work cut out for me! Help me, Ayami Kojima.* You're my only hope!

When I talk about designing characters I discuss how I work on the face first so that I can feel like I know the character better before I continue the design. I usually start sketching from my imagination, but if I get stumped, or even if a face is going in a direction I like but I want to make it more distinct, I will sometimes turn to reference for inspiration.

Round one of Khaos sketches.

I did this first round of sketches from imagination. I already had a general idea of how I wanted Khaos to look and I was exploring attitude and expression. But I wanted to draw more tangible facial features, so with some reference of faces in hand I refined the character design. I also fixed his bone crown so it'd look less like it was made of french fries!

Round two, taking features I liked best from round one and refining them.

Artists often have a sort of default face that they draw. Although our characters may be distinguishable from one another, there's a shorthand many of us tend to use when drawing facial features. To break away from the reliance on those stylistic tropes it's good to look carefully at real facial features from time to time and concentrate on the way faces are made up of an interesting variety of shapes.

The final drawing for the illustration of Khaos with his creepy crawlies.

"The Girl Who Writes the Future" by Frederic S. Durbin has just concluded its run with Part Six in Cricket Magazine's May 2015 issue. To follow the adventures of these characters pick up some issues at the bookstore. If you missed the earlier chapters of the story you can now read the whole thing online on Cricket's Chatterbox message board or follow the instructions for downloading the digital editions here.

*Ayami Kojima draws and paints what one might describe as disturbingly beautiful people. She is well known for her art for the Castlevania video game series.