For Your Eyes Only

I just read this fabulous blog post by artist Stephanie Law on the need to draw without an audience, i.e. drawing practice in a sketchbook that is for your eyes only.

“When you’re in the moment, Artmaking can’t be about the audience, or else it becomes too self-aware. In so doing loses the truth of the creator’s voice.” Stephanie Law

A technique I’ve been using in my sketchbook for some time now is to make a random pencil scribble with a loose hand, then “find” the creature within by enhancing some lines and erasing others. It comes totally from the subconscious; I never know who or what will peek out from the scribbled mass. Sometimes my subconscious brings forth cuteness and makes its way into a painting; sometimes it gives me nothing. And when it gives me nothing, I know the well is dry and it is time to refresh it with new inputs and experiences. Or take a nap.

Belated Thanks for a Great Archon!

I had a wonderful time at Archon weekend before last (Oct. 2-4,2015). Archon is one of my favorite science fiction conventions.

From my perspective as a panelist and participating artist, everything ran smoothly. I need to send a big shout out to the concom, especially the programming team, the art show team, and the volunteers: Awesome job, ya’ll!

Thank you shout-outs also to Alan D and his awesome first aid skills  (No worries. It’s just a bruise!); the Dread Pirate Meghan, The Fourth Doctor, and Skerri Sherri for graciously agreeing to stand still while we sketched them; Clare Ashgrove and David Pedersen for being awesome panel moderators, and Yard Dog Press authors and fans for putting on another gut-bustingly funny road show readings with interpretive dance.

All in all, it was another successful convention. I’m already looking forward to next year!

My Archon Schedule

Art for Archon 2016

Art for Archon 2016

The fine folks at Archon 39 have posted the programming schedule for this weekend and it looks like it’s going to be a great weekend! You’ll find my art in the show and me in person on the following panels:


7:30 PM — Art Reception, Great Rivers Ballroom B

9 PM — Yard Dog Press Presents Readings and Interpretive Dance, Marquette B


1 PM — Draw with the Pros, Marquette B

5 PM — The Ad-Lib Game (M), Marquette B

7 PM — The First Editor: Yourself, Marquette B


10 AM — My Favorite Art Medium (M), Mississippian

Noon — Marketing for the Self-Published Author, Mississippian

Don’t forget to stop by the art show and ogle the art (and buy some, perhaps?). Also, stop by the Yard Dog Press booth in the Dealers Room and buy books. Lots and lots of fun-to-read books. See you there!

WIP Wednesday: Proof of Life

I’ve been fortunate this week to attend two workshops by Dina Wakely, sponsored by Ink Rubber Paper in Overland Park KS.

Tonight’s class was squarely in my sweet spot: Marvelous Mark Making, which involved making random marks and finding art within them. We started by using a stick and a string to make random marks on a page. Then, we looked for the hidden image within and brought it to light using color.

It’s no surprise that I found a cat, a bee, a bug, and an owl.

The technique is similar to the one I use for doodling: make a loose, random scribble in pencil, then add and remove lines until the critter presents itself.

Pages from the Dina Wakely workshop

Pages from the Dina Wakely workshop

WIP: Life’s Too Short; Use The Good Stuff.

Have you ever thought about what the phrase “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” really means? It’s another way of saying that you can’t make a high-quality product from poor-quality materials.

Don’t waste your time and money using cheaply made, sub-standard materials; it will only cause you frustration and end with work you simply aren’t satisfied with.

If you want to produce quality product, use quality materials. (If you are patient enough to wait for a sale and/or use the right coupons, you CAN get good materials at an affordable price.)

Take a look at these canvas-covered panels, to which I’ve applied a thin wash of fluid acrylic.

  • The panel on the top is from a store-brand “value pack” made in China and purchased at a big-name craft store.
  • The panel on the bottom is a Utrecht Studio 100% Primed Cotton Canvas Board made with 7oz primed cotton canvas mounted on heavyweight multi-ply board.

See the difference? The value panel resists the paint and creates a weak, splotchy mess, while the quality panel accepts the paint evenly.

Quality does matter. Life’s too short to spend your creative time re-working a splotchy mess. Use the good stuff.

Good stuff on the left, not -so-good stuff on the right.

Good stuff on the left, not-so-good stuff on the right.

My SoonerCon Schedule

Here’s my schedule for SoonerCon, June 27-28 in Oklahoma City:

Friday, June 27

3 pm —Tut, Tut Mummy!
Why this strange fascination with the dried-up husks of dead people? You don’t see movie franchises about Mayans or the Inuit. Why have other myth systems been left behind in the (mummy) dust?

5 pm — A Game of Thrones: A Fan’s Addiction (moderator)
Is the series a dark fantasy or rather, a soap opera with swords and incest? Which character do you hate the most? Who should die next (because probably, they will). Panelists discuss everything Game of Thrones from the books to the television series. *Spoilers may be unavoidable

8 pm — Art Reception

Saturday, June 28

11 am — Dragons: Myths Across the Miles
There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons; the European dragon and the East Asian dragon. How did the legend of the dragon make its way across the continents in the ages of minimal communication and cross-continental travel? What cultural truths can be explained by the similarity of the various dragon myths and forms?

3 pm — Dr. Who: The Anti-Antihero
The Doctor is the best person, er, Timelord ever. Sure, he makes some mistakes but things seem to work out as they were meant to in the end. Is the Doctor’s ultra-goodness his best appeal? What gives him such cross-generational staying power?

4 pm — Yard Dog Press Roadshow

Sunday, June 29

10 am — Koffee Klatch
Meet guests of the convention and enjoy coffee and casual conversation.

12 pm — The Inspired Artist
Artists discuss their real-world inspirations used to create works of SF/F art.

3 pm — Why So Grimm? (moderator)
A gruesome look at the original Grimm’s fairy tales. The dark ’n’ gritty older versions of the folktales that Disney sanitized. Were kids really lulled to sleep hearing about how Cinderella’s stepsisters hacked off their toes to fit the Prince’s slipper?

I’ve been here before…

It’s no secret that I have an addiction to pens (and pencils and paint). When I see pens on clearance, I’ll test one out to see if it’s one I’d like to add to my collection. Sometimes, the only testing surface available is the shelf tag itself. One day as I uncapped a pen to test, I reached for the shelf tag and realized, to my surprise, that I had Been Here Before.

I've been here before

There’s Art at a Science Fiction Convention?

Science fiction convention art shows can be a little confusing if you’ve never experienced one. It’s not an art fair, where artists set up a booth for the weekend. It’s not a gallery, where art is hung on big white walls with little title cards. It’s more like a cross between a silent auction and a pop-up store in the mall during the holidays.

I’ve participated in the ConQuesT art show annually for the past 14 years. I’ve even been co-director of the show a couple of times. Here’s how it works:

The art show staff and volunteers set up wire grid to use as display walls in a hotel ballroom on Thursday night, then hang art that was mailed in by non-attending artists. Attending artists hang their own art when they arrive on Thursday night or Friday morning.

Steampunk Dragon

Steampunk Dragon

We use S-hooks and plastic hang tabs (or binder clips!) to hang the art on the display grids. 3-D art is displayed on tables. Each piece has a bid sheet with the artist’s name, the title, the media used, its designation as an original or numbered print, both a minimum bid and a direct sale price, and a place to write a bid. Artists pay for their display space, and the art show takes a commission on art sold.

There is usually an area designated as the “print shop”, where you can buy whatever fixed-price limited edition prints the artists have placed there.

Professor Skeptical

Professor Skeptical

The art show opens midday on Friday to registered attendees of the convention and to random members of the public who stumble onto it while in the hotel. Silent bids are accepted until late Saturday afternoon, and the most popular pieces (based on number of bids) go to voice auction on Saturday night. If you place a minimum bid on a piece and you’re the only bidder, you pay for it on Sunday morning and take it home. If you love the piece so much you don’t want to risk losing it to another bidder, you pay the direct sale price right then and there and you take it home.

On Sunday, after all the sold art has been picked up and paid for, the artists pack up their unsold pieces and verify with the art show director which ones have sold. Artists receive a check by mail a few weeks later. When it’s done, the staff and volunteers disassemble the display grids and return them to storage until next year.

Miss Mary's Hat

Miss Mary’s Hat

ConQuesT was good to me this year. My favorite skeptical bunny, a steampunk dragon I had shown for several years, and several of my small mixed media pieces found new homes. I also received a special gift: A hat that belonged to Miss Mary, one of my biggest fans, who passed away a few months ago. Miss Mary was a sweetheart in every sense of the word, and she is dearly missed.

Next up is SoonerCon in Oklahoma City at the end of June.

Art Demo at ConQuesT

Art Demo at ConQuesT