Search Results for: painting with darkness

Painting with Darkness – Part 15

Collaboration is the name of the game.

Sculptor T. Morrison & I have been doing it in spades.

She invents wild ideas, sculpts them with lightweight spackle, and I add deep, dark backgrounds. She even did a funny tutorial.

Our latest pieces have been getting ever darker. We held a challenge via Facebook to select a new painting’s theme, and the people decided on Itsy Bitsy Spider. (Sleeping Beauty was a close second.)

Only thing was…

We decided Itsy wasn’t so itsy after all…

Itsy

Around the same time, we wanted to do a painting with a gypsy girl. She had to be strong. We decided she also had to be a vampire.

And so…

Blood Gypsy

And then we went straight up spooky, crafting a haunted woodland no one would dare enter.

Would you wander here?

Gravewood

We’ll continue pumping out paintings as fast as we can sell them. We’re currently working on a Frankenstein piece, and then there’s the huge skeleton-filled tower we’re conceptualizing.

You should keep coming back for more.

Our prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII. XIII, XIV, XV.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Painting with Darkness – Part XV

As I publish more and more books, I find myself wanting to create my own cover art.

It’s risky business, I know. If I paint something that looks too homemade or ‘arts and crafty,’ I could repel audiences with subpar art.

I’ll probably still keep reaching out to my favorite artist, Amanda Makepeace, for all of my major novels.

But for other, stranger, darker releases, I might keep trying my own brand of shadowy art.

And so…

1

On Christmas Eve 2016 I found myself sketching a scary hand. It grasped for a magical (and of course, evil) orb of power. This little concept was born days earlier when I dreamed up my next series of novellas, currently titled Ashes of Everything. The pencil I used is the same pencil I used in high school more than 20 years ago. No kidding. The hand….is based on mine.

2

Painting fire is fun! I mixed up soft watercolor reds and added depth as I reached the canvas’s edge. The pencil-sketched hand is still under there, just barely visible enough for me to fill it in with blacks after the flames were complete.

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Ah, the claws, the grasping fingers! Those who’ve read my Tyrants of the Dead series might remember whose hand that is. Those who haven’t, well…what are you waiting for? But seriously, texturing hands (especially demonic ones) is no easy thing. I spent countless hours shading, darkening, and highlighting each finger.

ashes-of-everything

The more I toiled, the darker the painting became. The flames deepened. Black prison bars appeared in the background, representing the demon creature’s imprisoned state. This is the final pre-varnish image. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It’ll most likely make the cut as a book cover in the next few months.

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If you liked this Painting with Darkness entry, check out the other fourteen: I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII. XIII, XIV.

To dive into the series that inspired this piece, click this.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

 

Painting with Darkness – Part XII

I like to paint trees.

A lot

Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.

Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.

And along came four little paintings, one for each season:

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Deep – for warm, green spring

 

dusklight-hi-rez

Dusklight – for cold, cold winter

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umber-hi-rez

Umber – for autumn’s arrival

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midnight-2

Midnight – for the longest night of summer

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I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.

You should try it sometime…

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part XII

I like to paint trees.

A lot

Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.

Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.

And along came four little paintings, one for each season:

deep

‘Deep’ – for spring

midnight-2

‘Midnight’ – for summer

umber-300x145

‘Umber’ – for autumn

dusklight

‘Dusklight’ – for winter

 

I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.

You should try it sometime…

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part XI

It’s been a little while.

I’ve been focused less on art and more on invading the universe with my latest novella.

So anyway…

I recently decided to go over the top with another shadowy dark city painting. I love using the black & white color scheme…and I love eerie, otherworldly images.

Thus was born ‘Dead and Dreaming,’ the latest of my acrylic paintings:

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1

It all started with a blank 16″ x 24″ canvas. I blended water, black, white, and a splash of glow-in-the-dark paint. While I’ve yet to expose the painting to enough light to activate the glow paint, I noticed this particular blend made the swirled pattern go on super smooth. Those white dagger-like things…well they’re the first of many towers to come.

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The most daunting parts of this painting? 1. Using a bookmark as a straightedge to get most of the towers with nice, flat sides. 2. Doing the math to make sure a large percentage of the towers were directed at the right angle to ‘surround the swirly abyss.’

3

So…after I added all the white towers, I moved in with my preferred color: black. I wanted the dark towers to be taller and more swordlike, almost as if they wanted to reach all the way into the swirly abyss. The effect was a trippy, alien cityscape. I was pleased.

4

You might have to enlarge the image to see it, but this is where I started to add shadows and ghostly windows to every…single…tower. I’ve done paintings like this before, particularly with The Emperor’s Vision, but the added challenge here was rotating the painting to make sure I didn’t miss a tower.

5

The finished painting. Hundreds of towers. Thousands of tiny windows. About 12 hours of painting time. I’m ecstatic pleased with the result. After a few matte coats of varnish, this one is going up on my wall until it sells.

The original canvas for Dead and Dreaming is now available for sale right here.

Prints and other materials are available for sale on my Society6 page.

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part X

After a short layoff, I’m back to doing terrible things with my paintbrush.

Dark cities, twisted terrains, and this time around, an eerie, abstract tree.

I call this one, ‘The Last Autumn.’  The original is for sale here, if you’re interested.

Now let’s talk about how The Last Autumn came to be:

Last Autumn 1

It all started with a 24″x 24″ super-thick white canvas. I used a straightedge, a level, and a twenty-year old pencil (yes, really) to divide the canvas into perfect halves. With my little wooden palette, I paired up acrylic golds, blacks, reds, yellows, and whites. I mixed them at random, and when I was done with the first coat, I poked golden dots all over the right side of the canvas. Voila. What you see above.

Last Autumn 2

For the left side, life got a little easier. I mixed gold, black, and umber, and went nuts with fast, broad strokes. Before it dried, I poked little white ‘leaves’ into the background. The difference between the two halves was stark. I loved what I was seeing.

Last Autumn 3

About 0.0003 seconds before starting with the right-side tree, I had a revelation. A. I wanted to flip the painting over so the darker half would be on the right and the red/gold half on the left. I have no idea why. It just felt right. B. I pulled out a sand-based gel with which to paint the tree. For those not familiar, the gel adds a texture you can see and feel when you’re up close to the painting. It’s so ridiculously fun to paint with; I suggest everyone try it.

Last Autumn 4

For the left side of the painting, I mixed pure black with more sand gel. I used four different brushes, starting big and working down to the tiniest branches using pretty much the smallest acrylic brush you can buy. It was tedious, but I loved it. Each flick of my wrist gave life to a new branch. The picture here is pre-varnishing; the sand gel takes forever to dry. The plan for this painting is to use a heavy gloss, which will make the colors pop and allow The Last Autumn to be a centerpiece for any room.

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Thanks for reading!!

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX.

To buy The Last Autumn, go here.

J Edward Neill

Author of Matrix-like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series.

 

Painting with Darkness – Part IX

Maybe more than all my previous Painting with Darkness articles, this one has special meaning.

It’s the only piece I’ve done in the last three years that I didn’t work on in my epic painting studio.

And it’s the first I finished in my little shoebox apartment.

No matter…

Presenting my walkthrough of ‘Ghostscape.’

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Ghostscape 1

I hope you’ve got your reading glasses on. This is the soft pencil work I put on the canvas before a single drop of paint ever touched it. I’m not gonna lie; the geometry was challenging. See that circle in the center? It’s dead-on in the middle down to the millimeter. What’s special about it? To trace the circle I used the 60-year old mixer bowl my grandmother many times used to make my pancakes.

Ghostscape 2

Begin the darkness: First I swirled watercolor blacks and sepia tones in the background. Then I used a hard straight-edge to paint in the black ‘towers’ jutting out of the sphere. And then…I added even more sepia and filled in the center sphere to give it depth.

Ghostscape 3

More towers were needed. I realized I hadn’t added enough. Also, I darkened the center sphere. Also also also…I used pale watercolor blacks to slice in distant towers behind the hard, sharp foreground towers.

Ghostscape 4

What can I say? I wanted even MORE towers. In this shot, although it’s hard to see, I used whites to give the towers a reflective quality. Like they’re made out of polished obsidian or some hard, dark otherworldly metal.

Ghostscape 5

Now began the hard part. And by hard I mean TEDIOUS. Using a tiny brush and some titanium white paint, I started adding windows and doors to the towers. I imagined a ghost behind each window…and NOT a friendly one. At the time this picture was taken, I’d spent two hours just dotting in windows and adding texture to the towers.

Ghostscape 6

Ghostscape – the final image. I like how the ring of lower tower lights frames the center of the sphere. It’s kind of a never ending city swirling around a tiny, terrifying planet. So…anyone up for a vacation?

Now…the only question is:

Which way to hang it?

In other words, which towers should point up, and which should point down?

Hmmmmm…

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The original canvas of Ghostscape – Approx 24″ x 24″ – is available for sale for $300.00.  Reach out to me at JEdwardNeill@DownTheDarkPath.com if you’re an interested buyer.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of novels A Door Never Dreamed Of and The Hecatomb

Painting with Darkness, Part VIII

In recent weeks, I’ve been working with my paintbrush more than I’ve been writing.

Turns out slashing with paint gets the darkness out of my system much faster than hammering on a keyboard.

And so I thought I’d share:

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Let-There-Be-Fire-300x298

‘Fire Lens’ – 36″ x 36″

Fire Lens is 3 lbs of canvas. It’s huge! The photo here is somewhat muted, but the live version is lustrous and dark, a shining white eye wreathed in deep crimson and black. It’s a room dominator, to be sure.

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Dripping

‘Dripping’ – 36″ x 22″

Dripping was a tortuous painting. It started as a watercolor experiment and became much more. I saturated my paints with as much water as they could hold (while still maintaining a bit of grey/black) and went to work. The acrylics drained down the canvas. The white lines you see are drip marks, which is exactly what I wanted. The muddled blacks and gruesome greys are where I let the watered paint form into little puddles. This is one sad, cold painting.

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G Sunshine

‘Sunshine’ – 16″ x 12″

My kid, the G Man, won’t let me paint without him. He’s done almost as much canvas work as I have! Here’s a quick multicolor work he named Sunshine. It’s a stark contrast to my darkness, which I love about his method. He says this is what the sun looks like up close. Pretty close, right?

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The Hecatomb Master

‘The Hecatomb’ – 30″ x 20″

Most of my work is without purpose. I just paint what I want and let the brush fall where it may. Not so with The Hecatomb. This large canvas was created with a book’s front and back covers in mind. The book by the same name will be out soon. It’s a sequel to this and this.

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If you liked these, here’s a few Painting with Darkness posts from history. Like this. And this. And this.

And the darkest of all my art appears on these.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part VI

A few months ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to paint something huge. Something to be the centerpiece of an entire wall. Something that if people walked by, they’d have to stop and look.

And of course, it had to be dark. Because…well…you know.

And so I present: Ocean of Knives

Ocean 1-

After securing a 36″ x 48″ white canvas, it sat in my closet for a solid two weeks while I stewed on what to paint. Would I use colors? Blacks & whites? What would be the subject matter? And once I finally stacked the canvas up on my easel, life got precarious. Each brush stroke threatened to topple the easel and ruin everything. I had to be like Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

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Ocean 2

Surfaces started to take shape. Pale rivers flowed from the hills into a deathly ocean. Things were looking stark already. I loved it. And yet, while making wild ovals and grey hills was fun, it was by far the easiest part. Life was about to get harder.

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Ocean 3

Ocean of Knives was meant to be a companion piece to my novel, Down the Dark Path. I began adding watercolor towers (knives) in the distance. Like snowflakes, each ‘knife’ had to be different. Some were forked, others straight as sin. Looks kinda barren in this pic. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.

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Ocean 4

Now it came time to add the big towers. To make them straight, I carved out varying lengths of posterboard and used the pieces as straight-edges. For the wavy and irregular towers, I freehanded. Raise your hand if you’d like to live in one of these things. Am I the only one? Well ok then…

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Ocean 5

The quality of this pic sucks because I used my iPad. But I couldn’t leave it out. It shows the towers almost fully added. I still needed more watercolors for the faraway ones. And I needed street-level buildings to fill the city out. But progress was made. By this point, I’d spent about 12 hours on the painting. Whew.

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Ocean 6

The finished painting – 18 hours in. See those little pale dots? They’re windows. I tried to count while adding them, but lost track at 2,000. Yes really. I figure there are about 3,000 little white windows in all. Tedious as hell, but utterly worth it. Also notice the deepened shadows the towers cast across the water.

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Ocean 7

Just to show scale, here’s my 4yo, G Man, standing beside the painting. He’s a bit tall for his age, but even so. The canvas is about 4 times his size.

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While painting this bad boy, I listened to soundtracks. A lot of Hans Zimmer, David Julyan, and Clint Mansell. Nice, brooding stuff, all of it.

Hope you like ‘Ocean of Knives,‘ companion piece for Down the Dark Path.

For other dark art I’ve done lately, look here and here.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part V

As summer’s warmth fades and the days die earlier than before, I find myself in the studio for long stretches of time.

Some might say locking myself indoors with brooding soundtracks playing in the background and a crispy cold glass of scotch on the table is a swift road to being utterly alone.

My point exactly…

My latest painting: All Hallows

Hallows 1

I started at the bottom with water-diluted oranges and worked my way up. With every inch gained toward the top, I added drops of red and black. Watercolors became solids. Lights became darks. The striking colors satisfied me. And the hard blacks on the bottom were fun to paint (and easy!)

Hallows 2

Now came the time-consuming part. At first, I worked on the trees with a 1/4″ wedge brush. Then, as the branches thinned, I used the sharpest-point brush in my arsenal. The tops of the trees began to look like claws. It was exactly the eerie look I wanted.

 

Hallows 3

Completing the trees was a full-day task. I used my daggerlike brush to add sharpness and realism to every branch. As is always my theme, I made the trees curl toward the center of the painting…as if reaching for something unseen. I considering adding more to make this a full-blown Halloween-ish work, but decided to keep it simple. Blacks on color. Nothing cheesy. Stick to the plan of painting with darkness.

All in all, this canvas was fun and simple. In other words, my favorite kind.

The same night I finished All Hallows, I began work prep work on a huge 36″ x 48″ canvas, my hugest ever:

Ocean of Knives

This’ll be called ‘Ocean of Knives’. The canvas is 3′ x 4′. It’ll take weeks to finish, for sure. Gonna need a lot of wine…

Recently, I used one of my grimmest works for the cover of Let the Bodies, my latest short story:

LettheBodies_BlogLg

Painting your own cover art…fun!

 And previously in the ‘Painting with Darkness’ series:

The Emperor’s Vision

The Underhollows

Brothers

The Last Tower, Pale Swamp, Four Swords, Grave Rain

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See you next time. Painting with Darkness, Part VI will feature the finished version of ‘Ocean of Knives.’

J Edward Neill

Tyrant of the Dead

Painting with Darkness, Part IV

A few weeks ago, I received an encouraging reception for my latest painting, ‘The Emperor’s Vision.

Which made me want to share how this dark canvas came to life.

When I started working on this one at summer’s beginning, I knew I wanted to paint another companion piece to my fantasy series, Down the Dark Path. I wanted something stark, something to fit my mood. And with it being summer, I felt I wanted to paint something anti-seasonal…meaning a canvas I’d usually wait til winter to finish because of its cold, almost bitter tone.

Moreover, this canvas was the last of a big pile given to me by my patron, whose name I dare not utter here. So I figured I’d do something special…something they’d appreciate.

Thus I began:

Darkness 0

In the beginning, indecisiveness claimed me. The 20″ x 30″ canvas sat for three weeks looking like this. See that pale line left of center, it’s from an accidental varnish spill. No big deal, I figured.

Darkness 1

Finally, I started adding shapes. At this stage, I wasn’t sure whether or not to go completely abstract. These weird little darknesses gave me all sorts of ideas. Never mind the sepia tone. That’s just from my shitty camera.

Darkness 2

About one week from finish, I decided to go mega-gloomy. No color. No signs of life. Just a pale river leading to the sea and an ocean of daggerlike towers. Readers of my fantasy series might recognize this place as Morellellus, gathering place for the Emperor’s grand army.

The Emperors Vision

The finished product. My camera is crap, but the colors here are sorta kinda close to the real thing. The pale lights are windows. The shadows are long and lean. It’s no place I’d want to live…what about you?

 I hope you enjoy ‘The Emperor’s Vision.’ For more of my canvas work, nose around over here.

To get into something even darker, check this out:

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part II

Anymore, I’m a slave to the canvas. 

After a satisfying week during which I published my first non-fiction novel, I need a mental vacation (if not a real one…at the beach…with a pitcher of margaritas.) So this week I’d like to veer away from books to showcase six of my newest paintings. Thematically, all save one of these share similar elements. And yet all were painted with different moods in mind:

The Last Tower

The Last Tower – An Ur stronghold floating in an abstract nether void. I was thrilled to finally get some colors going on. The floating islands I painted with a mixing knife. The white doors lead to the world’s end.

Pale Swamp

Pale Swamp – The clouds were fun, fun, fun to paint. The thicket of twisted tree limbs, maybe not so much. Again we see the Ur tower, wandering its way through yet another dimension. See the eye in the upper left?

Four Swords

Four Swords – I wanted to go almost full-on abstract here. I blended my fragile geometric skills with some unusual color choices. Probably my most contemporary piece. Very satisfying to finish.

Dead Rain

Grave Rain – Far and away my favorite painting. It started as an angelic spirit overlooking a forest. But then my mood changed, and it become something else entirely. Headstones line the sodden earth at the bottom. The center tree is home to something treacherous. For me, the only thing that comes close to watching rain…is painting it.

Black Moon Graveyard

Dark Moon Cemetery – Almost certainly my simplest piece, but also my heaviest. The canvas weighs a solid 3.5 lbs. The power of the black moon bends all to its whim, including the trees.

Ashes

Ashes – When I saw Amanda Makepeace’s Heart of the Forest, some dark part of me wanted to counter it with something wicked. The shadow to her light, perhaps. The evil to her good. My crappy camera failed to pick up many of the subtle details, but the actual Ashes canvas is strikingly stark. To the first one who guesses (no Google cheating) the meaning of the symbol, I’ll send a free copy of 101 Questions for Humanity.

Check here to see Amanda’s sickeningly lovely beautiful Heart of the Forest. 🙂

In other good news, I’ve just been gifted with two massive 48″ x 28″ pro canvasses.  Meaning my next two paintings will be huge…and terrifying.

Buyers please look me up via Down the Dark Path’s contact link.

Stay cool.

J Edward Neill

Author of Down the Dark Path

Author of the coffee table philosophy book, 101 Questions for Humanity

Sculpting with Darkness – Turning Paper into Shadow

Every artist finds inspiration in different ways.

Some dream it. Others pry beauty from otherwise ordinary things. Still others wander the world in eternal search of it.

As for me, inspiration recently walked right up and slapped me in the face. Quite by accident, I collided with an artist whose style and creative medium is so different than my own. Her art tore me out of my miniature creative rut, lighting a new fire beneath me.

Now…

I could go on and on about how and why we decided to smash our styles together. Why we believed mixing her paper sculptures and my deep, dark color would work.

But instead I’ll just show you…

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Our first collaboration was…naturally…a demon inspired by my kid…

The Demon

It went like this: my six-year old described a monster he wanted on his wall. I listened closely and sketched a rough draft. And then T. Morrison (the aforementioned amazing artist) poured herself a big bowl of water and lightweight spackle (and another bowl of Cream of Wheat for sustenance) and hand sculpted our deadly demon friend.

When she finished a few days later, we turned the demon over to my kid, who slathered it up with blacks, reds, golds, and whites.

Meaning this piece was created by three artists, not just two.

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Then T. Morrison decided to get serious.

Her next piece (which I’m calling Black Masque; she never names her art) is about as creepy and cool as it gets. Once again her mediums were lightweight spackle, wet paper (for the shawl) and acrylic paints.

Black Masque

I had no idea what to expect when I turned over this oval-shaped canvas to m’lady Morrison. But she delivered…and she even let me paint a few skeletal shadows in the background.

I love it. What do you think?

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Soon enough, it was time for T. and I to engage in a true collaboration. No kids, no messing around.

On a 20″ x 20″ canvas, I sketched out a twisted tree. (It’s kind of my thing.) Afterward, Miss Morrison whipped up a BIG batch of sculpt-alicious spackle and turned my simple tree into a spooky three-dimensional monstrosity.

Here’s the progression:

1. Apply lightweight spackle atop my sketch.

2. Turn the piece over to me for background painting.

3. Sip vodka and pineapple juice while I pour on more colors.

And thus was born a piece we call ‘Haunted.’ It’s super vibrant. We liked the end result so much, we decided to sell prints here.

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Next up, T. Morrison decided to put her patience to the test.

Lovingly (she uses the term loosely) T. sculpted three airships atop a blank canvas. The ships took hours to sculpt, requiring utmost care to carve out every little detail. Then…she decided to paint each one. Tiny brushes…tiny blobs of paint…and not-so-tiny sips of vodka.

I thought she might give up, and yet she persevered.

As for the background city, she insisted I paint it. Every cloud, building, and razor-sharp bridge component…mine all mine.

Storm City

Storm City took us about a week.

Well worth the effort, we think.

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Now then, here’s one that’s all T. Morrison. Other than a few color (or lack thereof) suggestions, I didn’t touch it.

And perhaps this piece is better for it:

Frozen Shade

Look at the folds in her cloak. Savor the deathly whites and deadly blacks.

Frozen Shade is my personal favorite piece of all the works T. Morrison has created.

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As of the moment I pen this article, we’re working on several new sculpture/painting collaborations.

But perhaps none so dark as this one:

Ocular

Ocular – a nice angle to see the 3D sculpture

Ocular – part skull, part tentacle, all scary. Sculpture by T. Paint by me.


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For our final pieces, I’ll just leave them here. I did the backgrounds. T did the rest. Boom.

 

The horned girl is Infinity Queen. She’s available here. The angelic girl is Spirit of Regret. She’s available here.

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We’ve got several more pieces lined up.

Including a spooky green-lit tree, a girl in a shawl, and more.

Visit us again right here at Tessera Guild to see what we’ve cooked up.

J Edward Neill

Obsessive Artist

Author of Shadows

New Painting – Storm City

Typically…

I prefer to work alone. The quieter, the better. If I can hear a mouse squeak, a human sigh, or a sound other than the wind at night, sometimes it’s too much for my creative self.

But I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone. I worked with up and coming artist T. Morrison on a rare piece. And my efforts were rewarded.

She sculpted using lightweight spackle. I splashed with acrylics and watercolors.

And we created a piece we’re calling ‘Storm City.’

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Storm City prints are available here.  The original is 16″ x 20″.  Reach me here for purchase inquiries.

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

 

 

 

Three Splashes of Darkness

Finally…

I’ve settled in my new house long enough to reboot my creative engine and slather up some new paintings.

I’ve got new lighting, a cabinet stocked with all manner of deep, dark colors, and a set of brushes sharper than any sword…

Please enjoy:

sylpha

Sylpha – 12″ x 12″

Sylpha is a character from my upcoming novel, Darkness Between the Stars. Here, I give her the abstract treatment. She cuts a sad figure, doesn’t she?

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forlorn

Forlorn – 12″ x 32″

Forlorn is the first painting I finished in my new setup. The colors are powerful, and the effect really strong in rooms with low light.

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lake-of-longing

Lake of Longing – 24″ x 48″

After I finished Lake of Longing’s red companion (Forlorn, shown above) I knew I had to paint a bigger, darker version. Lake of Longing is epic-level huge, and dominates my gloomy man-cave, just the way I love it.

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If you enjoyed these, you’ll probably also like these.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

From the Darkness

You’ve listened to the playlist and you’ve seen the cover, now you can feast your eyes on the full painting behind J Edward Neill’s Nether Kingdom. You’re going to want to click on the image below…

Devourer of Stars by Amanda Makepeace

They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth.

I think it surprises people when I create a piece of dark art (literal in this instance). I’m known for my love of nature and animals, but those that truly know me are aware of my fascination with the dark. From about the age of 9 I would scour the tv guide for classic horror movies. And as someone who’s survived cancer, I’m no stranger to darkness. Here are several more examples from my childhood (pre-teens) if you’re not convinced!

1. The Labyrinth – My favorite character was Jareth, The Goblin King, of course. I wanted Sarah to stay with him, to hell with the crying baby!

2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – I was secretly thrilled by the possibility that Luke would join his father.

3. Giger’s Xenomorph – I’ve talked about this obsession numerous times. I have movies, comics, and my own fan art.

I love monsters and villains. I have a life-size God of Mischief hanging out in my studio. So, yeah. When J Edward asked me if I was up to the challenge, I needed only to look within, find that inner darkness and breathe it into my painting.

Thursday Art Assault – Wood Panel Warfare

At DragonCon 2017, I wandered the art gallery for what seemed like eons.

I encountered stunning fantasy art of all kinds. I found light, darkness, and everything in-between.

But then I stumbled upon something I’d never really seen before. An artist – I admit I don’t know her name or website – had created a large quantity of long, narrow paintings on slender wooden panels.

For me, a guy who has always focused his work on canvasses, gesso boards, and plain old paper, the idea of painting on peculiar-sized chunks of wood transfixed me.

I knew at once I had to try a few of my own:

I started with these:

Pieces of an old picket fence. About 20″ long – 4″ wide. Cut, dried, and sanded to a smooth finish.

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And I moved on to these:

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Here’s an up close shot of my favorite plank, The Sorcerer:

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After finishing a ton of smaller planks, I tried a giant plank. This one’s 6′ tall and 12″ wide. It was a true pleasure to paint:

Started with this…

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…and finished with this.

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I admit I loved making these so much, I’ve got another six planks drying on my deck right now. Meaning…more are soon to come.

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Want to learn more? Hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

And…you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Thursday Art Assault – Shadow Art

On a lonely Friday eve, long after midnight slid by, I stood before a black canvas with the last drop of white paint clinging to my paintbrush.

Songs a bit dramatic, right?

Anyway, I made good use of the white paint.

And out came my latest painting, Night Emperor.

Night Emperor

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And of course, Night Emperor needs his bride.  Here’s ‘Frozen’ sculpted and painted by artist (and lady of the night) T. Morrison:

Frozen

They make quite a pair, don’t you think?

For art inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like Night Emperor and Frozen, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Top 10 Artists who inspire the hell out of me

The tricky part about creating a best-of artist list?

…you can’t usually post an artist’s creations without ticking them off and destroying copyright protections.

It’s ok. We’ll figure something out.

Here’s ten artists who’ve shined a powerful light on me (and my walls.)  They’re in no particular order.

* * *

Allen Williams

Allen Williams, master of graphite powder, lord of graphite, is among the most interesting illustrators and conceptual artists I’ve ever stumbled upon. He’s done film work, but the works I’m struck by are his weird, ghoulish drawings, posted regularly for sale right here.

My absolute favorite piece by Allen? This monster here – The Lotus King.

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RK Post

Back in my days of playing Magic the Gathering, I discovered the best part of the game is the card art. A host of excellent illustrators toils to create some pretty fascinating monsters, angels, and otherworldly entities, all for players’ enjoyment. RK Post’s art is likely my favorite. His sometimes harsh, often dark images bring MtG to life.

His website is here. He creates unique alternate versions of his MtG cards here.

And one of my favorite RK Magic cards is:

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Terese Nielsen

If RK Post is my favorite MtG illustrator, Terese Nielsen is a close, close second. She blends strong realism with wild, barely controlled elements, and I love it. Angels, goddesses, beautiful women, strong men, powerful animals…she’s a master of them all.

Her website is here. A fine selection of her best Magic the Gathering cards is here.

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Bastien LeCouffe DeHarme

Sometimes one stumbles upon an artist whose concepts and execution demand immediate attention. Bastien is one such person. Based in France, he specializes in women, often mixing them with mechanical and/or fantastical elements. His themes are often dark and tormented (my favorite) and his execution when blending realism and the abstract is stunning.

I have several DeHarme prints on my walls. Just sayin’.

Enough of my gushing. Go look at his portfolio right here. And yes, some of his work is NSFW.

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H.R. Giger

Sadly, the lord of the Xenomorphs has passed to the next world. Thankfully his creations remain. Surely most people have watched the Alien movies, and yet H.R. (Hans Ruedi) Giger created far more than just a few creepy extraterrestrials. His mastery of biomechanical, necromantic paintings, sculpture, and other media are unparalleled.

I first discovered Giger’s work (Meister und Margeritha) on the cover of a Danzig album.

A selection of Giger’s art books is here.

Necronom IV. (Photo: H.R. Giger)

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Jeremy Mann

It’s true. I accidentally discovered Jeremy Mann years ago while Facebook stalking a mutual fan. Whatever. Simply put, Mann’s oil paintings and photography are stunning. He specializes in portrait work and breathtaking cityscapes, sometimes blending his subject matter with a dark edge.  Like most of my favorite artists, he walks the line between utter realism and abstract fantasy. Just look at his women here (NSFW.) And his unbelievably haunting cityscapes, implying rain and twilight, are here.

It’s worth mentioning Mann prefers not to sell prints. You’ll have to hit up one of his galleries or buy one of his premium (and personalized) art books if you really, really want to be a fan.

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John Howe

It’s probable that during the creation of the Lord of the Rings movies, Peter Jackson could not have chosen a better illustrator than John Howe (and Alan Lee.) John’s sketches, landscapes, and character work captured LOTR’s theme in a way perhaps no other could match.

His website is a bit clunky. Doesn’t matter. Check it out anyway.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that John Howe is also an experienced and talented swordsman. He believes the best way to understand objects and motion is to hold, use, and touch the object to be drawn or painted. I tend to agree. Completely.

You owe it to yourself to check out the special features on the LOTR DVD boxed set. Kick back and check out John Howe and Alan Lee’s superior art

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Alan Lee

The second half of LOTR’s dynamic art duo is Alan Lee. He’s a master of watercolor paintings, often depicting surreal landscapes with incredible detail. His creation of faerie-like forest scenes, with writhing branches and strange, ethereal colors, is particularly inspiring. Alan not only worked as an illustrator for the movies, but also has his hands in several Tolkien-related art books, all of which are worth every penny.

Chase Alan’s fascinating art on Facebook.

An interesting bio of Alan appears here.

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Marcela Bolivar

I count myself lucky to have found (again by accident) Marcela’s art via Facebook. Marcela is a photo-illustrator specializing in digital recreations of stunning photos. While I don’t typically adore digital art, for Marcela (and a few others) I make exceptions. Her work, especially her women and surreal natural scenes, provide elegance and eye-candy all art-lovers can likely appreciate.

You need to check Marcela’s website here. Especially the stunning piece ‘Hydroponic.’ Thank me later. 🙂

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Amanda Makepeace

Lady Makepeace is a humble dweller of the central Georgian woodlands, and just so happens to be my personal favorite cover artist. Yeah…I’m a fanboy; her painting Autumn Waters hangs right next to my favorite art pieces at home. She’s an illustrator, using both digital and traditional media to portray mythical creatures, magical birds, wondrous woodlands, and the occasional terrifying sci-fi monstrosity.

Her website is here.

Amanda has created stunning cover work for several of my novels, including:

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My own not-nearly-as-amazing-as-the-ten-artists-above art can be found here.

J Edward Neill

Shadow of Forever – my last sci-fi book for a while

First, let’s get business out of the way.

I’ve just released Shadow of Forever. It’s the sequel to this, and my fourth sci-fi book overall.

You’ll find the Amanda Makepeace cover art below. Amanda has created more than half my book covers. She does great work, don’t you think? I’m glad our shared time in high school didn’t result in her hating me. I’d have lost a valuable friend and ally in my creative endeavors. 🙂

Click me to buy!

Shadow of Forever – available in ebook and softcover formats. Joff Armstrong and Callista return for their deadliest adventure yet. Think space vampires, star-killing machines, and galaxy-wide viruses…

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Anyway…

I’m here to admit that while Shadow of Forever and its predecessor were challenging and rewarding to write, I’m moving on from science fiction for a bit.

Does that mean I’m going to stop writing books? Nope. Not even close. I’m currently working on a non-fiction story during which I’ll drink a different brand of wine while writing each chapter (yes, I’m serious!) It’s tentatively named Reality is Best Served with Red Wine. I’m also working on several short stories (they hurt less) and exploring Season Two of this, in which I’ll reunite with author John McGuire.

So…

Why the temporary withdrawal from sci-fi? Well…it’s complicated. I love, love, love penning stories about humans in deep space, cool scientific theories, and eldritch horrors lurking between the stars. But my challenge is…sci-fi just doesn’t sell as well as other genres. Even when one writes approachable-to-everyone sci-fi (as I do) the stigma remains. When many readers see the word ‘sci-fi’ they assume a male-dominated, violence-filled orgasm of spaceships mixed with bizarre scientific theories. That’s not really my gig, but many readers have been conditioned to think otherwise. It’s a hard mountain to climb.

Fact is, non-fiction and fantasy are where it’s at. Let me explain.  I can punch out 5-6 non-fiction titles in the same span of time as one full-length novel, meaning multiple mass-appeal entries into the market. And with fantasy (my favorite genre to write) the readership isn’t as narrow. Fantasy has so many nuanced sub-genres, so many plot and world-building options, the audience is easily ten times that of sci-fi and horror offerings.

Will there be a Shadow of Forever sequel, thus making a trilogy of the Eater of the Light series?

Quite possibly.

Will I complete a follow-up to A Door Never Dreamed Of, my wildest sci-fi tale yet?

Maybe.

But probably not for a year or two.

If I sound like I’m waffling, it’s because I am. My newest love, painting 3D canvasses in collaboration with other artists, takes up more and more of my time these days. I admit that relaxing on warm evenings with a paintbrush in one hand and a glass of pinot noir in the other makes for a pretty good life. It’s easier than writing, editing, and marketing books. It tends to satisfy my immediate need for peace and tranquility.

And yet…

The writing bug remains.

So stick with me, loyal readers. I’ve got thirty-two titles on the market, meaning I’m committed to this writing gig for pretty much forever :). As the years roll on and the words keep flowing, I’m planning to touch every major genre (except maybe romance and were-bear erotica.)

That’s a promise.

Give Shadow of Forever a shot. It’s my counterpunch to hyper-technical sci-fi.

And if you prefer quick & quiet quizzes (yeah…alliteration) just try this out.

Love,

J Edward Neill

That time I destroyed my house with art

I’ve painted hundreds of canvasses.

I’ve gone through a thousand tubes of acrylic paint, wrecked dozens of brushes, and cleaned up countless spills.

None of it prepared me for the horrors of using graphite.

You see, I wanted a change. Not that I’d grown bored of using acrylics and watercolors; I hadn’t. It’s just that I’d seen some epic works by Allen Williams and others…and frankly I felt I needed to expand my horizons.

So I hit the local Hobby Lobby, snatched up some charcoal pencils, graphite sticks, tortillions, and two small jars of the most devious substance on Earth – graphite powder.

Pure. Beautiful. Evil.

The powder looked harmless enough. A fine black grit neatly tucked into a plastic cylinder, I wasn’t worried about how to use it. I figured I’d start experimenting, pound out a few dozen pieces, and learn on the fly.

I should’ve done more research…

It’s not that I spilled any; I really didn’t. It’s not that I was clumsy with it; I wasn’t. But the thing is…once rubbed in, stepped on, or lightly dusted across any surface, graphite powder embeds itself.

…into my hands.

…onto my drop cloths.

…on my patio.

…in my shower.

After a few hours of coating a canvas in dark, dark powder, the stuff was everywhere. I always work barefoot, and my toes and heels became black as midnight. I like to push charcoal and graphite around with my fingers to texture it, and so my hands resembled a coal miner’s. I like to breathe, thus the inside of my nose was coated with a fine layer of darkness.

The piece I created was only meant to be experimental, to get a feel for how the powder works.

You could say I learned my lesson.

Introducing ‘The Nameless Tree.’ It’s my first (and possibly last for a while) graphite powder piece.

The Nameless Tree is approx. 20″ x 30″.  The original is for sale for $250.00.

The tree was created by removing excess graphite with a pair of soft erasers. It took about an hour to coat the canvas, another hour to carve out the tree, and a full day to clean the corrupting graphite from my deck, my floors, and my skin. As I type this, I still have powder embedded beneath my fingernails.

Live and learn…

…and stay the hell away from graphite unless you know what you’re getting into.

If you like The Nameless Tree, you’ll probably like these.

And if you like quizzes, you’ll love this.

J Edward Neill

The most anonymous memory ever

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.

I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.

The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.

This is what I found:

***

There are many variations to the story.

Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration. 

This is home.

Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three woman a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.

“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”

I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.

***

I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

Did I just fall off the face of the earth, or what?

I’ve never heard a Beyoncé song (that I know of.)

I haven’t seen The Walking Dead.

It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.

I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.

Anyone else feel me?

Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.

Nah.

“Huh? Whaaaa…?”

Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.

What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?

I’m not that old.

I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.

I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.

You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)

Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.

And I’m not really sure it matters.

What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.

Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.

Wait. No it doesn’t.

To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)

Does anyone else experience this?

Anyone?

What the F does this meme even mean??

If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.

But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.

Until I stopped listening entirely.

Next came TV.

And here’s the whole story behind that.

More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.

Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.

I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.

Me. As in my face. Always.

It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?

It’s cultural abandonment.

It’s a willful disregard for humanity.

And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.

Do you?

J Edward Neill

Builder of better coffee tables.

Under-the-rock artist.

Behind the Artist – Interview with La’Vata O’Neal

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Doing this comic book thing as a writer who can barely draw stick figures means I have to lean on the artists who work with me. There is a level of trust that must exist when you hand over your finely crafted words for them to work their magic. So far, I’ve been very lucky in this regard on all the various comic related things I’ve done, but that is especially true with the Gilded Age.

I was happy when I reached out to La’Vata O’Neal (who has done the cover for the Gilded Age Graphic Novel… more on that later…) and she agreed to an interview.

***

How long have you been creating art/working in comics?

I’ve been working in comics since Mr. Tony Cade decided to pick me up to do some work for him.

(Tony Cade is the Editor-in-Chief over at Terminus Media.)

At what point did you sit down and decide to become an artist? Have you had any formal training? What’s the first thing you drew?

When I was little I was interested in shapes and figures, still am of course, anything that isn’t a number or word! Though, I’m interested in writing due to its creative nature as well.

What things inspire you to create art? Favorite artists/creators? Influences?

I didn’t have an early influence back then because it’s really like an old love. It’s the serenity of it, though now I’m greatly inspired by many artists now, deceased or living. I’m particularly fond of old paintings because of the way they were able to capture a story in one image. They spoke with such power with just one image.

How do you manage your daily life with the art? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2? If you have the old day job, what do you do? Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

I sketch daily and paint weekly, it’s like my fingers are possessed-

I’m joking!

I do sketch daily though to keep the creative flow. Whatever I produce in sketches I try to share and it keeps me relevant. I post to facebook, tumblr, and Instagram as the best way to market myself. At some point during the week though I’m always interested in learning new creative ways of doing art, so I’m usually reading up on some art form or for example how to do animation, etc. But At the moment I’m juggling a 9 to 5 job on top of the freelance business.

What’s your process? Digital vs. by hand? What do you prefer?

I love both to be honest; traditional is more expensive so the digital helps keep the budget down-but both, all day every day if I could! My process is a longer explanation, but a lot of it derives from traditional practices.

How do you work? Music while you draw? TV shows? Movies? No distractions?

I love to work while listening to music and if not music then an audible book.

What have you worked on previously?

I worked on a mobile game app, doing character design and illustration.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in you art? In regards to comics, are there things that draw you in, something you see or read where you must put your own spin on the story/character?

Let’s see, reoccurring themes…Fantasy mostly, I’m most drawn to that I believe. But realistically, I’m drawn to anything that’s fiction as long as the story is good! As for putting my own spin on characters, it’s something I reserve for others to do at the moment.

Do you have a favorite thing to draw (genre, scenery, etc)?

My favorite thing to draw are fantasy characters, they’re interesting in their own way because they’re so dynamic and otherworldly. But as long as character has enough character they’re interesting to me.

What’s the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world?

I would say keeping afloat, isn’t that always the case though. It’s rough being freelance if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If you could go back ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Wow…hm…I know exactly what I would say and it has everything to do with being more exposed to the art world. The more exposure the more you’ll understand.

What is your worst habit?

My worst habit…daydreaming, maybe? Lol

Goals? One year from now?

Let’s see, one year from now I look to be employed by a studio and not just doing freelance, I’d like to try being under some other artists so I can learn more.

For the Gilded Age, you worked on the cover to the trade (which is amazing by the way). I know we went back and forth with some ideas about how to present the characters, but it seemed like the tarot card idea just worked not only on a story level, but visually just nailed it. After we figured out that direction, how long did you work on those pieces – fine tuning them?

It might have taken me around 30 total hours to complete the cover. It was a very pleasant experience working on the Gilded Age trade cover!

Have you worked on any Steampunk style images before?

I have not actually but trying something new is always a learning experience and it can also be fun!

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my own project which still needs time to develop but it’s in the works, so keep an eye out! 😉

Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show?)?

Well that depends if people really want to know! I like being the mysterious type.

Where’s the best place to see your stuff on the web (website)?

www.leonealart.com

***

I want to thank La’Vata for not only taking the time to answer my questions, but for being such an amazing artist. The cover for the Gilded Age Trade is ridiculous in every (great) way!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Future (and history) of beautiful Video Games

Ever daydream of being somewhere other than wherever you are?

Well?

Maybe you fantasize about slumming at a beachside tiki bar?

Maybe you daydream of sitting in the backyard on a warm night, soaking up a pitcher of sweet tea?

Or mayyybe sometimes you dream of nestling on a couch with all the lights off, controller in hand, television ablaze with an amazing video game?

Yeah. You know you’ve thought about it. It’s ok to admit. I’m right there with you.

Daydream of this real-life scene….oh wait…that’s Skyrim!

Let’s take a moment to appreciate where we are these days. We’re in the golden age of video games, and that’s no exaggeration. As far as new forms of art (yeah, video games are art) games are advancing leaps and bounds ahead of other industries. Hollywood movies are kinda stagnant. Television is all reality shows, zombies, and superhero/crime drama.

But games…well.

Every time a new year rolls around, we get to swim in a shiny ocean of faster, prettier, more artistic gaming entertainment. For $60, you can either take your family to see a single 2-hour movie at the theater OR you can buy a game like Skyrim, Witcher, or Zelda -Breath of the Wild and create stories of your own via your console of choice.

My kid pretty much wet himself when he saw the preview of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

And so here we are. Another new year. After a powerful 2016, which saw a waterfall of hot, stunning titles roll over the precipice, we’re primed for what could be the most beautiful year of games ever. And I don’t just mean good games like I’ve listed here, but gorgeous, artistic, crazy-good looking titles. Like sharp and futuristic Mass Effect 4 and noir-looking Vampyr.

Which begs the question: what are some of the most beautiful game titles of all time?

Well…for starters:

Limbo (Playdead)

Windwaker (Nintendo)

Witcher 3 (CD Projekt Red)

Metroid Prime 3 (Retro Studios)

Mass Effect 3 (Bioware)

 

Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios)

Beyond Good and Evil (Ubisoft)

The Last of Us (Naughty Dog)

Halo 3 (Bungie)

Inside (Playdead)

Half-Life 2 (Valve)

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A while back (and I mean WAY back) game-devoted site IGN did an article focusing on the best graphics ever. Now I don’t mean to be picky, but great graphics don’t always translate into superior beauty. Yes, realism is nice. And yeah, a poppin’ frame-rate is great. But sometimes it’s not the sharpest, most advanced games that strike an artistic chord.

Take Playdead’s Limbo and Inside, for example. Neither game was a technological achievement, but both were atmospheric, subtle, and beautiful. And let’s not forget Wind Waker, now more than a decade old, using cel-shading to give gamers a whole new perspective of Link. Both were risky moves by their developers, and both paid off.

Speaking of developers, they haven’t always had the tools they do today. Take one look at my progression of best games ever, and you’ll see the jumps we’ve made in graphical power.

Which begs the question: which old-school games are the most beautiful?

What about….

Majora’s Mask – Nintendo

Quake 3 (id Software)

Neverwinter Nights (Bioware)

Myst (Cyan)

Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware)

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Admittedly, it’s slim pickings if you go much older than the mid-90’s. Games back in the day had to be fun first, pretty last. That’s not to say old-school games don’t have moments of beauty, but the highly pixelated graphics usually meant the beauty was due to the story or the atmosphere.

And that’s the true test, isn’t it?

A fun-to-play game can be good, but it’s the rare game that makes us think and feel, and thus it’s the rare game that’s truly beautiful throughout.

Games can be art. Art can be games. The better developers gets at making them, the more the line will blur.

And that’s a good thing.

 




You say you’re a video game god? Find out the truth by taking this quiz.

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy 

Painter of Darkness

Why you need to push Big Shiny Red Buttons – A Book of Ridiculous Scenarios

In Big Shiny Red Buttons, a variety of fun, serious, and absurd scenarios awaits you.

More than a hundred buttons are dying to be pushed. The only question is: will you push them?

Suppose something terrible will happen if you don’t? What if pushing a button would bring you great prosperity, but cause harm to someone else?

Every scenario is different. Some will make you laugh, while others will force you to think. Some are serious, and some flat out absurd.

So how many buttons will you push?

And how many lives will be changed if you push them?

Want to start pushing buttons right now? Go here!

Want a few samples? Scroll down!

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Sample Buttons!


Sell your Soul Button

 Whenever pushed, this red (but flecked with gold) button deposits $1,000,000 into your bank account.

The only price: it also shaves three years off your lifespan every time you push it.

So…

Will you push it?

How many times?

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The Combusti-Button

One tap of this big round button will destroy any one cultural phenomenon.

Completely.

Examples: memes, Facebook, hashtags, a specific music type, a specific slang word, a new fashion, et cetera.

You only get to use it once.

Wanna push it?

Whatcha gonna combust?

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The Duplication Button

One press of this unassuming button can be a powerful thing.

If you use it, any one person in the world will adopt your moral code, your intellect, and your view of the world. They’ll still be themselves physically, but their mental state and beliefs will resemble yours.

You only get to push it once.

Will you?

If so, who’s your target?



Big Red Shiny Buttons – the most fun you’ll ever have in a book.

Enjoy!

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Painter of Extreme Darkness

Pencils, Paint, and Pain – Tyrants of the Dead Art

It was long and difficult journey to publish my first three fantasy books.

I spent ten years writing them…then another two years in rewrites.

Along the way, I created and commissioned a ton of art for the series. Some of it was inspirational. Other pieces were meant as cover art, and still others for marketing.

Today I’ve brought a ton of it together. Think of this as a unified sketchbook. It includes pieces by the elegant Amanda Makepeace, the gifted Eileen Herron, and the super savvy Damonza.

Please enjoy the art of my Tyrants of the Dead series, which includes the novels Down the Dark Path, Dark Moon Daughter, and Nether Kingdom:

Ur Orig Sketch

Let’s start with a dirty little sketch I did. I sent it to Amanda Makepeace to aid her creation of Nether Kingdom’s cover art. You’ll see in the next pic how she took my humble idea and made it grand.

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Makepeace_DevourerofStars-500x358

Lady Makepeace’s full cover art for Nether Kingdom. This demonic dude is one of the Ur, the primary villains in the series. His skin is shadow, and his insides glow with starlight.

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Sarco

Here’s another bad, bad creature. This full-color piece was Eileen Herron’s vision of a Sarcophage (undead knight) who plagues the pages of book two in the series, Dark Moon Daughter. It’s one of my favorites.

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Dark Moon Daughter Createspace Kindle Front Cover LARGE

What’s this? Why, it’s the original Eileen Herron cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I commissioned a full-scale painting, which still hangs in my bedroom to this day. Ultimately we went with something edgier and darker for the final cover, but I still love this piece.

 

DMD Warlock Image

This guy (in the lower right of the full painting above) is the only existing image of the malevolent Warlock. Ironically he was modeled after Eileen’s husband, who’s pretty much the opposite of evil.

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The Underhollows

Here’s a painting I did in 2015. I named it the Underhollows. It doesn’t appear in the books, but is meant to show what the world would look like if the villains won.

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Dark Moon Nether Kingdom Concept Dark Moon Daughter Interior Cover Art Cropped

Two Eileen Herron sketches of Andelusia, the series’ heroine.

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 IllyocHere’s a huge canvas painting I did called ‘Illyoc.’ It’s a bit abstract, I admit. It’s a view of the dark stronghold Malog, as seen from a balcony.

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NetherKingdomSKetchFUllCover

A conceptual piece Amanda Makepeace did. You can see how it’s the beginning of the Nether Kingdom cover. Pretty ghostly, yeah?

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Ur-Shadow-Sketch-390x500

Kinda looks like the killer from the Scream movies, yeah? It’s actually the first ever sketch of the Ur. Another Eileen Herron piece. Nice and creepy.

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Ande Cover 2 (GIMP)  Ande Full Body

These are shots of Eileen Herron’s original cover art for Down the Dark Path. Once again, she painted a large canvas for me which still hangs on my wall. The redhead is pre-darkness Andelusia. The guy with the flaming sword is Garrett Croft. The big red spiky ball was the concept for the evil Soul Orb. I love this painting. But as it turns out, it didn’t photograph well for the final cover. Check out the lone black lock of Ande’s hair. Hint…hint…

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Dark-Andelusia-Landing

Another Eileen Herron sketch of Andelusia. This is our heroine gliding out of the shadows. It’s a simple little drawing, but I’ve always been in love with it.

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Ande J Sketch Ande sketch DMD Ande11 Ande33

Early sketches of Andelusia by me (top left) Amanda Makepeace (top right) and Eileen Herron (bottom.)

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DepthsofUndergrave1md

A promo digital painting of Andelusia by Amanda Makepeace.

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BizCardBack

Here’s what the Soul Orb ended up becoming. This is just a sliver of Lady Makepeace’s cover work for Book I. And yes…those are bones!

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1 2 3 4

You’ve probably seen these before. I post them all the time. Book I is Amanda’s full cover art. The other three are paintings I did in 2015. The original canvas for Book II (Ghost Tree) ended up being a Christmas gift for a family member. The other two still hang on my wall at home. The painting for Book IV (Ocean of Knives) is epic-level huge, measuring in at 36″ x 48″. It took a month to paint!

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Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

 

This one was done by online professional, Damonza. He custom-did the entire thing based on a photograph of a woman I was dating at the time. That’s post-darkness Andelusia, and the eyes in the background belong to the Ur. This one is a fan favorite, probably because it’s so damn sexy.

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*furyonhoriz

Eileen Herron’s art for Down the Dark Path…the bookmark. That’s a Furyon knight, fully armored and standing in a storm. It’s a badass piece. I wish I could’ve found a way to make it work for a book cover. Maybe someday…

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 DarkMoonDaughterBackCoverFinalCreatespace

 This was the original back cover for Dark Moon Daughter, which I nixed after Damonza finished his sexy cover. This was my first ever attempt at making a back cover by myself. It’s not horrible (but not good, either.)

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The Emperors Vision

 Here’s The Emperor’s Vision, a painting I did in 2015. You can probably see the similarity to Book IV’s cover art. This is meant to be the dark city of Morellellus, in which the very first passages of Down the Dark Path open. It’s still one of my favorites. It was among the very first things I painted for the series.

Ocean 6

Finally, I did a piece called Ocean of Knives. It’s an expansion of The Emperor’s Vision. Same city, same concept, but four times the canvas space.  This painting would quickly become the cover art for Down the Dark Path – Book IV in the mini-series.

Also, here’s a bunch of sketches I did wayyyyy back in the day.

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes.

Love,

J Edward Neill

20 Things I’ve Dreamed About

Not so long ago, I lost my dreams.

Meaning; I stopped having them.

Entirely.

I think I know the reason why. But reasons aren’t always important. Instead I think I’ll catalog some of the ones I remember. For my sake. And hopefully for your entertainment.

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A lot of people describe having falling dreams. I can’t remember ever having one of those. But I used to have falling ‘up’ dreams. As in I keep falling toward outer space. I don’t die out there in the stars. I just keep going. Trippy.

Remember the cool spherical submarine James Cameron took down into the ocean deeps? I dreamed that. Except the sub went way, way down. Not just the seven miles into the Marianas Trench, but a hundred miles deeper. I can’t really recall what I saw down there, but it was fascinating…and terrifying.

I once dreamed I met two men in Israel. They each offered me a different power, but the catch was I’d have to use it to help them do nefarious things. One power was to slow time for everyone else besides myself. The second was to become as heavy (in terms of weight) as I desired, while maintaining the same size. Both would make me unstoppable. I did bad things. I chose the weight power, then used it to steal the time power from the other guy. Oddly enough, this weird little dream inspired my new book, A Door Never Dreamed Of.

Ever seen the movie, The Fountain? Pretty good flick. I dreamed I was the dude in a space bubble, and I dreamed it fifty times, maybe more. I was utterly alone, forever floating. I was immortal. It was kinda cool, and supremely lonely.

I had a baaaaad nightmare when I was eight. My recently departed grandfather visited me, only he was rotting, eyeless, and nasty. His guts were hanging out. He looked like the dude from the old Metallica video, The Unforgiven. Yikes.

Less a dream and more an observation. I’ve never heard music of any kind during any dream I’ve ever had. Is that unusual? Do you guys hear tunes while you sleep?

I used to have a specific night terror as a boy, then later as a teenager (after several years of not having it.) In the nightmare, a skeletal shadow hovered over me as I slept. It woke me, whispered horrible things to me, and promised one day it would destroy me. Not just my body, but my soul. I decided later in life to make this critter the bad guy in my way-too-F’n-long fantasy series, and haven’t had the nightmare since. Hmmmm…

I had a recurring dream about a genie in a bottle. No…not the Christina Aguilera song. The genie asked me what my one wish was. (It was BS I didn’t get three.) My answer was always the same: The Power of Persuasion. Meaning anything I suggested to any person, they listened to. It was the ultimate Jedi mind trick. Sometimes I used the power for good. Sometimes just to get laid. Other times I took over the entire planet, upon which I established a seriously dark, tyrannical empire. Fun!

First dream I remember having: I’m in a car driving down a long road I’ve been down before, but can’t remember where it is in real life. Graveyards sleep on either side of the car. It’s not scary at all. There’s someone singing to me in the front seat. It’s soothing, but kinda dark.

The worst nightmare I’ve ever had (worse than rotting grandpa and shadow demon) was definitely this: I’m relaxing in my childhood bedroom. I have earphones on, but no music is playing. I’m at peace, but suddenly every single light in the world starts going out. I can sense the lights dying one by one. And then the outage comes to my house. It’s slow. It’s agonizing. And when the last light dies (a lamp beside my bed) I expire.

I dreamed this one almost exactly as I ended up writing it. I’m a boy at a zoo for aliens. I’m with my family. Everything seems fine, until it doesn’t. If you care, the story is here.

Ever played the game Metroid? Basically it’s a story about a woman alone on a planet full of things that want to kill her. For almost a year, I had a similar dream. Earth needs me to go to this weird planet and blow it up. No one can go with me. After training, I land on this eerie place and wander into some caves. Sadly I never get to finish. I like to think I completed my mission. Guess I’ll never know.

In a completely non-sexual way, I had a recurring dream about a red-haired woman. She was like my sister or something, and I was completely obligated to follow her around, protect her, and to not under any circumstances fall in love with her. All of this I did in a medieval setting. No modern conveniences at all. The girl later became part of the inspiration for the heroine (Andelusia) in my dark fiction series.

Clouds 2

In one of my favorite dreams, I soar through clouds that look much like these. I’m utterly free, no cares in the world. I like to think we’d all love this dream.

I dreamed once, maybe twice, of a great, dark city. The city was newly-made, shiny and black. It wasn’t really modern, but nor was it from the old world. The city lay on a black shore upon which oil instead of water washed up in waves. I wandered the city for years. And found no one. So I painted it here.

Had a dream that the Russian government asked me to end a war. All I had to do was assassinate the president of their rival nation. I did terrible things in this dream, but perhaps the saving grace is that I never got to the end. The Russians didn’t win, and I always had the sense that they were the bad guys to begin with. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe this in real-life.)

I used to have persistent (and weird) dreams of being Lucifer from Paradise Lost. I fight God, lose, and fall. Except Hell in my dreams isn’t scary or hot. It’s peaceful, albeit cold.

Ok. Yes. I’ve had the typical I’m the best NFL quarterback in the world dream. I mean…it’s been a while. Forgive me, ok?

This one sounds like a nightmare, but it never really was. As a ghost, I wandered the world for hundreds of years after my death. I couldn’t touch or really affect anything. I figure I should’ve been lonely, but somehow I wasn’t. It was kinda interesting observing how humanity evolved. I only wish I could’ve remembered all the cool tech I dreamed up. 🙂

The last dream I remember having before my dreams stopped: walking through the rain on a forested mountainside. So very peaceful. If that was the last one I ever have, I’ll take it.

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Here’s a book that wasn’t inspired by any dreams.

And here’s one almost entirely dream-made.

See ya.

J Edward Neill

 

My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

A billion years ago, I hurled up a list of my Top 6 Video Games of all time.

 It’s time to expand on that idea. Refresh it. Modernize it.

Since the birth of my son, my availability to play games has been seriously reduced. As in, it’s fallen off a cliff. I used to be an addict, throw giant Halo parties, and stay up way past everyone’s bedtime. But now when I add in writing and painting, I’m limited to about 3.5 minutes of Xbox time every other night.

Even so…

I manage to squeeze a little in.

Here are my top 7 games from the last five or so years. These aren’t my favorites of all time, but they’re pretty damn awesome. After writing a few thousand words, slathering up a new canvas, or pounding down a few drinks, I reward myself with these. They’re like little electronic elixirs. They’re delicious.

 

PVZ

 

#7 – Plants versus Zombies (The original)

Don’t judge me. I know it’s a kids’ game. I get that it’s easy, cute, and totally contrary to the super-grim stuff I usually like. Despite all this, PvZ had me hooked within 3 seconds of meeting Crazy Dave. If Walking Dead had pea-shooters and potato mines, I might watch it. Nah…prolly not.

 

 

Halo

#6 – Halo – The Master Chief Collection

Normally I’d never consider a shooter for a top game. I liked Borderlands and Gears of War and all, but only as time-killers. Halo is somehow different. What I really love about the entire series is the story, the smoothness, and the ability to kill get killed by my friends for hours on end while pounding whiskey. And now that they bundled all the games into one giant package (which an awesome friend gave me as a gift) I’m hooked again.

 

Shadow Complex

#5 – Shadow Complex

For the uninitiated, Shadow Complex is an old school side-scroller set in the near future. It’s a splash of Metroid, a dash of Contra, and a tiny droplet of Mega Man. It’s too short a game to be considered higher than spot #5, but it’s still awesome for what it is. Quick, dirty fun. You get to blow stuff up and use your brain at the same time. Hard to beat a puzzle game that includes rocket launchers.

 

Half Life

 

#4 –  The entire Half-Life series (On the Orange Box)

Ok. So I know I said I didn’t much care about shooters. You got me there. But Half-Life is more than a shooter. It’s got the best (and most tragically human) story. It’s got a physics engine rivaling super-modern games. And it’s got headcrabs. I mean…who doesn’t want a game with headcrabs? And giant, skyscraping robots? And a protagonist who uses a fucking crowbar? Half-life = #winning

Limbo

#3 – Limbo

If Limbo were a full 10-15 hour experience, it might take top honors. The first time I saw the spider, I shat myself. The game only lasted a few hours (if that) but I must’ve died 4,000 times. It’s all so bloody perfect. Limbo has the atmosphere, the puzzles, and the perfectly-paced action to keep a dude like me hypnotized. It actually helped inspire a few of my paintings, including this one.

Thief

# 2 – Thief 4

I might get killed for this one. Back in 2004, I fell in love with Eidos’ Thief, Deadly Shadows. The game’s whole mythology hooked me. So when the newest Thief came out, I gobbled it up. Well: The game was buggy, easy to get lost & confused in, and sometimes unfair. Didn’t bother me a bit. Thief retained the shadowy atmosphere of the original game. I got to steal gold from assholes. I got to swoop down from rooftops and maul unsuspecting guards. If they still cried out, ‘Taffer!’ right before dying, I might’ve bumped this game to #1. And the real catch: I couldn’t even finish it. My Xbox crashed and deleted my save data before the end. One day I’ll return to it. One day.

 

untitled

#1. The Witcher III – Wild Hunt

In the history of ranking video games, this decision is easiest of all. The Witcher III is the perfect game. It has a sprawling landscape that feels even huger than Skyrim. It has deadly, precise combat. It has magic, alchemy, and character customization unrivaled in the business. It’s got a killer soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and a storyline that feels like an entire trilogy of really good movies. I wish I had more time to drown in this game. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever played…or am likely to play in the future. If you like RPG’s, get it. If you like video games at all…get it.

Honorable Mentions:

Mass Effect 3 (Like playing a great sci-fi movie)

Doom 3

Portal (The cake is a lie)

Games Everyone Else Loves that Bore Me to Tears:

Dragon Age Inquisition (The first one was the only good one)

Minecraft (They made tedium into a game)

Grand Theft # 5,000,000, Assassin’s Creed # 700, and Maddon 3016 (Yawn)

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So. You say you like video games? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

J Edward Neill