Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

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

 

Independent comic creators’ biggest problem may be getting the word out about their work. If you aren’t attached to one of the larger companies, there is much more opportunity to have your comics slip through the cracks.

Having recently completed their latest Kickstarter, the team over at the Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam comic are clearly doing something with their Steampunk… Ghost Story… Victorian supernatural action-adventure… Love Story?

But don’t listen to me, check out the Book Trailer they did and then come back for the interview!

***

The Players:

David Alton Hedges – Writer

Jefferson Costa – Art

Shane Amaya – Producer

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

David – This is my first comic!

Jefferson – I’ve been working with comics since I was about 21 years old.

At what point did you sit down to become an artist/writer? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

David – I was an artist first, but in college, I started to realize that the people around me were better artists.  After I turned in one particularly creative art term-paper, my professor pulled me aside and said, “Why are you an art major? You’re a writer.”  That’s when I realized my special purpose was to use words to paint pictures in people’s imaginations.

Jefferson – As far as I can recall, I started drawing around 4 or 5 years old, but I don’t remember what my first drawing was. Drawing was a hobby at first. In my country, for someone of my humble origins, I didn’t see any prospect or path toward a career in illustration, art, or entertainment. But nonetheless, I took a step when I was about 20.

Just before turning to comics, I was studying aircraft maintenance!

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

David – I am in awe of Neal Stephenson, jealous of China Mieville, and still trying to figure out Gene Wolfe.  Jeff VanderMeer is one of my heroes.  But if I had to pick one writer whose career I wish was my own, it would be Dan Simmons.  People scratched their heads over DROOD but I loved it.  It’s one of maybe five books in my lifetime that I read twice.

It’s probably obvious that Alan Moore and Mike Mignola were strong influences for Arcane Sally.

Jefferson – Various artists and creators inspire me in different ways and different media. A few could be Flavio Colin (a famed Brazilian creator), Mignola, Tarkovsky.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

David – I HAVE to get out of the house to get any real work done.  I share an office with another writer – we interrupt each other sometimes but it’s good to have someone on hand to lob an idea at and get an immediate reaction.  We have white boards with indecipherable cave paintings on them that mean something only to us.

Jefferson – I manage it very badly I think, hahaha. I always work more hours than recommended for health, around 15-16 hours a day, or more, and this is crazy. In the past six months, I’ve been trying to manage it better. Nowadays I work 10 hours a day and preserve the weekends for family.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

Jefferson – I am personally very bad and selling and promoting myself. I really need help with this.

David – This one’s for Shane!

Shane – Not much! We have the requisite Facebook and Twitter accounts, but we found that neither moves the needle much in terms of getting eyeballs on the comic—or backers to our Kickstarter campaigns.

We have the comics at our local comics store (Avalon in Santa Barbara, CA!). And we post them online on Tapastic and LINE WebToon. Tapastic and Webtoon are great mobile platforms and we have some enthusiastic fans there. But the sites are geared for mostly teen anime type comics, so our readership is relatively low in comparison to the most popular comics (with millions of readers), but all the more appreciated for it!

Now that we have three issues and a collected TPB out, we’re very excited to start hitting the cons in CA (for now). We hope to be at WonderCon and SDCC next year.

Our very first con will be on August 20th at the LA Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, and then we’ll be at Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con in at the end of October (27-29)!

We’re hoping these cons and others will make all the difference!

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

David – I’m a screenwriter so I outline.  I don’t really know what would happen if I didn’t – probably a big mess of ideas and cool scenes that don’t really build up to anything until – suddenly – the end!

What’s your process look like? Digital or by hand? Do you have a preference?

David – I mix it up: breaking story by hand (with Blackwing pencils!) and then burning rubber on the keyboard.

Jefferson – Today I’m more adapted to digital, and I prefer it. But it depends on what each work requires.

I was able to get in on your last Kickstarter, so I’m looking forward to being able to read the story so far. What inspired you to create Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

David – I’ve always been obsessed with anything Victorian.  I wrote a Jack the Ripper script years ago that I never sold, but I included supernatural overtones and a chase across the London rooftops that I loved.  Arcane Sally was a way to take some of those ideas and just let them morph into something even crazier.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

David – Setting came first – Victorian London!  Then the characters appeared and began to demand to be heard.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

David – The first reaction I got was from a friend who read an early draft and said, “Did you really just write a love story?”I said, “No, it’s a Victorian supernatural action-adventure.”  He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

I said, “No, it’s a Victorian supernatural action-adventure.”He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

David – Someone much smarter than me who has read a lot of my writing told me:“All of your scripts are formal complaints about Death.”  She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

“All of your scripts are formal complaints about Death.”She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

After running 3 successful Kickstarters for Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

David – This one’s for Shane!

Shane – Three successful campaigns–and two failed ones from which we learned plenty. Kickstarter has been the best platform so far in terms of finding our readership. There’s a lot of comics on Kickstarter. And comics readers go to Kickstarter to look for new comics to read. It’s win-win. We have terrifically loyal backers backing us for every issue and encouraging us to continue. And that you can’t put a price on.

Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one?

Shane – We don’t worry about going to the well too often, because our fans are on board, as some have said, for the long haul. It’s a great relief to be able to count on getting enough to produce the rest of the books. But it’s also a challenge to keep producing new rewards and incentives to keep each campaign fresh—but that’s also the fun of it. We don’t take anything for granted, least of all our readership!

We initially attempted to raise money to complete the whole series. And we learned then that the best way to go about it was issue by issue. But we produced the first issue on our own. So we offered #1 as a reward for the campaign to raise money for #2. This way, backers know the book is finished at the get-go: they are guaranteed to get something. And that makes a big difference. Plus, since we only try to fund one book at a time, it’s much easier to meet and exceed the goal. And we always put our minimum at actually lower than we need, because we’ve seen that people are more willing to back a project that looks as if it will succeed.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

Shane – Is Kickstarter a testing ground for concepts? Sure. But it’s hard to say what the standard is, if there is one at all, in terms of what people will back. There’s always that project you might think is dubious that racks up triple your pledges. It goes to show that Kickstarter is a place where any creator can go to find their audience/readership/consumer and succeed if they can meet their expectations and follow through on delivery.

You currently have 3 issues of Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam. What’s the overall plan with Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

Shane – It’s slated for 10 issues. We plan to collect 4-7 and 8-10 in separate TPBs, and then collect the whole run. Ideally, we’d then go to an established publisher who could print and distribute it to the direct comic book market and beyond.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with each other (now’s a great time to spill any dirt you might have on them!).

David – Screenwriters must collaborate, so it hasn’t felt too weird to do it on this comic.  Jeff is so cinematic in his layouts and where he positions the reader’s eye, so it’s always a pleasure to see his artwork.  Shane and I have brief, heated arguments about details and then we resolve them and move on and we’re usually both happier with the results.

Jeff lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil so we’ve never had a disagreement!  Pretty hard to argue with someone thousands of miles away – plus he is a super nice guy!

Jefferson – It’s great when everyone is heading for the same place in relation to the project, like this team is.

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

David – The pursuit of money is a lie.  Creativity is everything, but you must make your work professional.  And all writing is bullshit if the writer doesn’t expose himself and risk being vulnerable.

Jefferson – I would tell myself to plan better, everything, my career choices, and my career path.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

David – I have a Netflix movie that I wrote that’s going to be shot in South Africa in November: Scorpion King 5!  I loved the original with The Rock because it reminded me of 80’s sword-and-sorcery movies, so was thrilled when Universal told me to take this franchise and bring it back to Egypt.  It’s a pretty low-budget movie by today’s standards so no one was very nervous about it, so they let me invent whatever I wanted.

Where’s the best place to find out more about Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam and the rest of your works?

We are on Tapastic (https://tapas.io/series/arcanesally)

Webtoon (http://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/arcane-sally-mr-steam/list?title_no=51190)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arcanesally?ref=hl)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/)

Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/dragabok)

www.facebook.com/jcostarm (for Jefferson Costa’s Facebook)

***

DAVID HEDGES is a screenwriter from Los Angeles and a recipient of the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. He has written scripts for several major studios. This is his first comic.

JEFFERSON COSTA is an artist and animator from Brazil, and the winner of three HQ Mix trophies, the “Oscar” of Brazilian comics, for Best Anthology and Best Graphic Novel in 2015, and for Best Graphic Adaptation in 2013.

***

I want to thank everyone over at Arcane Sally and Mr. Steam for being so gracious with their time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with Ken Reynolds

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

 

Independent comic creators’ biggest problem may be getting the word out about their work. If you aren’t attached to one of the larger companies, there is much more opportunity to have your comics slip through the cracks.

Today we shine a little bit of light in the direction of Cognition’s creator: Ken Reynolds.

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How long have you been creating/working in comics?

Only about 2 years, ‘properly’. I used to make comic strips for my design blog, but I didn’t really commit to making comics until after my daughter was born… Suddenly I had limited time for my freelance work, and I figured I better use it to make stuff I genuinely enjoyed rather than trying to just make some extra money on stuff that I found frustrating or unfulfilling.

I started out as a letterer for Dave Hailwood on the sci-fi anthology, 100% Biodegradable… 2 years later I’ve written 3 single issues, editing an experimental anthology that is about to release its 7th issue, and I’m about to complete a book I’ve drawn.

Things, kind of, snowballed!

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

The whole small press comic scene inspires me. Everyone is making stuff they are truly passionate about, and they are genuinely interested and supportive of anyone making comics. And everyone SHOULD make comics if you love the form. Go to a con, chat to creators… Everyone will be really keen to give you advice and help you get started. It’s amazing.

As for more mainstream creators… I’ll read anything Jason Aaron writes, and look at anything Dave McKean draws.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

I have a VERY understanding and supportive wife.

I work full time… We have a busy family life… But when my daughter goes to bed, I get to work on the comic stuff. It’s all time management stuff. Early mornings, late nights, working through lunch hours, squeezing in creativity as and when you can.

Everything is a balancing act… I’m sure I ignore a few things I shouldn’t in order to make it happen… Like exercise or leisure (I barely watch TV anymore and I wish I picked up computer games more) but there will be time down the road for that stuff.

Family first, then work… Comic stuff next, everything else for what’s left.

So, it’s difficult… But I can’t do it any other way. I’ve conditioned myself to make stuff, and to break that now would be a silly thing to do.

It’s often difficult to get the word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

I wish I had that golden bullet of an answer, but I don’t.It’s a slog. It’s a constant cycle of shouting into the void of social media and general marketing in the hope someone will take a look.

It’s a slog. It’s a constant cycle of shouting into the void of social media and general marketing in the hope someone will take a look.

Most of my readership found me through Kickstarter, and the rest stems from being an active member of the small press community. Taking an interest in what everyone else is up to, so they might take an interest in you. But it’s got to be a genuine interest… Everyone sniffs out a phony. No way to fake it.

I found it a tough balance. I dislike the hard sell and often worry about ‘bothering’ people. SO I may well be missing out on my full marketing potential.

The easiest way to market a product is to make a really good product. People talk about exceptional things. You can’t buy word of mouth marketing, you have to inspire it with something that’s worth talking about… I strive to make something exceptional.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

My process is messy. I start with a notebook full of scribbles. I distil that down onscreen and break it up into chunks before writing a script.

Within that, though, there is a lot of outlining and planning. By the time I get to scripting, I know everything that is going to happen, and all of the beats and pacing.

The joy in writing for me is surprising myself with dialogue within that framework. Sometimes an unexpected idea will crop up… But that’s what editing is for!

I’m a big believer in completing things, even if they are terrible. At least you have something to work with, to improve.You

You can’t make ‘nothing’ any better.

I love the idea of Cognition! What inspired you to write Cognition?

Cognition went through a lot of stages before it got to where it is now…I guess the initial idea came from a ‘Steampunk Pinocchio’ concept. Originally it was a much smaller, slower and quieter story about a robot that came to life in a basement and explored that small place believing it to be the full extent of the universe.

I guess the initial idea came from a ‘Steampunk Pinocchio’ concept. Originally it was a much smaller, slower and quieter story about a robot that came to life in a basement and explored that small place believing it to be the full extent of the universe.Things grow and develop. Ideas come along and fall by the wayside. I still plan on

Things grow and develop. Ideas come along and fall by the wayside. I still plan on reusing that initial idea within the current series. But all in all the messages and ideas behind the book have totally changed. Big concepts for me are the duality on our personalities and how wrapped up in our sense of self is, in our physicality.

You currently have 3 issues of Cognition (issue 0 through issue 2). What’s the overall plan with Cognition?

There are 2 more issues to complete the first arc… I’m writing them at the moment, and I might try complete and print them together… We’ll see.

Sam is taking a break for a while as he works on other exciting projects, but we’re looking to wrap up the first story as soon as we can.

I know where I’m leaving things at the end of the arc… It’s a good stopping point, with plenty of potential to carry on. I have stories for years in my head, but it comes down to a lot of outside factors to keep it going. I’ll attempt to pitch the first arc to wider distribution and see if we can figure out a way to make production a bit ‘easier’… We’ll see.

Basically, as long as Sam wants to draw it, I’ve got stories for us to tell.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with Sam Bentley, the artist on Cognition.

Sam is a dream!

Seriously, he has so much to do with how this book as connected with the audience. His art tells so much of the story without me having to overwrite or fill in any blanks.

Getting pages to my inbox is a real treat as he makes my script come alive in ways that are always different… And better than I had in my head when I was writing.

This is the joy of collaboration… People taking your idea and executing it better than you originally imagined.

The more we’ve worked together the better our collaboration has become. There are some sections in the scripts now that I don’t have to fully script. I give Sam the narrative beats and let him have the creative freedom to figure out the best way to join the dots artistically. I have a huge respect and trust in him as an artist and I want to keep the project as fulfilling and interesting as I can for him.

He does sketches, we discuss things, he re-draws and suddenly these miraculous pages appear and I get to add letters and feel bad about covering bits!

After running 3 successful Kickstarters for Cognition (and 4 overall), what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Cognition each time?

Kickstarter is a wonderful platform for self-publishing. I use it in a very particular way though. I only go to KS once I’ve got a complete book. I only use it for printing costs and getting it over the line… This has a few drawbacks and benefits… It means I have to self-fund most of the book, but it means I can fulfill the campaign very quickly after funding. This has resulted in having quite a decent reputation on the KS platform. I dislike the horror stories of people waiting years for what they’ve paid for etc… Plus I’m very conscientious and would dislike an unfulfilled campaign hanging over me!

The wonderful thing about KS is that there is no single way of utilizing it. I run things in a way that they are in my comfort zone, and that zone is defined by my own personal circumstances and set of ethics.

Everyone will be different, but there are a set of rules I set myself and play by… It’s worked thus far.

Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one? 

I don’t worry about going back too much, because I know I’m offering a product that has proven sustained interest at the level I need for it to succeed. As long as there is enough support I’ll keep seeing it as a viable avenue to create the books I want to make.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

As for a testing ground…. I’m not sure. I see it as a place to take a complete project and make it a reality. I’m uncomfortable with ‘speculative’ campaigns… There is a lot of trust needed, and I, personally, don’t feel comfortable asking that much of people willing to support me.

Ken’s desk where the magic happens… with a smaller desk for his daughter.

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

Just make stuff!

Why did I wait until I was in my thirties to commit to making comics? Because I didn’t think I could pull it off, because I doubted myself…

Seriously, just make stuff… Find other people that like making the same sort of stuff, talk to them, share your work… Do more work, get better. Fail…. Fail HUGE! But don’t stop. Just use whatever you learn to make the next thing better.

I’m learning with each page, each book each project… The last thing I made is the best thing I ever made. If I don’t feel that way about it, nobody else should.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I’m very close to finishing my first solo book. I’ve done everything on the page. Writing, art, lettering… The whole lot. It’s quite a personal story about pregnancy and the end of the world! But I haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing with it yet… So if that sounds interesting follow me on twitter as I’ll be going on and on about it once I decide. (@kenreynoldsdesign)

www.kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk
http://kenreynoldsdesign.deviantart.com/gallery/
http://cognitioncomic.bigcartel.com/
http://slicedquarterly.co.uk/

Ken has lettered for many independent publishers and creators, including Alterna, Markosia, Grayhaven Comics, & Insane Comics. He was proud to be part of the lettering team that completed the 750+ page epic that is ‘The Explorers’ Guild’ by Jon Baird, Kevin Costner and Rick Ross published by Simon & Schuster.

He also writes the supernatural adventure series ‘Cognition’, edits the experimental comic anthology ‘Sliced Quarterly’ and is an assistant editor of the sci-fi anthology 100% biodegradable.

***

I want to thank Ken for taking the time to answer all my questions. If there ever was a doubt to trying to create your art, just fall back on Ken’s own words: “Just make stuff!”.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

 

Dark Art Giveaway Contest!

It’s time for an Art Giveaway Contest!
It’s easy…
All you have to do is:

  •  Visit this Facebook page.
  • Post which one of J Edward Neill’s book covers you like the most AND add a brief explanation of why. (The link to the covers is here.)

Then…
From amongst everyone who posts, a winner will be chosen at random.
To the winner, we’ll ship one of the two 8×10″ paintings below (winner’ choice.) We’ll even cover shipping.

Winner chooses:

Cinder Tree

or…

Trapped in Amber


The contest starts now!
We’ll accept entries through Monday, July 17th at noon.
Good luck!

The Book of Wine…and Life.

In J Edward’s latest book, he promises to drain one bottle of red wine per chapter.

That’s the rule. 

There’s no breaking it.

 And while deep in his cups, he takes readers on a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant journey.  Playful yet serious, funny yet honest, the bounce between bottles takes readers on a stroll through everything. 

Dating. Religion. Politics. That one time J Edward and his friend built a dam and met the world’s most relaxed water moccasin…

 It’s all here.

One bottle per night.

Every night.

At least…that’s the idea.

Now Available!

   
* * *

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine

Anecdotes and philosophy by J Edward Neill

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

Kickstart the Comic – Standstill #1

Post-apocalyptic stories come in all shapes and sizes, but what they truly are about is the survivors. Like any good science fiction, they force the reader to ask questions: What if it was me who lived? What would I do to survive? At what point might it all no longer be worth it?

***

Standstill #1

From Justin Gray

Justin Gray – Writer

Brox – Artist

Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at 10:08 AM EDT.

The Pitch:

At its core, Standstill is the bastard love child of the Americana survival horror genre and a romantic Greek tragedy. The dramatic table is set here in the opening chapter when you are introduced to Mason and Luna, two young people very much in love, but that love is going to be tested under unimaginable circumstances over the course of their story. I say their story because Standstill is big enough to sustain multiple storylines over time and that’s how I’ve been writing it. As it progresses from chapter to chapter, the story is visceral, emotional, and, in some cases, not for the faint of heart.

The Story:

Over 7 billion people live on planet Earth. What if 6 billion of them suddenly and inexplicably stopped moving – like toys that ran out of batteries. What would happen if the world came to a… Standstill.

John’s Thoughts:

The little blurb on the back of the book. The little bit of text where you have to put the idea out there enough so that it will catch someone’s eye. Simple, concise… everything I look for in a story. On the surface, it is the type of idea which could have just as easily worked in a novel format… but as a lover of comics, I’ll happily take what Justin Gray and Brox are putting out there.

Art by Brox. Standstill Issue 1, Page 1

The Rewards:

A couple of things popped out to me:

The digital comic is very reasonable at $3 and you get a copy of the script which, as a writer, is never a bad thing to know a little more about someone else’s process.

The physical copy at $5. Many comics end up charging far more than that even before shipping.

The ability to add a digital ad to the digital version of the comic at the $8 level. At the time of this writing, a small amount of money could get you in front of at least 225 backers where maybe something you write in your pitch becomes the thing which drives them to your story.

Art by Brox. Standstill Issue 1, Page 2

The Verdict:

Justin talks about the idea coming to him if he woke up and everyone else was paralyzed, waiting to die.

That is some messed up thinking… a man after my own heart. I don’t know where the story may end up going, or what the long-term ideas he may have already mapped out, but at least in the initial issue, I am all aboard to see what happens next.

***

For more information on Standstill or Justin’s other comic projects, check out his Facebook Page here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

Kickstart the Comic – Angelica Reigns #1

Sometimes it is about the story, sometimes it is about the art, sometimes it is about the promotion, and sometimes it is about the whole package. The Angelica Reigns has a little bit of each… a comic I can enjoy and a Kickstarter campaign I can take notes from… sign me up!

***

Angelica Reigns #1

From SFC

Brian Hawkins – Writer

Federico Sabbatini – Artist

Chiara Miriade – Colorist

Brant Fowler – Letters

Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 1:05 PM EDT.

 

 

The Pitch:

Angelica Reigns is the first solo series of the SFC Comics line. SFC is a world of super powered sports entertainment. These solo series are a chance to get to know the characters outside of the ring.

The Story:

Angelica is trying to establish a life outside of the shadow of her mother’s cult and Qakare’s power. She’s a young woman in a new city making new connections. All of that is put on hold when she becomes prey to a secret society called, The Faith. They are a faceless, timeless, and secret organization with roots that go back to the crusades. Their mission is to bring purity back to this world. They have ways to track and monitor dark magic. 

John’s Thoughts:

This one has the feel of maybe a Buffy style of story for Angelica. A young girl, fighting against supernatural forces bigger than herself, and, from the looks of it, has a couple of friends to help her on her travels. Consider me intrigued by the overall idea.

In addition, the work Federico Sabbatini is doing on the various images they’ve shown on the Kickstarter page are very nice, almost as if someone took a series of animated cells from a tv show or movie and put them on the page.

From Angelica Reigns #1 – Art by Federico Sabbatini & Colors by Chiara Miriade

The Rewards:

A couple of things they are offering that are a little above and beyond what you normally might expect at such lower levels is a 30 minute Google Hangout with the writer of the series ($30 Level). I could see that being not only an interesting conversation to pick his brain for a bit, but maybe even gain some insight on further learning the craft of writing comics (if one was so inclined). At the $150 level in addition to print versions of the books, you get a 1 hour Google Hangout.

Many of the comic Kickstarters have the idea of “putting you in the comic”, but Angelica Reigns might be the first one to make you “a major character in Angelica Reigns 2-4” ($500 Level). I’m thinking that if you ever wanted to be the villain, but didn’t want to deal with all the jail time… this might be your chance!

From Angelica Reigns #1 – Art by Federico Sabbatini, Colors by Chiara Miriade & Letters by Brant Fowler

The Verdict:

Looking over the Facebook page, they’ve hit upon some interesting cross-promotion with a couple of other Kickstarters (The Untold and Knight), both of which are holding their own Kickstarter campaigns right now. I love the idea of Indy creators banding together to raise all boats as opposed to treating each other as competition. Let’s get those stories out there and told!

***

For more information on Angelica Reigns or the rest of SFC comics, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

 

Trees and Towers 2017 Calendar

It’s never to late in the year to slap a calendar on your wall.

Especially when it’s full of art.

Introducing my new 2017 wall calendar – Trees and Towers. It’s a collection of sky-cracking towers and sylvan trees, each of which I painted in the comfort of my deep, dark dungeon. There’s something for every season in this colorful and melancholic calendar.

Check it:

January features my original piece – Ghost Tree.

Here’s all the images – January through December:

Snag my new calendar on Redbubble right here.

And look out for 2018’s Damsels of Darkness…

J Edward Neill

How to react when hit with bad reviews

It’s no longer debatable.

Self-published authors are a force to be reckoned with in the publishing world.

As of June, 2017, more than 45% of all new published works are from non-Big Five, non-publishing house writers. And while a majority of readers’ money is still used to purchase traditionally-published works, indies  consume an ever-growing piece of the pie.

This is the world we live in. This is the new face of books, writing, and marketing.  Perhaps one day the pendulum will swing in another direction. Or…perhaps not.

The device that changed everything…

*

And yet, behind the scenes of the indie revolution, there’s a battle brewing. The most coveted resource of the modern writer isn’t always money, recognition, or even literary success.

It’s reviews.

Wander the social media accounts of most self-published writers, and you’ll find one thing in common: requests for reviews. New and established authors alike believe the key to getting noticed on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Smashwords is having reviews…and plenty of them. This is true for any product, but perhaps doubly so in the minds of the self-published. The perception, if not the reality, is that a pile of four and five-star reviews will earn authors more clicks, and thus more buys.

And while it’s a common theme amongst indies to state, “We’re not in competition with each other – we’re all allies here,” it’s simply not the case. Savvy and successful self-published writers know full well that all resources are limited, that readers aren’t in never-ending supply, and that while good reviews are little chunks of gold, not everyone cares to write them.

Trouble is; while in search of reviews, many authors are in the habit of shooting themselves in the foot.

Here’s just a few of the negative behaviors exhibited:

  • Authors spend more time appealing to readers’ willingness to review their books…rather than presenting appetizing stories, blurbs, and cover images
  • Authors chastise (either directly or indirectly) readers who either leave no reviews or less than favorable reviews
  • In frustration, authors publish full-length articles complaining about negative reviews
  • Authors post complaints directly to their social media accounts
  • And most grievously, authors forget their audience isn’t other writers, but readers

We all get it. We know marketing is typically the least enjoyable part of the self-publishing process. For a new (or even established) author to leap into the world of selling books is intimidating. Unfair reviewers do exist. Trolls are out there. Readers probably could help out and leave honest reviews more often than they do.

Guess what?

It doesn’t matter.

Authors new and old need to consider:

  • In self-publishing, just as in all other parts of life, no one really wants to hear complaints
  • The vast majority of people who read aren’t authors, and have no interest in the laundry list of issues self-published writers face
  • Time spent complaining online and publishing negative articles would be better spent creating, marketing, and practicing one’s writing craft
  • It doesn’t take much negativity to drive potential readers away – they’re here for the story, not a diatribe about the publishing industry

It’s almost understandable. It’s human nature to suffer frustration. The temptation to vent, complain, and commiserate is powerful.

But authors (and in fact, everyone) would do well to resist.

Truth is, a few negative reviews won’t sink a determined writer. Nor will a handful of bad reviews kill sales for a high-quality piece. If an author’s story is truly a work of art, chances are it’ll rise above the others regardless of a smattering of one-star pings. And it’s worth mentioning that authors who earn passionately negative reviews are probably authors who provoke feelings among their readership.

And that’s kind of the point.

Also…

Rather than take to the web in droves to protest negative reviews, authors would serve themselves (and their contemporaries) well to write more, write better, and to brush away the sting of readers’ disdain like so much dirt off their shoulders. The humble, self-aware author absorbs one-star hits privately. They’ll know every reader is different, that trolls and ill-intentioned people do exist, and that their book, while painstakingly created, probably isn’t a groundbreaking masterpiece beloved by every single reader in the world. Those kinds of books are rare. Most of us will write our whole lives and never create such a thing.

And so most of us will suffer bad reviews now and then.

And that’s ok.

So…

What should one do when a beloved story gets one-starred?

  • Consider whether the review has any valid points
  • If so, address them in your writing, not on Facebook
  • If not, shrug and move on with your life

You’ll be happier for it.

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

 

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…

*

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.

*

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?

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.


*

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.

*

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

Kickstart the Comic – Route 3: Vol 1

Full disclosure – I might have some interest in Route 3’s Kickstarter succeeding. Robert Jeffrey is not only a collaborator on this very site, but is a writing partner and good friend. I have watched him grow into his own as a writer over the years, and I have see how much sweat and blood he’s put into Route 3. This isn’t just a comic for him. This is a story he’s been dying to tell for some time.

With this Kickstarter, he’s going to get his chance.

***

Route 3: Vol 1

From Terminus Media

Robert Jeffrey II – Writer

Sean Damien Hill – Artist

Omi Remalante Jr – Colorist

Ann Siri O’Brien – Colorist

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 3:50 EDT.

 

The Pitch:

We are raising funds primarily to get the completed collected edition, Route 3 Vol. 1, printed.

Let me repeat this:

THE BOOK IS FINISHED. COMPLETE. IN THE CAN.

The Story:

Route 3 is a super-powered road trip from hell. A Stone Mountain, GA teens finds out he’s been granted with a set of spectacular abilities, that he knows nothing about. He’s now on the run from a wide array of folks in a sort of super powered arms race across the Southeastern United States. Explosions, gunfights, telekinetic feats of awesomeness, and a little personal growth are all thrown into the mix.

An explosive scene of action from Route 3 #3. Pencils/ inks Sean Damien Hill. Colors, Omi Remalante

John’s Thoughts:

If you look at the top of this page you’ll see Robert’s name alongside my own. If you look on the Terminus Media Facebook page you’ll no doubt see our fingerprints all over the place. I’ve known Robert now for over a decade. This project, this book, has been one he has clawed and scrapped and promoted and talked about and… this list goes on and on. This book is a piece of him. When the last issue was completed, there was a joy there that can’t quite be fully explained. It’s like finally crossing a finish line after years of hard work.

However, the path of the indy comic creator is full of pot holes. Money runs out, print runs don’t happen, and you’re constantly torn between this odd thing of people devaluing your work (“It costs how much!?!”). This Kickstarter will help push the comic to a place where it can start funding itself… hopefully into an issue 4 and 5 and 6 and…

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first trade of the series which collects issues 1 through 3. There are the options to get either a pdf or the print version sent to you. At the $40 level a couple of digital prints become available. At the $75 level there is a limited opportunity to not only get Route 3, but you can also get a physical copy of Radio Free Amerika’s trade (which Robert co-wrote) (at the time of this writing there were only 7 of these left available).

If being drawn as one of the mercenaries is more your style, there is an opportunity to do just that at the $300 level.

The Verdict:

What’s that saying? The biggest no-brainer in the history of the world? Yep, that’s what this is. Not only is it Robert, so I’m supporting it, but I’m wondering if I can get him to throw in a special print or something… 🙂

Seriously though – so many comic book Kickstarters are looking for funds to even come into being. That is a different kind of crapshot as you can never be 100% sure the book is going to be completed. This is a FINISHED trade. All this money is going to print costs just so that he can get this out there and into the hands of the people.

Plus, he’s tired of the question – How can I buy the trade?

***

For more information on Route 3 or the rest of Terminus Media’s comics, check out their Facebook here.

***

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.

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.’

*

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

 

 

 

My Love of Drawing Beautiful Women

Ages ago, I was a student in a small Atlanta art school.

I wasn’t searching for a degree. Or a job. Or to become the next Boris Vallejo, HR Giger, or Picasso.

I just wanted to learn how to draw. Particularly people. Especially beautiful bodies and faces.

After I finished school, I ended up getting married, having a kid, writing books, and falling out of touch with the artsy young dude I’d once been.

But…

Over the last year, my world has stabilized. Once full of turmoil, I now enjoy relative peace.

Which means more time to paint. Sketch. And draw. Usually while sipping red wine beneath the setting sun.

One of my favorite topics has always been the female face. It’s elegant in a way no other subject matter can match. That’s not to say I don’t love all other forms of art, just that I find relaxation in the challenge of painting human expression.

So today I’d like to share some of my work. Some of these are what I’d consider ‘failed’ pieces, being not up to my standards. Others are small successes. While I still consider myself to be a weekend warrior (at best) I’m getting better with each piece.

…and enjoying every second of the process.

* * *

Here’s a recent tiny (6″ x 8″) piece I did. I almost, almost, almost left it the way it was on the left. The mere suggestion of a face is sometimes enough. Nevertheless, I ended up finishing it up and naming it Callista, after a tragic character in this book.

*

Here’s another one I almost left alone after the initial sketch. Valeria’s look is completely different before and after I added the crazy watercolors. On the left, she looks pensive, maybe even regretful. On the right, she looks more like a warrior princess. I sometimes struggle with loving/hating a piece after I move beyond the initial sketch phase. Still, despite the unusual color scheme, Valeria is framed and hanging on my wall.

*

After finishing this one, titled Ashes for Ande, I suffered no such post-color regret. The sketch looked ok, but the inks and dark acrylics worked out really well. This painting popped off my brush with ease. I had a character in mind (from another of my books) and the outcome matched what I’d imagined. Ashes for Ande might be my favorite. Maybe.

*

Mother of Midnight is and probably always will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever painted. The sketch alone (performed on a 24″ x 48″ canvass) took a week. The deep graphite, inks, and shading took another twelve days. I still haven’t snapped an ideal photo of Mother of Midnight. The trouble with photographing graphite is that it tends to reflect light, thus dulling the image. Oh well. Here she is:

*

For this tiny (6″ x 6″) piece, I imagined a dryad leaving her ancient forest behind. I sketched her, inked her, and then let the golden watercolors drip. Her name is Sylpha. You like?

*

Emme, the Pale Queen is a portrait I did for a friend. My latest gig has been to draw real-life people, but with subtle fantasy elements added.  In this case, she got a few green face tattoos and a whip of black hair tightened to her throat. I really liked how Emme’s eyes turned out. Her look suggests complete confidence.

*

The Sorceress is a piece I tried (as in really tried) to sketch and swear to leave alone. I made myself promise not to go in afterward with colors and inks. Apparently, I can’t keep my oaths.  A few days after I finished the sketch, I sipped too much wine and broke out the color. For a little abstract addition, I left half of her hair untouched. She looks dangerous, no? And I’m glad I smashed my promise. I like her better now.

*

Ah, the treacherous nature of adding color. This is one piece I wish I could go back and redo. There’s something about her face that’s not quite right. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to trash this one (titled ‘Last Glance’.) If for no other reason, I hold on to her to remind myself I have lots of room for improvement.

*

For a true challenge, try sketching the intricate musculature of a woman’s shoulders and lower back. It’s no easy thing. For ‘Blood Princess’ I wore a few pencils down to nubs. And now she’s undressed to kill.

*

This is my most recent piece, titled Angelic. The original sketch was fairly NSFW, but after I added an ethereal gown and some ghostly yellow-gold watercolor, she’s slightly SFW. Maybe. For a real challenge, I used almost every media available to me, including pencils, inks, graphite powder, charcoal, acrylics, and watercolors. Next up: framing her.

*

For even more paintings (most of which aren’t women) go here.

To start a conversation with anyone on the planet, get into this.

J Edward Neill

 

Cover Art Reveal – Shadow of Forever

There once was a boy who took to the stars…

He sailed into the darkness…alone.

…and waged war against the horrors he found.

And now, he’s back.

***

Now available – the sequel to Darkness Between the Stars.

Shadow of Forever

Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

Shadow of Forever

Earth is no more.

Every human settlement in the galaxy has been destroyed.

…except one.

On a planet far from home, Joff Armstrong watches the stars and counts the years until the Eaters of the Light return. He knows it’s only a matter of time. He ended one of their worlds, but thousands more remain.

No one believes him.

No one understands the coming darkness.

And so, as humanity’s twilight nears, he will steal his way into the stars.

Alone.

One man against legions of star-killing undead.

Searching for a way to stop the darkness between the stars.

* * *

The complete novel is available here.

Book 1 – Darkness Between the Stars – is here.

Find more of Amanda Makepeace’s art right here.

J Edward Neill

Kickstart the Comic – The Few and Cursed #3

I love Westerns, but I’m not always sure comics love them. Much like Hollywood where their heyday was long before I was born, now it is a trickle here or there. Again, it’s lucky that Kickstarter exists to allow some of these genres a little opportunity to shine.

Of course, this one might be more of a post-apocalyptic western…

***

The Few and Cursed #3

From 321: Fast Comics

Felipe Cagno – Writer

Fabiano Neves – Artist

Dinei Ribeiro – Colorist

Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, May 19, 2017 at 11:59 PM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

She has no name, no home, and no family, just a title: Curse Chaser. Water on the planet has been gone for seventy years and mankind has been reduced to a handful few perpetually living in hell.

And no hell is complete without its demons.

People will do anything to survive. When their lives, their children’s lives, when their world has no chance, that old and forgotten evil curse seems pretty reasonable, it’s just that much easier to strike a bargain with the Devil.

But not under her watch.

The Story:

The Few and Cursed is a post-apocalyptic western set in an alternate 1910 where monsters and the supernatural roam the wasteland that is now Earth. Going from town to town, crossing the oceans in horseback, the Redhead is the only variable possible of balancing the scale.

John’s Thoughts:

First, I have to be honest, the title grabbed me. Without knowing anything else, it caught my eye and made me click on the Kickstarter. From there, the setting and genre drew me in, and then the artwork finished the deal. On top of all of that I feel somewhat fortunate to have them already on issue 3 – it means that I’ll immediately have 2 issues to read once the campaign is over! And again, I have to note that it is amazing when you have the opportunity to do just that. Where missing that initial issue (or 2 in this case) isn’t the end for a potential reader.

One other thing about having those other two issues fund through Kickstarter… the 321: Fast Comics guys clearly know what they are doing. The first and second issues originally funded for about $16,000+ each. This one already reached their initial $6000 goal in the first 48 hours and looks like it will outpace those earlier campaigns.

What that really tells me is they not only provide a great product people have come back for each time.

Artwork by Fabiano Neves From The Cursed and Few #1

The Rewards:

Since you might have missed out on the first couple of issues, there is an assortment of both digital only and print + digital rewards to completely catch you up on the comic. As you move up the ladder, there is the opportunity to grab their anthology 321: Fast Comics Vol 1 & 2, a sketch book featuring Fabiano Neves’ art, or even a chase to get some of the variant prints they’ve done for all the issues.

For those with a little more money in their pocket, the $150 level offers an opportunity to get some original Redhead artwork.

The Verdict:

Given their track record with this series (and a couple of other ones as well), plus the interesting idea, and gorgeous artwork… this one is a no-brainer. And if you were on the fence at all, they provide you with an assortment of preview pages from issues #1 and #2 to help sway you completely.

I already locked in to get my digital copies of the first 3 issues!

Artwork by Fabiano Neves From The Cursed and Few #2

***

For more information on The Few and Cursed or the rest of 321: Fast Comics, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

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.

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

Behind the Artist – Interview with Antonio Brandao

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

What’s exciting about doing comics is that you are going to get to work with multiple artists as time goes on. With each, they bring their own experiences and talents to a project in ways you couldn’t begin to predict beforehand. If your lucky they not only design and bring your words to life, but sometimes offer you a view on a character you didn’t even know was there.

I’m thankful to have worked with Antonio Brandao on Gilded Age issue #3.

***

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

I’ve been working full time in comics since 2008.

At what point did you sit down and decide to become an artist?

At some point I was working in graphic design and started doing some work in comics. The comic work started to increase to the point where it was impossible to keep both doing both, so I decided to chose my life time dream to become a comic book artist.

Have you had any formal training?

I had a few classes related to art in my graphic design course. Other than that no formal training.

Gilded Age Issue 3, Page 1 – Pencils/Inks by Antonio Brandao, Colors By Nimesh Morarji

What’s the first thing you drew?

My first professional work was a penciled 2 issue mini to an independent publisher.

What things inspire you to create art?

I always loved to draw so it comes naturally. I guess everything inspires me.

Favorite artists/creators? Influences?

My favorite artists… let’s see… there’s a lot! From the “classics” John Buscema and Byrne to Mignola, Oliver Coipel, Stuart Immonen,… too many to reference here.

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?

It depends. Sometimes I have some small side projects, and I have to limit my time working in comics but usually it’s a 9 to 5 thing. Unfortunately I don’t promote myself that much. Only the occasional sketch in my FB page.

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

Traditional all the way. Blue pencil, pencil, ink.

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

I put some Youtube documentaries running. I guess I learn some stuff while drawing.

What have you worked on previously?

A lot of independent projects for some small publishers. Some private submissions for some publishers. A bit of everything honestly.

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

I like to believe that I’m a versatile artist, and I tend to avoid repeating elements in my work. It might happen though…possibly unconsciously.

I always like to give my own spin to a character. Make it mine, without ignoring previous versions if they exist, of course. I especially like visually interesting characters. Something to make me push my limits.

Gilded Age Issue 3, Page 5 – Pencils/Inks by Antonio Brandao, Colors By Nimesh Morarji

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

I love to draw fantasy stuff, maybe because I’ve read a lot of Conan’s stories from John Buscema when I was young. My least favorite is the “slice of life” kind of stories.

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

I’d say that the most challenging thing is to make your work appealing enough, sometimes in very limited time, to attract new projects and keep your head above water financially. It’s a worldwide market, and your art must stand out. Managing several different projects at the same time is also very challenging.

Developing a work ethic is hard.

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

Draw.

Now draw more!

Practice makes perfect.

Don’t waste so much time.

What is your worst habit?

I drink and sometimes smoke.

Comic book wise, I sometimes tend to procrastinate things.

Gilded Age Issue 3, Page 10 – Pencils/Inks by Antonio Brandao, Colors By Nimesh Morarji

Goals? One year from now? Five years from now?

I’d like to make the jump to some big publisher in the next couple of years. Have some financial stability.

For the Gilded Age, you did the third issue of the comic. Had you ever done any Steampunk styled things before?

Nope. And I haven’t since. I must say that I loved the experience.

I think it’s because of your art that I now have to come up with a story for Vanessa (the Wolf-Girl). She comes across as so playful, I’m not sure if I knew that about her 100% before I saw her appear on the page. Did you have anything that surprised you once you finished a page?

Thanks!

I think that some characters get a life of their own in my head sometimes. It happens unconsciously… probably some hint I pick up when I read the script. Sometimes this gets reflected in the pages I draw. I only notice it when I review my work, and I see the character’s growth from the first pages to the last.

What are you currently working on?

I’m doing a 10 pages’ sci-fi story. A story for kids with super heroes and another sci-fi story for a Kickstarter.

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

I love cinema! I think it relates a lot to comics. I also like going out with my friends and I’m an avid keeper of reptiles. Geckos to be specific.

Do you have a Bio that I can post at the bottom of the article? Best place to see your stuff on the web ( website)?

Well, I’m an artist/father, 39 years old. I was born and live in Lisbon, Portugal and I’ve been working in comics for almost a decade now. I grew up reading Marvel comics trying to imitate my favorite artist so I guess that my dream was to work in comics since I was a child.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do that for these last few years.
You can check my work at http://toze-barnabe.deviantart.com/

***

I want to thank Antonio for taking the time to answer all my questions. I’m always humbled by the skills artists provide my words to create something more than any of us could do alone.

***

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.

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.

3

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.

* * *

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

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 2

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

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with artist Sean Hill. The first part can be found here.

***

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

I tend to listen to an enormous amount of YouTube videos while drawing, Or maybe an audiobook. I remember getting through The Song of Ice and Fire series that way. It’s something about sitting down and doing a numbing activity for hours on end while having information spoken in your ear nonstop that just kinda soothes me and helps me focus.

Art by Sean Hill

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

My absolute favorite thing to draw is samurai stuff, a close second is anything urban punk. It’s just a lot to work with for someone like me that gets wrapped up in details and the last thing would be DC or Marvel comics heroes. And I love figure drawing, there are so many different nuances to capture in so many angles that I can really get lost in in and never come out of it.

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

There are many, but for me personally it’s perception of the comics industry. When I was growing up I the 90’s we had Image comics and it changed everything. It made comic artists look like rock stars. The industry was making money hand over fist and young impressionable artists like me didn’t understand that this was an exception. That most comic artists don’t make it like this, and that even the most successful artists are spending most days and nights slaving over a drawing table. I don’t think I understood the amount of work that goes into this, and how much those artists that came before me or before Image had sacrificed to make a living at this. When I was young I wanted to work for DC or Marvel and I still do, but I don’t think back then I appreciated the difference between drawing characters for the big two and doing something for myself. Now I weigh those things out everyday. 

Art by Sean Hill

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

1st some girl advice then I would him to start focusing on that comics dream now. Honestly at the time I had no idea what to do with art until I was 27 years old. When I started dating my wife I wasn’t doing anything and at the time I had no drive too.

Also I would tell myself to work hard, it’s better than anything. Always be the hardest worker in the room. In life you will always see people smarter, more talented, more connected but consistent hard work beats all.

What is your worst habit?

That’s also a long list but to narrow it down for comics stuff it’s video games. My wife recently got me a PS4 for my birthday and it’s crazy distracting 

Goals? One year from now?

In one year I want to be almost finished with the first chapter of a personal project I’m working on called Nazareth. I don’t want to giveaway too much of what it is but it’s basically a retelling of Christ story with a heavy Sci fi/ fantasy aspect and drawing from the historical social and political issues of the time.

Five years from now? 

In five years I would like to have it published and still working freelance for publishers as well

You did the art for the Gilded Age Issue 4 which is a story that mixes a bit more fantasy with the Steampunk aspect of things (With Charlie taking on a supporting role). How was it to contrast those two things within the framework of your art? 

I really like steampunk though I’ve never drawn it much before. As I was doing my research for the style I was really inspired by the design and attention to detail. As far as mixing the style with fantasy, it’s actually quite freeing in a way. Whenever you develop a style that becomes a genre (because people start telling stories in that particular style) it can become a paradigm. But I think fantasy has a more organic design sense (or at least my interpretation of it does) allowing me to kind of start from a definite place with the art and storytelling but then know I can meddle with it quite a bit and not be afraid of making mistakes.  

Art by Sean Hill – From Gilded Age 4

I know I was blown away by the pages you were turning in, with the last couple being absolutely heartbreaking… did you have any pages that you really had fun drawing or perhaps any characters?

I think I really liked drawing Charlie, he’s such a huge character with this still and settled peace and strength in him. He has such an integrity that can eclipse everything else going on almost like his big bulky frame eclipsing everyone and everything else in a room. 

What are you currently working on?

As for current projects. I’m currently helping out with the Evil Heroes book for Zenescope and doing some Indy work with Jaycen Wise creator Ureaus. Also doing something with artist Mshindo Kuumba, and still chipping away at Nazareth.

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

Hobbies are pretty simple for me, I love weight lifting and video games, I’m already working on my passions with drawing comics, I teach the Bible to middle school students at my church and  Game of Thrones is still one of my favorite shows to watch

Do you have a Bio that I can post at the bottom of the article? Best place to see your stuff on the web (website, Instgram, Deviant Art)?

Yes indeed most of my work can be seen:

http://nazirstudios.blogspot.com/?m=1

https://m.facebook.com/sean.hill.777/photos?ref=bookmarks

https://www.instagram.com/seandamienhill/

***

I want to thank Sean for taking the time to answer all my questions. His artwork and skill have made The Gilded Age all the better for them.

***

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.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 1

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

Sean Hill is an artist I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow into his skill. When I first encountered his artwork on Route 3 #1, he was clearly talented, but as he completed each subsequent issue… you could tell that his confidence in his craft was also developing. Of course, it didn’t take long for others to notice as well.

Lucky for me that he had some time, and I had a 4th issue of Gilded Age needing an artist.

Sean took some time out of his busy schedule of conquering the comic book world to answer a few of my questions.

***

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

I’ve been drawing since I was about 6 or 7 years old. My grandfather (Otis Hill) would draw sometimes for me and he would encourage me to practice it myself. He’d take me to comic stores sometimes and I would try and emulate some of the work I saw in those comics and some books my mom had at home. 

As far as drawing comics though I think it’s  been about six years now ( time flies) my girlfriend at the time ( now my wife) was going to school for animation and she really encouraged me to draw comics since I would always say I used to want to.I think my first gigs were for Saint James comics ( now defunct ) and Terminus Media‘s Amber Fox vs the Terra force. I kinda miss those characters now that I think about it I still sometimes get the inkling to redesign those characters and redraw that book.

HaHaHa.

From Gilded Age #4 – Art by Sean Hill

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? 

I remember when I was 7 being a huge fan of Knight Rider and the old Superman movies. I was obsessed with trying to draw them and make it as perfect as I could. I’m not really sure if I ever wanted to be anything else other than an artist. It just seemed like one of those natural callings I guess. I remember looking at that old Levi’s commercial with Rob Liefeld, it was my first look behind the scenes of how comic artists made comics. I think when I saw that though I realized what type of artist I wanted to be.

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

There are a lot of things that inspire me to create, movies, fashion, real life people and places, all that stuff as far as artists the list gets pretty extensive. I think of all the things that do keep me creating there are a few artists that are consistently in my head all the time.

#1 is Bernie Wrightson, I was exposed to his work as a little kid, my mom had The Stand by Stephen King, and, of course, all the illustrations in that are by Bernie.

The other is Gustave Dore from Paradise Lost, another book my mom owned and a lot of Wally Wood and Frank Frazzetta pen and ink work. Also artists like Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Reis, Todd Mcfarlane, Eddy Barrows, Lewis LaRosa, the list goes on and on.

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 honestly am really loose with the time management thing, most times I keep in mind that I have to do certain amount of pages in a week and I just try to get that done as best I can. Sometimes the deadline is really tight and I have to become more organized but more often than not I find consistency is far better than being a great time manager. If your consistently showing up at the drawing table to get work done it can be better than managing your time well enough to know you might have only two hours to draw for one month straight but you loose steam somewhere In the middle. I find if I just keep showing up at the table and just relaxing a bit about time and just focus on the work, it gets done eventually and most times on time.

The hard part is though this is not my 9 to 5. For that I’m an Inventory manager at an art store and I have a job as a husband to my wife and then from 10 to 3 or 11 to 4 in the morning I’m a decent comic book artist that’s managed to trick people into paying me to draw for them.

As far as promotion I’m admittedly an introvert, I’m quiet I don’t call for a lot of attention really, but I do rely on social media for promotion of my work though. It’s just apart of being in a creative field, you just have to show people what you’re doing in order to get work. I’m mostly on Facebook or Instagram but I sometimes use twitter and blogger as well.  

Sean Hill’s Route 3 Roughs

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

My process is  really simplistic, I start most of my stuff in my sketchbook. I keep an 11 x17 moleskine sketchbook it’s really big to carry around but I tend to anyway. When I get a script or just doing cognitive storytelling for myself, I get a business card and trace out 5 pages across my moleskine page throughout the entire page. This gives me about 20 pages I can thumbnail on one sheet. I start my thumbnails out pretty tightly, I try to get as much detail as I can and try to really flesh out as much as I can. The more I do at this stage the less I have to do on the final artwork. During this stage I’m referencing as much as I can and trying to get a flow for the story. Once that’s done I use my phone to take pictures of all the thumbnails and upload them to Dropbox or e-mail them to myself or whatever. 

Sean Hill’s Not so Rough Route 3

After that I’m at home and in Manga Studio, I open a story folder with as many pages as I need. From there I drag and drop each thumbnail picture into every corresponding page and start on the pages. 

Drawing the actual page is pretty simple as well, I used to do some pretty tight penciling and then ink my stuff but it was taking forever and as I got more comic assignments I became a little more confident in my inking, I no longer rely on such tight pencil work. As a matter of fact, because it’s digital, I don’t even bother using a pencil brush. I make a new layer over my thumbnail, and I make both layers blue. I drop the opacity on the thumbnail and start roughly sketching over it. When the roughshod are satisfying, I jump right into the inks. When I’m inking, I tend to noodle around a lot and most times it causes me to draw a lot of unnecessary lines but it’s fun, and I’m kinda like going on the fly with the inking anyway.

Cover by Sean Hill & Fran Gamboa

What have you worked on previously? 

I finished some Route 3 a bit ago, and I have been chipping away at a personal project for a while now. I got the chance to do some covers for Zenescope Entertainment’s DeathForce series and also Hellchild : the Unholy. I also got the chance to work on Grimm Tales of Terror: the Monkeys Paw and some DeathForce covers .

Cover by Sean Hill

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?

Three books come to mind that I really felt like I had an obligation to tell this story right, and I felt really connected to. 

#1 Dark Shaman a four part mini series I did for Zenescope, it was about a long dead Native American Shaman who comes back from the dead to seek just for his dead tribe. He start trying to kill this group of college students vacationing in a cabin. Two of those college kids are native themselves and I really enjoyed how the main hero had to get in touch with her culture and roots to over come this Shaman. It dealt with a lot of issues some natives go through with cultural identity. It’s difficult to live in a modern world we’re the culture you should know is either at worse ignored and at best appropriated. 

#2 is Route 3, and again it’s because of identity. The character of Sean Anderson is trying to find his place in the world and is conflicted with the loss of his Mom and the fact he just doesn’t fit in to “black culture” all that well things only get worse when he finds out he has destructive powers he can’t control yet. But it gives him an opportunity to make his place in the world. I can identify with that being s quite kid growing up in “the hood” and not fitting in all that well 

#3 is gonna be The Gilded Age, I though the dynamic between the main characters was interesting and seeing how they dealt with their conflicts was both really entertaining and really heart breaking, but in real life many of us have been on that emotional roll a coaster 

As far as adding things into stories, I think I am more often doing it nowadays then when I first started. I used to have this notion that the writers vision must be adhered to at all times, but I truth comics is a collaborative effort and everyone is gonna bring something unique to that story and that’s fine as long as it services the story. 

***

Sean’s work can be be seen:

http://nazirstudios.blogspot.com/?m=1

https://m.facebook.com/sean.hill.777/photos?ref=bookmarks

https://www.instagram.com/seandamienhill/

***

I want to thank Sean for taking the time to answer all my questions. His artwork and skill have made The Gilded Age all the better for them.

Part 2 of this interview is available here.

***

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.

Kickstart the Comic – Sorghum & Spear – Book One

Every couple of weeks I journey to my local comic book store, pick up an ever-growing stack of comics, rinse and repeat. I have to keep reminding myself as an independent comic writer, that there are others struggling to get their voices and stories heard. Many of them have turned to Kickstarter to do that. So I am challenging myself to keep a look out for any comic books that catch my eye.

This week is one I’ve been looking forward to for a little while.

***

Sorghum & Spear Book One

From Greene County Creative

Dedren Snead – Writer/Creator

Timothy Geathers – Art Director

Welinthon Nommo – Exterior Art and Concept Design

Kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, April 17, 2017, at 7:00 PM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

When I first started researching this project, I imagined my mighty warrior goddess, Namazzi, holding a spear high to inspire her people as they charged into battle. As I created the mythos of the Eternal Realm and the first arc began to take shape, I wanted to relate my world with something that was symbolic to much of the story; something analogous but not obvious.

I liked the idea that sorghum is an ancient and powerful thing that originated from Africa; a gift that was shared with the world. The ability of sorghum to not just survive outside of its homelands but to thrive in other cultures and civilizations, eventually becoming an integral part of their legacies unveiled a mystical attribute I saw not just of this indigenous crop, but of the indigenous people it represented as well.

The “recipe” of Sorghum & Spear is that every character in our tale is growing and blossoming into something new.

The Story:

Sorghum & Spear is a fantasy saga that follows a group of amazing young girls who are called upon in a time of war to become the last line of defense against the SPORA; a pantheon of demons bent on destroying their people and conquering the Eternal Realm.

John’s Thoughts:

I first heard about Sorghum & Spear about 4 months ago when the creator, Dedren Snead, sat in on a Terminus Media writing afternoon. He had all these beautiful images of these powerful African women holding swords and bows and weird staffs with skulls adorning the tops. There’s magic and there are demons.

I don’t remember if I peppered him with tons of questions or just waited until he gave out little bits and pieces of information. Either way, I was hooked on the idea. Of course, then he broke the news to me that an actual comic book I could buy off of him right then and there did not actually exist… yet. He’d been building up to it, hoping to release a Kickstarter in the Spring of 2017 and… well, look what time it is.

The Rewards:

This Kickstarter is for the first issue of the comic book. In addition to some of the more standard reward levels (screen savers, pdfs and print copies of the book, as well as an 11×17 Glossy art poster), this Kickstarter has a couple of interesting ties to its origins with one level getting you 50 Heirloom Sorghum Stalk seeds and another providing you with a Namakula Wrist Bracelet showing you have contributed to Project Have Hope (who provides sustainable support and economic freedom to women in Uganda by offering their handcrafted jewelry on their behalf).

At some of the higher levels, there is also the opportunity to have your likeness drawn into the book as an “official Marduri villager”. And for those wanting a little bit more information about the world itself, at the $75 level you can get a 22-page print copy of Marlannah’s Hand Journal… really allowing you to immerse yourself in the world and the upcoming storylines.

Do you dare read the book?

The Verdict:

I was a day one contributor. It’s my hope that not only does this Kickstarter fund, but that it drives Dedren and Timothy and Welinthon and everyone else over there at Greene County Creative to put out more issues and, dare I say it, that Animated Series he’s teasing.

***

For more information on Sorghum & Spear – Book One, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

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.

 

Kickstart the Comic – Delilah Blast #1

Every couple of weeks I journey to my local comic book store, pick up an ever-growing stack of comics, rinse and repeat. I have to keep reminding myself as an independent comic writer, that there are others struggling to get their voices and stories heard. Many of them have turned to Kickstarter to do that. So I am challenging myself to keep a look out for any comic books that catch my eye.

After a few light weeks, I’m ready to see what might be available.

***

Delilah Blast #1

From Evoluzione Publishing

Marcel Dupree – Writer/Publisher

Joel Cotejar -Artist

Ramon Burge – Colorist

Marco “ETDollman” Della Verde – Letters/Production/Edits

Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 9:52 AM EDT.

 

The Pitch:

I came up with Delilah Blast in 2010 after listening to a Do Something by Britney Spears and Science by System of a Down. Once the idea was sparked, I spent a lot of time to develop the character because I felt like at the time there was a huge lack of strong female characters that depended mainly on their wits. After I mapped out the story, I wanted to make it all ages because at the time there weren’t many all ageas comics besides Tony Titans and Billy Batson and Power of Shazaam.

I met Joel on Digital Webbing, he agreed with my feelings. The 2 of us talked and spent time crafting a world that has elements of steampunk, 50’s scifi and post apocalyptic genres.

The Story:

Science runs the world and the Earth is governed by the E.S.A, the Earth’s Science Association. Everyone is allowed to join the organization on their sixteenth birthday, but unfortunately for Deliah Blast she oversleeps, missing the entrance exams and putting her dream in jeopardy. However, when another opportunity to achieve her dream presents itself, Delilah is more than willing and ready to take it, even if it means going to a dangerous alien planet to retrieve obscure technology that could change the world and Earth forever.

Artwork from Delilah Blast by Joel Cotejar

John’s Thoughts:

I’m constantly lamenting the fact that there aren’t enough people wanting to put all-ages comic books out there. I recall a Heroes Con a couple of years ago where I had to tell various parents with their younger kids that my table just didn’t have anything “age appropriate” for them. And while I’m sure they appreciated my honesty, I came away from that con wanting to find a way to do a comic for those fans.

Sadly, I haven’t managed to do that just yet, but it seems that Marcel Dupree and Joel Cotejar decided to take matters in their own hands!

The Rewards:

This Kickstarter is for the first issue of the comic book. As such, there are the standard pdf version of the comic as well as the physical copy for those more tactile inclined. T-shirts, wallpaper, and trading cards also make an appearance with each increase.

One of the things that I really like is as you go up the Rewards ladder, there includes an “Ultimate Edition” where you not only get the regular issue and backup story, but you also get to see the scripts and layouts. As someone who likes to see how the sausage is made, this often allows the reader in on some of the things which don’t make it to the page.

As you continue up the path, a couple of options stuck out to me, at $90 you get some Delilah Blast goggles – always a cool idea for Steampunk related cosplay. But the big one, the breakout, might be the $100 Best Friend level, where in addition to physical and digital versions (audio as well!), you get a “hand made Tikki Plushy”. That is a little bit of genius.

A plush toy of this guy. How cool is that? Artwork from Delilah Blast by Joel Cotejar

The Verdict:

These guys seem to be doing something to not only reach out to the younger comic readers, but also have some clever ways to potentially push their product down the line. And this is a great chance to get in on the ground floor!

***

For more information on Delilah Blast #1, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

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.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 2

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

Last week I started conversing with Nimesh about how he got his start in comics and got some insight on exactly how he sees his job of coloring in regards to telling a great story. This week we get into his work on The Gilded Age #3.

***

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

I do believe my colors works very well with SciFi, but I personally prefer History periods like Medieval, Western, SteamPunk. But this genre is a bit tricky, so me coloring this, the editors need to want clean shiny colors over muted muddy colors. My least favorite, I think, is working on a book where you don’t have any chance to be creative, to work on a book where, let’s say everything is established and all you need to do is to copy what’s been done.

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

This one is a hard one. I do believe that today you can do whatever you want (well, in the past too, but now it’s more “easier”), so I will say the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world is Yourself. You are your own obstacle I guess.

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

I think I needed to go a little more back and say “Internet”. In the future there will be this thing called Internet and provide everyone with more chances to do what they want.”

But if I had to go 10 years back I would say that the time I’m wasting learning 3D as a shortcut for not drawing is a complete waste of time. GO LEARN/IMPROVE ON DRAWING instead.

What is your worst habit?

Wondering off on social media. Dammit, that thing will get you!

Goals? One year from now? Five years from now?

My main goal is to make the Comic book industry my main profession. I’ve been working with Indies and I’ve been blessed with the money that it’s coming from this. Also I’ve been learning a lot. My goal for one year from now is to have a bigger client Rolodex that keeps me busy. And from 5 years from now I want to have worked for at least one book on Zenescope and Dynamite and I want to have clients enough to make me give up my regular job and just do comics.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

You did the coloring for The Gilded Age Issue 3 which has a dream sequence to start things off. It’s one of my favorite things in the issue, and I love how you really mixed in some of those darker greens and the red eyes following/chasing Hanna only to wash it away with the knight shows up. How did you land on that color scheme not only throughout that scene, but then contrast it against the rest of the issue.

I’m glad to hear that you like it, I also love that sequence and I do use that sequence as portfolio piece.

After reading the script and looking at the pages I noticed how this 3 pages contrast even artistically. For page one and 2 I wanted to showcase Hanna’s horror and the first thing that came to my mind was Nightmare on Elm Street. I went to see some scenes of the movie and I noticed that when Nancy (the girl from the movie) was dreaming and thus entering the Freddy realm things looked ugly, cold and disgusting. With the third page where the knight shows up I noticed that the artist made this shiny look to it and the first thing that came to my mind was a classical Disney Prince charming thing.

So I tried to translate this 2 feeling (the horror/disgust and the Prince that saves the day) in to colors. I believed the green on Hanna trying to escape would bring that disgust looking feel and it would contrast beautifully with the red glow of the monster while the next bright blue tints page would shine of readers face and evoke that prince charming saving her.

This was a unique scene on the book so I had to be very careful on my color choices because I couldn’t do it again in the book or the effect would be invalidated. So I’m extremely pleased to know that you felt that.

Did you have any favorite pieces within the issue you thought came together exactly the way you had envisioned?

Oh, yes, Page 5, Flashback scene. The muted colors worked very well in there in my opinion.

Also, page 10, that last panel, it’s so beautiful. The Artist drew it so well and with the colors laid down I do believe the reader feels Vanessa’s loneliness at that moment. It is a dramatic panel that I still today look at and feel the sadness.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a Project for Wayward Raven Media called Balloon World and I already have lined up to start coloring O Lusitano the first Portuguese superhero and 2 more projects that I can’t name yet due to NDA’s.

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

If you guys could check out the Western themed comics that I’m creating that would be awesome I guess.

😛

I´m making it available in WebComics format on nimprod.com and you can read it for free (shameless promotion, I know).

I’m currently spending all my free time on coloring comics and practicing drawing as I’m going to draw my comic later on too but sometimes I take a break and watch some movies, TV shows and read Comics. Westworld is definitely a must watch, are any of you watching it?

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

Best place to see my stuff probably is my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nimeshmorarjiart/ where I post Works in Progress, process, and final pieces.

***

Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

My name is Nimesh.
I’m from Portugal and I’m a self-taught ComicBook Colorist. Currently I’m working in a freelance basis.

In my 3rd year coloring professionally, I’ve worked with publishers, such as Terminus Media, WayWard Raven, and Arcana. Titles that I’ve worked on includes: Carlton Harvey’s Soul of Suw, James B. Emmett’s The Committee, and Chuck Amadori’s Pale Dark.

With a background in illustration, I’m aware of how color can impact a story and my vision is to help creators bring dimension to their worlds. 

***

I want to thank Nimesh for taking the time to answer my questions. And I definitely appreciate his contributions to helping bring The Gilded Age to life.

And make sure to check out his Western Comic at nimprod.com.

***

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.

Tips for Dating Artists

…Tips for Dating Artists…

A completely unscientific exploration of the perils of sleeping with art junkies.

*


#1. Consider dating someone else. As in, someone who might love you more than they love blank slabs of canvas and empty sheets of paper. 🙂

#2. When planning dates, dinners, or long nights on the couch watching Netflix, consider the odds of having to do many of these things by yourself. Master the phrase: “Dinner reservations for one, please!”

#3. “Five more minutes,” actually means thirty more minutes. The formula used when determining how much longer an artist will be involved in their latest stick-figure drawing masterpiece is:

Time They Stated multiplied by 6 = Actual Time Until They Emerge from the Darkness

#4. The love of your life’s studio will either look like this:

…or this:

…there is no in-between.

#5. Your lover can never have too many brushes. Or pencils. Or sticks of charcoal.

#6. If you leave a coffee mug out in the open, it’s no longer a coffee mug. It’s a paintbrush caddy. Deal with it.

#7. Keep them away from the kitchen sink and master bathroom at all costs. Detour them to a guest bathroom, preferably one with a sink whose color is something other than white.

#8. After hugs, make-out sessions, lovemaking, or accidental shoulder bumps in the basement, check your entire body and all your clothing for unexpected paint spots (and other stains.)

#9. If you decide to have children, consider that one day you’ll probably come home to this:

*

#10. When critiquing their art (which you should avoid at all costs, but which you’ll be forced to do every day of your life) compare your beau’s latest art to someone famous. Or…if you want to break up, just make a stink-face and walk away without saying anything.

#11. Google the terms ‘abstract‘ ‘surrealism‘ ‘impressionism‘ and ‘realism.’ Use these terms when describing your lover’s art. While the odds are they were aiming for one of these, what they created is most likely another. But they’ll appreciate your lingo.

#12. Unless your beloved artist is really, really talented, don’t ever ask them to paint your portrait, draw you, or sculpt you. Trust me, you’ll regret what you end up looking like.

“Honey, I feel like my hands look a little…off.”

*

#13. If you date someone who paints with oils or draws with graphite, set aside a special room (or five) for them, and make sure it’s a place you don’t care about. Actually, if you have the money, buy them their own house to work in.

#14. If one of your lover’s clients suggests that a piece of art should be created free ‘for the exposure’ you owe it to your lover to kill that client and bury them in an unmarked grave.

#15. The minimum number of paper towel rolls to keep handy is 17.

#16. They’re probably not cheating on you with all the people (subjects) you found on their camera.

Actually, they probably are.

I’m only kidding.

Or am I?

🙂

Think this was funny? Try my Tips for Dating Writers.

J Edward Neill

Crippler of canvasses

Author of billions of books

Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 1

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

 

As a writer of comic books the first question people like to ask (after “so you draw the comics”) are – how in the world does that actually work? So many times those same people are completely taken aback by how many hands and fingers touch a comic book page before it becomes something they can see. Even then, it is a bit of magic.

I, personally, think one of the unsung heroes of the industry are the colorists. I’ve been fortunate to work with a couple of good ones in regards to The Gilded Age. So I reached out the colorist on the 3rd issue, Nimesh Morarji, to see if I could get a better handle on just what made him tick.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

***

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

I would say I’ve created art as long as I remember. As a toddler we all do art I guess :P. But professionally I’ve been working in comic since 2013.

At what point did you sit down and decide to become a colorist? Have you had any formal training?

I’ve been wanting to develop my own comic book since around 2005. It’s a western themed book where Women take the lead in a shared universe. My ability to draw at that time was very limited as I gave up drawing a long time ago. So around 2005 I was trying to develop my comic using 3D software like Poser, and I learned a bit of modeling on Maya and 3DS Max, but the results never satisfied me. It always looked very stiff from what I wanted to do. Then after some frustrating years of learning Max and Maya, I started to look other options.

Digital Painting was starting to be a thing and lots of artist were posting stuff about it. I fell in love with what they were doing, so I started to learn that. Comics started doing digital coloring as a norm and comics were my true passion. I believed that with what I learned with digital painting could help me focus on digital coloring, I could always get some gigs and with that money I could hire artists do draw my comic, and I could color it.

It sounded like a perfect plan in 2010, After this amazing *cof* cof* cof plan set up, I saw a DC comic book colorist making some online course available with opportunity to One on One while we were doing the classes, so I decided to invest on that.

What’s the first thing you colored?

The first thing I colored professionally? I think it was The Almighties from Actuality Press.

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

I think Movies, TV Shows and books inspire me, I like to be entertained so I love to entertain as well. Favorite Artists in coloring are Marte Gracia and Justin Ponsor. I love the way they use bright saturated colors and make them look “real” with great use of lighting and the ability to tell the stories with colors. I will never forget how Gracia did a shock scene in ALL NEW X-MEN by showing the characters in black and white. I loved it.

I think it’s safe to say that Alex Sollazzo, Gracia, and Ponsor are my influences.

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?

My daily life is extremely busy to be honest. I gave up a lot of things in my life to work on this. Since I was a kid (we are talking on the 80´s here, and yeah I’m old)I dreamed working in the comic book industry, but here in Portugal there isn’t such industry. So, at one point I shifted to the movie industry but my family never believed that the entertainment industry would fit me as they wanted me to carry on the family business (being a commercial person or economist and stuff like that) so they pressured me to not pursue what I wanted.

I caved in and did what they wanted.

After living unhappy all my life doing things I didn’t care for or liked, I turned my back to everything to start over and do stuff that I wanted, so now with 3 years of professional career I’m betting all my chips on this and so far I can’t complain.

I do have a day job while I’m moving up on my career as a Comic Book colorist and coloring/working in this industry is what I want to do.

Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

To Market/Promote myself I usually post my stuff (as projects allows) on social media, DevianArt and such.

What’s your process like when you are preparing to color a comic? How do you make sure that you are enhancing the artwork?

I don’t believe that the colorist job is to enhance the artwork, I do believe that the colorist job is to help tell the story with colors. Creating a mood in a panel, making the reader feel the shock that the characters are feeling or making the reader feel the fear of the scene happening. This is what I believe the colorist is there for: to help tell the story.

My process usually is, read the script and take some notes of important dramatic things happening on the story then I do research. I go online and try to see some still images of movies or tv shows that tried to convey that drama, what they did, how they did, and I analyze all that. I like to color when I have all pages ready cause this way I can lay down colors on those important moments to help me set the mood of the book and create a guide line for the rest.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

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

I prefer watching streams. I know, it’s odd. watching people work while working, lol. But yeah, I love to hear other artists talk about their experiences in life of art and that motivates me to work instead of wasting my time going on Facebook and such.

(to be honest, you will find me more on social media when I’m at my regular day job rather than when I’m working on comics :P)

What have you worked on previously?

On comics? I started on a webcomic dedicated to Marvel’s character called NOVA, and then I worked on the Almighties. After that I met Chuck Amadori online and it led me to work with Isle Squared Comics on a couple of titles and later they helped me develop my Western comics. Wayward Raven Media got me for 3 of their titles (currently finishing on one of it) and Terminus Media. Along all this I worked on 2 or 3 titles for Portuguese comics. I’m currently coloring the First Portuguese super Hero title (I believe it’s issue 5) and did some work for Arcana Anthology as well.

It’s been 3 crazy years going from my regular job to sitting on the computer and coloring comics in my free time.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

I try to avoid doing the same over and over again and on coloring its hard because even though there are millions of colors not all of them work well together. But I guess there are Blue/Orange colors that I keep doing most of the time, but I try to do more.

***

This is only the first part of my conversation with Nimesh. Check out Part 2 next week.

***

Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

My name is Nimesh.
I’m from Portugal and I’m a self-taught ComicBook Colorist. Currently I’m working in a freelance basis.

In my 3rd year coloring professionally, I’ve worked with publishers, such as Terminus Media, WayWard Raven, and Arcana. Titles that I’ve worked on includes: Carlton Harvey’s Soul of Suw, James B. Emmett’s The Committee, and Chuck Amadori’s Pale Dark.

With a background in illustration, I’m aware of how color can impact a story and my vision is to help creators bring dimension to their worlds. 

***

I want to thank Nimesh for taking the time to answer my questions. And I definitely appreciate his contributions to helping bring The Gilded Age to life.

And make sure to check out his Western Comic at nimprod.com.

***

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.

Kickstart the Comic – Vessels #2: The Traitor and the Bear

Every couple of weeks I journey to my local comic book store, pick up an ever-growing stack of comics, rinse and repeat. I have to keep reminding myself as an independent comic writer, that there are others struggling to get their voices and stories heard. Many of them have turned to Kickstarter to do that. So I am challenging myself to keep a look out for any comic books that catch my eye.

The great thing about these Kickstarter projects is that many times even if you missed issue #1, they make it very easy to catch up.

***

Vessel #2: The Traitor and the Bear

From Card Shark Comics

Dave Cook – Creator/Writer/Publisher

Rafael Desquitado Jr. – Artist

Dennis Lehmann – Colors

Micah Myers – Letters

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 8:19 AM EST.

The Pitch:

Vessels is the brainchild of comic writer and multi award-winning video game critic Dave Cook AKA Car Shark Comics, and is a love letter to RPG gaming – most notably the From Software series Dark Souls.

It stars Wake, a gifted warrior with the ability to enter the realm of dreams and bend it to her will. She and her comrades G’Dala (a skilled mage) and Marillon (a master thief with a motor mouth – like Deadpool!) and tank-class D’Saahl set off to halt the imminent death of their world.

However, the laws of reality are breaking down as the Veil seeps into the waking world. Logic, physics and time are becoming convoluted, with weird and deadly effects, such as the giant teddy above which falls from the sky in issue #2.

The Story:

Our hero – a legendary warrior named Wake – and her companions G’Dala and Marillon must travel the land to halt the decay of reality itself, and unravel the mystery of the Vessels – five bloodthirsty knights hell-bent on stopping Wake from completing her goal.

John’s Thoughts:

One thing the regular comics scene doesn’t do very much of is fantasy based comics. I’m finding that sub-genre is certainly finding its footing through Kickstarter related projects. Vessels looks as if it is following a bit into Dark Tower territory with the idea of a more fantasy world suddenly coming into contact with very strange objects (see: a giant teddy bear). A world in transition with our heroes trying to save the day… or at the very least trying to let the world that they know hold on for a little bit more. And of course the enemies who will do everything in their power to ensure there will be no happy endings.

One other nice thing is you get a little sampler of the first four pages of Vessels #2 linked on the Kickstarter page.

The Rewards:

This is the Kickstarter for the second issue of the comic book. However, they make it very easy for you to immediately catch up with the series by offering reward levels containing pdfs or physical copies of Vessels #1 & #2. In addition, there are opportunities to get some prints… one of which is the excellent throwback to the 8-bit era showing our heroes as old-school video game characters. Lastly there is the opportunity to also sample a couple of their other series: Bust and Comichaus as add-ons to your Vessels orders.

The Verdict:

I love the opportunity to see how others world build (or maybe in this case it is world destroy). Fantasy settings offer all sorts of opportunities to shake up the genre and make sure you leave the readers guessing at what your next move might or might not be. Again, having a giant teddy bear drop out of the sky ensures this reader that things are going to be different from what you think.

And that is a very good thing. I look forward to reading it.

***

For more information on Vessels #2 and Card Shark Comics, check out their Facebook Page here.

***

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.

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

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