Sketchbook for the end of the world

 Let’s face it. I’m likely the worst artist on Tessera. If you want beautiful, colorful, deep art, check here.

Otherwise…let’s dance.

A few months back, I shared a few sketches I drew ages ago during the inception of Down the Dark Path. Each sketch depicted a fragment of the story as I’d originally dreamed it. My pattern was: I dreamed it, I drew it, and years later, I wrote epic fantasy novels about it. It sounds simple. It wasn’t.

Recently, I dug up about forty additional sketches.  Most (read…all) I sketched during my early twenties. They’re simple, sometimes juvenile, and somewhat faded by years spent moldering in an ancient paper envelope.  Even so, to this day they reflect my early conceptual visions of the Tyrants of the Dead series. If I were a true artist, I’d spend my time painting reimagined masterpieces for each one.

But I’m not.

So you get sketches…

Gryphon Inn

 

We begin with a tower deep in Grandwood. It’s ten stories high, surrounded by oak trees, and hides a wizard’s laboratory in its walls. I named this tower Gryphon. About ten years after this sketch, I wandered back to it. I decided Gryphon needed to be an entire city, not one lonely tower in the woods. And so Gryphon, home of Rellen, was reborn.

 

 

 

 

Knight 1

This was my original concept sketch for Rellen Gryphon, one of the heroes of Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter. Rellen later lost his halberd, became younger and blonder, and sat atop a horse instead of a bizarre, long-snouted mutant mule, but his pose…reining up to watch the Furyon horde draw near…still belongs to him.

 

 

 

 

The Whisperers

 

Long ago, I only had the vaguest notion of what the bad guys in the Tyrants series looked like, but this is how they began. I’m not spoiling anything, because the modern-day Ur look very little like this trio. And yet, somehow…I still remember the night I dreamed them. White eyes… Pale as death… Whispering black thoughts into fragile minds…

Hmmm…

 

 

 

Ghoulish

Nothing fancy about this dude. Every other sketch I created in the beginning just happened to be of a ghost, a ghoul, or a skeletal horror. I suppose this guy could be the murderous spirit who shows up in the swamps of Furyon. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself.

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KiraniSexy Elf

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It’s no secret. Women are usually more pleasant to draw and dream of than zombies, ghosts, and stone towers. These two ladies were characters who lost their spots in Down the Dark Path during the great 200k-word ‘let’s make this novel more serious’ culling. Even so, I remember them, though these drawings do them no justice.

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Soul Orb Sketch J

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Now we’re getting somewhere. This is my first sketch of the Soul Orb. (The final version graces Down the Dark Path’s cover.) Notice the ghoulish faces at the Orb’s base and the demonic eyes gazing out of its center. This is among my favorite sketches.

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Night Wisdom

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My original concept for Dark Moon Daughter’s antagonist, the Warlock. He later lost the horns and the jewelry, but kept the hood. Because…you know…every diabolical wizard needs a sinister cloak to hide behind.

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What are YOU looking at

And lastly, a bit of adolescent fun. The original Andelusia was sassy, sneaky, and completely willing to use her beauty to snare men’s adoration. Here she seems to be saying, “What are you looking at?” And yes, she’d have used that knife. You probably had it coming.

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That’s pretty much all the sketches I have related to the big fantasy trilogy. Maybe someday, after I write my fiftieth novel and the ideas cease to flow, I’ll get some art lessons.

I could definitely use ’em.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

New Studio Assistant

 

These week I hired a new studio assistant. She knows nothing about brushes, paints or Photoshop but I’m sure she’ll be a quick study. Drusilla is eager and full of creative drive. I met her at the dog groomers over the weekend and I knew then she’d make a perfect edition to the creative family. She’s already begun learning about colored pencils and of course, brushes. I’m going to have to watch her with those–she keeps trying to munch on them.

Drusilla MakepeaceDid I fool you?! Probably not. If you follow me on the web anywhere I’ve been posting photos of this little angel almost non-stop. She’s just too precious!

And, she looks just like Shadow. It was a little surreal when I walked into the dog groomers Saturday morning and saw her sitting near the door. My heart clenched and I tried not to look at her. It must have been fate. She’d been found inside a car engine and she has the scars on her nose to prove it. The small, very friendly kitten, was also severely underweight. I brought her home and within days she was gaining weight and running around the studio.

Up until yesterday, we were not positive on whether she was actually a she and that was partly due to her weight and overall scruffiness. The Veterinarian confirmed yesterday we indeed have a little girl and except for some tummy bugs, she was in good health.

I can’t take credit for the name, but I also didn’t need any convincing. Drusilla was my mother’s suggestions. And yes, she is named after that Drusilla. 😀

Drusilla is already taking after Shadow. She likes to sleep right up near my face and she lunged and hissed at the dog yesterday. She’s a fighter and a survivor, but also incredibly loving. I still miss Shadow terribly but this little look-a-like warms my heart. Before long she’ll be sitting in my lap, snoozing as I paint.

Drusilla

For fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans, you may be interested in my videos from Dragon*Con 2012. I have two videos from a panel with actors Juliet Landau (Drusilla) and Spike (James Marsters). Here’s Part 1, check my profile for Part 2.

The Seer

The Seer by Amanda Makepeace

 

Her name is Masego, meaning divine favor, but don’t assume that means she is on your side. She is a member of a special council–the Mystics–who oversee the protection of our planet. Humans have been making her job very difficult as of late. I was fortunate to be able to paint her portrait last month.

Limited Edition Prints can be purchased from my Big Cartel Shop and if you’re attending Dragon*Con this summer you’ll have a chance to see her there too.

😉

Taking the Next Step

“Seize The Moment because you never know if that moment will ever come your way again. I know that when I look back at my life, I will see the memories of all the little adventures that I didn’t let pass me by.” – Cody Atencio

Sometimes, even when we don’t think we’re ready, we have to take the next step. That was me four months ago when I finally decided to take the plunge and apply to the Dragon*Con Art Show. The idea, the seed, was planted when I met artist Charles Urbach during the last year’s convention. I’ve talked about our conversation and the encouragement he offered at length, but I was still on the fence as to whether I should apply or not. I decided to take a leap and wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Dragon*Con is a Juried Art Show. It’s not an Artists Alley you see at some typical Fantasy/SciFi conventions. This year’s jurors were Michael C. HayesPatrick J. Jones and Thomas Kuebler. Wow. Wow. Wow. That made me even more nervous but I’d already decided to ‘seize the moment.’ After an excruciating month of waiting, where I’d told only a handful of people what I’d done, I received notification that I’d passed the jury selection. I was in shock. I think a part of me is still in shock. I celebrated with my family two weeks later when I received notice again that I was to be placed on the Art Show Floor.

To think. . . I almost didn’t even apply.

Let’s be honest now. As much as my friends and family lather me with compliments, I know I’m in the infancy of my digital painting skills. Some things I have a strong grasp of and others I’m not quite there yet.

One painting from February 2013 and one from November of the same year.

But I’m learning and I like to think I’m improving, but the message here is stop waiting for your dreams to come true. If you want something, ‘seize the moment,’ go after it with a passion. When I stopped by Charles’ table last year he took a look at a few of my paintings, and asked me, ‘Why aren’t you here?” (Or something close to that.) I’m sure at the time I looked like a deer in headlights. He said, even if you don’t make the cut the experience is valuable. It’s a process all artists have to go through as they are trying to make their way in the world. I know this but I was stuck in thinking I needed to hone my skills more–I was convinced I wasn’t ready. I kept telling myself I needed another year. I was wrong. Even if I had not passed the jury, the experience has helped me grow. The juror comments have helped me grow.

Comment #1:  Nice work! Keep working on your anatomy and you will go far.

Comment #2:  Human facial anatomy needs work. More expression. Even if the subject is in repose more facial definition and distinction would be helpful.

Her Domain by Amanda Makepeace

Her Domain, 2013

So what is the next step?

I’ve made the cut. I’m in the Dragon*Con 2014 Art Show and now that I am, I am pre-approved for future Art Shows. Next year I’m going to have a bazaar table in the Art Show room. That’s my goal. From now until then I’m going to ‘seize the moment’ again and work to improve my human anatomy. I’m going to do whatever it takes, legally, to keep growing.

As for this year’s Art Show. . . I will be attending Dragon*Con all four days. I will be lurking around the show and I will be available to talk art, illustration, Fantasy, etc. To keep up with where I’ll be and when I suggest following me on Twitter. I’m not always super active there but I will be during the convention.

Don’t Fall for the Trap

Charles de Lint quoteIt’s easy to lose sight of our path. It’s easy to paint what everyone else is painting. It’s easy to think I’ll never be as good as “them.” It’s easy to fall into the trap.

If you aren’t painting for you, you’re stifling your own creative voice. This makes you unique, what sets you apart from other artists. There are dozens of artist/illustrators I admire, and there is a small part of me that hopes and wishes I might be as great as them one day. But focusing on that won’t get me anywhere. As much as I admire Todd Lockwood, Cynthia Sheppard, Dan Dos Santos, and Cory Godbey (to name only a few), trying to be them is a trap. Read more

Phoenix in Need of Home, Plays well with Unicorns

 

There once lived a phoenix trapped in the mind of an artist until the day she set him free in fiery waves of sunlight and crimson. While the artist loved the magical bird, she knew he must be set free, to find his own home and heart. She watched him soar over plains and dew frosted pines until she could only see him in her dreams.

 

Where will my little Phoenix find a home? He first traveled to Colorado and then Kansas City, Missouri for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3, but no one captured his heart. Now he waits, feeling hopeful that someone will find him and love him.

Adopt a Phoenix Today

New Art: Exploring Space

I’ve always been drawn to nature, wildlife and the fantastical. Those same themes are what show up in my art 95% of the time. The other 5% is reserved for Science Fiction and Horror. I’ve painted space scenes on canvas with acrylics and I’ve painted them with my Intuos in Photoshop. Space is wondrous. Space captures the imagination. I took Astronomy in college, just because I could. Though I’ve never been there I feel I know it, as we all do, through images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more

300 Tiny Paintings at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 is happening now and Jon Schindehette‘s ArtOrder Booth is decorated with 300 tiny paintings available to purchase. My 3×3 inch oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn, is one of them. Do you see him?

SFAL is going on all weekend. If you’re going be sure to stop by Booth #718. If you’re not going you can still enjoy the view as seen in Jon’s photos below.

SFAL is this Weekend!

Phoenix and the Unicorn by Amanda MakepeaceDon’t forget, if you’re attending Spectrum Fantastic Art Live this weekend you can see (and purchase) my tiny oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn. You’ll find my painting and many others at Jon Schindehette’s ArtOrder Booth – #718.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 is May 9-11th.

https://spectrumfantasticartlive.com

Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom
Kansas City Convention Center
301 W. 13th St. Kansas City
MO 64105

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3

Click to Enlarge

The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Amanda Makepeace

 

Last year I painted a well received Jackalope and I made sure to tell everyone he was the first in a new series. Then I had one commission after another and the series was put on hold. Until now!! Say hello to The Alchemist. Yes, I know he’s a fox but he’s an alchemist too. He’s part of an ever evolving series of paintings called the Mystics. Read more

Why Digital?

There are quite a few misconceptions about digital art. I honestly don’t hold that against anyone. It can be confusing. Digital Art is a broad term to describe anything created via a computer. Just as with Traditional Art, you can then break that down into subcategories: Photomanipulation, Digital Painting, Vector Art, Pixel Art, Fractal Generation, 3D Art and more. Digital Painting is what I do. Illustrator Kelley McMorris has a comic to help explain it a little better:

How Digital Painting Works by Kelley McMorris

 

This is incredibly accurate, even the second half. Over the holidays I was showing some family members my digital paintings, specifically my Jackalope. One person asked me, “So the computer does this for you?” I was polite. I tried to explain in simple terms, that no, a digital painting is not that different than a traditional painting.

If a computer were able to spit this out:

Gatsoh Elder by Amanda Makepeace

Or this:

Stone of Knowing by Amanda Makepeace

Then I’d have far more paintings in my portfolio already. Paintings, whether they are digital or traditional, take time and planning. With that said, there are a myriad of shortcuts to the process when you are painting in Photoshop. Custom brushes that look like leaves or trees is one example. Not everyone utilizes these shortcuts. I have on occasion, but more often than not, I paint everything in my paintings by hand. There are no shortcuts. See the little tablet in the comic above? I have one of those too:

Wacom Intuos 4

It’s called a Wacom Intuos 4 (Medium). When I use the stylus to draw on the tablet, it translates that into Photoshop–precisely and accurately. No, it doesn’t feel the same as drawing on paper or painting on canvas, but it basically does the same thing. The outcome is the same. Anything I can draw on paper, I can draw the same in Photoshop via my tablet. It’s  not magic. I use all the same skills I’ve learned with traditional art.

There’s one of those misconceptions. Many people think that using the tablet is somehow like cheating or it will make it easier to draw and paint. Sorry, but, no. I’m not saying it’s impossible, because I always believe in exceptions, but if you struggle with traditional drawing you will have an even harder time trying to use a Wacom Intuos. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. Many artists find it cumbersome to draw with the tablet. So they draw on paper first and then scan it into the computer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It took several months of retraining my brain before it became second nature.

Still, your asking, how is it the same as a traditional painting? Let’s look at the definition of the word.

Cambridge Dictionary:

the skill or activity of making a picture

Dictionary.com:

the act, artor work of a person who paints

Merriam Webster:

a product of painting; especially :  a work produced through the art of painting

A painting is a painting, whether it’s painted with oils or computer brush strokes. The outcome is the same. When I paint in Photoshop, I use a digital brush to apply paint to a digital canvas. Here’s a look at the brushstrokes from a few of my favorite brushes.

My basic brushes

These brushes can be large for painting washes or very small for painting details. Sound familiar?

There will probably always be individuals who refuse to see digital painting as Art. I will probably continue to be asked, “Are you going paint any originals soon?” Which, kinda feels like they are actually asking, “Are you going to create any real art?” I’ll admit, it stings a bit, but only for about a minute. Then I get back to creating. Creating is what it’s all about. That’s why, to answer the title of this blog post. To create. I’ve not been the luckiest person as far as my health goes. I’m not going to go into all the details. Those of you that know me well, know I’m lucky to be alive.

In 2011/12 I began developing another “issue” but this time it was with my hands. It was becoming increasingly difficult to paint and draw without putting myself through a lot of pain. I deal with pain on a daily basis. Most of the time you’d never know it. I’m a fighter. I keep going. But this was proving to be a challenge. My time in the studio slowed to a crawl. I was depressed. All I wanted to do was create.

Artist Amanda MakepeaceThen I bought a Wacom Intuos 4 Small and my world changed. Painting and drawing with the tablet is far less strenuous on my hand. But what I never expected was the effect it would have on my creativity and imagination. It was as if the flood gates had opened. I’m not painting anything now that I couldn’t also paint in oils or watercolors, but something broke free when I changed mediums–something I’d always kept under lock and key. If they found a cure for all my disorders tomorrow, I wouldn’t stop painting digitally. I’m a happier person and a more content artist, for letting go of my insecurities and letting my passion be set free.

Limited Edition Prints can be purchased from my shop:

http://amandamakepeace.com/shop/

It F***ing Sucks Bein’ Green

The-Avengers-Climax-Hulk-the-avengers-34726224-1920-1080

signal_ver2_xlgIt was announced last week that David Bruckner, a long-time acquaintance, friend of a dear friend, and fellow Atlanta-ite, is going to direct the next Friday the 13th movie. Dave directed one third of the Atlanta-based horror film The Signal as well as the first (and in a lot of people’s opinions, the best) segment of the anthology V/H/S. It will be his debut feature as a solo director.

I congratulate David and wish him nothing but the best. I’m very excited for what he’s going to do.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

My friend Jake Goldberger‘s second film, Life of a King is available on DVD now.

His first film, Don McKay, was an off-beat dark comedy that was so off-beat that most people didn’t get how funny it was. It starred two Oscar nominees and a future Oscar winner. It wasn’t treated very well by critics and not very many people saw it. I liked it, but I also read the script about a decade before and was elated to see it make its way to the screen.

life-of-a-king-posterLife of a King is a much more high-profile film. Starring another Academy Award winner, Cuba Gooding Jr, it is a moving tale about an ex-con that teaches a group of inner-city kids the value and beauty of the game of chess. It’s kind of Stand and Deliver with a Karate Kid finale (with a Rocky twist). It may not sound like your type of film. It’s honestly not mine. But I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. More than anything, I was impressed by the performance by Gooding and by how much Jake has grown as a director. He told me the other day that it was shot in just 15 days, which astounded me for how good it looks. Dakota Skye had more time to shoot and it felt like we had no time at all.

I have known Jake for over a decade. I’m proud of him and congratulate him on his success and hope his next film is even bigger and better and I can’t wait to see it.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

Lake-Effect-Brochure-Small-728x1024I don’t know Tara Miele very well. But I do know her husband, Dakota Skye cinematographer Brett Juskalian. Right after Dakota Skye Tara made a lovely little film called The Lake Effect and has since then made a couple other films (I’ve lost track) for the Lifetime Channel.

Tara is a talented writer and I’m happy her career as a filmmaker is taking off.

Oh, and also, fuck her.

 

An old collaborator of mine, Charlie Ebersol, with whom I worked on many projects that never quite got off the ground (see my tale about pitching a show at the Sci-Fi Channel), has been hired to write a sequel to Space Jam. Charlie is more of a producer than writer, and it’s not a project I would necessarily kill to be a part of, but still. It’s a big opportunity.

I wish him and his brother all the luck with the film.

And, yes, fuck him.

One of the first friends I made upon moving to Los Angeles was a funny kid from Tulsa named Bill Hader. I don’t need to explain to you who he is. If you don’t know, just Google him. I’ve heard Mel Brooks praise him. Mel. Brooks.

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He also does a pretty good impression of me.

Fuck him.

Even within this very guild, on this site, my friends are bugging the shit out of me. J. Edward Neill, having released Down the Dark Path last year, has just finished the follow-up. This would be less impressive if his books weren’t approximately seven million pages long. Likewise, John McGuire just put his first book, The Dark That Follows (we like the word “dark” in our titles, don’t we?) up on Amazon but I also happen to know that he’s currently revising his second novel, having already finished the first draft. Plus, John has some comic books out in the world, with more to come, and that’s awesome.

Fuck both of them.

I, of course, don’t mean any of the profanity I have hurled at my friends and peers above. Good people, all of them. Some of them amongst my favorite people.

Wait. No. I do mean it.

Fuck all of them.

Envy is a hell of a thing.

I’m not a religious dude but if Morgan Freeman has taught me anything (other than how hard it is to be a penguin, how to smuggle a rock hammer into the slammer, how to be the quartermaster for a vigilante, how love is worth dying for, how not to storm a Civil War fort, and how to embrace my inner Master Builder), it’s that Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Brad-Pitt-and-Morgan-Freeman-in-Seven

You remember those. I think they go: Being Fat, Being a Child Molester, Being a Lawyer, Being Pretty, Being a Hooker, Envy, and shooting Keyser Söze.

Envy. That big green monster that sometimes beats me senseless worse than…

i3r38XmIrCPRY

“Puny Self-Worth”

I like my life. This is not about that. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone not named Clooney or Timberlake and only then if I can take a few people with me.

This is professional envy. Comparing where you are at in your career to that of your peers. I know better than to give into it, but I’m a human being and not a very good one at that.

Of course, envy leads to doubt.

At 25, I hadn’t done X. At 30, I wasn’t even close to accomplishing Y. At 35, I had pretty much given up on Z.

40 is coming on really fast and I’m out of fucking letters.

And what do people tell you when you’re feeling green? Not with seasickness. Not with lovable singing felt frog-ness. But with the feeling of wanting what someone else has…

They say “Keep your head down and do your work.”

And I say—

I’ve been swearing a lot this post, huh? Well, you fill in the blank.

giphyI have gotten so much better over the years in dealing with this. A while back I wrote a piece on here about Livin’ Small, based on the mentally of my friend Jonah Matranga. It’s about being happy with what you have and embracing what you have accomplished, not what you haven’t. It’s a perspective I cherish. And try to hold to.

But I can’t always. Sometimes it stings. Badly. Sometimes it sears a hole in my heart.

Sometimes in makes me hate my friends.

Because they’re not as smart as me. Not as talented. I’ve read his stuff and I’m such a better writer than him. I could absolutely do a better job behind the camera. What’s so special about her? What’s so important about him?

WHY DOESN’T ANYONE REALIZE THAT I’M THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD AT WHAT I DO?!?!?!?!?!?

That is what envy can do to. Take all my insecurities and turn my brain into a hornets’ nest. The awful thoughts I keep just beneath the surface, born of doubt and fear and narcissism and frustration, they seep out of my pores and turn me into something I don’t like very much.

That’s my secret, Cap…

83366-bruce-banner-transforms-into-h-BhDR

…I’m always an asshole.

It’s not an original tale, a writer struggling with egotism and doubt. Hell, they’re job requirements. They can fuel you. Only someone with an enormous ego thinks their thoughts are worth people paying money for; only someone full of doubt needs the love of millions of strangers to validate them as people.

Like I said, though, this has gotten a lot better over the years. I can actually now feel genuine joy at my friends’ successes. Sure, it’s joy laced with a little vitriol, but it’s joy all the same. I want everyone I know and love to do well at whatever they do. But it is hard when what they do is also what I do. Because I can’t help but measure myself up to them. And, rightly or wrongly, every step they take forward feels like a step back for me.

I also know that there are people that envy me. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a produced feature film in the world, no matter how small and indie. Not everyone has the time, endurance, or will to write a novel. Some people are better writers than me, but many are not.

What has been the point of this? I don’t know. Do I get off on exposing this jealous and angry part of myself? Maybe. Am I using this as an outlet to vent my frustrations? Certainly. If you take anything from this, other than a deep dislike of me, I hope you check out the work of my friends that I listed above. They’re all talented and hard-working people. And they’re good people.

Boy, I’m in a bad fucking mood.

I promise next week I’ll be a better person. Because, luckily, this feeling will fade and I’ll go back to this:

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No, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go keep my head down and do my work.

How it all began…

Malog J Sketch

 

 

 

Quite by accident, this week’s blog…

 If not for a cup of chance, I’d have drowned Tessera in an entirely different ocean of bones. But an old friend stumbled upon a twenty year-old folder I thought I’d lost ages ago, and I found myself unable to resist writing about it. Not that twenty years is all that long, but to me, still a wee lad, two decades feels like an eon.

I haven’t always been a writer. Well…maybe a little, but not in the way I am today. Long ago, in the primeval soup of early creative-dom, I fancied myself an artist of a different kind. Not with quill, ink, and keyboard, but with markers, pencils, sketch books, and posterboards. I airbrushed T-shirts, made huge Slayer banners (signed by the band!) and silkscreened dark, crazy images onto every bit of cloth I could find. Those were different days. My stories lived on the tips of my fingers, not in the cavernous void inside my skull.

And then one day I started sketching.

I can’t remember the exact moment. It must’ve been cold outside, or rainy, or both. My mind wandered realms both dark and mysterious during those days. I’d already dreamed up the stories and characters which would later become haunt the pages of Down the Dark Path, but I’d gone no further. Lacking the skill or the means to write an epic fantasy, I likely locked myself in my room, climbed on my captain’s bed, and started drawing the images that’d been locked away in my mind’s dungeon. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I hadn’t attended but a few art classes, and while the teachers had taught class I’d never done anything but daydream. I was a novice, an oaf, a blunderbuss of smudgy pencil rubs and cheap not-meant-for-real-art pens. Even so…

So without further ado, I humbly offer my earliest fantasy scribblings. These are the images I first dreamt of when mortaring the bricks of my first epic novel in my mind. I beg only that you forgive their simplicity, and perhaps appreciate the strange glory of passion without talent:

Grae Knight J Sketch

 

My first try at a Graehelm knight. In retrospect, he needs a saddle, but what did I know? Ignore the tree and tower in the background. They were part of a different sketch crowded on the same page.

 

 

Wraith Sketch 2

 

 

– Look at this ghoulish guy. He’s one of my favorites. He never actually appears in any of my novels, but I like to think he could. He’s reaching out for you. He doesn’t want you dead. He wants you to join him.

 

Wraith Sketch 1

 

 

– Another dead dude. A precursor to the Furyon warlords. I always liked the head of his spiked flail. Imagine getting whacked by that thing…

 

 

Undead J Sketch

 

 

 

– Ok, so maybe one spiked flail head wasn’t enough. Here I sketched two. And if you couldn’t already tell, I really liked (ok, still like) imagery of undead warriors. This hasty little sketch is cartoony and anatomically goofy, but I still thought it belonged. Maybe he’s an undead guardian of the Furyon fortress of Malog. Or maybe he’s a Sarcophage, whom we don’t meet until Book II…

 

 

Grimwain J Sketch

 

– I drew this guy with but one villain in mind. Here lies Grimwain, the Sleeper, the mover of all the world’s pieces on the chessboard of doom. His hood should be deeper, but I feel I nailed his beard, his collar, and his white, starry, and soulless gaze. He doesn’t appear until Book II.

 

 

Ande J Sketch

 

– In the beginning, the heroine Andelusia Anderae inhabited a role far less ‘benevolent’ than who she eventually became. She was harder, grittier, more roguish and fantasy trope-like . This was my first conceptual sketch of her. Clumsy? Yes. Are her boobs too big? Probably. But something in my teenage mind saw a rare emotion in her eyes, and thus was born the Dark Moon Daughter.

 

 

 

Thank you for indulging me. I’ve a ton more sketches, some of which I might hurl up on Tessera should even a mild clamor arise. It’s strange to think that once, so many years ago, I wanted to be a painter, a sculpter, and a fantasy artist god. Thank goodness I kept my day job, right?

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

‘Spectrum Fantastic Art Live is the Sundance of Illustration.’ – Gregory Manchess

I won’t be there but my tiny oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn will be!

Phoenix and the Unicorn by Amanda Makepeace

Last month I entered a contest via Jon Schindehette’s site The ArtOrder. Artists were invited to submit a 3×3 inch painting in traditional medium for possible inclusion in Jon’s exhibit booth at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3. Read more

Cover Reveal – Dark Moon Daughter

DMD Slider 1

 

 

 We will bend the Father and bury his children. We will curl the roots of every tree and strip the clouds from heaven. This is what we adore: the midnight, the bottom, the end.  – Excerpt from the Pages Black, lost text of the Ur

 If I’m extra happy this week, don’t blame me. Blame my cover artist, Eileen Herron, for rocking out the new cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I’m thrilled with her vision of the next installment in the Tyrants of the Dead series. My dark little heart beats a little faster every time I see it. My underwear definitely needs changing.

So let’s break this down a bit. The first sliver of the cover (above) gives us a glimpse of Andelusia doing battle. The pale, multi-eyed, razors-for-fingers beast in the upper right is the Mortician, one of many wicked creeps our heroine (or villainess, depending) must contend with. In the upper left, we’ve an image of the moon, only not the moon you’re used to seeing. In Ande’s right hand, she wields the fabled Ur flame, an errant drop of which can melt a city…or the world. Look closely and you’ll see the Ur language on her forearm. This is why I love Eileen’s style. With so little room in which to work, she includes elements I’d have never thought of. Hell, in Down the Dark Path I even changed a chapter based on what she painted.

DMD Garrett v Sarcophage

 

 Our next slice of the painting gives us Rellen Gryphon doing battle with a Sarcophage. (What’s a Sarcophage, you ask? – You’ll have to read DMD when it comes out!) I like the classic, almost Dungeons and Dragons appeal to Rellen’s handsomeness, as well as the horror of the masked and armored monster he’s fighting. Not to be missed is Andelusia’s leg. What’s an all-powerful witch to do without showing a little skin, right?

 

 

DMD Warlock Image

 

 At the painting’s bottom we have one of the antagonists. It’s a great smirk he’s wearing, isn’t it? I happen to know the guy Eileen used as a model, and she really captured a part of his inner evil here. The shadows swirl around him, hiding the rest of his body. It’s appropriately mysterious. What’s this guy doing down here? Why’s he smiling so deviously? The reasons are many…

 

 

And now, the final product in all its glory. There’s tons going on here, from small story elements to hidden visuals only the keen reader will spot:

DMD Original Cover

 For any writer, cover art is key. For me, it’s doubly so. I wanted movie poster appeal. I wanted many story elements colliding. I wanted a sexy girl, a terrifying monster, and shadows galore. Eileen delivered. I hope you like it as much as I do.

If you like the cover, just wait ’til you read the book.  Dark Moon Daughter – Due out any day now… Forget about elves, dwarves, dragons, and vampires. Let’s go deeper. Let’s get darker. Let’s go all the way to the bottom.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

How to write Dark Fantasy Novels (and shave decades off your lifespan)

Skull Party

 

 

Look at these guys. They’re dead, but still having a grand time of it. Makes me want to start hosting poker nights at my place. There’ll be just one rule: everyone has to dress up as their favorite dead person. For one night a week I can pretend I’m having a drink with Poe, Shakespeare, Attila, and Stalin. Who’d want to dress up as Stalin’s bones? I’m not sure, but I know some pretty strange people.

Ok. Look. This isn’t really a how-to article. I’m in no position to tell anyone how to do anything short of throwing footballs, kicking things, and losing at video games. I’m writing this week to take myself down a notch, put a lid on the can, and cork up my fountain of sunshine.

I write better when I’m in a terrible mood.

There. I said it. I’m sure I’m not the only one. What is it about creative people that allows them to make masterpieces out of misery? I’m not saying I’m capable of creating a masterpiece, but I think you get my point. Why are the best novels full to the brim with tragedy, suffering, and death? Why are history’s finest artists at best obsessive, at worst sociopathic? Why is human misery so appealing? Go click on a news site. Go google murder, kidnapping, terrorism, war, or Bieber. It’s a never-ending worldwide horror story. Why, why, why?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.

A few years ago, while riding a half-year span of dumb-stupid-happy, my writing crashed and burned. I couldn’t even spit out a page a week, to say nothing of my current pace of five pages per night. I was just too damn pleased with life to concentrate on dragging my readers through the abyss. It was awesome, but it sucked. I mean; if darkness renders us blind, intense sunshine does the same, right? Try seeing through your car window while driving directly at the rising sun. Can’t see a damn thing no matter how you adjust the visor, can you? You’ll think you’re on the road, and meanwhile you’re about to run over a line of kids on their way to the school bus. All the sun’s fault. Maybe vampires are on to something.

So tonight I’m sitting beside a dark-shaded lamp, surrounded by silence, floating on a cloud of gloom and doom. I’m pissed off. I’m bored. I’m willing to fight anyone who dares come through my door. My morbid sensibilities smolder inside me. It’s perfect. It really is. After I finish this blog, I’m betting on 2,500 words and a satisfying night’s sleep. Here’s the proof: right beside my ugly old recliner, my Buddha statue is smiling at me. ‘How much did you write tonight?’ I ask him. ‘Nuthin’,’ he says. ‘I’m more of an eater these days.’ And over there on the wall, the knights on their murals look peaceful in their repose. ‘You guys ever paint anything?’ I ask. They’re so damn happy they don’t even bother to answer. See what I mean? What artist does his best work while feeling bubbly? None, I tell you. You need passion, fury, wrath, and darkness. To cast a shadow, you need light, and something big to block most of it out.

They say all good things must come to an end. Whew. Thank goodness for that. If I’d have stayed on my bus to happyland, I might’ve given up writing altogether, and that would’ve been a different type of low. Maybe I’m wrong about this whole sad-makes-awesome thing. Maybe Fred Rogers and Barney the F’ing Dinosaur really are on to something, but I doubt it. How does one make beautiful, tormented art without knowing how it feels to walk alone in the night? The answer: they don’t. Sometimes, to create you must first destroy.

What’s it all mean? Well…maybe tomorrow I’ll be even gloomier than tonight. Why not? If it helps me finish my latest book and write deathier, bloodier, and grimmer stories than ever before, I’m game. I’m ok with that. What about you?

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Fantasy Art Prints from Amanda Makepeace

The Price of Magic by Amanda Makepeace

One of the drawbacks to creating digital paintings is the idea that these are massed produced artworks, or not true art at all. I’m not going to argue what is and what is not art. I’d rather create something and share it with people who appreciate art in all its forms. However, the idea that digital paintings are something massed produced and easily created is nonsense. I spend hours working on sketches, thinking about colors, and eventually painting. So inevitably, I’ve been working on some big changes to how I market and sell my art. The answer for me Limited Edition prints.

limited edition

 noun

: a special book, picture, medal, etc., for which only a small number of copies are produced and sold

The prints you’ll find in my new shop are all limited edition prints and they are larger than the standard prints I sold in my Etsy shop. Editions sizes will vary. As an example, I’m selling both prints of Forest Guardian and Spirit Guardian (the enhanced version). However, there will only be fifteen prints made of Spirit Guardian, whereas Forest Guardian will have thirty.

There’s also been an upgrade in the paper. I decided to go with Somerset Velvet, 100% cotton rag and acid free. It’s a common choice for fine art prints. Prints are long-lasting, rich in detail and color and all signed and numbered. Essentially you are buying a collectible piece of art; hence, the price increase. Prices for my prints will range anywhere from $25.00 to $60.00. I’ve already sold 1 of the 15 Spirit Guardian prints. Be sure to follow my Facebook page for announcements on new prints to the shop.

Stone of Knowing DetailWhere is my new shop?

Big Cartel!

http://amandamakepeace.bigcartel.com/

Will I be selling any traditional artworks?

Yes. I do plan to eventually sell original drawings and the occasional watercolor or oil painting.  I’ll also be selling one-of-a-kind canvas prints for my digital paintings. When I say one-of-a-kind, I mean a one off canvas print–the only one in existence.

Will I still offer open edition prints?

Possibly. I may still sell these, but only at conventions or other events. If I do, they will be smaller in size and printed on standard matte or lustre paper. If you want something more original, a work of art, hold out for the limited edition.

Forest Guardian

Forest Guardian I by Amanda Makepeace

“But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.”

Read more

Inspiring Young Creatives

I’m in the zone right now. The one where I don’t want to stop painting. I don’t want to do anything that will disrupt my rhythm. I imagine all creative people experience it and the torture when they do have to stop. That drive to create is always there, even when I’m tired. Last night, after clearing a couple TV shows off our DVR, I headed back upstairs to paint just a bit more before bed. But that never happened. Instead, at ten o’clock in the evening I gave my daughter a drawing lesson. In the last year she’s begun drawing more and more and showing signs that she’s inherited the artist gene from her mother and grandmother. I always try to make the time to show her how I do things not because I’m her mother, but because it’s the right thing to do for any young creative person. So when she asked me last night if I’d show her how I draw a tiger, I said of course.

Beginnings of a Tiger Read more

Print Sale on Etsy

I’m planning a reorganization of my Etsy shop in March, at which time the shop will go into vacation mode for a month (maybe more). Until then, you can get 40% off your purchase of $15.00 or more. Seriously. Truly. I wouldn’t lie to you. Yes, this is an insane sale but several artworks in my shop now will no longer be available. I’m calling this a Pre-Spring Cleaning Sale. Use the coupon code: ILOVEART at checkout to receive your discount. Here’s a sampling of the amazing deals to be had.

The Dragon’s Egg Wood Mounted Print – Regular price: $65.00 – With coupon: $39.00

Read more

Stone of Knowing – Part 4

Stone of Knowing by Amanda Makepeace

Here it is at last, my first new painting for 2014, Stone of Knowing. Since I began sharing tidbits about this painting I’ve been asked whether these ravens are actually Huginn and Muninn–Odin’s ravens from Norse mythology.  While I didn’t intend for them be I think my subconscious had other ideas. Thought and Memory find a Stone with the power to control a person’s mind. Seems apt or maybe serendipitous, either way I approve! Read more

Livin’ Small

Above is a song by my friend and role model Jonah Matranga. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

Okay. More on him in a bit

As child I had the usual dreams about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Police officer. Fighter Pilot. Archeologist.

Then I learned the police academy wasn’t nearly as much fun as the movies that bore its name, that my nearsightedness meant I could never be Maverick, and that real archeologists don’t carry whips and fight Nazis.

In the third grade, my teacher told me I was going to be a writer. That ended up being the one that stuck. That piece of advice given to an 8 or 9 year old boy set the course for the next 30 years of his life. For a decade I wanted to be a novelist; after that, a screenwriter and filmmaker. I never considered studying anything else but writing and movies. I never had a fall back. I didn’t go get a safety degree that I could use to pay the bills while I tried get my writing career off the ground. I, naively and some would say foolishly, went all in on this dream. Sometimes I wonder if I should have taken the route some of my friends took: getting an advanced degree that assured them a job and attempt to launch a writing career in concert with their 9 to 5 obligations.

I admire them for doing that. But that’s not me. I have no other skills. Even if I had gotten into Georgia Tech like so many of my friends, which I did not, I don’t have any feel for things like engineering and science. John McGuire builds roads and plans cities. Another friend makes robots; one has risen through the ranks of one of the world’s biggest and most important companies. They have real jobs, like real men, and while I respect and sometimes envy them, I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I married a brilliant woman who is a bio-organic chemist. She loves chemistry and is very good at her job, but still, even after going through enough school to acquire a PHD, her profession is not what defines her. When she gets home she does her best to leave her work at work. It took me years to understand that. I am a writer 24/7. It’s who I am. It is my profession and my hobby and my identity.

I had big dreams. Still have them. I still want to write and direct major motion pictures. A few best-selling novels. I want to be admired and accepted by others. I want to be known: not famous, but known. I want kids, 22 year old writers or film geeks, running up to me like I once ran up to Wes Anderson and Steven Soderbergh. I want to run my own TV show. I want to win an Oscar, a Hugo, an Emmy, and eventually a lifetime achievement award from the Academy.

I want to be great.

None of that has happened yet, but I haven’t given up. But a recent piece of news (which I will not get into) has made me doubt. Made me think about giving up, walking away. Part of me knows I’m never going to reach the heights I dream about. Part of me knows I’m not going to be Martin Scorsese or George R.R. Martin. I look at things happening today, to people in my age group, and think I missed my chance. Drew Goddard is writing a Daredevil series for Netflix: that should have been me. JJ Abrahms shouldn’t be doing the new Star Wars, I should. They’re making a movie about hip-hop legends N.W.A.; I’ve had that idea for years, just ask any of my friends. Joe Wright is making yet another live-action Peter Pan movie, which was for a long time my dream project. Bill Hader, who was the first friend I made upon moving to Los Angeles 15 years ago, is now a TV and movie star. I used to get drunk with him and watch Evil Dead movies all night and now he’s in movies with Tom Cruise and Larry David.

Sometimes thinking about this stuff really gets to me. Fucks with my head. Makes me feel like a loser, a failure.

And then something like this happens:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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And it buoys me. Takes my head out my ass. Because all I really want to do is reach people, talk to them, move them. And here are these young people (this is just a small sample) proving that I have done that with the one tiny movie I wrote. It is not a large group of people, although it feels like it to me, given the fact that Dakota Skye never had a theatrical release, never got any press, and has had to rely simply on word-of-mouth to get anyone to watch it. But to the people (mostly young women, to be completely honest) who have found it and embraced it, it is very important. It is a big deal. They see Ian and Eileen as movie stars. They seek out the music. And they do things like this, which brings me back to Jonah Matranga and the idea of Living Small:

Jonah MatrangaJonah Matranga is a rock star. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, even him. Especially him. He was (and sometimes still is) the lead singer and songwriter of the band Far. Far is one of my favorite bands to ever put music to tape. When they were around, I never missed a chance to see them live and they never disappointed. Their two major albums, Tin Cans with Strings to You and Water & Solutions are legendary pieces of Sacramento emo or screamo or whatever-o rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t define them. They’re just Far. They are two of my most beloved records, those go-to-anytime pieces of music that never cease to entertain, stir, rock, and inspire me.

But Far never reached full-blown mainstream success. I don’t know if they really came even close. But for those of us who knew them, loved them, followed them, Jonah, Shaun, John, and Chris may as well have been John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

After Far broke up, Jonah began recording solo work under the name Onelinedrawing, had two brief stints with the bands New End Original and Gratitude, and then went back to solo work, this time recording under his name. It was at a Onelinedrawing show that the story for Dakota Skye came to me. The whole thing. In a rush. Three songs in particular are responsible for me writing the screenplay:

1) Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) – my favorite song by my favorite band, Deftones, who are friends of Jonah and Far. Early in the show Jonah played a stripped down cover of it and it send my mind aflutter. The song doesn’t really have a traditional chorus, but it ends with the repeated line “Drive. I don’t care where. Just far away.” If you go back and watch the movie, look for those exact words. I totally stole them. “Be Quiet and Drive” is the unofficial theme song of Dakota Skye and would have been in the film if we could have afforded it.

2) Crush on Everyone – A Onelinedrawing song that is one of the most beautiful, simple expressions of infatuation I have ever heard.

3) My List – A song written by punk legend Kevin Seconds (who was also on the bill that night) that Jonah turned into a beautiful ballad (as opposed to the awesome two-minute original punk version), with backing vocals by Kevin’s wife Allyson.

It’s hard to explain, but I was both fully immersed in the concert AND writing a movie in my head at the same time. So many things from that night ended up informing the film: the character names of Kevin and Jonah (fictional Jonah’s last name, Moreno, is taken from Chino Moreno, lead singer of Deftones and my #1 man crush), the feeling I had that night, the fact that the original title of the film was Far, and, obviously, the music. It thrills me to no end that two of the three songs listed above ended up in the final film. I always hoped they would be, but never thought we could make it happen.

The thing I admire most about Jonah Matranga is his attitude about making things. He has run the gamut in music, from releasing albums on a major label to recording songs alone in his house on his computer, from playing big(ish) rock shows to playing quiet, intimate shows in fans’ homes. His post-Far DIY spirit has been a wonder to me. I’m sure he gets frustrated at times. I’m sure he gets angry. I know he does. I’m sure sometimes he wishes he was Mick Jagger or Bono. He loves making music and loves playing music for people and why wouldn’t he want as many people as possible to hear him? But he seems to understand something that has taken me a long time to come to:

If your art touches just one person, it was worth it. Maybe not financially, maybe not by society’s benchmarks for success, but because it did what you wanted it to. If you get into art to make money, you made the wrong choice. It’s very very hard to get anyone to pay you to write or paint or play music. If those things come, great. You’re one of the lucky ones. And while I still strive for and need to make money creating things, that is not where the joy or motivation comes from. It comes from touching that one person.

Every time I’ve spoken to Jonah, he’s been nothing but kind to me. Early on as a sweaty fanboy after a Far show. Later, as some guy coming and asking to use some of his music in a little movie…for no money. And more recently as a peer, if not a friend, who now lives only about fifteen minutes from me. He is a good man. Sometimes I feel a little conflict in him, but show me a man who isn’t conflicted about something and I’ll show you a dullard without curiosity or passion.

Chances are, unless your name is John or Egg or had something to do with Dakota Skye, you’ve never heard of Far or Jonah Matranga. But believe me when I say he’s touched a lot of people with his music and spirit and will continue to do so. And to me, he will always be one of the biggest rock stars that ever lived.

If this sounds like a love letter, then I guess it is.

“But Chad,” you’re thinking, “When are you going to turn this back into something about you, because that’s what you do, you egomaniac?”

Very true. Sorry. I almost forgot.

Wil Wheaton recently put up a blog post on this subject that I connected with in a major way. I urge you to check it out HERE.

I’m writing novels now, but haven’t given up on movies. I still want to be on the Dead Guy montage on the Academy Awards. I still want to direct Daniel Day-Lewis. I still think I’d write a better Star Wars film than JJ. I still want to make a good living doing what I love. I want to reach as many people as I can.

I still want all those things. But I may never have them. And that’s okay. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but it really is. All I can do is do my work and create things I want to create and hope people find and connect with them. On whatever scale. Ten or ten million people. One person. I mean, I moved a person to do this:

Photo Oct 11, 4 53 43 PM

I’m not saying I endorse it, but someone thought enough of words that I wrote to have them permanently inked onto their body. That has to count for something. That may be the only Dakota Skye tattoo in the world, but that’s more than a lot of people get. I have to remind myself that. And every day on Twitter and Tumblr I have people reaching out to me about how much the film meant to them.

And I know I’m talking a lot about Dakota, even though it came out five years ago. It’s just at this point the only thing I have out in the world that I’ve gotten a reaction to. Proxy is just an infant and I don’t think my fiction is going to get any attention until I have a few more books on the (virtual) shelves. So the film is the only example I have. At the moment. But I am confident there will be more. I have so many more stories to tell; so many more characters to introduce you to; so many more ideas rolling around in this chaotic shitstorm I call a brain.

But success? I’ve chosen to redefine success for myself. I think for the time being, and maybe forever, I’ll try to be happy livin’ small. Anyway, at this moment in my life, this is what success looks like to me:

(I don’t post these to brag. I post these because they are people being touched by our little movie. They are currency to me. Worth more than any paycheck.)

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dakota outfit

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Please check out jonahmatranga.com and listen to and buy some music.

I’ll leave you with another song, one from Jonah’s short-lived band New End Original, that is the best song for getting me out of bed when my brain and body refuse to do so. I listen to it once a week at least. I don’t always live up to it, but I try. I’ll keep trying.

Stone of Knowing – Part 3

Stone of Knowing WIP 1/23

Last Thursday I’d only just begun painting the base layers for Stone of Knowing. The painting isn’t finished but it is moving steadily toward that line in the sand. Along the way, I decided a few changes had to be made. The more I looked at it, the more discontent I became with the orientation. So I switched back to Plan A with some minor adjustments. I also decided to completely ditch the background I originally envisioned. This happens. Often times the vision is clear from start to finish; while in others it’s more a journey of discovery. Read more

Stone of Knowing – Part 1

I’ve shared a bit about my process in the past, but I thought it might be interesting to go deeper by looking at one of my paintings from from start to finish. This will be a series of four posts. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Stone of Knowing

What is the Stone of Knowing?

In my head: The Stone of Knowing is a powerful crystal created by a wizard several hundreds years ago. Read more

Aim to Fall Short

 

The_Book_of_Mormon_poster_2_

Before I get onto the subject at hand (the bravest and boldest thing I’ve ever done: praising the most-praised thing of the last decade), three quick bits:

1) I missed my last two posts due to the holidays, traveling, lack of wi-fi, and a harsh but luckily short head cold. Won’t happen again.

2) More importantly, I want to say congratulations to John McGuire for releasing his first novel, The Dark That Follows. I was one of the few that got to read the first draft, and I can’t wait to see what he’d done to it since. Pick it up and support the next square in this artistic quilt called Tessera we’re trying to sew.

3) Belated Happy Holidays.

Now that that’s over with, I move on to the point of this post:

I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THE BOOK OF MORMON THIS WEEKEND.

WARNING: We at Tessera have a No Religion / No Politics rule (which I endorse – I say enough biased and antagonizing shit in my own life), but, due to the nature of The Book of Mormon, the topic of religion will come up, but only in passing. However, if I say anything that I think anyone can at vaguely-kinda-at-all interpret as being maybe offensive to someone anywhere, I will write it in bold. Hopefully I won’t have to use that, but I figure it’s good to have it as a fail safe. Okay? Cool. Onto talking about the play…

So I don’t believe in God.

Wow. That came in useful right-quick, huh?

I state the above not to provoke, but because I think it’s pertinent when I talk about how much I love The Book of Mormon. Because, contrary to the opinions of a few, it is not an anti-religious work. Far from it, actually. It actually endorses having some sort of belief system, and a community based around it, to help you get through life. It’s primary thesis seems to be that while, yes, most religions look super-silly from an objective view, that doesn’t make them any less real to their practitioners, and it doesn’t mean they’re not an important part of the human condition. It is actually a plea for religious tolerance; the most Unitarian, “whatever gets you there gets you there” piece of popular art I have ever seen.

What The Book of Mormon is, though, is a searing screed against fundamentalism. It, not religion, is the true target of its derision and cutting humor (as well as a number of other topics).

But see, I’m just not non-religious. I am also largely anti-religious.

And again, I say that only to express that I should hate The Book of Mormon just based on its general conceit.

But it is impossible to do so. To hate The Book of Mormon. And not just because it is hilarious and smart, with curtain-to-curtain memorable songs and characters, and manages to be shockingly funny and genuinely moving…sometimes at the same time, but because it makes its case so well it almost wins me over to it. It makes me see the value of faith and religion. More than anything ever has, really. At the end of the play, for a few brief moments, I felt like a person of faith, moved by the words and sounds and ideas presented on stage.  I shrugged it off quickly, but still, for a man like me, that’s quite an accomplishment.

To those unfamiliar, The Book of Mormon is the multiple-Tony Award winning musical created by Trey Parker & Matt Stone (“South Park”) and Robert Lopez ( Avenue Q ). It opened on Broadway in 2011 to some of the best reviews in the history of theater and became an instant sensation. Tickets were both nearly impossible and impossibly expensive to get. The production I saw, at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, was part of its second U.S. tour. And it was still sold out, three years later, and the balcony seat I had was not cheap. This is a production that will be going on for a very long time.

bookofmormon-29e2b4c3aa2823816edf3d11925282cf13c08171-s6-c30The play is the story of two young Mormon boys about to go out on their first mission. Elder Price is a superstar and is destined to change the world with the power of his faith, destined, he believes, to do “something incredible.” Elder Price is awesome. Just ask him.

Elder Cunningham, who Price is paired up with on their mission, is not awesome. Well, he is, really, but he’s not an awesome Mormon. In fact, he hasn’t even read the book. And he’s also a compulsive liar, prone to making things up and telling stories, most of them cribbing characters from things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. He is not a model Mormon; he is not a model anything.

The two men are sent to a village in Uganda to convert the Africans there to Mormonism. The place they arrive is in desolate shape: poor, hungry, ravaged by AIDS, and under the boot of a vicious local warlord obsessed with female circumcision. Elder Price, despite his iron clad faith and God-given ability, has a very hard time seeing how he can baptize these folks into the Church of Latter Day Saints. Drama, doubt, and disappointment ensue.

And also lots of singing and dancing and jokes and profanity and a hundred other things that will make you smile ear to ear.

That’s all I’m going to talk about the story. I knew most of it going in. Not from doing research, but from downloading the soundtrack from iTunes several years ago and listening to it constantly. I know every word of the soundtrack. Just the songs alone, without the benefit of the play, are still amazingly funny and tell a story. So, to be honest, I was already a fan of The Book of Mormon before I ever saw The Book of Mormon.

Obviously, this late into the show’s run, most of the original Broadway cast have moved on. The cast I saw was not the cast that originated the parts. But the players in the San Francisco production acquitted themselves fabulously (sorry. musical review. must use “fabulously” at least once). The Saturday night audience ate it up and I loved every second of it. One of the best musicals I have ever witnessed, maybe the best, my other favorite being Spring Awakening.

So, in other words, “thumbs up”. I’m SURE the folks from the play will be relieved to get my endorsement. It may be the thing they need to put them over the top.

But what I really want to talk about isn’t The Book of Mormon (“Could have fooled me, asshole!”) but how Book of Mormon made me feel afterwards. On the train back from the theater, I fell deeply into a state of joyful melancholy that I call the “Genius Hangover.”

It’s a feeling I have encountered many times.

Experiencing something so brilliant – a play, a movie, an art exhibit, a TV show, a video game, a concert, a public speech, anything – always leaves me with conflicting feelings. Firstly, I am elevated, inspired, and, well, fucking jazzed. I walk out punching the air, ready to go. Determined to run home and write. Juices flowing. Basking in the glory of art and what it can do and the limitless heights it can reach. You can’t wipe the smile off my face. I probably skip down the street. It is quite a high.

I mean, a HUMAN BEING made that. A human being like me–

But not like me. Uh-oh. This is where the second wave of emotions comes in to ruin the party, creeping up through the cracks in my joy and strangling it like weeds:

Jealousy and despair.

Because I will never make anything that good. Oh man. I just won’t. I mean, that is world-class. That is classic. It will be remembered for all time. It’s not that I just won’t make something like that, it’s that I can’t . The person or persons who made that are more talented than me. And that’s a hard pill of an egomaniacal narcissist (read: artist) like me. I know I’m talented. I think I’m very talented.

hemingway-for-whom-the-bell-tollsBut I’m not For Whom the Bell Tolls talented. Not Seven Samurai talented. Not “West Wing” talented.

I’m not The Book of Mormon talented.

So the high I get from seeing something amazing and the depression I get from seeing something amazing come together to create the slurry of a mood I call Genius Hangover. It usually sticks with me for a day or two. A combination of an overwhelming desire to create something great and a sadness that I’ll never create something as great as whatever inspired me.

Weird, I know. But it happens every time. I’m used to it. I just embrace it, let it happen, and it passes and I move on.

It also lead me to another one of my philosophies of writing, which I think makes the second one I’m going to bore you with, the first being my Theory of 10%.

This philosophy can best be summed up thusly: Aim to Fall Short.

I know it doesn’t seem very motivating; it will never be featured on a kitten poster in your office.

Here’s the thing. I will never be my artistic heroes. That’s okay. Because my heroes are bad-ass and legendary. Nobody is them but them. I’m sure most days they weren’t even them. I’ll take two examples from my list above: For Whom the Bell Tolls and “West Wing”.

I will never be Ernest Hemmingway. I will never be Aaron Sorkin.

But every word I ever write is and will be a futile attempt to be.

I believe that you should strive to be as good as your idols. Look at them (artistically) as what you want to be and go for it. You will fail. Oh, you will fail. I’m never going to write like Ernest Hemmingway. Do you know how I know that? HE’S FUCKING ERNEST HEMMINGWAY. It’s as simple as that.

But what I think is this: of course you will fall short of your heroes. And when you do fall short, when you’ve maximized your talent and done your best, that is where you find your voice. You will discover the parts of your work that are innately you, the things that come out no matter how hard you’re trying to be someone else. You’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses and how to capitalize on both.

Every sentence I write, I want it to be a good as my favorite passage in all of literature:

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

Not one of them ever has been. Again, HE’S FUCKING ERNEST HEMMINGWAY.

But in that failure, in those cracks, I find myself.

This concept may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

Anyway. Aim to fall short. That’s a piece of writing advice you didn’t ask for and probably shouldn’t heed.

So, to wrap it up: Sorry I missed some posts, Book of Mormon kicks ass, and I’ll never be Ernest Hemmingway.

Book of Mormon

Over the next weeks I’ll be delivering my annual Best Films of the year list, as well as something on 21st Century Romance films (spurred by seeing Spike Jonez’s Her – talk about Genius Hangover), and maybe something about having fans or the closing of Blockbuster or what I made for dinner. I don’t know. Making this up as I go along.

best

c

Things that Have Never Been

Things that Have Never Been

 

I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to discussing big projects, and I have a Big Project planned for 2014. I hope to create many things that have never been, but I also hope to grow as an artist and continue develop my skills. Besides the big mysterious project, I have several paintings already planned, personal works for my portfolio, and I’m hoping to attend my first convention as an artist in an art show. Fingers crossed!

Till then, I will exit right, under an enigmatic veil of smoke…. Poof!

😉

amandamakepeace.com

Art Print Sale on Etsy

Makepeace Studios

Everything in my Etsy shop is marked down 25% off! That includes all art prints, pendants, canvas prints, framed art and my newly listed bookmarks. If you follow my Facebook Page then you may have a coupon code you can use too! I’ve listed my sale with Etsy on Sale. Follow this link: http://www.etsyonsale.com/shop/makepeacestudios to see the before and after prices for every item in my shop.

Art Bookmarks by Amanda Makepeace

 

Sale ends January 2nd at midnight.

Deadlines and the Three D’s

Art is Work“There’s nothing an artist needs more—even more than excellent tools and stamina—than a deadline.”   ― Adriana Trigiani

You’ve probably heard someone complain about a deadline at least once in your life. The word itself has evolved to have a negative connotation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Deadlines are vital. They motivate us, keep us moving forward, and further our growth. I think back to the deadlines I had as an art student. I created far more in a week than I do now, but I’ve been working to change that, because deadlines are a good thing!

I’m currently working on a book cover commission, meaning I have a deadline set by my client. But you can create your own deadline even when you’re focused on creating art for your personal portfolio. A deadline doesn’t have to stifle creativity, it’s merely a routine for maximizing your output.

Here are my three D’s for tackling deadlines.

1. Devise a Routine – Decide when and where you’re going to create and for how long, each day.

2. Define your Goals – Decide what you want to create and document your progress each day. Keep yourself accountable.

3. Designate a Reward – There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself for a job well done! Whether it’s knowing your going to be paid the other half for your commission, or going out to celebrate with friends, reinforce all your hard work with something positive.

Okay. I better get back to work on my own deadline!

amandamakepeace.com