The First Step in Painting

One might think drawing is the first step toward a painting, but for me at least, the first step is a ton of thinking. I’ve always been a thinker. Looking back, I think some of my thinking as a child was misinterpreted as shyness. I wasn’t always quiet because I was shy. I was quiet because I was thinking, observing, mulling, and creating. These days I do have my moments, especially if I’m with family or friends, but for the most part I’m still a quiet person. It may not be best habit in the world, but while other artists are working on a gazillion thumbnails on paper, I’m mapping them out in my head. Like I said, not the best habit.

This week I’ve been getting back to work on a personal piece I’ve had planned for months. I took the reference photo for the painting in February, but I’d been mapping it out in my head months before I finally had my daughter pose for the shot. In March, I created a quick sketch to include in my sketchbook Daydreams & Wanderings. Yesterday, I began work on the drawing I will later scan for the painting.

Refining my sketch for The Bone Oracle

I don’t recall how the idea developed. So many of my painting ideas come from fleeting thoughts or things I’ve seen. I’ll jot down an idea in words first, which seems to lock the image in my head for later. Initially I named this idea Her Bones. What you can’t see in any of these images (because it’s in my head!) are the bones surrounding and laying beneath this young woman.

Beginnings of the new drawingThese bones are her tools of divination. She is The Bone Oracle.

The drawing is still in the early phase. I have a lot to develop before I have her where I want her. Follow me on Instagram to stay up-to-date on her progress!


Whiplash Movie Review

JK2Disclaimer: This review is largely spoiler-free

A few weeks ago I reviewed George Miller’s screamingly loud and bone-crushingly good Mad Max – Fury Road.

This week’s movie, Whiplash, breaks only a few bones, but is almost as loud, and is definitely as good.

I’ll start with an admission: I’m late to the party. Very late. 2014’s Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, has already earned three Oscar wins and numerous other accolades. That said, it’s my opinion that not enough people have been exposed to it. So if this review convinces even one person to check Whiplash out, I’ll claim success.


Like Jazz music much? Maybe? Maybe not so much? It’s ok. While planted on my couch during a 1AM Redbox DVD screening of Whiplash, my first worries were: ‘This is a jazz movie. What was I thinking?? I should’ve picked something else. Or maybe just watched some porn.” And yet, two minutes in, any fears of drowning in discordant jazz and wonky music vanished. Into. Thin. Air.

Early on, we see a different J.K. Simmons than we’re used to. Gone is the friendly guy from the Farmers Insurance commercials. Gone is the affable, calm dude from J.K.’s previous films. Instead we get a badass. And I’m serious. As Fletcher, the leanest, meanest jazz instructor ever, J.K. is shredded. He’s an all-black-wearing, door-slamming, fist-shaking maniac. He’s a force of f’ing nature.

And it’s apparent he’s made it his mission in life to mold Andrew (played to perfection by young and talented Miles Teller) into the planet’s best drummer…or kill him in the process.



As an interesting aside, it should be noted that Miles Teller played ALL his drum pieces. He had a head start, being born of a musical family, but even so. His dedication to learning some of Whiplash’s more extreme rhythms is admirable, and adds tons to the movie’s realism.

So what’s it really about?

Whiplash is primarily a struggle between two men. Fletcher’s win-at-all-costs mentality are at permanent odds with AndrewFletcher wants perfection, nothing less, from his musicians. And perhaps no instrument requires perfection more than drums. Andrew’s willing to bleed to become the best, but still manages to be overwhelmed by Fletcher’s never-ending stream of F bombs and insults. As the movie drums on, literally, the questions become: “Is greatness only achievable under enormous pressure?” and “Is there a such thing as going too far to win?” I know what MY answer is. If you watch or have already watched Whiplash, I want to know YOURS. Because therein lies Whiplash’s soul. It’s Pain versus Reward. Sacrifice versus Greatness. Living a full life versus Having a Singular Dedication. The movie puts us in the proxy position of asking how far we’d go to be the best at something.

Would you bleed? Would you suffer? Would you give up every comfort? Most of us wouldn’t. But perhaps Andrew might.

The supporting cast is small, but more than capable. Veteran Paul Reiser plays Andrew’s concerned but ultimately powerless father. Beautiful Melissa Benoist charms as Andrew’s unfortunate love interest, Nicole. Austin Stowell and Nate Lang are formidable rivals in the studio for Andrew to wage war against. They’re all very good, but reduced to mere pawns in the Fletcher v Andrew struggle. And that’s ok. This isn’t their film. It’s J.K.’s and Miles’.

As another aside, if you like drums of any kind, you’ll love Whiplash’s talent, if nothing else. The speed and excellence demanded in the film transcend genres. It’s obvious this isn’t a movie about jazz at all. It’s about power, skill, and using means to justify the ends. But even if you don’t care about all of that, the drums…are…epic.

Let’s be clear. I Redboxed Whiplash on a hunch. I’d never heard of it prior to plugging it into my DVD player, and I’d no idea what to expect.

…which made it all the better when it turned out to be fucking awesome.

Rent it. Watch it. In the dark. Preferably alone.

And when you’re done, check out my latest philosophy title here.


J Edward Neill

Look to the sky, lest you doubt…

The end is near. After so many years of studying, of waiting for a sign, it becomes apparent to me that the return of darkness is a planned event, a spoke in the universal clock waiting to be ticked.  Heed me well, my friends. The Sleeper walks among us. His presence in our world, long-awaited, is a grave warning that the Ur will soon assail us. He may come to us in any guise, be it a man, a woman, even a child.

It matters not. He must be found. 

If we do nothing, if we lie on our laurels and ignore him, he will draw the curtain of night forever down upon us.

Final “Letter to the Lords of Grae” by the warlock Dank

* * *

In other words, the Kindle Edition of Nether Kingdom is here.

Click Lady Makepeace’s dark, dark cover to check it out.

Devourer of Stars by Amanda Makepeace

Tyrants of the Dead.

The world’s end.

J Edward Neill

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time…

I had an idea to take my sketches and drawings and create a new work of art, a small book of ideas and creative visions. Several months were spent bringing this little work of art to life. I created a cover that would mimic an old, worn sketchbook. I scanned pencil sketches and collected my favorite digital drawings, then arranged them inside pages that looked as aged as the cover.

It’s an amazing feeling when you finally get to hold that creation in your hand.

Daydreams & Wanderings

Thank you all for helping me make a little magic!

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Ex Machina Movie Review

Ex-machina-uk-posterDisclaimer: This is a mostly spoiler-free review

In the modern realm of wide-release films, it’s rare to see science-fiction movies that are:

A. Unabashedly intellectual


B. Not reliant on hyper-violent technological advances

Ex Machina is both of these.

I saw this movie in a cozy, nearly empty theater.  I felt torn about the empty part, because I worried it might mean not enough people were interested in the kind of movie I’d like to see a whole lot more of. Apparently that’s not the case, since to date it’s netted a cool $18.7M. That’s good news. Great news, actually. Meanwhile, the experience was almost ruined by a few stereotypical loud-ass movie talkers. But the offending parties managed to shut up long enough for the rest of us to focus.

Thank goodness for that.

At first, Ex Machina comes off as boy-meets-girl completely flipped on its head. Caleb (played to nerd-fection by Domhnall Gleeson) is an apparent coding whiz for a huge computer search engine company. When he’s selected to travel to a mysterious, almost CIA-like black box facility, he does so with glee. And who wouldn’t? For an opportunity to meet Ava, the world’s most advanced android, most of us would leap in headfirst. And the setting in Ex Machina is so realistic, one begins to believe something like this can…and will…happen someday soon. Go Caleb. Get some.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect person to play the original Terminator, Alicia Vikander (who plays the aforementioned android) is perfect-er. She’s eerie. She’s beautiful. And she nails every little tic you’d expect from a woman-robot. It’s clear from the beginning who owns the dialogue between Ava and Caleb. And it ain’t Caleb. I have to believe Lady Vikander will score big based on her performance here. She echoes the strength of Game of Thrones’ super-heroine (Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen) and frosts it with the sort of intelligence you’d like to see Hollywood give more of its female roles.

Very quickly, the boy-meets-girl vibe melts away.

For those who aren’t aware of what the Turing Test is, I recommend you study the concept. It’s the frontline premise of Ex Machina, and quite possibly (in part due to this year’s epic The Imitation Game) a new piece of vernacular everyone will soon become familiar with. Essentially, the Turing Test is the methodology for determining whether or not an A.I. can behave human enough to trick us into no longer knowing it’s a computer. If the computer fools the human, it passes.

Turns out the one inviting Caleb to perform the world’s most important Turing Test (on Ava) is the buff yet emotionally FUBAR Nathan (played to frat-brother genius levels by Oscar Isaac.) Nathan is like a chessmaster working both sides of the board. He’s got tech game like no one’s business, and a penchant for working off his hangovers by pumping iron and intimidating the slim, non-alpha Caleb. Nathan’s motivation is the question of the hour. It’s clear he wants more than just a Turing Test. And it’s obvious he gets his rocks off by head-fucking people. But the lines between antagonist and protagonist are blurred, just as they should be.

Where Ex Machina really succeeds is in its pace, its dialogue, and its atmosphere. Caleb’s encounters with Ava are blocked off into seven sessions, each of them growing in intensity. Conversations between Caleb and Ava have a permanent shadow lying overhead, a subtle reminder that she’s smarter, quicker in her learning curve, and possibly deadlier. And the hyper-realistic, we-could-picture-these-moments-actually-happening, verbal sparring between Caleb and Nathan leave one needing to know what comes next. Even once our suspicions of dread become tense enough to snap.

Not to be underestimated is the melodic yet somewhat dark soundtrack. Composers Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow blend their music so well into the film I knew halfway through I needed to buy it and play it…over and over again. Which I did end up doing.

untitledAnd then there’s the end sequence. It’ll be hard to watch without wanting to see it again and then immediately becoming a part of the growing online discussion. I’ve read many takes on the path of evolution Ava takes. Some speak of sweetness, others of liberation, but I saw something darker. Watch it twice, I say. And tell me you don’t sense one possibility for how the world might end.


So if you crave MORE than robots with laser guns, spaceships doing things that are impossible in space, and over-the-top future battles, go see Ex Machina.  It’s a solid A, and the best sci-fi movie to hit theaters in a long, long time. And if I have a special love for it, it’s also because the director, Alex Garland, is also an author and screenwriter. Would that I were so talented.

From time to time, I’ll review more movies.

Sorry ’bout that.

Get into my coffee table philosophy series here.

J Edward Neill


Magical May Art and Print Sale

Magical May Sale

I thought it was about time I had a sale to celebrate my new shop. I’ve been slowly moving away from Etsy in favor of a shop through Storenvy. Etsy has been great over the years, but my needs have changed. Here are a few things I love about Storenvy:

  1. I have a theme I edited to mimic the look of my website.
  2. There are no upfront fees. I only pay a small fee when something sells and my listings never expire.
  3. I can have ‘Coming Soon’ and ‘Pre-order’ items in my shop.

Ultimately, I wanted a shop that cost me less money and less time. I’m more focused on selling art offline than online, but for those that can’t buy from me direct my shop is the next best thing. For the entire month of May everything is 20% off when you use the code MagicalMay at checkout.

Did you miss out on my Kickstarter? My first sketchbook is bring printed now. You can pre-order a book in my shop!

Pre-order Daydreams & Wanderings

Didn’t have a chance to buy my art at JordanCon this year? I have a section just for Art Show prints!

Art Show Prints

Next week, prints of Renascentia will be available to order!

Renascentia Prints Coming Soon


Jordan Con – April 17-19


Tomorrow is the start of JordanCon 7, a fantasy convention founded in honor of Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. I’m excited to be a part of this year’s Art Show and I hope it’s the start of many more to come. As you might suspect, Jordan Con features many Wheel of Time panels and events, but it’s not solely focused on Jordan’s fantasy world. If you love Fantasy Fiction, Art, Cosplay and Gaming you should come and join the fun!

I have large gallery space in the Art Show, with original art and limited edition matted prints for sale. I’m also going to have a small spot in this year’s first Print Shop! Here’s a taste of what I’m bringing to the Art Show.

I will be attending JordanCon, so if you see me and want to chat come say, hi! Since this is my first year, I decided not to lead a panel or have a dealer table. I’m there to have fun, meet some other artists and make some new friends.

Interview: Cosplayer and Makeup Artist Bekah Shambrook

Bekah ShambrookI’ve been looking forward to this interview for the last several weeks. Bekah Shambrook, daughter of author (and friend) Lisa Shambrook, is an amazing artist. AMAZING. Often times, she is her own canvas.

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you love.

I’m Bekah from Carmarthen, West Wales and I love art, I always have. In school I was the art nerd, you could find me in the art rooms in every spare moment. I loved it. It was only natural for that to follow into my life, I now work part time as a freelance make up artist and spend every spare moment making cosplay costumes.

How did you get started in makeup artistry and cosplay?

I always loved art but it took a while for me to work out what aspect of it was truly me. Throughout school I tried photography, pencil drawing, digital art, sculpture… I enjoyed them all but they were never quite me. When I started my GSCE’s at the age of fifteen I decided to recreate Salvador Dali’s Mae West on my own face (I’m afraid I don’t have the photo any more), and that was the beginning. I branched out in the same course and used my family to recreate the amazing looks from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and, for the first time, tried my hand at prosthetics turning my sister into a zombie in the name of art. Much to her dismay, I had never actually learned what to use, and used PVA glue and tissue paper (don’t try that a home). Once I left school, I started a face painting business ( which I still run and love, but I quickly decided to expand into makeup artistry and I’ve worked with photographers to create wonderful pieces of work.

Masterpiece MUA Sample

The cosplay is more recent but it all ties in. I didn’t take fashion or textiles at school, I didn’t know how to sew, I wasn’t great at sculpture, but I’m nothing if not ambitious! A few of the models I know through the makeup work also did cosplay, and I love watching the cosplay music videos on youtube so I thought, why not? My first cosplay was November 2014, I decided to cosplay Thranduil from The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I had no idea where to start, but I managed it!

Bekah Shambrook as Thranduil

My second, and most recent, was this March. I decided to cosplay Maleficent from the recent Angelina Jolie film, but I didn’t want to cosplay her later costumes, the leather and staff… Oh no, I wanted to cosplay her Queen of the Moors costume, y’know, the one with the wings! So off I went, and 100 hours later I had made her dress, horns, armour, and fully articulated wings! (I even won Cardiff Film and Comic Con’s open Masquerade!)

Bekah Shambrook at MaleficentAre there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again?

When it comes to makeup I love to create extreme looks, I love to challenge myself. My favourite looks are the ones where I have complete freedom, when there are no constraints.

As for cosplay, I have a list as long as my arm of cosplays I want to make! Although there are characters I love that have simple costumes I tend to steer away from them for cosplaying, as I said earlier, I love a good challenge. Cosplay is a learning tool for me, I will never know it all. I learn something new every costume I make. So I guess to answer your question, I’d have to say, anything with a challenge.

What are your goals and aspirations?

My goals are small ones, in terms of cosplay I would be honoured to be invited to guest at a convention. Big, small, anything, I think that would be wonderful. I also aspire to have the confidence to enter a big cosplay contest like London Super Comic Convention’s Championship. At the moment, the goal isn’t to place, but just to have the confidence to enter.

One day I’d love to visit San Diego Comic Con too…

What are you working on now? Can you give us a peek?

Right now, I’m working on Toothless from How to Train your Dragon, but with a twist. I’m making it a humanoid, armoured Toothless. I’m hoping to have it ready by London MCM Comic Con in May, but I have only just started so wish me luck!

Toothless Plans

You can see all my making of photos on my facebook page linked below, but for now, here’s a sneak peak of the armour design.


Arkhdrauth Cosplay Facebook Page:
Masterpiece MUA Website:
Twitter: @BekahCat
Instagram: @Arkhdrauth

Five Things I Don’t Paint or Draw

All artists have a list like this right? It’s a list comprised of things they just don’t care for, have no innate ability to create, or something they feel strongly about–in my case the representation of women. These are my big five. Sorry (not sorry) if you were planning to ask me to paint one of these. 😉

1. Manga/Anime – I love the style, but it’s just not in my bones. Can’t do it. Not going to try. But like said, I do love the style and much to the horror of a few of my friends I love Anime. Yes, I’m one of those Studio Ghibli fans and I passed this love onto my daughter.

Howls Moving Castle

Howls Moving Castle

2. Caricatures – I don’t like them. Some people find caricatures amusing. I’ve always found them disturbing and in some cases scary. They make my insides cringe. However, I can acknowledge the skill behind them. Artists who can pull this off are amazing. I’m not one of them.

George Lucas by Jason Seiler

George Lucas by Jason Seiler

3. Women with enormous breasts and slender figures. – Need I elaborate? Add sexy armor to this too, because it’s ridiculous. If that’s your thing then there are other artists who will fulfill your warped dream. Damn… Did I just type that? Yeah. I did.

Imagine an image here….. You all know what I’m talking about.

4. Your favorite superhero. – Sorry. Not going to happen. Sure, I might draw and paint my favorite Marvel villain occasionally, when the urge hits, but that’s something I do for me. Good or bad, it’s fan art. Now, if you’re an art director or just someone with a lot of money that wants to commission a painting from me, that’s a different story. 😉

5. Space Ships, Cars, Mechanized Vehicles – Really not my thing. I could paint them (with a ton of practice) but I prefer focusing on fauna, flora, faces– flesh and bone. The clouds are so much cooler than the airship in this painting, don’t you think?

Sunward Bound by Amanda Makepeace

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What shapes your creativity?

We’ve all been shaped by our experiences in life, our past and our present. We probably don’t think about it enough, but as creative individuals those experiences play an important role in what we create. Though I’m conscious of this fact, I’m not sure how closely I’ve ever explored the little bits that have shaped me. Artist Meredith Dillman invited me and other artists to create an Influence Map. If you’re a member of deviantART, you’ve probably seen one of these:

Influence Map Template by fox-orian on DeviantArt

The creator mentions in his description that, you might discover some things about yourself doing this, and he’s right! I’ve decided I’m going to make two Influence Maps. This first map (below) contains my pre-2006 (when I turned 30 years old) influences that clearly still play a role.

Influence Map 1Art Inspired by Fantasy, Nature and Myth — that’s what I have printed on my business cards and it’s no lie. If I had to add anything I’d say there’s also a touch of darkness.

From the top (left to right):

Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory by Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe is the first artist I remember from childhood. My mother kept a book of her art on our coffee table. The cover of the book features one of her skull paintings. Skulls. I don’t think I need elaborate any further.

American Crow

I decided to feature the crow, but let’s just say he represents all birds and nature.

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse

Again, let’s just assume all the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Magic, Fantasy, Nature…. But also the tone of the paintings, the introspection, the colors.

H.R. Giger

Everyone close to me knows my quiet obsession with his xenomorphs, but all of his art was (and still is) mesmerizing. The darkness!

The Black Unicorn by Michael Parkes

I’ve been a fan of Parkes’ paintings since my early 20’s and I have a few prints rolled up in my closet still. His dream worlds infused with myths and fairy tales are a delight.

The Unicorn Tapestries

I’ve loved these for a long time, longer than I even realized. It wasn’t until last year, when I saw a special screening of  Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn did it become clear. When I traveled to Paris in 2004 seeing the tapestries was on my list, but the museum was closed for maintenance.

Beauty and the Beast (with Laura Hamilton and Ron Perlman)

I’m not embarrassed at all to say I was obsessed with this tv show. There were many teenage tears shed when this show came to an end. I’ve been consumed with many television characters over the years, but only a few brought me a tears when the networks cancelled them. But hysterical fangirling aside, I loved the underground world in this story and the rich costumes. I wanted to live there!

Natural History 

That’s a photo of just a few things in my collection today. I’ve always loved collecting feathers, nests, rocks, bones, shells, etc. I had an impressive collection as a child and it’s still something I do today and incorporate into my art.

Jareth, the Goblin King

There are several movies I identify with from my childhood, movies that I would obsessively watch over and over again. Labyrinth is just one, but out of all of those I feel as if it left the most obvious mark. The movie even has a barn owl! Fantasy with a touch of darkness. I really wanted Sarah to stay with Jareth.

I’d been thinking a lot about where I’m going with my personal work, what makes my heart sing, even before making this influence map. I feel as if much of what I’ve been painting the last two years are just starter paintings. I’ve been exploring and learning a new medium, opening up my creativity–giving myself permission to be myself.

Renascentia by Amanda Makepeace

I think having a style is not something you discover, it’s more about being true to your self when you paint.

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The Junk Press


AKA: The busiest year ever.

Painting. Writing. Editing. Publishing. Not Sleeping.

Let’s start with the painting. I got it in my big, fat head that I could all-of-the-sudden graduate from creating terrifying landscapes and up my game to painting beautiful women. In a single bound. Bad idea, right? Previously I’ve painted stuff like this. Wish me luck?

So after about two weeks of drawing, brushing, agonizing, and touching up, I’m about 70% finished with my huge canvas, Andelusia. Lots left to be done. I’m terrible. But I figure, to Hell with it. Here’s the breakdown:


About three hours in.


Ridiculously tight corset? Sorry, ladies.


Background mostly complete. Hair undertones finished. Whew.


About seven hours in. Skin undertones started. Hardest part is making it look realistic.


About ten hours in. Hair started. Skirt started. Beginnings of black magic on her fingertips. Exhausting!

I figure 30-40 more hours and I’ll be done. Kidding. 4-5 more hours, tops. And then I’ll spend a lifetime kicking myself for every imperfection.

Such is art.

Next up: 101 Questions for Men – Part II in the Coffee Table Philosophy series, is due to hit bookshelves about 30 seconds from now.  My inspiration to write these evolved from a party I went to during which everyone was nose-deep in their cell phones. I tried to break the ice by asking philosophy questions…and lo, it worked! Just a few questions lasted us the entire night. And now I can’t stop writing them.

101 Questions for Men Cover

Due out in a few days. The cover is bit more aggressive than Book I.

Book III in the series, 101 Questions for Women, is also due out this month. It’s been the hardest to write. And the most fun. If these things keep earning interest, I’ll expand the series even more. 101 Questions for…anything you can think of. So check the series out. Seriously. I think there’s something for everyone in it.

And now for the real meat. The coup de gras. The sword on the world’s throat.

NK Book in Hand

The final proof copy. The culmination of 14 years of candlelit writing, shadow worshipping, and bad, bad dreams.

After a few mild post-production struggles and an overhaul to the ending, the moment is almost here. Nether Kingdom, Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead series, and darkest of all dark fantasy epics, will cover the world in shadows. Any. Day. Now. I hope you’ll love it. Big time.


Thanks for clicking. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being here. If you’ve the time, check out my ever expanding library on Amazon. Come back soon to see the finished Andelusia painting. Stick around to catch the new cover of 101 Questions for Women. And keep your eyes peeled for the press release of my upcoming two-book series, Darkness Between the Stars.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill




Thoughtful Thursday with Chuck Palahniuk

Thoughtful Thursday with Chuck Palahniuk

“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Painting: Midnight Reading, NFS

Whatnot Strikes Again

Whatnot is code for Amanda doesn’t have a blog post today. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Whatnot usually means I’m busy in the studio and that’s a good thing! Here’s a run down of everything keeping me busy inside and outside the studio.

1. Preparing for the Jordan Con Art Show probably counts for at least three slots on this list. I’ll be displaying a mix of original works and matted prints. Yesterday I ordered a bunch of prints for their Print Shop. I’m working on three originals that I want to take with me next month. Here’s a peek at one I finished yesterday–Heart of the Forest in a beautiful frame.

Heart of the Forest Framed

2. There are 12 days left in my Kickstarter campaign for Daydreams and Wanderings. I’ve promoted more online this month than I have for my Etsy shop in the last 6 months. At this point I feel like I’m spamming everyone, but my artists friends say keep doing it! I’m so close at this point. There are 12 days left and I’m 91% funded. I’m terrified I won’t reach my goal.

3. Drusilla. She’s nearly 11 months old now and still a handful. Lately she’s become obsessed with carrots. I kid you not. I can’t open the veggie drawer in the fridge without her getting excited. She loves playing with the end of a baby carrot. She carries it all over the house, batting and playing. She also likes to hide them in boots, pockets and plastic bags. Carrot time is usually in the evenings so I can keep her occupied while we eat dinner. The rest of the day is a mixed bag. Earlier this week I caught her gnawing on Loki’s shoulder. She acts out when she wants attention or food. Here she is looking innocent. Don’t be fooled.

Drusilla and (Cardboard) Loki

4. I’m also in the early stages of a new commission for a book cover. That’s all I can say about that. 😉

5. I’ve also been working on various drawings, sketches and ideas for paintings to come. Some are ideas I’m returning to and rethinking. This has led to me really evaluate my art–where I want to go and what I want to paint. Many of the pieces I’ve created in the last two years were part of a learning journey, but though I tried to branch out and create specific types of fantasy art for my portfolio I kept being pulled to what moves me–the face. I’m not certain where I’m going, but I know it’s no use to fight the current.

Peek at a new drawing you'll see in my sketchbook

6. Reciprocal. It’s a funny story. Over the holidays I met a fiber artist at a UGA alumni event. She talked me into joining OCAF, which is less than a mile from my house. OCAF – Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation – is an arts organization located in downtown Watkinsville, GA. Oconee County is a rural county. I was hesitant to join because I didn’t think my art would be a good fit. I still believe that. Soon after joining there was a call for entries for a juried exhibit at UNG (University of North Georgia) only for OCAF members. There was no entry fee, so I said, what the hell. I entered my painting Electryone. Sixty artists entered and only 15 were selected, including me! I was blown away. The exhibit is on display till April 2nd. Check it out if you’re in the area, it’s only 15 minutes from Athens.

Opening Night of Reciprocal at UNG

7. Women in Fantastical Art. I recently joined a secret group on Facebook for Women in Fantasy Illustration. It goes on a short list of the best things I’ve done. I needed this group and I have a feeling the benefits will continue to follow in the months and I hope years to come. I’ve made new friends and I’ve touched base with another artist in the Jordan Con Art Show. Yay! I’ve gained support that I honestly can’t get from anyone else but artists who can relate. I’ve gained knowledge! And I’ve been included in an amazing gallery, the one I linked to at the start–Women in Fantastical Art:

The best contemporary female illustrators & concept artists working in fantasy & science fiction

Wow… Yeah. My art is included in this new website built by Leesha Hannigan. To top things off, 24 hours after we made our debut to the world, the web gallery was featured on Wowsers!!

Women in Fantastical Art

I could probably add a few more things to this Whatnot post, but I think I’ll stop here. March has been an incredible month. INCREDIBLE. I really I hope I haven’t jinxed April…

Creative Interview with Filmmaker/ Screenwriter Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins

I’m going to be straight up with you guys and gals, I’m kind of biased on how much I respect the subject of today’s creator interview. She’s talented, driven, and she’s my lil’ cousin.

Who I’m unabashedly proud of. 😀

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins has studied the craft of film making internationally in London, on our own shores in the great NYC, and has honed her craft working on such indie productions such as “Alto” and “Global Tides”.  In addition to being an accomplished photographer, Gabrielle is currently conducting an Indiegogo campaign for a sci-fi dystopian short film she’s written and will direct called “Criminals”.

The filmmaker recently took the time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, the campaign, and indie film.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your background in film, and just being a creator overall?

I became drawn to the arts at a young age, focusing on dance. After suffering a severe dance injury, I decided to continue my passion for arts and focus on filmmaking. I have always been drawn to films and when I was about 12 years old, I used to write stories that I wanted to see on the big screen. At that time, I wanted someone else to direct them. Then, I realized I could direct the stories I wanted to see.

I have a B.A in Film Production from Brooklyn College and a Certificate of Completion from the Met Film School in London where I studied film producing. I started working as a Production Assistant on music videos and feature films. I recently worked as an Assistant Director on a wonderful feature film called “Alto” directed by Mikki Del Monico.

What drew you to filmmaking? What about the medium drives you to create film?

Filmmaking is such a beautiful and powerful medium. It influences our society. As a teenager, I didn’t realize how much film and media influenced me. How I saw myself on screen or if I didn’t. What I watched influenced how I interacted with people without me even knowing.

That is one of the reasons that I became a filmmaker because I would like to see more diversity on screen. Not just in terms of race but also telling unique stories. I feel that watching a great film is like watching a painting come to life.

Talk to our readers about your short film “Criminals”, and the Indiegogo campaign. What about the science fiction/ dystopian future arena appeals to you as a filmmaker/ screenwriter in terms of storytelling?

I have always been drawn to abandoned buildings and characters that are seen as outcasts from society. There is great beauty in darkness if you can see the light.

The film takes place in 2040. Our characters, Ian and Ariana, are the last surviving members of an underground movement called the E.G.O. A massive manhunt for their capture takes place, in response to their infiltration of the notorious officer program and stealing confidential government files. They escape into the woods fighting to reach their last hope for survival. Will they make it to Nuevo Acuerdo, a society untouched by the government?

 I have always been drawn to science fiction/dystopian future films and novels. Octavia E. Butler is one of my Criminals Movie Posterfavorite authors and her work has greatly influenced me. For this particular film, I wanted to write within this genre because in some ways I feel  as a society this is where we are moving towards, unless we experience a serious wake up call. Climate change, violence and so much more is something that shouldn’t be ignored by the masses.

We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running to raise money for this film. All of the money raised will go to the making of the film. There is a breakdown on the site, and the campaign ends on April 2. Check out the link for more info here.

Is science fiction a particular favorite in terms of film genre’s to create in, or does this include a variety of other genre’s?

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and write but I am also heavily influenced by other genres, such as film noir and even comedy. So depending on the story, I like to combine genres.

“Criminals” is definitely science fiction but with a film noir touch. I have a super random taste in movies so I think that helps a lot. My goal is to write a film in every genre.

Once I write a story and create the characters then I come up with the genre. I always have an idea of where I want it to go but usually the characters tell me what type of film it should be. For example, “Criminals” started off as a modern drama, but once I knew the characters and developed the story further, the genre had to change.

 A common saying nowadays is that the field of independent filmmaking has become more level, with the advent of new technologies, greater access to information etc. Do you feel that this is the case? Why or why not?

I think there are two ways to answer this question. I think in terms of making an independent film, you do have greater access thanks to digital filmmaking. There are also so many ways for people to watch films now. You can upload to websites, like youtube or vimeo and people can view your work. Also there are so many festivals, that accept many different genres and stories.

However, if you want to have your film in theaters, I think that is still pretty tough for indie filmmakers. Not that it’s not possible, because it definitely is, but it’s harder for an indie film to get wide release in theaters than a Hollywood film. 

Are there any filmmakers, or films that you feel have been an influence on you as a creator? What about those creators, or works speaks to you?

Tom Tykwer is an incredible filmmaker and his film “Run Lola Run”, is one of my favorites. The story is just so different and the moment I saw it I was in love with it.

 Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Love and Basketball” and most recently “Beyond the Lights”. I love her work because you become so emotionally attached to the characters. I love how naturally she writes and directs human interaction.

 The television series “Breaking Bad” to me was just pure brilliance. The writing, the acting, the direction, just everything. I was blown away by this series and needed a support group when it ended.

 There are so many other films, television shows and filmmakers that I can go on and on about because there really are so many. I love the classics like “All About Eve”, “Alien” to comedies like “Friday”. I love films that make me think and sometimes I just need a good laugh. I am all over the place with the types of films and TV shows that I watch.

 All of these artists work speaks to me simply because it makes me feel something and makes me think outside of the box.

What can fans look for from you in the future, and where can they find your current work?

After this short I plan on working on a web series, and then work on a feature film that I wrote. This would be my first short that I directed so the current work I have has been on some great projects where I worked in other departments. I am also a photographer and my work can be viewed on my website.


Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins​​​​​​ as Assistant Director on the feature film “Alto”






Painting with Darkness – Part II

Anymore, I’m a slave to the canvas. 

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

The Last Tower

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

Pale Swamp

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

Four Swords

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

Dead Rain

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

Black Moon Graveyard

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


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

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

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

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

Stay cool.

J Edward Neill

Author of Down the Dark Path

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

Equal in Art #womenshistorymonth

Rebecca Guay, an amazing artist and inspiring woman, began a movement on Facebook to highlight to extraordinary talent of women in the arts. Equal > Art is about all women and all genres of art, but I do feel women artists of the fantastic art (fantasy, scifi, horror) are often overlooked. Chances are, one (or more!) of the fantasy or science fiction books on your shelf was painted by woman. Have you ever looked? The point is we should all be equal in art but there is a tendency to only hear about the amazing men in illustration–there are many! Since March is Women’s History Month I thought I’d share art from my Equal > Art posts on Facebook.

Check out this new site on Tumblr too! It’s still a work in progress, but already it features some stellar talent.


Painting, Prepping and Promoting

Those three words sum up life in my studio right now. If I thought I was busy last year, this year is blowing 2014 out of the water. Here’s a snapshot of my creative life this month.


I’m working on three pieces. They are in various stages of completion and they will all be finished before the end of the month.


Jordan Con 2015 is next month! I’m in the Art Show this year. Need I say more? Prepping paintings. Prepping prints. Prepping business cards.

I’m also preparing to apply to the Dragon Con Art Show again this year.


Two big events this month!

Reciprocal – a juried exhibit at the University of North Georgia Art Gallery (Oconee). Opening reception is tonight. I will be there!

Reciprocal at UNG


Daydreams & Wanderings Kickstarter – You all know about this right? I’m 70% of the way to my goal. Unlike other crowdfunding sites, if I don’t reach my goal, the kickstarter fails and I don’t get any of the funds raised. So help me reach 100% by sharing my campaign with your friends and family!

Daydreams and Wanderings

After months of tedious, but also fun work, I’m pleased to announce the pages for my first sketchbook volume, Daydreams & Wanderings, are finished and ready for the printer! I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for printing. Supporters of the campaign have the opportunity to purchase the book at a special KS only price of $15. Essentially, you’re pre-ordering the book at a sale price! Outside of Kickstarter the book will be $20, available from my online shop and conventions.

Kickstarter Only Price

This is only one of the KS Reward Levels. There are several, including budget levels of $5 and $10. Levels $25 and up include a sketch on the inside title page. I hope you’ll help me make this dream a reality!

No Delusions of Grandeur

Polish SkullsSkulls. Sand. Shadows.

Three of my favorite things.

As I near the release of this, and thus slam the door shut on a too-long writing project, I sit in a rotting leather chair, my feet propped on a destroyed-by-cats ottoman, and reflect on my existence. I should be happier, I think. I should shimmer like Twilight’s vampires and bounce like Barney the fucking dinosaur after a line of coke. Throw a party, I tell myself. Celebrate it. Relish it. Savor it.

Fuck it.

 I’m not in the mood.

It’s not that I don’t feel a sublime sense of satisfaction. Or oceans of relief. It’s just that tonight, with the wind battering my windows and my candle sputtering its final breaths, I feel a little bit pointless. Self-satisfaction, I tell myself, is for the narcissistic. Get your ass back to work, my brain commands. Right. Now. And I will. There won’t be a party. Or a fist pump. Or even a celebratory glass of wine.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?


If I finish a book and only a few thousand people read it, does it matter?



As I gloom in my writing cave, I’m reminded of a poem from the 70’s. The Deteriorata is a prose-form poem written to both mock and celebrate 1927’s Desiderata. It pretty well summates my feelings, my ‘F it’ mood, my devotion to sarcasm, cynicism, and indifference, and my awareness that a few quick breaths from now, the fleeting afterglow of publishing a million words will vanish into the air. As though it had never been.

Here it is:


You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here
Deteriorata. Deteriorata

Go placidly amid the noise and waste
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep
Rotate your tires
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys
Know what to kiss, and when
Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do
Wherever possible, put people on hold
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment
And despite the changing fortunes of time
There is always a big future in computer maintenance

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Remember The Pueblo
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate
Know yourself
If you need help, call the FBI
Exercise caution in your daily affairs
Especially with those persons closest to you –
That lemon on your left, for instance
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet
Fall not in love therefore. It will stick to your face
Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch
Hire people with hooks
For a good time, call 606-4311. Ask for Ken
Take heart in the bedeepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese
And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot
It could only be worse in Milwaukee

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you perceive him to be – hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal
The world continues to deteriorate
Give up

(Tony Hendra, National Lampoon Radio Dinner, 1972)

And so I’ll close up shop tonight, contented but not. I’ll eat some Ramen, knock back a Scorsese film, and plot new beginnings tomorrow. There’s no glory in finishing one book…nor six…nor likely a hundred. There’s no party long enough to satisfy me nor a woman cold and cruel enough to fascinate me.

It doesn’t matter.

I’m not giving up.


J Edward Neill

From the Darkness

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

Devourer of Stars by Amanda Makepeace

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nether Kingdom Cover Reveal!!

Ur Knight NK Cover Sketch Ver 2 - Copy

It began eons ago.

I had a dream. A throttling, terrifying, I-remember-every-detail kind of dream.

A few days after I had it, I drove to a craft store, bought a giant parchment-paged journal, hand-painted the cover, and wrote my dream inside. I made maps of the places I’d imagined. I designed a Dungeons & Dragons setting based on the worlds I’d seen. I invented games using tiny fragments of the story I’d unlocked inside my head. I obsessed over it for a long while.

And then I let it go.

For many years, it lay dormant inside me. It became a fantasy never realized, a story I daydreamed of, but rarely spoke of. It was destined to fall into my mind’s cobwebs. And likely, to be forgotten.

In the early 2000’s, everything changed. On a frigid winter night, with no one else near, I experienced thoughts I’d not entertained before. Alone in the dark, I started naming the places I’d dreamed of. I drew pictures of people who existed only in my head. I knew I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

I decided to write a book. Three books. Almost a million words. Already 10+ years of my life.

The books:

Down the Dark Path

Dark Moon Daughter

Nether Kingdom

All three follow Andelusia Anderae, Garrett Croft, Saul of Elrain, and the terrifying agents of the Nether. I like to think of it as the darkest of all dark fantasy trilogies, but in truth it’s stuffed with love stories, tales of sacrifice, and allegories for redemption and the true meaning of courage.

And yet…

Behind all my machinations, all three books are based on a single dream. One evening’s nightmare, if you like. The books truest subject is man’s primal fear of darkness and the unknowable experience of death. And it’s not until the third and final entry in the trilogy that I get to show the true antagonist. The monster behind the curtain. The demon under the bed.

Ladies and gentlemen, the cover of Nether Kingdom:


Art by Amanda Makepeace. Conceptualized in the abyss.

Yes. That’s one of the Ur. Aka: One of the tyrants of the dead. Special thanks to Amanda Makepeace for breathing unlife into it. If you’re in need of spectacular custom art, please look Amanda’s way. She did two of the three Tyrants’ covers. And I love her for it.

Within the next six weeks, Nether Kingdom will hit stores in e-book and paperback form. It’s significantly shorter than Down the Dark Path, but longer and assuredly grimmer than Dark Moon Daughter.

With it, the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy will come to an end.

And I can lay this thing to rest. At last. Forever.

Until I start the prequel – Darkness Between the Stars


Nether Kingdom

Spring 2015

J Edward Neill

NK Ebook File - Copy

Making a Book

I’m making a book. This shouldn’t be confused with writing a book. However, whether you’re writing or making, it’s a monumental project. For the last several months I’ve been working on something called a sketchbook. It’s a collection of sketches from the past few years and it’s close to making its debut.

Daydreams & Wanderings Cover

Daydreams & Wanderings Cover

Assuming everything goes as planned, I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign the first week of March. The goal of the campaign is to raise funds for the printing of my book, Daydreams & Wanderings. Here’s two key facts about the campaign and the books:

1. There will be a special Kickstarter price for the sketchbook. Normally, the sketchbook will cost $20, but if you buy it through the campaign it will be $15.

2. There will also be an option to buy the book with a sketch drawn on the inside cover page for $25. This will only be available through the Kickstarter campaign.

My hope is to print 200 books. Here are some facts about the book and a few sample pages too!

  • The book measures 6×9 inches and contains 40 pages of blood, sweat, and tears cool art.
  • It’s a perfect bound book, all color pages.
  • Each book will be autographed, whether bought through the campaign or later from my shop.
  • I like to think of the book like a field guide to my creative passions.
The pages below are still a work in progress.

I hope you’ll help me make this small dream a reality!

Follow me on Facebook and you’ll be the first to know when my Kickstarter campaign goes live.

Heart of the Forest

Heart of the Forest by Amanda Makepeace

Art post! Yeah, I couldn’t think up something clever to write this week, so here’s a magical tree I painted for an online art challenge – Colour and Texture ArtOrder Challenge.

The glowing symbol in the middle of the tree comes from the Ogham alphabet. It’s the name for Oak and means Strength. I imagine this to be an old, moss covered tree–the heart of a magical forest. I’ve ordered a cotton rag print that I’ll be embellishing, mounting, and framing. If you’re going to Jordan Con 2015 you’ll see it in the Art Show!

10 Things – Cats in the Studio

I’ve lived with a cat in my art studio since 2006 when Shadow was still shy of a year old and we lived near the Dorset coast in England. Initially, I tried to keep her out of the studio, but her cries were relentless. Over the years I’ve come to learn some valuable lessons and hard truths.

1. Cats love to be involved in the creative process.

Hunter inspected my Prismacolor Pencils

Yessss, these are the colors.

2. If you can’t find that certain pad of paper chances are, they are sitting on it.

I haven't seen your watercolor paper.

I haven’t seen your watercolor paper.

3. Never leave works in progress unattended. Remember, they like to be involved.

It needs my special touch.

It needs my special touch.

4. Learn to incorporate cat hair into your paintings. Chances are there are more than a few strands of fur in this painting. It is what it is.

Sticking with the theme...

Sticking with the theme…

5. Cats will attempt to sway your creative decisions.


Are you sure you want to draw that?

6. Everything is for climbing. Everything.

Mom, look what I can do!

Mom, look what I can do!

7. A warm lap must be made available at all times, no matter what you’re doing.

Oh, you're painting?

Oh, you’re painting?

8. They are never too young to begin disrupting learning what you do.

I want to try!

I want to try!

9. You may feel like working through lunch, but they won’t. Ever.

Drusilla trying to get my Attention

Are you done working yet?

10. All of the above rules apply both inside and outside the studio.

I'm going to sit on your art till you pay attention to me.

I’m going to sit on your art till you pay attention to me.

Instagram: Inside (and Outside) the Artist’s Studio

Instagram has become one of my favorite social media outlets. I love following my favorite artists (and art directors) for a peek into their lives and studio adventures. Photos from exhibitions and conventions I can’t attend are a special treat. I even follow a few authors too! Instagram’s unobtrusiveness is what attracts me most. There’s a lot to see, but it’s not being thrown in your face. There are no obligations to like everything that scrolls across your dashboard, nor to write a monologue. For someone as visual as I am, posting a photo with only a few words is perfect and it keeps the introvert in me happy. Instagram is also a great marketing tool. Sharing works in progress and sketches are popular posts, plus the app is able to share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr all at the same time. Perfect.

Below is a taste of the types of images I post. I usually tell people I post photos of art, trees and cats.

Instagram Tips:

1. Hashtags are your friend. This is a hashtag –> #art #catsofinstagram #dragoncon. Posting a few, as they relate to your photo, help others find your posts. If I want to see who else is posting photos from Dragon Con I can click on the hashtag in the app and see all the photos being posted with that tag.

2. If someone comments on your photo be sure to respond by placing a @ in front of their username (ex. @amandamakepeace), otherwise they won’t see your response.

3. Fill out your profile completely and don’t forget to add a link to your website or shop!

4. If someone leaves you a spam comment you can block them. Go to their profile and click on the rectangular icon with the arrow (top right corner in the iOS app) and choose to block or report.

5. Building a following takes time. Be consistent with your posts, don’t over post, and interact by leaving comments on photos your love.

Devourer of Stars

Devourer of Stars Teaser Image

Last week, J Edward Neill shared a History of the Ur, where you had the opportunity to learn about the villain of his fantasy trilogy, Tyrants of the Dead.

They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth. Once a planet is blanketed in shadow and every living thing smoked out, the Ur eject clouds of star-snuffing darkness from their towers. The darkness consumes the planet’s star, and the Ur move elsewhere.

I had the pleasure of painting one of these diabolical interstellar shadows last year for the cover of the final book in the trilogy. What you see above is only a fraction of the painting Devourer of Stars. You’ll have to wait just a bit longer to experience all of his beautiful darkness. In the meantime, here’s small playlist of some of the songs that inspired me along the way.

Creative Interview with Illustrator/ Creative Designer Takeia Marie

For me, Facebook has become a great resource for finding great artistic talent, and Takeia Marie is one of my most favorite find’s. Takeia’s credits include work done with Food Network’s “Chopped” champion, Josetth “Josie” Gordon, CJ Fly of Pro Era, The American Physical Society as an animation consultant, while also contributing work as an editorial writer for The Hip Hop Speakeasy. Hailing from New York City, this gifted artist recently took time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, her process of creation, and how her home city influences her work.

angel_banner_sizeTell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts, comics medium.

I am an illustrator from New York. I went to school for animation, but found myself more drawn to illustration, developing concepts and storytelling (mostly in comic books). I started teaching myself more about those things and the business behind illustration. I’m still learning more everyday.

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

The first thing I remember drawing seriously was Sonic The Hedgehog when I was younger. I was a huge Sonic fan from the first time I played the first Sonic game on the Sega Genesis back in the day. I had all the comics and loved the stories.

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I always say I’m a hybrid of digital and traditional media when it comes to how I draw. It really depends on what I’m drawing and how I feel at the moment. But for the most part, I’ll use Photoshop or Manga Studio to lay out my work. Could be anything from a rough sketch to something more refined.

At that point, if I want something to be illustrated on paper or a client wants something tangible, I’ll print my rough and lightbox over it. Otherwise, I’ll digitally draw and color everything. If I’m doing graphic design work, I’ll usually sketch out an idea on paper and then, using my sketch as a guide, create everything in Illustrator. At the end of the day, though, I don’t think any one tool, whether it be digital or traditional, is better than any other. It’s about the artist and how he or she chooses to use it.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your art? Are there any particular artists who inspired you to work in the comic book medium?

The first person who inspired me to draw comics was my cousin. He is an artist too, and is the person I credit with getting me into anime and the comic book medium. Before, I didn’t realize that it was possible to actually draw for a living. From there, I kept reading comic books, studying them, and getting how-to books to learn the depths of drawing comics.

As for themes – the thing is, I’m drawn to anything that has a good story and interesting characters. I get excited about drawing characters who are dynamic and stories with interesting and diverse worlds. For the most part, if  I can get excited about a story or the nature of the characters in it, it really doesn’t matter the genre or particular subject matter, so long as it sparks something that I can relate to.

You’re a native New Yorker. Do you find that your city informs your work in any way, or are there elements throughout your day that you find might creep its way into your work?

I find myself drawn to work that is very sketchy or gritty and energetic, as opposed to work that is super clean. I think that comes from the grittiness of New York, and the kinetic movement you’ll find in the graffiti that has just become a part of the iconic look of NYC. I enjoy drawing odd little things like buildings and streets or the cracks in a concrete sidewalk -anything that feels dirty or imperfect.  I’m also a huge Hip-Hop fan, and I find myself trying to integrate that raw, aggressive energy that you find in the music into some of my work. Growing up in New York has definitely had a big influence on me artistically.

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

I’ve actually been trying to branch out from just staying in the comic book/illustration world (even though I still enjoy doing those things very much). Right now I’m working with iSojah, a Hip-Hop artist out of Columbus, Ohio, on some of the design portions of his Klasik Media imprint, which will be a go-to place for up and coming hip-hop artists and musicians, fashion designers, and entertainers who need help getting started.

war_paint_low_resIn between client work, I’m also working on my own project, The Forgotten. Something totally unrelated to art – I’m a contributing editorial writer for The Hip-Hop Speakeasy, a Hip-Hop blog that is dedicated to covering independent and slept-on Hip-Hop artists and bringing their music to the forefront.

People can view my work here:

Twitter: @KiaPeya




Dealing with Not so Constructive Criticism

Critique is a valuable and useful resource for artists, writers, musicians–anyone in a creative field (and those outside of it too). Portfolio reviews help steer artists toward a more realized vision, just as Beta Readers do for an author. However, that only happens with constructive criticism. Negative criticism, whether mean-spirited or born from ignorance can have a devastating effect.

Oh Sherlock

That might be an exaggeration, but in the heat of the moment I think most artists would agree, it feels as if you’re heart and soul have been crushed to a pulp. The pain is even more visceral when it’s someone close in your life. How does one deal with that?!

This happened to me yesterday. I’m not going to go into any details, what’s more important is how I worked through the hurt and got back to painting.

1. I didn’t respond in kind. Yes, their words hurt but chances are that wasn’t their intention. People can be clueless.

2. I had to acknowledge to myself that their words were not valid criticism. Their words were not meant to help me improve my painting.

3. I reached out to other artists and creative friends for support. Chances are your creative friends have been through similar situations. Support from your peers is priceless.

4. I let myself feel the pain and then reminded myself how much I love this painting. I thought back to the initial idea and sketches that sparked that zeal. I don’t expect everyone to love my art and that’s okay. I don’t create it for them.

5. Still feeling a little burned, I picked up my stylus and got back to work. I grew up riding horses for fun and competition. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, When you fall off a horse you have to get right back on. That’s been my motto all my life.

I can’t fully endorse this last one, but I do think it could help in the right circumstances…