Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your worst habit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you currently working on?

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

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

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

😛

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

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

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

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

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Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the first thing you colored?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I caved in and did what they wanted.

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

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

Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you worked on previously?

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

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

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

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

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

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Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m joking!

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

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

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

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

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

What have you worked on previously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your worst habit?

My worst habit…daydreaming, maybe? Lol

Goals? One year from now?

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

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

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

Have you worked on any Steampunk style images before?

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

What are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

www.leonealart.com

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

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Painting with Darkness – Part VI

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

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

And so I present: Ocean of Knives

Ocean 1-

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

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Ocean 2

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

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Ocean 3

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

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Ocean 4

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

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Ocean 5

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

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Ocean 6

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

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Ocean 7

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

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

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

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

J Edward Neill

2015 Artist Progress Report

There are only 4 months and a couple weeks left in this year. Whoa! I can’t believe how fast the year has flown by. I thought it was time for a progress report–a look at what I’ve accomplished, what I still have planned and a peek into 2016. Before 2014 ended, I had already begun thinking about what I wanted out of this year. At the time I was working on the first stages of Renascentia, compiling pages for my sketchbook Daydreams & Wanderings, and I had purchased my Art Show space for Jordan Con 2015. I had also stumbled across this video by Bobby Chiu. His wisdom urged me to take my 2015 goals more seriously than I have in the past.

What I’ve Tackled

  • Harbinger by Amanda MakepeaceI ran my first Kickstarter Campaign and as a result printed my first sketchbook. I’ve sold half of the books printed now. WooHoo! Check out my Flip-Through video for a look inside Daydreams & Wanderings.
  • I was a part of two local art exhibits, one a juried exhibition at the University of North Georgia.
  • I didn’t get into the Dragon Con 2015 Art Show, but Won Judge’s Choice at the Jordan Con Art Show!
  • I’ve completed my first freelance illustration work for Pelgrane Press. I can’t share that work yet–Three of the illustrations have been released! You can see them in my DeviantART Gallery and checkout Hideous Creatures: Wendigos on the Pelgrane Press site.
  • I’ve submitted my art for publication. It’s just a small feature, but I’ve been saying for the last year that my work wasn’t ready. Even after winning Judge’s Choice and working for Pelgrane Press, I was still saying, maybe next year. I finally had to slap myself upside the head.
  • I’ve submitted my art to a large competition. This was another big move for me. Even if my painting isn’t selected, it’s good to get past the fear of rejection.
  • I opened a new shop for selling my art and prints and upgraded my website to Squarespace. There’s also a semi-secret shop on my website called Five Dollars. Check it out!

 What I still Want to Tackle

I’m in the final stages of a large commission and once that’s off my ‘to do’ list I’ll be working on some new paintings for my personal portfolio. I have so many things I want to paint!! These new pieces will come with me to Jordan Con and they’ll be the work I submit for the Dragon Con jury process in March. First up will be finishing this drawing for The Bone Oracle before moving onto the painting.

Bone Oracle Wip

  • In September, I’ll start taking a class through Schoolism on color and light, which I hope will help take my painting skills to the next level. My subscription is from the Kickstarter campaign they ran this year. I can’t wait!!
  • I’m tentatively planning to sell my art at a small horror themed event in December, but that’s not a for sure thing yet.
  • Also, I’m giving some thought to entering and attending my first out-of-state art show for a convention in Tennessee next summer.

There’s have been a few moments this year where I’ve wondered if I’ve been doing enough. It helps to compile it all in one place, to see that I AM moving forward.  The year’s not over yet. Let’s see how much more creativity I can cram into 2015!

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
amandamakepeace.com

Creative Interview with Author and Illustrator Michael Blackbourn

I’ve met more than a few amazing creative people via Twitter.  One of those is Michael Blackbourn, an author and illustrator (just for starters). He agreed to let me shine a spotlight on his creative endeavors this week!

Cindercast - Chapter 1Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and your journey to being a published author and illustrator.

Thanks for this interview and thanks for asking. My journey on the road of published author and illustrator is really just beginning. I’ve had a creative inclination for a long time and It’s only recently that I’ve channeled it directly into telling my own stories. After finishing high school I spent a few years jumping out of planes blowing stuff up in the army. The idea of combining camping with guns seemed attractive and I was fortunate to have been stationed in Italy while I was enlisted.

I didn’t really want to wake up one day and realize I was forty and still sleeping in a puddle. So I used my time wearing camo face-paint to figure out what I wanted to do next. Since I’d already tried the combination of camping and guns I figured I would take two other passions and see how they worked together. Art and computers were up next. I went to a 3d animation school and am now employed as a 3d visual effects supervisor, I’ve been lucky to work on films like Iron Man, District 9, Mocking Jay and many others.

Have you always loved both writing and illustration?

I’ve always loved drawing. Telling a visual story is what drew me into 3d animation and effects. The writing is more recent. It’s a way to communicate the storytelling in my head without needed things like the huge budget needed for film. It’s definitely been the hardest part for me to learn. As a voracious reader I could have always told you what novels I liked, but its so much harder as a writer to craft those words into something someone else may want to read.

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

My process for my first book was a mess. It was a single idea, What if you were small and lived on a beach, what would that world look like. From there it took a couple years to turn sketches and notes into a narrative and art that was a finished product. Along the way I learned so much about books, publishing, ebooks, art, and writing. In the end most of the art was done with pencil and paper and then finished using a digital paint program. The cover of my kids book, Cindercast, was a fully digital oil painting. From my feature film work I’ve become accustomed to having an ‘undo’ to rely on.

Cindercast

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

I’m not sure yet. I’ve completed a kids illustrated adventure book and I’m putting the finishing touches on a sci-fi short story (non illustrated). One is a journey of a tiny girl having to survive on the beach between the tides and the other is about the madness triggered by an AI researcher about to launch a super intelligent thinking machine. The similarity between them is that I like to transport the reader somewhere and challenge their thinking on a subject. Both stories show the world from a perspective that isn’t our usual experience.

Barnacles

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

Cindercast by Michael Blackbourn

My sci-fi short story is in progress. It needs another month or so of editing and then I’ll put it up on Amazon for sale at 99 cents. My kids book is available here: http://amzn.com/B00T2T9PYW

You can get it as a paperback or as a kindle ebook. I put in a lot of effort to make sure the formatting of the art would look great as an ebook and in paper. Also please check out my website www.michaelblackbourn.com or www.cindercast.com for other news about me or my work or my art.

Painting with Darkness – Part II

Anymore, I’m a slave to the canvas. 

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

The Last Tower

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

Pale Swamp

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

Four Swords

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

Dead Rain

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

Black Moon Graveyard

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

Ashes

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

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

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

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

Stay cool.

J Edward Neill

Author of Down the Dark Path

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

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:

NetherKingdomWebLg

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

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:

www.takeiamarie.com

www.atomiclattestudio.com

Twitter: @KiaPeya

 

 

 

Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part II

I know. I promised this second installment in November, but family time, turkey, unruly cats. . . I just ran out of time. But I’m back with more valuable bookmarks for fantasy artists. If you missed my first post on Informative Blogs, check out Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part I. The bookmarks I’m sharing are from my Digital Art Resources folder; which is made of several more folders. I don’t have the definitive list. These are just the bookmarks I’ve collected so far. This month I’m sharing the contents of my Learning folder.

Learning Bookmarks

I call this my learning folder, but it could also be named Amanda’s eLearning Wishlist. The folder consists of two different types of sites: online schools and video lessons. As you can see from the photo above, I have more video lessons than schools. I haven’t bought these, so I can’t comment/review on their quality, but I probably will buy more than a few of them. Below is my top five from the folder.

Art Camp – Noah Bradley’s Art Camp. I’m giving serious thought to signing up for this 12 week course next year. It’s not cheap, but it’s doable. The only drawback… It begins in late May and ends in late August–the same time I’d be preparing for Dragon Con (if I pass the jury). So, that’s something to consider.

Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art (Online Courses) – There’s a reason I’ve put LAAFA between Art Camp and SmArt School. Their Fantasy Illustration and Drawing from the Imagination courses are very tempting!

SmArt School – If I won the lottery, I’d sign up for SmArt School as soon as registration opened. It’s another distinguished school and it’s online!! But right now, it’s just not in my budget.

Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig Vol.1 – This is just one video lesson from Gnomon I have bookmarked. These are very affordable. This one with Iain McCaig will be the first I buy, but first I need to get through the holidays!

CtrlPaint.com Video Library – Free. Absolutely FREE. Matt Kohr has an impressive and valuable library of videos for learning digital painting, fundamentals, and more. And they are all FREE.

There are two links missing from this folder. One is IMC – Illustration Master Class and the second is the TLC Workshops. I recently deleted them because there’s just no way I’m going to be able to attend unless my circumstances change drastically in the near the future. I’d rather focus on what I can do or at least work towards.

What learning resources do you have bookmarked?

amandamakepeace.com

Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part I

I’m a tab collector. As of this minute I have twenty-seven tabs open in Google Chrome (including this one). They range from Kickstarter campaigns to Art Show info for various conventions. Some of these tabs have been open for more than week because they need somewhat immediate attention and I don’t want them to get lost in my bookmarks. Others I will bookmark for later. I have a lot of bookmarks, more like a museum worth. I imagine I’m not the only creative person with a bookmarks folder like this one–folders within folders.

My Library of Bookmarks

 

Yeah. I might have a problem. At least it’s organized (for the most part). I thought I’d share some of my most valuable bookmarks in an on going (no where near regular) blog series. For this first post I’m going to share one of my smaller folders.

Informative BlogsInformative Blogs

I don’t follow a lot of Art or Fantasy/SciFi Illustration blogs. If I followed all of them I’d spend all my time reading blogs instead of painting. Some of these I’m subscribed to and others I rely on either myself to check them or Facebook to let me know there’s new content. Two of the sites I have bookmarked are open in my browser tabs right now.

The ArtOrder – Jon Schindehette’s fab website. “ArtOrder is a community of artists dedicated to the education and mentoring of the art community.”

His blog posts cover creativity, portfolio tips, business guides for artists, illustration goodies and more. He also conducts challenges/contests. That’s how my little phoenix painting ended up at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live this year.

One Fantastic Week – A weekly web show hosted by Sam Flegal and Pete Morhbacher.

Most weeks they have a guest artist that joins them in talking about fantasy illustration, conventions, marketing, and of course, their week. I’ve been catching up on the previous episodes and learning a ton! I’ve also started blocking out one hour on Tuesday mornings to watch the show live.

******

The other websites in that folder are just as information, but I’m going to leave that up to you to discover.

Muddy Colors – There’s an incredible Game of Thrones painting in today’s post.

Kelley McMorris – Kelley’s blog has supplied me with many excellent convention tips.

Gurney Journey – Doesn’t this need an explanation? It’s James Gurney’s blog. The creator of Dinotopia!

PACT – Professional Artist Client Tookit. This is a subscription site, but they do have free articles you can read.

CtrlPaint.com – I’ve mentioned this site in the past because of the amazing video library, but the blog is a great too!

Kiri Østergaard Leonard – If I was a better blogger my own blog would look more like Kiri’s. I’ve gleamed some valuable information from her posts.

As I mentioned, I can’t read all the blogs. But I do sometimes wonder, am I missing out? Is there a blog I should add to this folder? If you know of one, share it in the comments!

amandamakepeace.com

 

Painting a Hollow Empire

You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

Okay. That might be an exaggeration, but you’re still about to see raw sketches and studies that until now only a few have been privy. Last November I met up with John R McGuire and J Edward Neill to discuss a project they were writing together, post-apocalypse fiction set in medieval times, aptly named Hollow Empire. This was to be a big project and it began like all projects do with a lot of brainstorming, sketches, and research. I read small portions from story, explored images of medieval town and cities, and began envisioning the world they had created. One aspect key to the cover was a city in partial ruins. Here are three sketches from the early stages, click through to see larger images.

From there we ended up going with the first sketch after we discussed the need for graves. Many graves.

Hollow Empire SketchI still like this sketch quite a lot, but as I began painting I realized it just didn’t work. Sometimes that happens. Thankfully, I felt comfortable enough to approach John and J Edward with my concerns. Before doing so, I began reworking the idea and incorporating elements from those early first designs. I also took inspiration from the medieval ghost town of Craco. If it looks familiar you’ve probably seen it in a film or documentary. Craco was abandoned after an earthquake in 1980, but it had already been on the decline due to poor agriculture, landslides and flooding. When I approached the author duo again, I presented them with two quick studies, the original idea and my Craco study.

Lucky for my muse and I, we were all on the same page. They too went for my Craco idea and I spent the next four weeks developing that world. One feature I was happy to see return was the gravestone from one of the original sketches. Sometimes things stick with you and for whatever reason I couldn’t shake that gravestone from my mind. This is the final painting without the extra bits.

Hollow Empire Painting by Amanda MakepeaceHollow Empire by John R McGuire and J Edward Neill will be available in the coming weeks! Subscribe to our blog in the sidebar to stay in the loop.

 amandamakepeace.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

Under the Covers

It’s a cold, blustery day in North Georgia, but I’m fine with it. I’ve got something to be excited about.

This:

SoulOrbCoverPaperback

 Yep. For the holidays, I commissioned an alternate cover for Down the Dark Path. Our own Amanda Makepeace painted it. I feel it’s a sharp piece, perhaps grimmer than the previous cover, but closer to my own heart. The image is of the Soul Orb, the world-killing artifact appearing in the second half of the novel. This new version of the book is available for Kindles here:  DownTheDarkPath   The alternate-art softcover version will be available by Dec 22nd. Please check it out, read it, enjoy it, and review it. You’d be my hero.

Ok, so we’re done with that little sales pitch. Let’s move on. Reloading with the new art gives me a chance to talk about the book, and how I came to write it.

It all began during a bitterly cold winter night more than a decade ago. I’d long had the tale of Down the Dark Path locked away in the corner of my mind. Back then I called it Tyrants of the Dead, the title which would eventually become the name of the entire trilogy. That night, alone in my office, I sat down at my keyboard and wrote the prologue. I initially wrote it in first-person perspective, a comfortable mode for me, but ultimately I changed it to common third-person prose. This is gonna be a long, long book, I knew even then. First-person won’t quite cut it, imagery-wise.

And so, for the next six years, I hammered away. I knew where the story was going all along, but I’d yet to flesh out the dialogue, the side characters, the small settings, city names, and all the little intricacies that make a book a place you’d like to call home rather than just a pile of words. Six years. Yes, seriously. I wrote at night, during lunch at work, in the mornings before I went to work, and half of every weekend (whenever I wasn’t playing football, watching movies, or reading.) I was obsessed. I’m pretty sure I wrecked a few friendships and dug a shallow grave for my marriage along the way, but hey, I was writing, and that’s what made (makes) me happy.

And then, when I was finished, I rewrote it. The entire thing. I took 400,000 words and pared them down to 280,000. I killed off characters who previously survived, burned villages that’d somehow gone untouched, and turned what had once been a reasonably sunny fantasy novel into a work of fiction rife with shadows. This agonizing (but rewarding) process consumed another two years. I say consumed in a very literal fashion. The book ate up my life, chewed it up, and made entire swaths of time go away.

When I was done, I wrote two more books: Dark Moon Daughter and Nether Kingdom. I should’ve been searching for a publisher, an agent, or at least a print-on-demand service, but I preferred to write, write, and write. I turned the small stories locked away in my mind into a million-word trilogy, and later chopped it down to about 700,000 words. Dark Moon Daughter suffered a half-dozen title changes, but Nether Kingdom was always Nether Kingdom, by far the grimmest thing I’ve ever put to paper. The longer I wrote, the darker the subject matter turned. I touched on murder, betrayal, war, shattered hearts, suffering, and sacrifice. I went through all the emotions my characters did. I sketched out their clothes, their weapons, and I drew scores of maps detailing their travails. Told you I was obsessed.

Since the whole thing began, I’ve been asked a thousand times, “So what’s the trilogy all about?”

Well…  

Down the Dark Path is the story of a world-consuming medieval-era war told from the perspective of six different people. It’s non-high fantasy, meaning no elves, no dwarves, no dragons, through I do sprinkle in quite a bit of black magic. I stray from politics, and focus largely on actions and emotions. Some of the characters, particularly two of the protagonists and one of the villains, consume the lion’s share of the action, but the other three get plenty of screen time. One of the characters, the young woman Andelusia, ended up being my favorite. (Who knew I liked writing women so much? Not I.) In Dark Moon Daughter, I cut the main character roster down to four (actually more like 3.5.) One of their stories I tell exclusively via first-person journal entries, so the character is heard from but rarely seen. I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace, and continued the journal tactic well into Nether Kingdom, the darkest entry in the series and by far my favorite.

Combined, these three titles have consumed nearly twelve years and countless nights in my man-cave. It’s been one hell of a ride, and now that I’ve committed to a prequel, it seems the end isn’t quite at hand. I’m currently in the final stages of publishing the second two books, and I’m thrilled. Commercial success isn’t really the aim. It’s a labor of love. To all writers everywhere, I suggest a similar outlook. Love the words first. Let all other considerations be secondary. I’m convinced finishing a book or sometimes even a chapter is like an orgasm, except it lasts longer and there’s less cleanup (sometimes.)

And finally, throughout the years I’ve posted tons of images online for the series. Here are my favorites:

Dead trees (2)

A pencil sketch I did a while back. It’s supposed to be the dread fortress Malog as viewed from a distance. Thank goodness I hired professionals to clean up my mess.

Very Dark Buildings

The dark city of Illyoc, hub of Furyon commerce. It’s here our heroes must venture to reach Malog. Art by Eileen Herron.

Furyon Orig

Eileen Herron’s first image of a Furyon knight standing beneath the Emperor’s storm. His armor is Dageni steel, and is nigh indestructible.

Soul Orb Small Image

Amanda Makepeace’s first imagining of the Soul Orb. Notice the subtle runes on the Orb. The language of the Ur becomes a focus of the second two novels in the series.

Ande Best Cover 600x800 for Kindle

Eileen Herron’s original cover. I have the painting in my man-cave. That’s Garrett Croft riding with the blue-flamed sword. The Soul Orb looks angrier here, its thorns reaching to claim Andelusia.

Dark Moon Daughter – Due out early 2014

Nether Kingdom – Due out late 2014

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

 

Makepeace Really is my Name

Hi there. Welcome to Tessera! I’m the artist of this creative guild, the one with the really cool last name. Makepeace isn’t my birth name, but it is by far the best surname I’ve ever had and let’s face it, I should have been born with this name. A week doesn’t go by when I haven’t received a comment about it’s validity or origin. I’ve almost got the spiel down: “Yes, that really is my name. It’s great isn’t it? I can’t take credit though, it was my ex’s name. It’s an old Quaker name. No, I’d never change it!” In all seriousness, it does suit me. I’ve had a passion for art and nature for as long as I can remember. Many of my fondest memories involve the outdoors–one of them is the photo to the right. You can still find me wandering the woods today, collecting feathers, stones and other odd bits of nature. My studio is full of a my collection.

Quite often, bits of my collection end up in my art, but once my imagination has a say you never know what you’re going to get. I am an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with some horror on the side. Movies? Same genres. Television? Same genres. I do read (and watch) outside of those realms, but anything from the Avengers to Middle Earth will take precedent over a thriller. Don’t get me started on music. You probably wouldn’t believe how far my tastes swing (Classical to Linkin Park).

I’m also, as was pointed out earlier in the week, a Web-Warrior Princess. Technology doesn’t scare me. If you were to look at the testing they do in schools, my highest ranked subjects were the Humanities and Science. My favorite courses at university were Comparative Literature and Human Osteology. I love both, just another example of my broad interests and skills. I can create with a paint brush (both digital and physical) and I can create with HTML, CSS, and PHP.

I guess all of this combined makes me a tree-hugging geek with a wild imagination. I’m cool with that.

What does this mean for you readers of Tessera? Well. I’ll be sharing a lot of art, some of my process as it applies to creating art for a story, things that inspire me, photos from conventions (I’m going to one this weekend!), books on my nightstand (and comics too), and so much more. I’ll even share a story or two of my own. I don’t think of myself as a writer–I think about art and painting far more–but I do write the occasional piece of flash fiction. I might also occasionally share a flashback from the movies, stories, images and events of my childhood that shaped who I am today. The possibilities are endless.

 

Five Random Facts

1. My favorite things to draw as a young teen? Horses and Xenomorphs. Not together, but that would have been cool too!

2. My favorite things to paint nowadays? Birds and Faces.

Xenomorph by Amanda MakepeaceFirst Light Detail by Amanda Makepeace

3. Artists I listen to the most on my iPod? Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, The Glitch Mob, Cry Monster Cry, Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters and Men and Lindsey Stirling.

4. What did I want to be when I grew up? It changed quite a few times. High on the list: Geologist, Marine Biologist, Forensic Anthropologist, and of course an artist and writer.

5. First and last comic I bought? First was Aliens: Earth War (Dark Horse) and the last I bought was Infinity: Part Three (Marvel).

Follow me on the web:

deviantART Facebook Twitter

amandamakepeace.com

makepeacestudios.etsy.com