My Journey to the DragonCon 2018 Art Show

I’m not sure how it happened.

A few autumns ago, I bought a new house.

And somehow got it in my head to use one of the rooms as an art studio.

Sure, I’d painted before. Twenty years ago, I owned an airbrush T-shirt company. I made banners for local bands. I dabbled in various art forms. I even spent a few seasons at art school, which ended up being the only education in my life I ever enjoyed.

But nothing like this.

On a brisk, windy day, my son and I left our new house behind, marched into our truck, and sped off to Hobby Lobby. You know Hobby Lobby, right? The bible-thumping craft store…which just so happens to sell gallery-ready canvasses, high-quality paint brushes, and paint…tons of paint.

Being fools, we walked into Hobby Lobby and exited an hour later with armloads (and a truckload) of the hugest canvasses we could find. Along with fifty tubes of acrylic paint, charcoal pencils, graphite powder, brushes, an easel, and…well…you get the point.

I’m not really sure why. It’s just what happened.

That first night, while the rain pummeled suburban Atlanta, and while my kid sat on the floor slathering yellow paint onto a canvas of his own, I stood in a daze in our new ‘painting room.’  Really, it was just a bare-walled empty space; most people would’ve used it as a dining room. You know…the room most families never inhabit?

Black paint hit the canvas hard. Directionless. Not quite Jackson Pollock random, but close.

Something like this came out:

‘The Emperor’s Vision’ – 2013

The Emperor’s Vision. It was a scene from one of the fantasy novels I’d written. Somehow…to see it alive on a canvas…I felt an awakening.

All it took was one simple painting. One glance at the strange world I’d accidentally created.

And I was hooked.

Autumn rumbled by. Winter settled atop us. During the long, dark nights, as the never-ending rain drowned our little neighborhood, I found myself wandering each night into the painting room.

At first, I lacked aim. Purpose. Meaning. (not to mention, talent.)

I tried painting people. More dark cities. Corrupted landscapes. Trees. I was nothing if not a bit brooding, a bit dark. I glued all the lessons I barely remembered from art school to my wild imagination, and strange things resulted.

‘Summoning Tree’

For the next two years, I toiled in the shadows of my new, over-big house. My blank walls, once eggshell white, transformed into a cacophony of colors. Ten paintings became twenty, and twenty become more than one-hundred.

And then I moved. To an apartment. In which the walls offered only about 10% of the space I’d formerly had.

What am I going to do with all this junk? I thought.

I’ve got stacks of paintingsand nowhere to put them.

What if…? Nah…

A few quiet months went by, and another accident happened. A journeywoman artist moved to Atlanta, and we decided to paint cooperatively.  No idea why. Once again, no goal existed. We just wanted to ‘art’ for the sake of art itself.

She sculpted. I painted. And I moved again, this time into another house. My new bachelor pad wasn’t nearly as big as my previous house, but the walls offered plenty of space to fill with our new three-dimensional creations.

Many months smoldered by. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Another summer.

Were we getting better? we wondered. Is all our work resulting in actual skill? 

Nah…couldn’t be. 

The walls of my newest house filled up. Once again, finished canvasses were stacked on the floor, collecting cobwebs as they slept well out of sight.

And then, a text message arrived:

“I’d like to buy one of your pieces.”


“Yes. I’ll pay shipping, too. Just give me the price.”

An accident. Luck. A door cracked open. A sliver of light shining through. One sold painting. Then five. Then Ten. Thirty. Fifty.

What just happened?

I’m doing this professionally, I said to myself.


No idea…

An artist friend – Amanda Makepeace – had a booth and gallery at DragonCon that year. Sure, I’d been to D-Con before. No, I never dressed up or really participated in anything. Honestly, I usually went to party and haunt the art show.

The DragonCon art show.

Hundreds of fantasy, sci-fi, and other paintings…all in one place. 

Thousands of people. 

Look at Amanda’s art. It’s beautiful. I wonder…could I? Nah…right? 

One night, while sipping scotch in my house and painting nothing in particular, I asked a few questions. Of my friends. Of Amanda. Of people I knew who’d attended DragonCon.

Ever the impulsive fool, I made a rash decision. I planned to paint seven pieces to submit to D-Con’s art show selection process. Why? I’m not sure. I’d no intention of succeeding. I really just wanted to challenge myself. After all, the three-person jury included three well-known art masters, two of whom I often emulated (Allen Williams & Brom.) How could my small efforts impress long-term professionals?


I plunged in. Did my homework. Bought a boatload of new canvasses. Stayed awake until 3AM painting alone or in the company of others.

I worked.

And waited.

I waited.

And I worked.


On the day DragonCon art show submissions opened, I stood at the ready, my finger poised to submit what I believed in my head-movie were my seven best pieces.

I clicked ‘Submit.’

And I allowed myself to forget what I’d done.

Impostor syndrome. 

Hundreds of applicants. 

Best fantasy artists in the world. 

This was a fun ride, but it ends here.  

Honestly, I really did forget. There seemed no sense in agonizing over what I’d accidentally fallen into. I told myself I was just a guy goofing around in his kitchen, drinking whiskey, making funny shapes to put on my walls.

And it was true.

Even so…

A few months later, when the phone call arrived, I awoke as if from a stupor. (No really, I was hungover.) And there it was.

“You’re in,” he said.



I want to tell you the rest of the story. But it hasn’t happened yet.

The DragonCon Art Show hits Atlanta from Aug 30 – Sept 3 this year.

I’ll have 12 original pieces and more than one-hundred prints.

I’ll probably still be there just to party.  I don’t have a booth, so really all I’m doing is dropping paintings off for everyone to look at.


I hope you’ll stop by the art show.

And then find me down at Hard Rock Cafe.

Look for me at the bar.

First round is on me.


J Edward Neill


Oh…here’s a few snapshots of me laying out my gallery space.

All paintings are originals. J Edward Neill & Tahina Morrison.

Two Years Later

Dragon Con 2016Two years ago, around this same time, I was preparing for my first convention as an artist. I’m doing the same now, for the same convention–Dragon Con. Genre art (fantasy, science fiction, horror) for me at the time was still a relatively new venture. I grew up on late 70’s and 80’s genre films. As a teenager I was consumed by Stephen King and other speculative fiction authors. You’d think this would be reflected in my art, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began letting myself explore. A wall in my psyche came down and my art evolved. Two years later I was at Dragon Con and now another two years later I’m returning. In that time, I’ve continued to explore, evolve and learn.

I began thinking about what I truly wanted. What did I want to create with my art? What did I want to say? Did I need to say anything? That introspection gave birth to Renascentia. She is the first painting I felt connected to on a deeper level and I realized I need that connection. It reminds me of this quote I heard recently:

If you don’t feel anything for the painting your working on, your viewers won’t either.

When I brought Renascentia to Jordan Con in 2015, I realized the truth of these words. However, I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted. The vision in my head was still veiled in mist. It took nearly another year for me to begin piecing together what I now call Earth Rituals. I’m creating a body of work around this idea of connecting with the earth, but it’s not the only art I plan to make. I will continue to make purely nature art, delve into Sci-Fi, and whatever else catches my fancy.

Dusk OwlBut what have I done and learned over the last two years?

  1. I learned how to create art from direction.
  2. I ran a successful kickstarter and printed a book.
  3. I won Judge’s Choice from Todd Lockwood. O_O
  4. I signed my first contract with a small games publisher.
  5. I knew this already, but it was reaffirmed–true friends are invaluable.
  6. I will break my no dancing rule if you give me mixed drinks.
  7. I learned I don’t really enjoy game illustration.
  8. I learned you can be a part of a large community and still feel utterly alone.
  9. I learned there’s an art to using Instagram.
  10. I enjoy licensing art for book covers more than custom commissions.
  11. I learned I just want to create my own art, on my own terms.
  12. I guided my daughter through her last year of high school and into her first year of college.
  13. I was invited to be a member of Changeling Artist Collective.
  14. I launched a Patreon campaign that’s still going.
  15. I rediscovered my love of graphite and drawing.
  16. I’ve had a taste of being an art director (large project in progress now).

Ultimately, I’ve realized I’m not an illustrator, nor do I really want to be. Sure, there may be some overlap occasionally. If a project fits my vision and my style I might jump on board. But at the end of the day, I’m an artist. I think my art will always hover between fine art and the fantastic. In some cases it will sway back and forth between the two. That’s okay.

Forest Dreams WIP

From my current work in progress, Forest Dreams.

Eerie, Haunting and Beautiful

It’s that time of year again… I hope you enjoy these fantastical artworks and have a delightfully dark Halloween!


Did you miss last year’s post Monsters, Magic and Moonlight?

Creative Interview With Comic Book Artist Sean D. Hill

Continuing in our creative interview series, next up to bat is comic book artist/ fine art illustrator Sean D. Hill. Sean is the talented artist behind the pencils/ inks of “Route 3”, ” “Jaycen Wise And The Secret of The Rose” and is the current penciller on Zenescope Entertainment’s critically acclaimed “Dark Shaman”. Let’s get things rolling!

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

Well I’m from Washington DC, born and raised. As far as training goes my grandfather began showing me stuff from an early age. After that, when I was in 4th grade, I was introduced to an artist named Kofi Tyus.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”

Kofi quickly become my mentor and I even got my first sketchbook from him. As I got older I went to an arts high school called the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where my major was Visual Arts or VA as they called it. I had great teachers like Bill Harris, Cathy Cann, Mel Davis to name a few. I always wanted to be a comic book artist ever since the Spike Lee Levi’s commercial featuring Rob Liefeld.

I pretty much stuck to fine art until I started dating my wife, and she was going for a Media Arts and Animation major. I learned everything I know about comic illustration and storytelling from her and the classes I would sit in with her.

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

The first thing I vaguely remember drawing was KITT and Michael Knight from “Knight Rider”. I was obsessed with that show as a kid. I would show the pictures to Grandpa and he would tell me what I had to work on and then I would get excited to redraw it again because I’d learned something new.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

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

I work mostly digital nowadays. I use Manga Studio 5 for my software and I draw on a Yiynova MSP19U, which is a screen that I draw directly on, which is  similar to a Cintiq.

I still do stuff traditionally though when I get the itch. My favorite traditional tools are my Pentel Brush pen that I never leave home without , and I love my Zebra G Pen nibs. The best Bristol I have ever used is still the 500 series Stathmore Smooth 4ply. It’s great stuff.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

Are there 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 stories I seem drawn to the most are ones with a lot of character development and a lot of action. I love stories that take in the aspects of blockbuster films also.  The artists who inspire me are numerous, though ones I think mentioning are Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Ries, Lewis La Rosa, Brian Hitch, and Jason Fabok. It’s a pretty long list.

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

Right now I am working on the final issue of Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman” mini series. It’s a story steeped in a lot of Timaucuan Native American lore which I love. You can order the books from your local comic shop if they don’t have them on the shelves already, or through the digital comic book distributor, Comixology.

I am also very proud of the work I have done on “Route 3” for Terminus Media which is available for digital download on Amazon, and the Comics Plus app.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”


You can view all my work at: