The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

when's the book? pt.1

the primary way in which i became familiar with other artists' work when i was in middle and high school was through art books. in fantasy, some very influential ones for me as a teen and pre-teen included the art of dragonlance, the art of advanced dungeons and dragons, boris vallejo’s fantasy art techniques, and michael whelan’s works of wonder. each of these books really inspired me, along with d&d products and the fighting fantasy book covers of richard corben and richard courtney (the modern reprints feature largely new covers by different artists). since then of course tons of other such books have kept me inspired.

one dream i think every young fantasy artist has is of someday issuing his own monograph, a privilege most “regular” commercial illustrators never really get. back then i think i figured it was something you just worked really hard for and then some company would tap you to do one. i’ve since learned that this is only partially how it works. the other way, which has been done successfully by other artists, is to produce your own and either have a publisher pick it up or get help in distributing it. while the first way has a sort of prize-winning aspect about being chosen, the second helps to maintain control of the timeline, process, and content. risks and investment also vary by type.

which is all to say that over the past couple of years a question has been creeping up at events i attend: “do you have a book out,” or its alternate, “when’s your book coming out?” thankfully, the frequency of the request has been increasing. it got me to thinking about the whole process. i’ve been recently aware of the fact that i’ve been illustrating now for 11 or so years, an amazing statistic for me to ponder. while i’ve put out a lot of stuff I wouldn’t want compiled (as does any artist), is it possible that there’s enough to fill, say, a standard 128-page book?

turns out the answer seems to be: just about. we went through most of my archives of paintings and culled out the best of the best in an attempt to fill out a 128 page book, to see what it might look like if it released today. this is just paintings, and doesn’t include preparatory drawings or studies or photos that might accompany them. i was surprised to see that the collection is coming together, even if it only exists as a folder of jpgs on my computer at the moment called “book images.”

we’ve talked some about what format the book might take, what i’d like a book of my work to be like, and have reviewed the books of others to see what we liked or didn’t—an ongoing process.

which is all to say that the answer to the question of when my book is coming out is: well, not before 2007 that’s for sure. this whole living abroad thing certainly makes logistics difficult for something like that, which might include warehousing and other demands. however, it’s in its earliest planning stages. progress will be slow going, done with what time remains after painting and maintaining daydream graphics.

the good thing is that looking over the folder of images, there are certainly pieces in there i’d rather replace with better ones and, Lord willing, i’ll have time to paint new pieces that would do just that so that, when it does release, i’ll probably be pleased with the result.

if you see me around ask about the book. it was the queries of some good folk out there that got me this far, and certainly more encouragement could do nothing short of speeding me up! as thoughts arise or progress is made i’ll mention them here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

travelogue: beijing

there are some places i never imagined my art taking me, and beijing was one of them. it was a pleasure to meet the magic players out in china, though i think they had me sketching for them more than signing! it is always surreal to go somewhere so far from home and find people who know and appreciate my art. it reminds me of just how blessed i am.

because i very much enjoy travel i try to tack on a little time before or usually after these events. sometimes it’s just a day or two but in this case it was an extra 6 days, which was plenty of time to get a feel for one of the world’s largest cities with 7.5 million in the city proper and some 11 million in the metro area, though that number is growing at mind-boggling rates; i heard one estimate that 200,000 people came to beijing in 2004 from rural areas to seek work. ouch.

my first visits to any place are usually filled with all the usual tourist must-sees. if i get the opportunity to return somewhere i usually end up wandering a whole lot and seeing off the beaten track things. so you can imagine the places i hit. here’s yours truly on the great wall:


it was probably the ideal time to see beijing. with the 2008 olympics on the horizon the city is practically shedding its skin. never since visiting (formerly) east berlin a few years back have i seen so many cranes. one estimate has 2000 building projects underway at any one time in this city, and i don’t doubt it. recently in the news you may have heard about the various hutong or old neighborhoods that are being demolished to make way for high-rise apartment buildings. though the reports are mainly from shanghai, it’s happening in all the big cities, apparently. as these homes are disappearing at the rate of about 10,000 per year, there won’t be many to see by the time the torch reaches the city. it’s unfortunate in a way: though the living conditions in these neighborhoods are very humble and at first glance they look like downright dangerous areas it turns out there’s a lot more to them that is being overlooked.

granted, china is preserving a select few of these in its overhaul, but it seems that if overhaul is what’s needed many of these old neighborhoods should be renovated to their former glory. if you’re going to displace the poorer folk anyway at least keep some of the architectural heritage! it seems china never learns since so many imperial-era buildings, gates, temples and walls were destroyed in the 20th century. granted, the westerners did their share in starting the process, but the chinese sure made sure the job got finished later!

we stayed in a b&b as is usual when i travel, smack dab in the middle of one of the hutong. it was a great example of a renovated and modernized courtyard home in a very safe and rustic area in prime location. our hosts were very helpful and polite, even if communication was a bit difficult.

i imagine that the ultra-modern tokyo i now treasure looked--25 years ago as it rushed into the future--a lot like beijing does now, and i suppose in another 15-20 years i’ll enjoy beijing about as much for similar reasons. it’s probably because i never knew the pre-war tokyo and most of it had been covered over by the time I visited.

though i somehow imagined different, beijing felt extremely safe and the people were very kind…unless you are in the various tourist-markets where haggling is the order of the day. there you’re likely to find vendors who’ll sell you shrinkwrapped batteries that were utterly spent and repackaged.

food was incredibly cheap for a westerner, and by and large delightful. one must eat peking duck in peking, and it did not disappoint!

as always, you can keep an eye on my travel schedule on my website.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

cranking the engine

i think this has been the longest break in my blog. i'm surprised such lengthy breaks haven't occured before, frankly. however, i spent the last few weeks traveling.

first off, there was heading to california for gencon socal. much laughter was had and many good friends were seen, which was a relief for me as i'd been a tad isolated for some time. then it was up to hollister for an early thanksgiving and seeing my family for a couple of days before heading off to a magic event in beijing. sightseeing followed then the long trek back to england and trying to shake off jetlag.

on the upside i returned to england with broadband installed!!

on the downside i'm horribly behind. i'm preparing a longer blog entry but thought i'd let you know i'm still around and active. talk to you soon!