Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2017

I’m back in studio from Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and this was my favorite SFAL yet. What a tremendous weekend of world-class art, amazing friends, and celebration. Thank you to John Fleskes + Cathy and Arnie Fenner for making this all happen, along with incredible collaborators such as Carl Anderson, Jeff Smith, Mark Roth, Kathy Chu, Monica Carson, Arlo Burnett, and more.

It was an honor to be one of the Spectrum Award presenters Saturday night, and that felt like a perfect culmination of the jury responsibility. I was grateful to be a part of the effort, and I’m really proud of the finalist and medal selections that my fellow judges and I chose for the upcoming annual. So much emotion during this year’s ceremony. It was great to see, as was the energy of this show from both pros and fans.

I loved the new facility and thought the artist booth layout fit well. I’d love to see SFAL happen here in future years. I think there’s no longer any question that Kansas City can carry SFAL on a permanent basis. It’s not because of any one particular factor, and it wasn’t because of any massive influx of attendees, but I think it’s the feeling that the group of people listed above are made of too much win for this effort to fail. I think SFAL is a few key personnel away from being a major international art destination for art buyers. Kansas City can support this show without a doubt, and we’ll wistfully look back on these formative years as the ‘remember when you actually had elbow-room at SFAL’ years. The quality of the artists in attendance, the quality of the show’s signage and the operation, as well as the overall production value of the whole event — those are rock-solid and world-class. The level of outreach and marketing will catch up, but it’s not because of a lack of effort or brainpower. It’s a matter of a few more foot soldiers and a few more key champions behind-the-scenes to complement the extraordinary team that is already in place. They’re giving max effort and I’m especially in amazement at the job that Carl, Jeff, and Mark do. They seem to have eight arms and the ability to teleport. When this team gets a few more key pieces to carry the buildup to the event, this show will explode to a whole new stratospheric level.

As it stands right now, there’s no other art happening quite like SFAL, and if you missed this year, then you missed out bigtime. The energy, camaraderie, and inspiration from both the art and the artists was off-the-charts. On a personal note — I had my most successful sales year ever at an SFAL, thanks to my ‘La Botella’ drawing selling to one of my favorite collectors. Loteria Grande Cards sold briskly. I loved watching my fellow artists such as Donato Giancola, Allen Williams, Colin and Kristine Poole, and more have really solid sales at this event as well.

It was the best of times, and I hope we get to do it all over again next year, Kansas City.

The Mayor You Deserve (AKA ‘The Batman’)

“Science fiction shows us how we can improve quality of life through technology, but it’s so important that we properly channel the tools and the knowledge that we gain so that we don’t suppress ourselves as individuals of freewill.” — Ron Nirenberg

SAN ANTONIO: Want to see ‘Batman’ become the mayor of your city? Vote for Ron Nirenberg, and you can make that happen.

I first heard of him when he was being dubbed ‘The Batman’, back when he was saving the world’s largest summer home for Mexican free-tailed bats from urban sprawl. Since then, I’ve gotten to know Ron a bit, and found him to not only be a world-class critical thinker who views issues from all sides — but he’s also a profoundly hardcore geek and passionate science fiction / fantasy fan. He puts a deep value on collective vision and looking forward, without forgetting the inhabitants that make a place what it is.

So if you’re like me, and you proudly count yourself amongst the legions of San Antonians who love genre films, collect comics, or play D&D — this guy is one of us, and that’s a beautiful thing. In a time when public officials wrongly view citizens as inferiors and lessers — Ron realizes voters are the Board of Directors, and we need someone who will look out for the inner city, the Southside, the Westside and the Eastside, just as much as the Northside. As our federal and state government officials have become increasingly abusive, we’re going to need strong local government that protects not just citizens’ legal rights, but their human rights as well. I think Ron possesses that social vision, and being that I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life as a Hugo Award-winning cover illustrator in the science fiction / fantasy publishing industry, I wondered if his immersion in sf/f helped shape that.

We sat down in early April for a one-on-one conversation about science fiction, fantasy, San Antonio, and the future present.

John Picacio: Your campaign embraces the slogan ‘The City You Deserve’ which is an interesting phrase because the voters decide what kind of city they deserve, and in San Antonio, that means a leader not only better funnel hopes and dreams into cohesive vision, but also swing the doors of perception *wide* open so voters can actually envision what IS possible. I’ve heard you say that science fiction is the literature of possibility and vision. What was the first sf/f narrative that captured your imagination?

Ron Nirenberg: Oh man. It’s interesting you used the phrase ‘the doors of perception’. That was one of my favorite books I read for pleasure in college. That’s Aldous Huxley. My love of science fiction definitely comes from cinema though, and that happened before I even knew how to read.

I was born in 1977, and we all know what happened that year. So STAR WARS was one of the first eye-opening experiences I can remember, and it also gave me my love for cinema, even beyond genre. The other big cinematic experience I can remember was with my uncle, when we were visiting family in Massuchusetts. We walked into a movie twenty minutes late, and that was E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL. That was such a captivating story for someone who was around five or six years old. It’s always stuck with me too.

JP: Is there a particular image from that movie that still resonates?

RN: Yeah. I remember it clear as day. It was when that government agency had attached those big tubes to the house, and we see those guys walking through the smoke, and they looked so otherworldly. That was what Elliott’s perception was. That was how the boy perceived these people, and he associated these agency guys as the danger, while relating so much more to this extraterrestrial who needed his help.

JP: We’re experiencing the world through a child’s eyes, where the concept of ‘alien’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘enemy’.

RN: Yeah. His connection with E.T. was familial. It was close. It was compassion, despite the fact that the two were from completely different planets. It was the opposite of how the technocrats saw the alien, with this sort of amoral approach. The alien was more like Elliott than these supposedly more familiar humans that were barging into his house.

JP: You’re a batman of sorts. Thankfully, you’re NOT a billionaire vigilante psychotic who prowls the streets. We already have enough psycho politicians. What makes the Batman character resonate with so many though is he’s a dedicated protector of his city and its inhabitants. You have a legacy as a guy who saved the summer home of the world’s largest bat colony — 10,000,000 Mexican free-tailed bats near Bracken Cave — and somehow you balanced their preservation with the needs of human neighbors that co-habitate amongst them.

RN: <chuckles) Yeah, they still call me ‘Batman’ sometimes.

JP: <laughs> How did the bat issue become a priority for you?

RN: I like difficult challenges. I’m not scared off by what others perceive as lost causes. When I first came onto the campaign trail and into office, I became aware of that situation and was told it couldn’t be saved. My son and I went to the cave, and it could be best described as an otherworldly experience to watch those bats emerge. I got educated about what they meant to the ecosystem, to the protection of our water supply, protection of our crops, etc. And frankly, those bats were here first.

When it comes to people, I take pride in giving voice to the voiceless, but also protecting the habitats that balance our environment. Ya know, even bats play an important role in our world, and I became keenly aware of that when I posted my video of them on my Facebook page. I woke up the next morning and there were hundreds of shares and comments from people all over the world. I couldn’t even read all of the languages in the comments, but it further reinforced that what happens in our small corner of the universe is impactful everywhere else. So we have to act that way — especially elected officials who create policy.

JP: What’s your favorite Batman memory?

RN: In 1989, two things happened. One — my parents separated. And two — I spent that entire summer walking back and forth to the movie theatre. The two films I watched most were the Tim Burton BATMAN film that came out that year, and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. Both of those movies — over and over. Also, when I would come home…..I don’t remember what station it was, but it was some kind of classics channel……they showed the re-runs of the old Batman TV show from the sixties. I remember I also borrowed a Sega from a friend, and those games and those particular films……that BATMAN film…….they got me through a tough period.

JP: You once said that THE TERMINATOR changed your life. I NEED to hear more about that.

RN: First of all, it was a forbidden movie. My parents wouldn’t let me watch ‘R’ movies when I was growing up. So as soon as it came out on VHS, we went to our rental store and rented it. I remember my mom let me watch it, but she made me walk out when it got to the love scene. <laughs> At that time, some of my friends were also dubbing videos. So she found a way to get a dubbed version made with that part blanked out. <laughs> I watched the heck out of it. A friend of mine who actually became a filmmaker himself…..he does a lot of work with Richard Linklater now…..we used to make films just for fun, and we watched so many films together. THE TERMINATOR was our favorite and we would watch it over and over again.

I fell in love with the story. I fell in love with how cool Arnold Schwarzenegger was, of course. I picked up a novelization of the film and it made me say ‘wow’. I mean, there’s so much more to this freaky nightmare that James Cameron had. It was such a tightly-conceived storyline, and it just blew my mind. So ever since then, THE TERMINATOR has been my favorite movie — EVER. And it had just the best elements of the best sci-fi movie you could ever think of. It had great actors, great characters, but in terms of cinema, it had this incredible soundtrack. I’m trying to remember……did Danny Elfman do that one?

JP: Elfman did the ’89 BATMAN soundtrack. I’m trying to remember who did the original TERMINATOR music….

RN: Fiedel! It was Brad Fiedel. It was this incredible synthesized soundtrack. Very Eighties. I still listen to it, just on its own. That movie had everything.

JP: The other thing about that film was it was this seemingly impossible low-budget exercise in problem solving. I don’t know what the budget was for that film, but it had to be less than $10 million, which is minuscule for an effects-heavy film. And with such a low budget, the production design, the effects, all of it…..it’s just masterfully composed.

RN: It made James Cameron. I was just enthralled by it. And like a lot of kids my age, I would play with G.I. Joes. So me and my buddy Justin would make stop-animation films…..some really cool ones. We made up our own stories, but we also re-created THE TERMINATOR stop-animation style using G.I. Joe men. <laughs>

JP: Did you guys find any inspiration from Ray Harryhausen and the old SINBAD films?

RN: Not so much SINBAD, but CLASH OF THE TITANS is one of my favorite films — the original one from ’81.

JP: There you go. Yeah, that was the last film Harryhausen worked on.

RN: Yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorite movies ever. And that was one my mom was OK with me watching.

JP: When that movie first released in theaters, my mother stood in line forever with me to see it. I remember her covering my eyes during certain parts of the film, like when the Medusa came out. After a while, she stopped covering mine, and just covered up her own.

RN: <laughs> Yeah, I love that film.

JP: We’re finding more and more of the world’s great leaders and thinkers possess deep roots in geek culture, and they proudly fly the flag. Barack Obama has been an unabashed Spider-Man fan since childhood. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a devout Trekkie. National Book Award Winner and Macarthur Genius Ta-Nehisi Coates is now writing Black Panther for Marvel. These are people who are driving the ideas that shape the way we see the world and universe. Are there any works of science fiction / fantasy that currently inspire you as a leader?

RN: I still like the classics. I’m inspired by stories about people who overcome long odds. We waited until my son was old enough to understand STAR WARS. So we’re bigtime STAR WARS fans in my house, and we experience those together.

JP: How old is he?

RN: He’s eight. He actually started when he was three or four.

JP: Yeah, we’re about to start watching RETURN OF THE JEDI with my daughter. I waited a while before we finally watched EMPIRE together. There are a lot of daddy issues in that film, so I didn’t want to rush into that one. <laughs>

RN: We let him watch the first one when he was three. We made him wait a little bit for RETURN OF THE JEDI. My wife wanted him to watch the prequels in order. So that meant he had to wait quite a while before she was comfortable with us all watching REVENGE OF THE SITH together.

JP: Some heavy moments in that one.

RN: Yeah, there are parts that my wife didn’t want him to watch until we thought he was ready. My house is very STAR WARS-centric though.

RN: Movies aside — my favorite comic book is CONAN THE BARBARIAN. I would also say that the Schwarzenegger CONAN film is a close second in favorite films. I don’t know how I got away with watching that movie. <laughs> But as soon as I saw it, I was in love with the character, and as a kid, I became a voracious Marvel Comics reader, especially their CONAN comics. To this day, I still have a huge collection of those. I started with THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN — the big magazine size. I read them all out of order because they predated me. I still read them even now. I was completely disappointed in the new remake film. But yeah, as far as the comics, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, CONAN THE DESTROYER, RED SONJA…..all of it.

JP: I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read the Robert E. Howard source material. I really need to do that.

RN: Yeah, when I was a kid in school, I did a poster board presentation of the life and creation of CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

JP: <laughs> That’s cool. Were you ever into Frank Frazetta?

RN: He did a couple of covers for SAVAGE SWORD and I have those. Looking back, those were considered pretty risqué for me. I’d go look for those issues at trade shows, and I almost considered them pornography. <laughs>

I also used to stay up late and watch movies like EXCALIBUR. Every now and then, when I was a kid, for some reason at 11 or 12 o’ clock at night, there was a station that would air EXCALIBUR, and I remember watching it late at night when my parents were asleep. That movie enchanted me as a kid. So yeah, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and EXCALIBUR were the two things that dragged me into a love for fantasy. I’m still a huge film buff, and my wife and I watch movies together all the time.

JP: Is she into sf/f?

RN: Even moreso. Erika loves cinema and theatre so much that she can tell where a movie is going before it gets there. I knew I was marrying the right person the first time we watched STAR WARS together. She’s a huge geek. We both are.

JP: Alright, last question — are there any works of science fiction / fantasy that depict an urban or cultural image that inspires you toward the San Antonio of YOUR best dreams?

RN: Hmmmm. Tough question. I don’t know if there’s a specific film, but there’s a pretty common theme that I’ve detected in sci-fi films — and that’s that people are scared of the future. The cities we see in these stories are so often NOT the kind we want — places where government has overreached and people’s freewill has been suppressed. I think THX-1138 was one of the first films I saw where a society disrespects the individual so much that we end up with Big Brother. I think that science fiction has been a lens for us to look through, showing us what can go wrong if we don’t get things right presently. It’s hard to watch a movie or read a science fiction novel and say, ‘hey, that’s the future I want to live in’ because so often they’re dystopias. They’re warnings to us. I rewatched TOTAL RECALL recently, and sure there are a lot of elements of a city that make me say, ‘hey, that would be awesome.’ I mean, I would love to jump into a Johnny Cab. <laughs> Science fiction shows us how we can improve quality of life through technology, but it’s so important that we properly channel the tools and the knowledge that we gain so that we don’t suppress ourselves as individuals of freewill.

Vote for Ron as San Antonio’s next mayor, beginning Monday, April 24th at your nearest early voting site. Bexar County’s 2017 Mayoral Election Day is Saturday, May 6th. Find your precinct and your voting sites here!

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RON NIRENBERG’S ALL-TIME SF/F FAVES:

Favorite comic book character:

Favorite sf/f book:

All-time favorite sf/f films:
THE TERMINATOR
CONAN THE BARBARIAN
STAR WARS
BLADE RUNNER
FLASH GORDON

SPECTRUM Jurying: The Monday After

John Fleskes locks up Fort Flesk — and this year’s SPECTRUM jurying is now history.

Had the best time this weekend jurying the SPECTRUM 24 Annual with Christian Alzmann, Victo Ngai, Laurie Lee Brom, and Mark Newman. It was mind-blowing, enlightening, and grueling. I miss these people already.

Notes from this weekend:

  1. When submitting digital entries, make sure they’re big enough that jurors can appreciate the love and labor invested in the work. Most entries did. A few good ones didn’t. It was a shame — especially when the work looked so promising.
  2. In the Three-Dimensional Category — photography MATTERS.
  3. WOW. There are SO MANY terrific artists out there right now. Inspiring. Approximately 4700 TOTAL ENTRIES this year from all around the world.
  4. Thanks to Christian, I’ll never look at the acronym “CGI” the same way again.
  5. Most Shocking Moment: Hearing the news that Bill Paxton had suddenly died. The jury was eating Sunday breakfast together, and we proceeded to trade classic Paxton movie lines. Great actors don’t have to win Oscars to be beloved.
  6. Bottom Line: If you’re ever fortunate enough to be a SPECTRUM juror — no matter how many minutes you get with your jury teammates, it won’t be enough.

Thank you, John Fleskes, for making all of this happen. You too, Kathy Chu and Monica Carson. And last but not least — never enough thanks can be given to Arnie and Cathy Fenner for creating the SPECTRUM phenomenon in the first place. I can’t wait to see the finished annual this fall! Onward to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live in Kansas City in two months.

2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo Thoughts

Right now is the 2017 Hugo Awards nomination period and the window to turn in nomination ballots is March 18th. I’ve posted a list of my awards-eligible work, but I want to shine spotlight on five pro artists who all deserve serious Hugo Award consideration. Every year, I hear art fans, authors, and readers asking whether such-and-such art is eligible, or wondering which artists have stood out as cover illustrators.

2016 suggests a different landscape for pro artists than previous Hugo years because I think we’re witnessing the rise of pro illustrators creating major published works where THEY are the storytellers, the brand makers and the IP owners. I find that some of the most invigorating sf/f art is happening within published projects where the illustrators are not answering to someone else’s text or narrative, but their own. These aren’t side projects, but highly-visible releases, capturing large fan followings and critical acclaim. This sea change has not happened overnight, but it’s definitely a wave that’s building as more pro artists push some — or all — of their career efforts in this creator-owned direction.

BROM: LOST GODS, his most recent novel as an author/illustrator, debuted in October to rave reviews. New York Times-bestselling author Richard Kadrey says, “LOST GODS is an adventure tale and a mythic odyssey. It’s like Dante played out in muggy rural graveyards and the depths of Purgatory on the eve of a demonic war.” Sure, Brom’s won the Spectrum Grand Master Award. He’s been revered for three decades for his role-playing game art for TSR and Wizards of the Coast, as well as legendary covers for authors such as Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks and Michael Moorcock, but in 2016, LOST GODS proved once again that he’s one of science fiction/fantasy’s leading lights as an author/illustrator.


PETER MOHRBACHER: Pete has built an art empire all his own with his ANGELARIUM books and limited-edition prints. In 2016, he released a stunning body of new ANGELARIUM work that continues to build a unique character universe, born of his mad imagination. He’s also one of the leading professional artists in his handling of social media and crowd funding platforms, sustaining himself as a pro fantasy artist, exclusively via his creator-owned IP. He’s doing all of this while inspiring creators of all stripes via the weekly webcast “One Fantastic Week”.


WYLIE BECKERT: When you look at the landscape of Kickstarter, it’s littered with playing card decks to such an extent that almost none of them stand out anymore. And then along came Wylie’s WICKED KINGDOM which became a viral sensation in the sf/f art world, mushrooming into a storybook, postcard sets, and more, along with the core playing deck itself. The art is lush and narrative-driven and I think the real star of her output was the storybook, which showed her as a storyteller birthing a personal mythos all her own.


TODD LOCKWOOD: THE SUMMER DRAGON debuted in June and has finished 2016 as one of Amazon.com’s ‘Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of 2016.’ Not bad for a debut effort by an author/illustrator. Todd is beloved worldwide by Dungeons and Dragons fans, and he’s done decades worth of amazing cover work, but when his book went into multiple printings in one year, he showed that the career path of best-selling author and best-selling artist are not mutually exclusive. I think that was one of the most significant developments within fantasy art in 2016.


JEFFREY ALAN LOVE: Jeff has definitely done his fair share of terrific work for venues such as Tor.com, Gollancz, HarperCollins and more, but in 2016, the release of his NOTES FROM THE SHADOWED CITY solidified him as one of the most fascinating graphic storytellers anywhere. Praised by artists such as John Harris, Dave Mckean, Mike Mignola and more — the texts are short, the art is austere, and yet the two together pack a provocative punch, forming one of the coolest and most signature graphic novel debuts of recent years.


Selected 2016 Works

2017 is already flying by so fast. Here are a few of my selected artworks from 2016. For those seeking one-stop summaries of eligible work for the 2017 awards season, I hope this short list is helpful.


‘La Botella’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


‘La Corona’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


‘La Pera’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
October 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Cover illustration for A. Lee Martinez’s THE LAST ADVENTURE OF CONSTANCE VERITY
Client: Saga Press
July 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Interior illustration for Carrie Vaughn’s WILD CARDS story, “The Thing About Growing Up In Jokertown”
Client: Tor.com
December 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)


Cover illustration for George R. R. Martin’s IN THE HOUSE OF THE WORM
Client: Baltimore Science Fiction Society
May 2016
(Art © 2016 John Picacio.)

Deluxe Yoda Drawing For Sale!

IMG_0543Heads up, STAR WARS fans!

I’ve got my ticket to see ROGUE ONE this weekend, and I can’t wait. To commemorate this awesome release, I’m making my very first STAR WARS original artwork available at a special reduced price for the first collector who grabs it. This is a unique collectible — an original proposal drawing for a potential series of tarot-inspired STAR WARS drawings. What better card for Yoda than “Temperance”?

Details as follows:

Title: Temperance (AKA “Feel The Force Flow”)
Dimension: 18″ x 24″ sheet size (11″ x 17″ image area) / Unframed
Media: Graphite and gold acrylic on Strathmore illustration board (the gold shimmers across the whole surface, alternating through coppers and bronzes, as light shifts)
Sale Price: $995 (includes shipping within the continental U.S. and reduced from $1495 list price)

Ships flat. Can only ship to buyers within the continental U.S. for this one. Shipping cost to locales beyond that is prohibitive.
Please email: john (at) johnpicacio (dot) com
Subject line: YODA!

Once I respond to your note and verify that the art is available, you can pay via Paypal at:
picacio (at) grandecom (dot) net

Note that there is only one of these, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
I’ll post a notification here when it’s sold.

May the Force be with you! 🙂

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WORLDS BEYOND GALLERY: VIEWS AND NOTES

It’s been several weeks since Worlds Beyond Gallery and Alamo City Comic Con, and even though I posted a brief post-show ‘thank you’ last month, you can enjoy some additional photos of the event below. First, I have some wrap-up thoughts to share. This exhibition / vendor model was a collaboration between The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (headed by President Sara Felix), Alamo City Comic Con (featuring the combined brainpower of Apple De La Fuente, Austin Rogers, and Wes Hartman), and me. Media-centric pop culture and comic book conventions are proliferating across the country, but very of these cons have successful models for booking and presenting top-quality professional illustrator talents. Unfortunately, when these shows feature such artists, they usually mix them into Artist Alley situations with sequential art pros, who are themselves competing with a tsunami of unlicensed knockoff art product. The result is generally less than optimal. Until Worlds Beyond, there have been precious few (if any) successful efforts to brand, present, promote, market and cultivate that audience within major media / pop-culture-centric conventions. San Diego Comic Con International does it well in its own way, but with the growing number of mid-market regional pop-culture / comic conventions, there seem to be experiments worth trying and a void worth filling. That was one vector that led to Worlds Beyond Gallery happening, but there was another equally important one.

On a personal note — I see my pro art career shifting toward more of a ‘creator-owned’ model, developing my own intellectual properties, and writing / illustrating my own stories. That doesn’t mean I’m jettisoning my career as a freelance illustrator, but it does mean investing more time on my own material than I did for the first fifteen years of my career. I’m not alone in this career shape, as major illustrators such as Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, Ruth Sanderson, Jeffrey Alan Love, and Todd Lockwood have made similar choices, along with Shaun Tan, Gregory Manchess, Wylie Beckert, Greg Ruth, Tara McPherson, and a rising number of visually-centric entrepreneurs. That means new stories, new characters, new properties, new art, and new visions, as opposed to just talented artists re-drawing other people’s properties. It means the visual artist is the creative fountainhead and owner of his/her destiny, and I think that renaissance is worth celebrating with pop-culture audiences craving the next shock of the new. That curatorial focus coupled with the need to connect new streams of art audiences with new visual creators was the inspiration for Worlds Beyond Gallery. (Big salute to Pete Barnstrom for the terrific WBG promo video, and Lou Anders doing his own thing with the separate ACCC / Young Adventurers literary track, as well as all of the ACCC volunteers and WBG booth assistants).

Patrick and Jeanne Wilshire and the exhibition / vendor model they created at Illuxcon deserve a huge shoutout. So do Arnie and Cathy Fenner and what they have cultivated with Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (now working alongside John Fleskes). Those two shows were HUGE inspirations for what was done with Worlds Beyond Gallery, but they’re also independent events — a VERY different proposition from what WBG may have just established.

Worlds Beyond Gallery marked the creation of a working boutique model that can now be evolved, expanded, and improved. All of the artists brought their ‘A-game’ and considering this was a first-time effort, I think the event was a remarkable success. Everyone presented their latest creator-owned works, including a wide array of original artwork available for buying and up-close enjoyment, such as my first official Loteria original art exhibition. Throngs of fans old and new bought merchandise and art from all of the artists. Representatives from other major conventions expressed amazement and awe when they saw the foot traffic and the polish of the display and exhibitions. Who knows — maybe someday we’ll look back upon this as a game changer. Sara and I have been exchanging thoughts. Once the ACCC guys have recovered from staging a huge convention, they’ll possibly have a thought or two about what they experienced. We’ll look at the options and see where this goes. I’m excited about the possibilities. Onward to the next evolution.

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SETTING UP: Gallery walls were over eight feet tall and sixteen inches thick.

 

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BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME: Fans flowed through Worlds Beyond Gallery all weekend long. The format of the space wowed congoers, and created an intimate art experience not previously seen at this convention.

 

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IN LOTERIA WE TRUST: Worlds Beyond Gallery marked my first official Loteria original art exhibition — displaying eight of my original drawings together for the first time. The first series of my Loteria Grande art cards completely sold out at this show and won’t be reprinted in that format.

 

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LA SIRENA AND COMPANY: Here’s a closer look at four of my Loteria originals, as we head toward Brom’s display.

 

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LOST GODS: Brom exhibited some of the original paintings from his new LOST GODS book.

 

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BEFORE THE STORM: Brom encouraged fans to venture into his booth to view originals up close, as did all of the WBG artists.

 

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SWARMED: This is what Brom’s booth looked like for much of the weekend. He signed books and prints galore, and his LOST GODS book was a hot item.

 

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GOLDEN KEY: Ruth Sanderson presented a terrific display of originals and prints. Her scratchboard work is stunning to behold.

 

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WELCOME TO ANGELARIUM: Here’s Peter Mohrbacher’s assistant Sasha holding down the fort, as Pete exhibited a wide array of limited-run prints and merchandise related to his ANGELARIUM universe.

 

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STRENGTH IN SIMPLICITY: Jeffrey Alan Love presented a gridded array of over forty small original works, hung with mere binder clips. It was an elegant presentation that encouraged art traffic and sales, while promoting his debut graphic novel NOTES FROM THE SHADOWED CITY– which sold out before show’s end.

 

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NO PHOTOS PLEASE: Dragon artist extraordinaire Todd Lockwood presented a gorgeous display of limited-edition prints, posters, and merchandise, while autographing his new book THE SUMMER DRAGON all weekend long.

 

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DRAGON LOVE: I don’t know how many copies of THE SUMMER DRAGON Todd shipped to Worlds Beyond, but it was a lot, and few remained by show’s end.

 

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TAKING IT ALL IN: It was fun to see people step into the Worlds Beyond space and not want to leave. It truly felt like a mothership of the illustrative arts landed in the middle of a comic book convention.

 

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2016 WORLDS BEYOND GALLERY ARTISTS: (l to r) Ruth Sanderson, Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, John Picacio, Todd Lockwood, Jeffrey Alan Love

And if that’s not enough for you — here’s some more Worlds Beyond Gallery fun. 🙂

LOTERIA: THE ORIGINAL ART

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This past October, I was proud to exhibit eight of my Loteria final graphite drawings together for the first time at Worlds Beyond Gallery, co-sponsored by Alamo City Comic Con and The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA). I spent many days and nights drawing these, and this was the first time these beloved originals were formally exhibited together. It was fun watching people circulate through the display, eyeballing the work up close. Over the years, I’ve turned down several buy offers because I wanted to present them together at a special occasion like Worlds Beyond.

Now that I’ve done that, these eight originals are now available for sale, and I suspect some of them will sell very quickly. All prices include shipping within the continental United States. Please email me with questions and inquiries. john (at) johnpicacio (dot) com

(below)  LA SIRENAWINNER / 2013 Chesley Award for Best Product Illustration • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / SOLD2sirenagraphite(below)  LA CALAVERAFINALIST / 2015 Chesley Award for Best Product Illustration • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $65007calaveragraphite(below)  EL VENADOFINALIST / 2015 Chesley Award for Best Unpublished Monochrome Work • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $50006venadographite(below)  LA BOTELLA • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $50001botellagraphite(below)  EL ARPAFINALIST / 2014 Chesley Award for Best Product Illustration • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $65008arpagraphite(below)  LA LUNAFINALIST / 2014 Chesley Award for Best Unpublished Monochrome Work • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $65004lunagraphite(below)  EL MUNDO • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $50005mundographite(below)  EL ARBOLWINNER / 2016 Chesley Award for Best Product Illustration • Graphite on Strathmore 500 Bristol • Professionally-framed and matted with Masterpiece Acrylic • 11″ x 18″ (raw original dimension) • 17″ x 24″ (framed dimension) / $70003arbolgraphite

Gift Ideas From Worlds Beyond

If you missed Worlds Beyond Gallery at this year’s Alamo City Comic Con, it was one of the stellar art events of 2016. Brom, Todd Lockwood, Peter Mohrbacher, Ruth Sanderson, Jeffrey Alan Love and I were the six featured artists, and thanks to a partnership between ACCC and ASFA (The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, headed by Sara Felix), this inaugural gallery exhibition / vendor experience was an eye-popping success. Here are six out-of-this-world holiday gift ideas, for the art lovers in your life — or for yourself. 🙂

LOST GODS: For readers who love classic mythology and modern nightmares — the latest novel written and illustrated by Brom is for you. New York Times best-selling author Richard Kadrey says, “LOST GODS is an adventure tale and a mythic odyssey. It’s like Dante played out in muggy rural graveyards and the depths of Purgatory on the eve of a demonic war.” Pictured upper right is an original Brom painting I happily acquired at Worlds Beyond Gallery. It’s one of the header illustrations in the new book. The bottom images feature Brom’s WBG exhibition setup, as he autographs books and prints for ACCC fans.nov25brom

THE GOLDEN KEY: For readers who love classic fairy tales and timeless art — there’s Ruth Sanderson’s brand-new, gorgeously-illustrated version of the George MacDonald classic. And if you order it before December 1st, she’ll send you a free, autographed book plate. Her scratchboard work is masterful, and I was lucky enough to come home with the amazing Green Man masterpiece you see in the upper right. Thank you, Ruth! She had a terrific display of originals and prints at Worlds Beyond, and across her lengthy bibliography of illustrated children’s’ works, I think THE GOLDEN KEY interiors are some of her all-time best.nov25ruthTHE SUMMER DRAGON: For dragon-loving epic fantasy readers — Todd Lockwood is a beloved artist amongst Dungeons and Dragons fans worldwide, and this is his debut novel as an author / illustrator. It’s one of Amazon.com’s Best Science Fiction / Fantasy Books of 2016. Best-selling SHANNARA author Terry Brooks says, “The master of dragon art brings the same skills to dragon storytelling. This is a compelling, fully realized story which is as detailed and exciting as anything since the Pern tales. A sure winner.”
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ANGELARIUM: For Magic The Gathering fans and lovers of lush art prints — Pete has a fan following as an MTG artist, but his current, creator-owned Angelarium work is the best of his career so far. If you want one of his time-limited edition prints of Raziel: Angel of Mysteries — ACT FAST because the deadline to order is Friday, November 25th. If you miss out on that, his ANGELARIUM: BOOK OF EMANATIONS is a winner. I love the way Pete’s building his art brand, and I’m already looking forward to ANGELARIUM: BOOK OF WATCHERS.
nov25pete

NOTES FROM THE SHADOWED CITY: For graphic novel fans — I think this is one of the coolest illustrated stories of the year. It’s a book about swords and magic, memory and loss. The format is not the typical ‘sequential art’ format one expects from a graphic novel, but books like this expand the possibilities of what graphic novels can be. I loved Jeff’s spare and elegant display he exhibited at Worlds Beyond, and I was fortunate to acquire a couple of his small original works, pictured upper and lower right.
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LOTERIA GRANDE CARDS / SERIES TWO: For card collectors, Loteria lovers, and tarot aficionados — this deluxe five-card set debuted at ACCC, and will only be available online until December 5th! Cards measure a giant-size 4.5″ x 7.5″ and are printed on thick card stock, with my final graphite drawings reproduced on the reverse side. Pictured here are the five cards in the new set, as well as a glimpse of my Worlds Beyond Gallery display, featuring eight of the full-size graphite originals exhibited for the first time together.nov25john

Best wishes to everyone this holiday season!

Say The ‘M’ Word

Closeup detail of "El Mundo", from John Picacio's LOTERIA art series.

Closeup detail of “El Mundo”, from John Picacio’s LOTERIA art series.

Mexican American.

If you are, you should be proud.

And whether you are or you’re not, you hear the American media and our political parties use the words “Latino” and “Hispanic” instead of using the “M” word, when speaking on Mexican stories, peoples and issues. We’ve seen one political party directly demonize Mexican peoples in order to catalyze fear, while the opposing party responded by repeatedly messaging “Latinos” and “Hispanics”, missing the massive opportunity to use the term “Mexican American” as a proud call to action.

It was a costly mistake, as there are 35.8 million people in the US that self-identify as Mexican American — a full 11% of the total US population, and growing. We see that cultural misstep further demonstrated in this week’s post-election analysis, as graphs flash across our screens about a surprising “Latino” / “Hispanic” vote that favored the attacking candidate more than many would have imagined. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Guatamalans weren’t generalized as ‘rapists’ and ‘killers’. And yet, the media kept choosing not to use the “M” word, lumping Mexican American voters in with a bloc that supposedly operates in lockstep. So wrong. It doesn’t work that way. The Democrats failed to directly appeal to the hearts and minds of MEXICAN AMERICANS. By using the words “Latino” and “Hispanic”, they instead spoke to a coalition made of marketing mirage more than ideological unity.

I have yet to see the voting numbers for Mexican Americans in the election because the skewed headline of a “surprisingly high” Latino / Hispanic vote for the attacking party is the lede. It seems to label Mexican Americans as not caring that they were attacked and demonized, further compounding cultural abuse. Bear in mind that this is not just a right-leaning media framing. Left-leaning media and pollsters make this mistake time after time, even as they continue serving themselves their own cultural polling data in myopic ways. In future, I hope Democrats realize how important it is to address Mexican Americans as Mexican Americans, and stop being fooled by the illusions of the marketing agencies and census bureau agendas that crafted these terms in the first place.

When you want to communicate with someone, you use their chosen name, look them directly in the eye, and speak as equals. You don’t make up a nickname, talk over the person in front of you, while staring over their head at some crowd in the distance. It’s no wonder marketers, pollsters, politicians, and sales honks can’t connect with Mexican Americans. You won’t connect with anyone that way!

Do I think Mexican Americans should wage war on the words “Latino” and “Hispanic”? NO. I don’t think that’s a smart use of energy. Those umbrella terms are appropriate harbors for some people’s dreams and journeys, and they can serve a purpose. But for Mexican Americans, I invite all of us to hereby take our 63% within the “Latino” / “Hispanic” labels, redirect our self-identification, and begin taking charge of our narratives, our power, and our futures. Sail forth. Boldly go.

I had already begun doing that for myself, prior to this country’s latest Day of Infamy, but as part of my own plan-of-action, I hereby pledge to proudly self-identify as “Mexican American” where appropriate and avoid substituting “Latino”, “Hispanic”, “Tejano” or “Chicano” to label myself. I pledge to use some of my forthcoming works to offer new dimensions of hope and inspiration to my Mexican peoples, while working as a creator that can resonate with ALL peoples and audiences, as I have for the last twenty years. My friend Leigh Bardugo said to me last week, “You’re a citizen of the world.” She’s right — first and foremost, I am that. Always and forever.

I’m John Picacio.

Citizen of Planet Earth, here to serve all, and continue giving my all, especially in this time of urgent need for new art, stories, and hope.

American illustrator and storyteller.

Mexican American.

Brown and proud.

 

 

 

Worlds Beyond Gallery • Thank You, SA!

The Worlds Beyond Gallery Artists / Alamo City Comic Con 2016: Ruth Sanderson, Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, John Picacio, Todd Lockwood, and Jeffrey Alan Love.

The Worlds Beyond Gallery Artists / Alamo City Comic Con 2016: Ruth Sanderson, Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, John Picacio, Todd Lockwood, and Jeffrey Alan Love. (Photo by Sara Felix / ASFA President)

If you saw the Worlds Beyond Gallery this weekend at Alamo City Comic Con, you experienced something that hasn’t quite been done before at a major pop culture convention — a museum-level exhibition of original contemporary sf/f artwork with the creators live and in-person all weekend, meeting fans and signing merchandise within a custom-built museum environment. True — there are amazing illustrator lineups at San Diego Comic Con, NYCC, and other major cons, but none of those experiences coupled the art and the talent with the architectural and spatial experience that was just produced within a media con like ACCC, with the invaluable sponsorship support of The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA).

Ruth Sanderson, Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, Todd Lockwood, Jeffrey Alan Love and I were the six artists featured, and wow, there was some artistic firepower on those walls and tables. I said it earlier today on Twitter, but I felt the world tilt a little after watching thousands of people flow through the walls of this exhibition this weekend, eyeballs popping wide, mouths agape. I saw thousands of people stunned by the work of illustrators creating their own intellectual properties and telling their own stories in words and pictures, and I saw those thousands spending money strong and steady on this, instead of row after row of knockoff licensed property art.

If you weren’t there, you truly missed one of the best sf/f art happenings of 2016. From my vantage point, it was a joy to see my artist pals succeed. I loved watching Pete sell out of his ANGELARIUM card decks. I loved watching Brom sell out of all of his books. I loved watching Jeff sell out his copies of NOTES FROM THE SHADOWED CITY. I loved watching Todd sell almost every copy of THE SUMMER DRAGON. I loved watching big gaps open up on Ruth’s display as artworks sold to happy collectors. And I loved watching the first series of my Loteria Grande cards completely sell out forever.

The camaraderie amongst the artists was one of my very favorite experiences of recent years. We helped each other. We rooted for each other. We ate and drank together. We talked shop together. The ‘we’ was bigger than the ‘me’. While the initial spark of this venture may have been my idea, it was teamwork that made the whole thing work. It was fun watching representatives of other conventions wonder how this was done, and ask what it would take to have our lineup appear at their show with an experience like this.

After it was over, we ventured to the home of a world-class sf/f art collector here in SA, and it felt like we all went to church together, mesmerized by the original works of Virgil Finlay, Richard Powers, Ian Miller, John Berkey, Don Maitz, Michael Whelan, Bernie Wrightson, J. Allen St. John, Ed Emshwiller, and so many more art legends. It took so much work to make Worlds Beyond Gallery happen, but it was all worth it.

Where does something like this go from here? I don’t know yet, but I will soon. I’m still assessing what just happened in the months leading into this show, as well as the show itself. I do think the key word is ‘evolve’. I purposely wanted this exhibition to celebrate the works of contemporary fantastic artists creating their own properties and I know that was the right call, and it will continue to be the right call moving forward. Anything less than that is selling this short, within pop-culture convention environments starved for this kind of originality and art value. Major applause to Apple De La Fuente, Sara Felix, Austin Rogers, Wes Hartman, Merlin, Elaine Ryan, Becky Searson, Pete Barnstrom, Jose Guajardo and all of the people who helped make Worlds Beyond Gallery not only a reality, but an unqualified success for fans and artists alike. And most of all, thank you to all of the art lovers who experienced an sf/f art happening that will likely reverberate for years to come.

Worlds Beyond Gallery!

SIXPACKworldsbeyondHRIf you love science fiction / fantasy art, San Antonio, TX is the place-to-be this Halloween weekend. Alamo City Comic Con and the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists are bringing together six major fantasy illustrators for an unforgettable weekend of original art, merchandise, and autographings. The event is called Worlds Beyond Gallery and it features a lineup of professional art talent unlike any previously seen in San Antonio. I’m proud to be part of this inaugural art roster, joining Brom, Todd Lockwood, Ruth Sanderson, Jeffrey Alan Love, and Peter Mohrbacher as this year’s guests. Your WBG admission is free with the purchase of an Alamo City Comic Con admission badge, and it all happens at ACCC this October 28-30 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

ACCC and ASFA are offering San Antonio the chance to help expand the arts tradition and expectations in this city. As a native San Antonian, I’ve often heard locals lament that big cities such as New York, LA, Seattle, and Philadelphia score the coolest new art happenings, while SA misses out. Opportunities are rare for a city to prove itself as an arts leader and build a burgeoning fantasy art market for which other cities can only dream. That’s the opportunity facing San Antonio this October. What can you do to further the cause? It’s easy.

BE THERE. Get your ACCC badge today and make Worlds Beyond one of your must-see Halloween destinations this year. Be inspired by some of the most imaginative artists working in sf/f, and enjoy one of America’s fastest-growing pop culture conventions.

SPREAD THE BUZZ. Visit the Worlds Beyond Gallery Facebook Page and give it a ‘Like’. To receive updates on the show, visit the Worlds Beyond Gallery Event Page and let them know you’re ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’. These gestures may seem super-easy, but they’re both a big boost. If you don’t do Facebook — no worries. Use your favorite social media to tell your art-loving friends about Worlds Beyond.

SEIZE THE MOMENT. Start planning your Worlds Beyond visit today. This will be the first appearance in San Antonio for many of the featured artists, and their art is coveted by collectors throughout the world. If you’re an art collector, this will be a rare chance to acquire originals and prints directly from the artists without the perils of online buying and shipping. PRO TIP: When you come to ACCC, make WBG one of your early booth destinations. The artists are bringing a limited supply of originals and merchandise with them, and much of it will likely sell quickly. If you’re an aspiring illustrator or student, bring your portfolio. Socialize. Ask questions. Use this opportunity to improve your craft. PRO TIP: Be courteous, and choose the time wisely when asking for portfolio advice. If an artist has customers waiting, let he/she attend to those transactions. Be patient and wait for an appropriate moment to approach for advice. 

CREATORS FTW! Yes, all of the artists in this WBG lineup are major professional artists who have enjoyed successful commercial art careers, but all of the artists were chosen because they’re each developing their own creative properties. Some are writer / illustrators. Some are developing intellectual properties and merchandising lines. Some are doing both. All are building creator-owned careers and Worlds Beyond was designed by ACCC and ASFA to celebrate that. It’s true that amongst the six, you’ll see artwork commissioned by familiar franchises such as Star Trek, the X-Men, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire, and many, many more, but what sets this event apart is it’s an exhibition of contemporary fantastic art and storymaking wholly owned by the visual creators. This isn’t just the future of art, folks. This is the now, and I’m proud to be part of a growing number of pro artists helping to blaze that path for others to follow and succeed.

HALLOWEEN COSPLAY ON THE RIVERWALK!! Need I say more? How epic is the cosplay going to be at this show?? Show off your costume with all of us at Worlds Beyond, even if your best disguise is yourself. 🙂 We can’t wait to see who you become. We can’t wait to see you there.

(Video by Pete Barnstrom for Alamo City Comic Con.)

THE LAST ADVENTURE OF CONSTANCE VERITY

VERITYsq2picacioA. Lee Martinez’s The Last Adventure of Constance Verity debuts today in hardcover from Saga Press, and I illustrated the cover art for this one. Here you see the final cover art, an enlarged detail of the final graphite drawing, and the finished cover with typography. The final drawing is 22″ x 28″and I had fun drawing Constance big.

Who is she? As the author says, “she’s Nancy Drew, John Carter, and a little bit of Doc Savage all rolled into one. She’s fought aliens, vampires, and dinosaurs. She’s been to the edge of the universe, the center of the Earth, and the beginning of time.” She’s done it all, folks. So what does someone this super want more than anything else? Read the book and find out. 🙂 A funny tale full of absurd humor and snark awaits you. Seriously, if you like your fantasy snarky — and so many of you do — THIS BOOK IS YOUR JAM.

There’s another good reason to pick this one up this week, and to illustrate that, I want to talk about the depiction of race on book covers. We’ve seen so many fails, face palms, and missed opportunities (understatement) when it comes to the depiction of non-white characters on book covers. When Saga Press’ editorial guru Joe Monti sent me the manuscript, I discovered there was very little description of Constance’s physical features. It was clear that this was done on purpose, and thus, I had to question how much I wanted to reveal her features on the cover, as I designed the character. I decided early in the process that I wanted to propose we not hide Constance, and that we not default her toward being an exclusively Caucasian character. I wanted her to be multi-ethnic. I wanted to see some Mexican@. I wanted to see some Asian. I wanted to see if I could create a character that could include more of us rather than only some of us.

For those that don’t work in publishing, I know this sounds like a perfectly innocent idea, but trust me, that this kind of visual proposal makes many sales/marketing/editorial/art departments VERY NERVOUS. There’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in publishing amongst many (but thankfully, not all) that says, “COVERS FEATURING NON-WHITE CHARACTERS DO NOT SELL.”

Let me say for the record — I would love for all of us — you, me, and the person next to you — to finally kick that ridiculous mentality from here to oblivion, never to return. We have a long way to go. We can do this though. Want to be a part of the winning?

Buy this book during its release week. Tell friends to do so. Spread the word. Shock the publishers and the bookstores, and send this book to a second printing in record time. Publishers love success, and other publishers love to copy that success. This mission is doable and IT SENDS A MESSAGE THAT NON-WHITE CHARACTERS ON COVERS DO SELL BOOKS.

And if you don’t care about race issues on covers? No worries — Lee’s book stands on its own with an action-packed story that will leave you wanting more Constance in your life.

Final note — this was a TEAM effort to allow me to draw Constance this way. I asked to do so, but you can thank Saga Press’ editorial chief Joe Monti, art director Michael McCartney, and the author himself for saying, “Sure. Why not?” Without all of them saying those three little words, Constance would be someone else, instead of being a little more of us.

Comicpalooza 2016

ClWOlm8UoAE5gjpBack in studio after a weekend guesting at Comicpalooza 2016 in Houston. Great con, great fans.

Thank you, HTown, for buying every single Loteria Grande pack that I brought with me. Sold out of my stock at the show. Loteria Posters were flying. Loved meeting so many of you and watching the Loteria Army grow.

Thanks to all of the writers and artists who swung by my Artists Alley booth to visit. Really enjoyed talking shop and drinking scotch with C. Robert Cargill and Adam Rakunas.

Thank you to John Simons, JJ Shaw, Mark Schmidt, Vijay Kale, James Burns, and the entire CP team for giving their all to put on a dynamite convention. Comicpalooza reminds me a lot of Alamo City Comic Con here in SA, in that it’s an event run on heart and soul. There are a lot of volunteers giving everything they have so that fans and pros have a great experience. I love the way they mix some of the writers and artists into the celebrity area. I love the little details they do like providing banners for all of the guests, including the creatives. It’s smart business. This was my first time guesting at Comicpalooza and next year, I hope to bring even more Loteria Lovers and ASoIaF fans to the show.

2016 Chesley Award Finalist Times Two!

ARBOLpicacioVery proud to be a 2016 Chesley Award Nominee in two categories! Hooray!! 🙂

My Loteria card art for ‘El Arbol’ is a finalist for Best Product Illustration. I’m elated not just because Loteria is my creator-owned property and ongoing ship of dreams, but because ‘El Arbol’ is a tribute to my friend, the great Jay Lake. Even though his novels and stories would always endure, I asked him before his passing if he wanted to live on as a tree of life. He said ‘let’s do it’ and this drawn art was the final result. This one’s for you, Jay.

SNATCHERSpicacioLRIn the Best Cover Illustration / Paperback category, my art for Jack Finney’s classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a finalist as well. Cherlynne Li was my art director on this 60th anniversary cover for Simon & Schuster / Touchstone. Last year, I shared my thoughts that led to this cover art. Thank you to Cherlynne for allowing me the freedom to visually re-present one of science fiction’s classic stories in a fresh way that hasn’t been done before. (And thank you to Joe Monti, with whom this job would not have happened otherwise.)

Congratulations to all of this year’s Chesley Award finalists. These are the awards given by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) and wow, it’s a WORLD-CLASS ballot, chockful of stunning work. Special shoutout to my fellow artists who are also nominated in the Best Product Illustration category — Linda Adair, Mitchell Bentley, Rovina Cai, Jacob Murray, and Magali Villeneuve — and in the Best Cover Illustration / Paperback category — Julie Dillon, Tyler Jacobson, Jeffrey Alan Love and David Palumbo. Honored to be amongst all of you, and THANK YOU AGAIN, ASFA.

Final voting is open to all ASFA members and begins today, June 6th, concluding on June 26th. The awards will be announced in August at the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City.  Join ASFA today to make your voice heard and your votes count. 

Thank You, Balticon 50!

Cover art by me for a limited-edtion GRRM hardcover novella, exclusively available via the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Cover art by me for a limited-edtion GRRM hardcover novella, exclusively available via the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Great times this past weekend at Balticon 50, where George R. R. Martin and I were Guests of Honor, along with Mark Van Name, Fran Wilde, Alexandra Duncan, Kim Stanley Robinson, and an impressive roster of past GoHs such as Charles Stross, Peter Beagle, Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Phil & Kaja Foglio, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, and more. The level of creative talent in the building felt like a miniature version of Worldcon.

GRRM and me during the onstage "Conversation" event. That was fun. :)

GRRM and me during the onstage “Conversation” event. That was fun. 🙂

Huge congratulations to Nora Echeverria and the entire con com for achieving the single largest Balticon attendance ever. THANK YOU to all of the con attendees who packed the seats for my programming items– and especially my Loteria game session and onstage interview with GRRM, which were filled to capacity. Great job by Sarah Pinsker and Michael R. Underwood on their Dangerous Voices Variety Hour event. Thank you to Fan Guests of Honor Martin Deusch, Shirley Avery, Sue, Nora, Anna, Meredith, Filthy + the Art Show staff for setting up a terrific Art Show and thank you to all who made it a big success as almost all of my A Song of Ice and Fire artwork sold out, along with so many framed originals and prints. I sold out of Loteria Grande Card Sets and signed countless items at my Artists Alley table. Before the con even began, George and I pre-signed 500 limited-edition copies of a new GRRM hardcover novella that I illustrated called In The House of the Worm. (Special thanks to Sean Wallace for making it happen.) This convention was an intense and absolute joy.

I had a blast spending time with George, Parris, Lenore, and Jo. Enjoyed the conversations and quality minutes that I had with so many pros and fans. Always much love and best of times with The Hardest Buckaroos — the Brotherhood Without Banners — Martha, Doug, Christine, Eddie, Neal, Yags, Pod, Kristina, Dave, Douglas, Caryn, Meg, Bill and everyone. Special shoutout to my IMPALED PHALLUS bandmates! 😉

So many people gave their all to make this con happen, as is always the case with fan-run conventions (thank you, Allison, Adrienne, Joe, Roy, Anna, and all). Did Balticon have massive problems with its programming schedule? Absolutely. And yet, thanks to the grit and resilience of diehard volunteers, I saw nothing but joy from every fan I encountered. Romeo Capriotti, this is for you. (Thea, change the words to “woman” and “ma’am” and same applies.) You did a great job, Romeo. Best GoH Liaison I could ask for.

Linda Wenzelburger: Your take on my “La Calavera” is one of my favorite cosplays EVER! Gorgeous work! Made my con. <applause>

Linda Wenzelburger's completely awesome "La Calavera" cosplay (Inset: Cropped detail of my "La Calavera" Loteria artwork.)

Linda Wenzelburger’s completely awesome “La Calavera” cosplay (Inset: Cropped detail of my “La Calavera” Loteria artwork.)

You were amazing, Balticon. In closing, I’m going to share some words from Nora, who chaired this event. This is from her FB page, and I hope she won’t mind. I think it adds some much-needed context.

“i want to thank everyone who helped organize, work, volunteer and attend Balticon 50. You ALL made this an amazing show.

In particular i want to thank Jonette Butler for coming up with the idea for bringing back our Alumni Guests of Honor and for being the driving force behind that and our fundraising projects. Because of her, we were able to raise well over $55,000 AND bring back every Guest of Honor Alumnus who wished to attend. And they all had a wonderful time.”

And especially the following words:

“At the end of the day, Balticon is run by volunteers. We do not take a salary, we have jobs and families and other obligations, i.e., LIFE. We work hard but we make mistakes. We aim for the moon and sometimes we hit it and sometimes we crash back down to earth. We all come together to do this out of our love for the genre and of fandom.”

Well said, Nora — and thank you again, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society! It was an honor to be with you!

George R. R. Martin and Nora Echeverria at the Balticon 50 Guest of Honor Dinner.

George R. R. Martin and Nora Echeverria at the Balticon 50 Guest of Honor Dinner.