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.

The 2016 Best Professional Artist Hugo Award

book-complete-elmore-2Need help making sense of the Hugo Finalist list in the Best Professional Artist category? Grab yourself an adult beverage. Easy on the ice.

Got it? Good.

After looking over the nominees announced today, I’m seeing an absence of many talents that represent the best of the contemporary sf/f art world. Off the top of my head, names like David Palumbo, Greg Ruth, Rebecca Guay, Gerald Brom, Peter Mohrbacher, Jeffrey Alan Love, Wylie Beckert, Sam Weber, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, and more. They all had Hugo-eligible bodies of work this year.

It’s rare that I share my personal views on any award publicly. Exceptions include speaking up on behalf of working 3D artists and their professional value regarding the new World Fantasy Award design. Earlier this year, George R. R. Martin asked me to contribute a few Hugo recommendations on his blog, and since he’s a friend, I gave it a go. I’m making another exception here. The reason I’m writing this post is there will be a group of people awarding a Hugo to a pro artist this year, and some of those voters might look at the finalist list and think all of the Pro Artist finalists share equal value. In this case, that would be a poor assumption. 

First, when reviewing the finalists’ work, check eligibility. Don’t cast a vote for a Pro Artist Hugo nominee unless you’re certain they have eligible work published in 2015. Check it yourself. Don’t assume.

And here’s an assist:

Larry Elmore is a legendary and deeply influential fantasy illustration icon, who has had a huge impact on generations of Dungeons & Dragons fans — game players, writers, artists, editors, publishers, designers, filmmakers, convention organizers — and beyond. More to the point, he has a major body of published eligible work in 2015 and that work doesn’t take extensive sleuthing to discern whether it’s eligible. His book The Complete Elmore Volume II contains over 700 drawings from a career dating back to 1981, and was produced and first published in the fall of 2015.

Was Larry Elmore amongst my nomination selections? No. He wasn’t.

Do I believe that ‘No Award’ is an option this year? It’s the Hugos. It’s always an option.

No disrespect to the other finalists, but Larry Elmore winning a Hugo would not be a lifetime achievement award but it would recognize a lifetime of professional art achievement by someone who is legitimately eligible this year.

The history of that winners list would be shinier with his name on it.

If you’re feeling disoriented as a voter — don’t get twisted. This is an easy one.

Given this year’s five choices, it’s Larry Elmore.

Good luck, Larry.

**********

BONUS HUGO THOUGHTS:

Posts like this one should not need to exist, but if you’re waiting for me to publicly say negative things about this year’s Hugo art finalists, it’s not happening. I do think this last two years of Hugo nomination results in the Pro Artist category represents a tidal shift in who is nominating the Hugos. I think it’s a missed opportunity for pro artists to let this moment slip past. Many sf/f artists deservedly care about the Spectrum Awards, the Chesleys, or Infected By Art because they promote artists and celebrate what we do. I think the only thing that stops the Hugos from being more included in that conversation is ourselves as pro artists. I often hear artists say that only writers and literary fans vote on the Hugo, and that’s why they don’t vote. I always felt like that was self-fulfilling prophecy. Why shouldn’t we as pro artists expect the best from the Hugos as much as we do any other art award, if it has a Pro Artist category? I would encourage us as pro artists to better shape the Hugo discussion as we see fit next year. Be vocal about it. I’m not saying to campaign for yourself, but I am saying to make your 2016 body of published work accessible where people can see that it’s eligible for consideration. Promote your favorite works by others for Hugo voter consideration. Nominate and vote in the Hugos, even if the Pro Artist category is the only one you vote on. Pro Tip: Your single category ballot is counted as equally valid alongside ballots filled out across their entirety.

Weirdly, because of this recent flux, it feels to me like there’s a real opportunity for more of the names listed at the top to be recognized. The writers and literary tribes aren’t going to do this for us. We have to do it. I’ve often heard artists say they have no nomination chance unless they attend Worldcon. Stephan Martiniere has won without attending a Worldcon. Julie Dillon was nominated before attending her first Worldcon. Dan Dos Santos has been nominated multiple times with 2009 being his lone Worldcon appearance (if memory serves). The point is — these people were Hugo finalists and/or winners because of enormous professional art talent and visibility, not because of convention campaign skills. That Worldcon-or-bust myth doesn’t fly.

My advice: If artists feel that the award’s voting control is a monopoly beyond reach, the current chaos has proven that view is obsolete at best. Part of the joy of being an artist is being a change agent. There’s a window of opportunity right now where major contemporary pro sf/f artists can shape Hugo nominations toward a view more reflective of the sf/f field’s rich professional excellence. 2017 will be here before we know it. I don’t know how long that window stays open, but I hope the best sf/f artists notice. It’s not about campaigning. It’s about visibility.

For as long as I’ve had a career, pro artists have told me the Hugos are uncool. Eleven years ago, a respected and popular pro told me one of the worst things that could happen to my career would be a Hugo nomination. I thought he was joking. His reply, “Seriously, man. You don’t want that. I’m not kidding.” Maybe I’m a dork, but hearing that it was so uncool to him made it cooler to me. It didn’t hurt that Whelan, Frazetta, Di Fate, the Dillons, and more must have been even more ‘uncool’ for winning it. I wanted to be uncool like them. Awards are what we make of them, and I think the current disarray means this award’s voting base is being remade across all categories. Ignore all of the histrionics, and if it makes you feel better, you can even ignore the literary categories. What’s stopping the remaking in the Pro Artist category from belonging to the pro artists?

JordanCon Art Show Preview!

A few of the archival prints available at JordanCon’s Art Show this coming weekend: The top two rows will be signed, limited-edition 17″ x 22″ and will be selling for $125 each, and the bottom row will be 11″ x 14″ at $50 each.

Hey, ATL: Come see me at JordanCon this coming weekend, April 22-24! I’m the Artist Guest of Honor, and here’s a sneak peek of some of the swag I’ll be bringing to the Art Show. Inquire now if you see something you want. WORD TO THE WISE: Many of these will disappear quickly. Visit the Art Show early! Don’t wait until Sunday. 🙂

If you’re a GAME OF THRONES fan or SONG OF ICE AND FIRE hardcore devotee, I’ll be bringing a VERY LIMITED supply of signed archival ASoIaF prints. 11″ x 14″ will be $50. Selected 17″ x 22″ archival prints will be $125, and will have a free archival bag and archival board included with each purchase — which is a special JordanCon bonus that you don’t receive if you order online for the same price!

Original final drawing of Tyrion Lannister for the 2012 George R. R. Martin / A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar. Art © 2012 John Picacio.

Final drawing of Tyrion Lannister for the 2012 George R. R. Martin / A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar. Art © 2012 John Picacio.

I’ll also be exhibiting my Tyrion Lannister original art from the best-selling 2012 George R. R. Martin / A Song of Ice and Fire Calendar. GRRM owns several of the originals from this calendar set, and this is one of the few remaining finals available for sale. Bid in the JordanCon Art Show and add this one-of-a-kind to your wall collection!

Heads up — if you have a particular favorite artwork that you want me to bring, ping before 12 noon CST, Tuesday April 19th and I’ll do what I can to check what has been sent to JordanCon and/or try to bring it with me. No guarantees, but it doesn’t hurt for you to ask. Email: john (at) johnpicacio (dot) com

(top): Loteria posters available at Jordancon this weekend (NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE) // (bottom): The first eleven Loteria Grande cards, available as a set at JordanCon for the low price of $20

(top): Loteria posters available at Jordancon this weekend (NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE) // (bottom): The first eleven Loteria Grande cards, available as a set at JordanCon for the low price of $20

I’ll also be bringing a limited supply of my Loteria posters (El Corazon, La Calavera, and La Luna) for $20 each. These posters are NOT available online, so buy early in the Art Show before they sell out. There will also be a limited supply of my popular Loteria Grande cards at $20 per set. Expect these to sell out quickly as they’ll be priced lower than online. If you’re a card collector, art lover, or tarot aficionado, you’ll love these. And speaking of the game of Loteria (AKA “Mexican Bingo”) — come play and win terrific prizes at 4pm on Saturday! (Perimeter Pavilion — Tables 8 to 12).

My complete schedule is as follows:

I’ll be hanging out in the Art Show:

FRIDAY — 4pm to 7pm
SATURDAY — 10am to 12noon / 2:45pm to 3:45pm / 5:45pm to 7pm
SUNDAY — 10am to 11am

Except for the following events and times, where you can find me:

FRIDAY — 1pm to 2:30pm // OPENING CEREMONIES (Carter)

SATURDAY — 1pm to 2:30pm // THE ART OF JOHN PICACIO (Washington)

SATURDAY — 4pm to 5:30pm // LOTERIA (Perimeter Pavilion — Tables 8 to 12)

SATURDAY — 6:30pm to 7pm // JUDGES CHOICE AWARD (Art Show)

SUNDAY — 11:30am to 1pm // FROM METROPOLIS TO THE MATRIX (Tyler)

SUNDAY — 1pm to 2:30pm // PAY THE ARTIST! (Washington)

And last but certainly not least — WHO WANTS TO WATCH THE GAME OF THRONES PREMIERE ON SUNDAY NIGHT? LET’S GET TOGETHER AND DO THIS, JORDANCON!

Holler. 🙂

HBOjonsnow

 

Selected 2015 Works

Here are a few of my selected artworks from 2015. For those who are seeking one-stop summaries of eligible work for the 2016 awards season as they consider their ballots, I hope this short list is helpful. Usually, I post this kind of info at the beginning of the year, but 2016 has been hella-busy. 🙂 Wishing all artists and creators the very best of luck out there!

SNATCHERSpicacioLR
Cover illustration for Jack Finney’s classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Client: Simon and Schuster / Touchstone
October 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

ARBOLpicacioLR
‘El Arbol’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
December 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

TROEpicacioLR
Cover illustration for the limited edition of Dan Simmons’ THE RISE OF ENDYMION
Client: Subterranean Press
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

NOPALpicacioLR
‘El Nopal’
Product illustration for Loteria
Client: Lone Boy
December 2015
(Art © 2015 John Picacio.)

SPECTRUM 23!

ARBOLpicacioJust heard that “El Arbol” from my ongoing Loteria series has been selected for inclusion in the 23rd edition of SPECTRUM: THE BEST IN CONTEMPORARY FANTASTIC ART, which will release this fall. Thanks very much to this year’s jurors for the honor. 🙂 It bears mentioning again that this work is dedicated to the late, great Jay Lake who modeled for this before his passing. Salud, Jay, and a big hug and shoutout to his family and loved ones. Back to work here making new Loteria artwork!

Infected By Art Vol. 4!

Loteria Grande card artworks for "El Venado" and "El Arbol" by John Picacio.

Loteria Grande card artworks for “El Venado” and “El Arbol” by John Picacio.

Great news — two of my recent artworks, “El Venado” and “El Arbol”, have been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming art annual Infected By Art / Volume 4 (published by Hermes Press). Lauren Panepinto, Allen Williams, Erica Berkowitz, and Patrick Jones were the jurors for this year’s annual. Both pieces were created for my ongoing Loteria series, and that makes their inclusion even more gratifying.

“El Venado” is an homage to the Grisha Trilogy written by my friend Leigh Bardugo, while “El Arbol” is a tribute to the late, great Jay Lake. Shoutout to both of them, and to Jay’s family.

In Loteria We Trust. 🙂

Volume 4 will be available in bookstores everywhere during the last quarter of 2016. Congratulations to all of the artists selected for this amazing book!

Today’s The Day

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Got my tickets for tonight’s 7:30pm screening of The Force Awakens. If there’s ever been a film with more hype and buildup than this one, I can’t recall it.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since ’77 and every once in a while, something sparks that full sense of wonder I first experienced for these films when I was a kid.

Found these at my parents’ house several months ago. One of my prized possessions as a kid was The Empire Strikes Back Ralph McQuarrie portfolio. I studied every inch of these concept paintings. They’re still amazing today. The newsletters you see in that photo? Those are copies of Bantha Tracks, the official newsletter for Star Wars fan club members. I remember pulling those out of the mailbox and immediately analyzing them like they were holy documents. I knew more about the behind-the-scenes crew that worked on those films than I knew of some of my own family members.

So yeah — Episodes IV, V, and VI had a profound effect on me, to say the least. I’m grateful I was a kid during that era.

I hope my own daughter gets to experience some of the same.

Here’s hoping this film has some of that impossible magic.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

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Here’s my final cover art for the 60th anniversary edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster / Touchstone’s senior art director Cherlynne Li approached me to cover-illustrate this classic Jack Finney novel, originally titled The Body Snatchers. First serialized in Collier’s Magazine in 1954, the book was collected by Dell into a single volume in 1955. Since then, it’s been re-packaged countless times. Hollywood has morphed it into four major screen adaptations, where the title was changed to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which apparently caused publishers to retitle the book itself).

When I began brainstorming cover art concepts, I realized that even though I had never read the original novel or seen one of the films, I felt like I ‘knew’ the story. Sleepy American town is creepily assimilated by alien beings who take over people’s minds, one by one. The narrative is virtually an archetype at this point, but of course, it wasn’t enough to ‘feel’ like I knew the story. I read Finney’s text in its entirety and realized another thing. While very much a story of the 1950’s, Finney never intended the narrative to be a metaphor for the American paranoia toward Communism. I suppose that hysteria was what the early film adaptations played upon, but reportedly, that wasn’t Finney’s original intent.

Instead, the story seemed to be about a different kind of fear — the fear of loss and change — of losing the one you love the most, of losing your identity, and even completely losing yourself in a changing world. These aren’t just 1950’s themes. These are themes that resonate thunderously right now.

That was the eureka moment that inspired my cover art.

We live in a time of sweeping and sometimes terrifying change. Many of us are fighting against centuries of aggressive assimilation. We all seem to willingly allow ourselves to be assimilated daily by technologies of our making, and yet we’re all trying to hold on — to our loved ones, to our values, and to ourselves — to be something meaningful before our precious time is snatched away.

If there’s a reason to read a familiar story, it’s to be reminded how to summon the will to overcome our own challenges. It’s no wonder this book is still resonant as ever after sixty years.

For more on the book vs. film connections, check out Sandy Ferber’s review via FantasyLiterature.com.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE OF ART

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The Force is strong with you, San Antonio.

Yesterday’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE OF ART exhibition at the Centro De Artes in downtown SA was a celebration of all things Jedi and Sith, and it was a phenomenal event. Texas A&M University / San Antonio owns the facility and said it’s the most successful audience attraction that the building has had since the days of the Museo Alameda. It was a one-day art extravaganza sponsored by Alamo City Comic Con, and there was a line of fans out the door and down the steps before the show even opened.

Waves of huge crowds surged all day long, despite rainy weather and a busy holiday shopping season. I was one of the featured artists and presented a large-format conceptual sketch for a Yoda tarot card (pictured above). Artworks by Drew Struzan, Stephan Martiniere, Adam Hughes, Terese Nielsen, Tommy Lee Edwards, Scott Harben, Lawrence Reynolds, Mike ‘Comp’ Arguello, Adrian De La Cruz, Alfredo Lopez Jr., Gary Villarreal, and so many more made for a dynamite collection.

Apple De La Fuente and members of the 501st at Star Wars: The Force of Art in San Antonio.

Apple De La Fuente and members of the 501st at Star Wars: The Force of Art in San Antonio.

This is the first time Alamo City Comic Con has ever organized and sponsored an art event of this type, and huge congrats to Apple De La Fuente, Austin Rogers, Wes Hartman, and crew for a bigtime success. Special thanks to Brandon Oliver, the 501st Legion, ACCC volunteers, and the South Texas Collectors Expo as well. Saturday’s show planted another seed toward San Antonio becoming a pop culture art mecca, and ACCC has already announced that they’re sponsoring their next museum celebration on March 19th celebrating ‘Batman v. Superman’.

It was a great day for San Antonio, and I think there are more great ones ahead for this kind of art in this city.

Art by Scott Harben.

Art by Scott Harben.

Art by Stephan Martiniere.

Art by Stephan Martiniere.

Art by Mike 'Comp' Arguello.

Art by Mike ‘Comp’ Arguello.

Art by Drew Struzan.

Art by Drew Struzan.

Art by Lawrence Reynolds.

Art by Lawrence Reynolds.

Art by Gary Villarreal.

Art by Gary Villarreal.

Art by Adrian De La Cruz.

Art by Adrian De La Cruz.

Artists Beware!

 

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Artists — how do you feel about someone who says, “Give us your ideas for free. If we decide we like one of them, we’ll use it for our own personal branding and for our own prestige. We will hire someone to make multiple images of it and that person will not receive compensation either. We have zero respect for any of you as working professionals.”

As of today, that’s the official message that the World Fantasy Convention just transmitted to all professional artists as the WFC searches for a new image for their World Fantasy Award. See their new “World Fantasy Award Call for Submissions”.

That’s right. Your ideas and your work — for nothing.

It’s an extremely unprofessional message, and it’s not one that befits experienced professionals. It says to all of its members — writers, editors, agents, publishers — that the organization doesn’t value its own branding enough to properly invest in it. That’s very sad to see.

Throughout my career, I’ve had fellow professional artists such as Michael Whelan, Bob Eggleton, and Greg Manchess take the time to point me in the right direction, whether it was toward a worthy opportunity, or away from a predatory situation. I try to do the same for others. Pay it forward.

This is one of those moments.

If you’re an artist who wishes to submit free ideas and free work to this process — don’t do it. Save your energy. Take your ideas and your hard work and channel them into conduits and clients where your work is valued.

Recently, the writer Wil Wheaton eloquently refused to trade his writing for ‘exposure’ from the Huffington Post. He’s a major celebrity. He’s presumably doing well financially. The compensation amount probably wasn’t a big deal to him one way or the other, but he knew better than to accept nothing for his work. It wasn’t just the wrong thing for himself, but it set a bad precedent for writers who are less advantaged than him, who are much more easily preyed upon, and who depend on fair compensation for their work in order to make a living wage. He took a stand. These acts matter.

I’m not Wil Wheaton. I don’t have his celebrity power. It’s important to say this though, and I hope it helps my fellow artists and the creative community at-large:

As a past World Fantasy Award winner and frequent attendee of the World Fantasy Convention, I encourage all artists to boycott this process and do not give your work or ideas to this convention for free. ‘Exposure’ and ‘prestige’ are not enough.

Expect better.

In fact, expect the best.

Keep working towards it every day. Don’t fall prey to an unprofessional overture such as this one. And if you see artists who are more established than you falling prey, ask yourself why and how you might approach the situation better. Don’t follow someone else’s example blindly.

As for the WFC, I’m sorry to see it inflict itself with this black eye.

It’s a convention with assets, even if it doesn’t want to compensate artists with money. It could have compensated all professional 3D artists who submitted ideas with a membership to a future WFC. It could have compensated the winning sculptor with a lifetime WFC membership. It could have found any number of creative solutions.

Instead, it chooses to send the message that artists’ work and ideas for a new World Fantasy Award are worth nothing, and in turn that the convention’s new image is worth the same.

Onward to better expectations and better days.

The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next?

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The World Fantasy Convention’s board of trustees has decided to evolve their award from a bust of H.P. Lovecraft (crafted by Gahan Wilson) to a brand-new, yet-undecided design. There’s been a ton of debate and reaction to this topic.

Bottom line: I applaud the WF board on their decision and I’m looking forward to what’s next for this award. So yeah — what IS next? Decisions, decisions…..

Here’s the thing — often, the key to making a good decision is first asking the right question.

We can all watch random people lobbing ideas and concepts, seeking answers for the award’s new design that best endorse their pet interests. You’ve probably already seen some. Not surprisingly, many of these ideas spring from a very Eurocentric view of fantasy that seems a bit tone-deaf to a shifting ethnic and cultural spectrum amongst audience and creators alike. Some advocate for a favorite fantasy form that makes them feel nostalgic — a dragon, an elf, a green man, for instance. Others advocate that the award should resemble a person that perhaps makes them feel comfortable, or reflects themselves.

These responses seem myopic and panicked, borne of an unspoken open question: “What should the award look like?”

If I were a decision maker in this process (and THANK GHOD, I’m not), I would offer that’s NOT the right question to ask right now, and thus, it’s no surprise that the answers so far are less than optimal. In fact, unless you’re a professional sculptor, you’re probably not the most qualified to find the ‘answer’. I’m not either. I’m a working professional illustrator and a storyteller who keeps trying to be a better artist every day, but I’m not a professional sculptor. And thus, I’m probably not as qualified to conceive and create this sculpture as an artist who does sculpt for a living. However, my job as an illustrator does require me to be a strong problem-solver, and that means knowing how to ask good questions.

Thus, here’s some brief advice I can offer the decision makers, and to all who share my interest in the future of this award:

1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

The making of this icon is the kind of job that visual artists are uniquely qualified to do. I most trust an artist to do this job of researching, idea-making, conceiving and creating a new visual icon — just as I most trust a surgeon to operate on me, or an architect to design a house, rather than the other way around.  This is a job for a visual artist who professionally sculpts, not a committee, not a straw poll of writers, readers, and historians. In short — the sculptor making the award should decide what the best idea is, what it looks like, and then present that form to the decision makers for them to decide if it’s ‘the one’.

The single most important question facing this award right now: “Who is that sculptor?”

In my opinion — asking this question, and doing the requisite selection work, is the key mission for the award’s decision makers.

2) CHOOSING THE SCULPTOR. Creating this award is a job –and wow, THAT’S an understatement! 😉 It should be a paid gig — probably a well-paid one considering the stakes, the importance of the result, and the rights involved. In contrast, an ‘open call for ideas’ that preys upon artists to generate work for free, even if they’re just sketches, would be ill-advised and bad PR, and I would advocate that no professional artist should answer that call and undercut their own livelihood. The ideas are the job, just as much as the final sculpt. I would caution against giving those ideas away publicly, even if it’s to drum up popular momentum. This isn’t a popular election, after all. It’s a job, and most of us are not official components of the job’s process.  Instead, I think the best thing that we can all do (decision makers, creators, and readers alike) is educate ourselves on the pool of working sculptors that are out there — and promote them.

a) If I was a decision maker, I would scour the last few years of SPECTRUM: THE BEST IN CONTEMPORARY FANTASTIC ART and the INFECTED BY ART annuals. I would research the last six or seven years of Chesley Award nominees in the Three-Dimensional category.

In fact, to all who are commenting via social media and campaigning for ideas — the best thing we can do to further this process is advocate for sculptor(s) that we think are best suited for the job — and try to articulate why. Shift your energy from firing shots in the dark about pet concepts, and instead boost the visibility of worthy sculptors. Link to their websites and their social media. Share some of your favorite images of their work.

b) Again, putting myself in a decision maker’s shoes — I would ask myself, “What are the questions that best lead me to the right sculptor for this job?” Here are a few questions that might help along the way:

• Does the sculptor’s work largely represent their own imagination or does it represent someone else’s?

• Does the sculptor’s work surprise? Does it invent? Does the sculptor’s work have a history of making forms and icons that haven’t quite been seen like that before?

• Does the sculptor’s work have the ability to be universal, or does it seem to reflect a limited cultural and ethnic viewpoint? Can this sculptor create an icon with a large enough ideological umbrella to not just include the world, but embrace it and elevate it?

• Does the sculptor’s work show the ability to problem-solve a variety of contexts? Is their work all literal? Is it all abstract? Is that artist capable of expressing within both realms? Does the sculptor’s approach to the job propagate his or her own brand more than it creates a unique brand for the award?

• Does the sculptor design their own work and then have someone ELSE cast it? Or does the sculptor design AND cast their own work from start to finish? This may be a very important production question for the board as they narrow down their sculptor choices.

3) BUILDING THE BEAST. I think once the decision makers have chosen their sculptor, I suggest that the next most important mission is shaping an environment where the artist is free to propose original ideas, problem-solve, and sculpt the final award, shielded from preordained ideas and agendas. This isn’t just what’s good for the sculptor. It’s about getting the most value from the artist during the course of the process. What comes out of the sculptor’s head is as important as what comes out of his or her hands. The sculptor will probably want to dialogue with the board as the process evolves, and that will likely be one of the most crucial parts of the whole endeavor.

This is brave new frontier. This is what artists live for. My sincere best wishes to the sculptor selected for this job and to the decision makers involved, and in closing, I’ll offer a few sculptor suggestions for consideration for this job. What are yours?

VINCENT VILLAFRANCA:

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If this decision were in my hands, this would be the sculptor I would choose. His work consistently innovates. It invents. It can be literal. It can be abstract. It can be both. He has the restless imagination that searches for new ideas and forms that elevate. He has experience dealing with the pressure of awards-making, having designed one of the most celebrated trophy bases in Hugo Awards history. He creates his own work from start to finish — from birthing the idea to final bronze, casting everything himself.

VIRGINIE ROPARS:

VIRGINIEHer ethereal and haunting work seems to own the Spectrum annual’s 3D category every year.

THE SHIFLETT BROTHERS:

SHIFLETTSThese guys do stunning work. Master creature makers.

CHARLES VESS:

The Barter Green in Abingdon, VA

He’s a four-time World Fantasy Award winner. He’s designed small sculptures and big ones. If he’s selected to sculpt the new one, and wins a fifth World Fantasy Award, would he get to award himself with his own sculpture? 🙂

Those are a few thoughts. Please share your own. Brainstorm. Explore. Discover. Share. Who would you like to see sculpt the new World Fantasy Award?