IlluXCon / New York 2012
Solomon's Loss: Oil on Canvas 50"x40"
After my 24hrs of flying I had it all worked out: pick up a hire car at JFK, break the driving trip to Altoona by staying overnight in Allentown just 2hrs drive away, then wake up to enjoy the road trip to IlluXCon. Brilliant idea! But the gum chewing, Jerry Springer girls behind the Avis counter, whose disinterest in customer service or even eye contact left me with a cold feeling of foreboding. They slung me a GPS navigation system and I was off into the night.
JFK, Just before the road trip went pear shaped.
It was an evil navigation system with a Hitchcock sense of humour, never showing the entire route, instead leaving each highway turn-off a last minute mystery. After an hour I saw the Brooklyn Bridge appear and my heart sank. I'd been taken in the opposite direction into lower Manhattan, during Armageddon!
The lower half of the city was blacked out and bereft of people, the streets and tunnels blocked due to Hurricane Sandy's wrath, and the GPS was having a melt down as I tried to get out of town. With the Holland Tunnel blocked by two gigantic trucks placed face to face the GPS kept re-routing me back to its closed entrance, until the screen froze.
After a series of nightmare scenarios in the darkest neigbourhoods surrounding New York I blindly headed west until the battery charge died on the frozen GPS (no on/off button!). I plugged it in again and it worked. After seven long hours I reached my hotel at 2am
and the nightmare ended; add 24 hours flying plus the constant fear the GPS was taking me back to Manhattan to truly feel the First World angst.
The next day was a complete contrast. I rang Julie Bell from my hotel room, checked out, then drove a mere ten minutes to meet her and Boris Vallejo for lunch. They were great company and invited me to stay the next two days at their beautiful home.
The original Conan cover that determined my future, now signed by Boris ( just in time to be framed before disintegrating).
Just walking the dogs around the autumn streets with Boris and Julie was incredible, considering it was Boris's work that first inspired me to become a fantasy artist. I was thirteen years old back then and growing up without a future in Belfast's hopeless war zone, so the impossible flash forward felt unreal. I feel incredibly lucky to now know Boris and Julie as both great artists and also great friends.
Texan gal Julie Bell, myself, and the mighty Boris Vallejo
It was onward then to IlluXCon, the highlight of my Calendar year and the brainchild of dynamic duo Pat and Jeannie Wilshire: www.illuxcon.com
, a time when I meet collectors of my work, artists, and friends with the same mind set and passion for fantastic art.
My booth almost set up.
Posing beside my paintings with Atlas Fantasy Art House gallery owner Bill Niemeyer: http://atlasfantasyarthouse.com/About.html
Close up of 'The Lost Treasure'
Two such folk are the brothers Leigh and Neil Mecham, who had pre-bought two of my paintings to be displayed at the show: The Lost Treasure and Pool of the Sorceress. I met Neil and Leigh at the first IlluXCon in 2008 and hit it off with them, without realising they were collectors that would later commission quite a few paintings from me. As usual we hung out together and had the time of our lives: www.girasolcollectables.com
Leigh, Kara, Neil, Me, Michelle. We missed the rude manager of the defunct Bistro but the 'whatever' waitress at the new place made up for it.
Neil, Kara, Michelle, Daniel, Me. A fun lunch.
My usual plan is to catch up with everyone that I've missed then sit and watch Boris paint. Each year the plan falls on its face as Boris is usually packing up by the time I've finished the day's buffoonery.
He had me at 'Hello'. With the legendary Stephen Hickman: www.stephenhickman.com/
I did sit with Boris and shoot the breeze in between his painting, though, and it was quality time with the great man. Next time I should swap the buffoonery time-plan around and get the best of both worlds I think.
Next to me sat art master and friend Dave Palumbo: www.davepalumbo.com/
Another IlluXCon highlight was Tom Kuebler's talk on his methods sculpting the bizarre : http://www.tskuebler.com/
I'm now the proud owner of a Tom Kuebler shrunken head (always fun during a custom's check).
Some of Tom Kuebler's entourage.
The last morning of IlluXCon garnered an unplanned breakfast with legendary Brit artists John Harris, Jim Burns and their agent Alison Eldred, with Chris Moore's still warm and vacant seat offered to me: http://www.chrismooreillustration.co.uk/ http://www.alisoneldred.com/blog/?p=387
If I hadn't craned my neck at check-out into the buffet hall it would have been a lonely motorway breakfast on the way to New York, instead of a memorable chat-fest with people of charming sophistication, class, and good humour. I enjoyed myself having shrugged off the class barrier of my own making a while back. I'm socially acceptable now, although it seems nobody but me was aware of my inferiority complex to begin with.
Good friends Cyril Van Der Haegen and Dan Fowlkes couldn't be with us, but Dan sent a bar tab for us. What a great guy!
My favourite sauce. Michelle and Vincent Villafranca had posted me some A1 sauce from the U.S. and I packed this gourmet treat for a presentation ceremony.
Cruising up Broadway with the windows down was a stark contrast to Manhattan the week before. I guess I was the only one in rush hour gridlock smiling, as I got to enjoy New York's hustle and bustle in seated comfort. It was the best last hour usage of a hired car that I've ever had.
Broadway N.Y.C in rush hour
I had planned to make this New York trip an 'Art in Manhattan' extravaganza and it worked out well with many sketch nights in various venues such as Otto's Shrunken Head where I met lots of interesting and talented artists such as Jeff: http://www.meetup.com/FigureSketching-NYC/
and Sylvia Baber creator of Pedro the Frog: http://pedrosrule.blogspot.com
Lots of art chat with great people made me feel most welcome in New York.
One sketch outing led me to Spring St life drawing: http://www.springstudiosoho.com/
which it seemed, on this night, was gay men drawing gay men. Not my scene but I'm secure enough in myself to sit down, draw and chat away. Good humour abounded but I didn't hang around to the end as I wanted to try Bobby De Nero's Tribecca Grill, which had great food at 'keep the riff-raff out' prices.
Outside Otto's Shrunken head N.Y.C.
Spring Street sketches. I sometimes draw caricatures of life models if the pose goes on too long...
In fact this trip to New York seemed to be all about food and art with some memorable highlights, including an almost 360 degree view of Manhattan from the top of the Strand Hotel, complete with log fires. Good old style decadence for the rich and famous (lots of small time celebs I couldn't put names to lurking around the bar). One note on celebrity sightings: I did jog past Guy Pearce on my first morning on Horatio St, where I had my apartment, but was running too damn fast to casually say hello. Running in the rain along Battery Park with the Statue of Liberty misted in the background was worth the chill.
Battery Park seafront after Hurricane Sandy, N.Y.C.
I met up with my agent, Betty, and for the first time won our annual toss-the -coin for lunch in the biggest Irish pub in New York. Betty is always good fun and is as New York tough as you can be despite growing up in London. Living like a New York artist was my plan, so not much tourist stuff was on the menu apart from a bike ride through Central Park, which at $25 was a genuine bargain. Roasted chestnuts!
Feeling the cold outside the Dakota building where John Lennon sadly met his end.
A trip to Ground Zero revealed massive waterfalls now placed in the original footprints of the twin towers. People were still in tears but it was a great act of defiance to see an even taller tower being built right next to the site. New Yorkers are a solid community and 9-11 has only made them stronger, as I knew it would, having grown up in a defiant community under constant terrorist attack as a kid.
Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan.
I stayed around until Thanksgiving day to get the flavour of Christmas in New York and intended to see Macy's parade. Turned out if you hadn't staked a spot in the middle of the night the best you could hope for was the distant sight of Spiderman's ass and the aftermath clean-up, which was epic to watch as little Umpa Lumpa men restored those litter strewn streets in no time flat.
Macy's Parade inflations: across from Upper Central Park N.Y.C..
6th Avenue after Macy's Parade and before the return of traffic.
Facetime made contact with the wee woman and my family pretty easy with reports face to face via ipad from the likes of Harlem, Brooklyn, airports, and most public parks, making loneliness for the traveler a thing of the past. So all up I would say IlluXCon 2012 was my favourite by far, if we discount the food poisoning endurance test during my 24 hour trip home (Thanksgiving dinner, ironically).
Counting the days to IlluXCon 2014...
T o r a H y l a n d s : F o r c e o f N a t u r e
Close up of artwork for the Iain Banks novel, Matter: Easton Press. Posed with typical focus and intensity by Tora
A good model is hard to find; a great model almost impossible, and so here I offer some humble words in appreciation of the incredible force of nature that is Tora Hylands.
I oweTora a great artistic debt. She is the secret ingredient behind my most successful paintings, for without her they would be empty vessels.
When we first met both of us were going through the lean periods most artists suffer, she was in theatre and I was freelancing in low budget publishing having given up advertising, struggling to find work, while paying models from my own pocket.
Lucifer's Hammer (close up): Easton Press. I'm usually behind the camera, so this is a rare painting where I shared a role posing with Tora
Tora weathered her early artistic years with grit and talent, a time when most give up beaten and settling for steady paychecks, yet still, I remember after our first shoot she waved away payment, stating we were both artists! I insisted on paying, for she was worth a thousand times the fee I could afford at the time.
Close up from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Easton Press
Back then Tora was merely eighteen years old, but already she was taking control of her destiny. My own path proved tough going but after a lot of selling my wares I gained book jacket work from the U.S.A., then came the opportunity to paint a series of mermaids for an illustrated book. I had been frustrated with the models I used before Tora ( let's call this the era B.T. ) as they had little understanding of what I was trying to do.
Close up from Deathstalker Destiny: Roc Books New York
My wife, Cathy, an inspirational english teacher, recommended Tora. Tora was her best student and had achieved an outstanding state intelligence rating for that year. She was also already an actress with the strict Zen Zen Zo theatre company, a company that puts its performers through some brutal training. I was impressed by her from the moment she sat down with all the wonder of an artist to study my first mermaid sketches.
Darkdreamer: Oil on Canvas: 40"X40"
I directed her in recreating my favorite sketch, which was a difficult pose, then watched magic unfold. She was elegance, from her sublime expression to the grace of her fingertips. The resulting painting, Darkdreamer, still remains one of my favorite artworks. We went along later to see Tora in the Zen Zen Zo production: 'Those with Lucifer' and she was so intense, committed, and a little frightening, that it was clear that nothing could stop her eventual world success.
Close up of Vampyr Planet for my upcoming book : The Lost World
Close up of Seraph for my upcoming book : The Lost World
Many fantasy and SF book jacket artworks followed, most notable being the Deathstalker series for Roc books. Tora also continued to not just act, but also direct theatre and we would meet up when she could clear her schedule for more photoshoots, resulting in many of my best paintings.
Palace of Medusa: Oils on Board. For my upcoming book : The Lost World
Close up from my first novel: Sentinels ( available to download in the books section of this website )
Unlike earlier models Tora was always on time and gave her all regardless of how much other work she had on. She was, and is, the model of artistic dedication. Our final posing session for the large oils, Song of the Siren, came at a time when we were both reaching our artistic goals; I left for the U.S. to exhibit works alongside my childhood heroes, and Tora left Australia for Vancouver, Canada where she quickly found an agent and work.
Song of the Siren: Oil on Canvas 48"X36"
As I write this Tora is, as usual, working her dynamic energy on stage and screen with roles in the next upcoming Twilight movie: Breaking Dawn, and the Patrick Young film: 10,000 Pennies as well as the SF TV series, Sanctuary, season 4.
I may have lost Tora to Hollywood, but she generously left behind a legacy of artistic passion in my oils on canvas.
I count myself lucky to have once fallen into her orbit.
MASTERCLASS IN THE CITY: SF & FANTASY WORKSHOP
SF & Fantasy Workshop enrolling now at SBIT in Brisbane city! To enroll contact, Di Watson Tel: +61 7 32445275
ImagineFX issue 65 January edition: Available now in the U.S. features a five page 'alien Landscapes' demo by Patrick
A day in Brooklyn with Donato
The umbilical brothers
I met the great artistic force that is Donato Giancola at IlluXCon 3 and he invited me to spend a day at his studio in Brooklyn. Well, that kind of offer I don’t take lightly and sealed it with a hearty handshake.
By the time I arrived in New York I was getting used to the aggressive driving and was barging around like a rally driver with the rest of them. Seemed to me by that point that driving polite was an irritation rather than a help to the moving mass of Manhatten traffic. Drove over the Brooklyn Bridge and found it very hard to keep my eyes on the road with the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline distracting me with their awesome iconography.
Pat with the Brooklyn Bridge in background
New York was a crazy driving experience but trying to get a parking space in Brooklyn was a nightmare. I thought for some reason there would have been little tree lined streets with loads of space to park on. There were tree-lined streets but bumper to bumper cars all along them.
The streets of New York
Thirty blocks away from Donato’s place I spied a park and pulled from my very depths the courage to fit my huge car into a space too small for it, in one quick motion. Then I discovered the meter was broken. Arrrraggh! It kept reading ‘expired’, but I jammed the coins in anyhow, left a note on my windscreen and jogged to Donato’s.
Donato lives in a very impressive brownstone home and I wanted to sit on his stoop after my jog and just marvel at the American splendour of it all, but I rang his doorbell intercom, a brass embossed tribute to his studio with Donato Arts inscribed. Class. He came down and greeted me at the door. Donato has his studio on the top floor via a spiral staircase, which is a nice bit of design for an artist as it really feels like you’ve gone to work rather than gone next door. You could smell the creativity inside and a big window looked out high above the autumnal Brooklyn back gardens. I loved it the moment I walked in. Donato brought me a glass of water, which was sorely needed, and sat by his latest painting, a big wooden panel half finished of a shipwrecked hero.
Art directing Donato
We talked about technique, and IlluXCon, and how great it was to meet the likes of Boris Vallejo, an oil painter like us and legend to us both, and Donato worked away as we spoke, weaving his magic.
Donato not having a bar of it.
We also laughed and joked about how some believe artists are all millionaires with Donato citing his rooftop helipad as a possible reason.
The human dynamo, Jannie Shea turned up later and brought her camera, which was a good thing as mine had decided to fail. Thanks Jannie for the record of this visit. Unfortunately my stay was less time than I had hoped due to my car sitting on a meter and I had to leave after two hours. Donato very generously presented me with a beautiful limited edition folio of prints as a memento of my visit and I was mighty touched.
After a coffee with Jannie and Donato downstairs I had a moment to admire the magnificent: The Hobbit: Expulsion painting which domineers the main wall of Donato’s living room. I left the smiling twosome at the stoop and reluctantly jogged back through the streets of Brooklyn.
As I sit writing this I have in my hands a copy of Donato’s first book: Middle Earth, which has the personal dedication: ‘ To Patrick, may your art inspire us for eternity…’.
I had spent a short afternoon hanging out with one of the great oil painting masters, and modern gentlemen of our era, but the memory will last a lifetime. Donato, it was an honour, I tip my metaphorical hat to you my friend.
An interview with John Scoleri
In 2009, the Easton Press
released a five-volume set titled The Day After Doomsday
, including Earth Abides
by George Stewart, I Am Legend
by Richard Matheson, On the Beach
by Nevil Shute, Alas, Babylon
by Pat Frank, and Lucifer's Hammer
by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. As described on their website:
By virulent disease...by nuclear war...by catastrophic natural disaster. These are the breathtaking novels that envision the end of the world as we know it and incisively portray the effects on the handfuls of survivors. Each book features an original frontis illustration by renowned science-fiction artist Patrick Jones.
As a huge fan and collector of all things I Am Legend
, I sought out artist Patrick Jones to discuss his work on that book and the others in the Day After Doomsday
bb: How did you get involved with the Easton Press Day After Doomsday
Patrick Jones: I had done plenty of work for them before and they knew I was crazy for SF & fantasy illustration.
bb: Had you read any of the five books prior to the assignment?
PJ: I had only read I Am Legend
and was a big fan of Richard's work, especiallyLegend
and The Shrinking Man
, so that was the real thrill for me, with the other books as a bonus (I'm intrigued by tales of the last people on Earth). The other real surprise in the package was Earth Abides
which was superb. There wasn't a single copy in Australia and I had to buy one from the US for $1 plus $20 postage!
bb: How did you approach each illustration? Were you looking for some thematic or stylistic consistency between the pieces?
PJ: I wanted the books to have that fifties feel, that sense of wonder.
bb: Do you approach creating a frontispiece differently than you would a cover assignment, in that you don't carry the burden of working around the placement of extraneous or other design elements?
PJ: I strangely had to fight my instincts, after years of conditioning I still leave the top third uncluttered for type to fit. Sometimes though I get liberated as in theFrankenstein
piece I did for them and fill the shot. The irony here is that I would have liked some retro type on my Legend art to give it the full fifties flavor. It's crying out for it!
bb: Who do you count as your major influences as an artist?
PJ: Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta. There were many more to come but these two guys hooked me for life and still inspire me.
bb: What is your process for creating an illustration? I know the final pieces were created digitally—can you elaborate on how many iterations you go through in finalizing a concept?
PJ: Usually I'll read the manuscript with a highlighter at hand to mark character descriptions, then do some warm up sketches until I find a mood. After that process I scribble down three comps with notes for the art director. When they pick a comp I'll send a tight sketch for final approval and maybe a colour rough.
|On the Beach
bb: Did any of your pieces change significantly based on editorial/art director feedback?
PJ: With Easton Press I pretty much get total freedom to create, which in turn brought about some of my favorite art. I don't remember having to change anything major, or at all.
bb: Do you have a favorite of the final works?
PJ: Without doubt, I Am Legend
. I think it hit the mark, although the Spectrum jury voted Earth Abides
as the stronger piece.
bb: What are some of your other works that sci-fi fans might be familiar with?
is popular (I know it's considered horror but it's still sf in theme), it won me world's best concept art award, Asia/Pacific region, from Massive Black
, and my art on Simon Green's long running Deathstalker
series got a wide release in paperback.
On I Am Legend
bb: Can you walk me through the specific process with the creation of the I Am Legend
illustration. I'm interested in the order in which the concepts were created, and what led to the changes. It appears that you had three distinct concepts: Neville in the pit, Neville on the car, and Neville standing with the rifle. I'm also interested in the approximate size of the pieces.
PJ: The warm up sketch is A4 and is the earliest taste of what's to come. This stage is the most changeable as the art director never sees it, it's just my first feelings when reading the script. The art director comps are usually four rectangles on an A4 sheet in pencil, I then scan them and add tone on computer. If I have time enough to do the art in oils then all these stages are done with paint.
My first comp focused on Neville's loneliness so the comp order started with the pit idea, then moved to a more heroic idea, having Neville use an overturned car as a vantage point, but with the same sense of loneliness. In the end I came back to my original musings showing him walking the lonely streets defiant. Luckily the art director choose that comp.
bb: With Legend
, were you familiar with any of the cover art that had been used on prior versions? If so, did that influence you in any way, either inspiring you to go a certain direction or in fact avoid a particular concept?
PJ: I think I first read the Corgi edition many years before with Neville standing over his wife by the pit but can't be sure, I was more aware of the Gold Medal Book art for some reason, so the pit was in my mind to begin with. I remember the Charlton Heston movie tie in image from way back so maybe that influenced me toward the heroic (I was a huge fan of The Omega Man
as a kid).
|I Am Legend
bb: Do you know if Matheson has seen the piece, and if so if he had any feedback?
PJ: I have no idea, it would have been a great thrill if he had done. I rarely make contact with the authors as I deal directly with an art director.
John Scoleri is the co-author of three books on artist Ralph McQuarrie, the producer of a feature length interview DVD with actress Caroline Munro, and is the self-appointed curator of the I Am Legend Archive. Much of his free time is spent in his extravagant home theater: The Slaughtered Lamb Cinema.
Aussiecon 4/ Worldcon 68
Honouring Oscar winner Shaun Tan, the greatest Australian illustrator since Norman Lindsay.
And so it started, I went to Aussiecon 4 to help honour one of the great illustrators of our age. I had also originally discussed appearances on panels etc, before my admin contact bailed out. Thankfully a friend from the U.S., Jannie Shea stepped in at last minute and got me into the art show (Jannie makes hard work look easy), but my chance of involvement in anything else had expired, my fault for not following up sooner.
This was my first Worldcon and it was filled with highs and lows, the first low being the tiny amount of SF & fantasy art submitted. What art there was, was great, but I’d seen larger gatherings of artists’ work at makeshift Sunday markets. Whose fault was this? I had some culprits in my sights and will touch on this later. Here are the two paintings I brought along, both 36"X48" oil on canvas:
What about the event itself? The venue was as grand as you could hope for with huge auditoriums and perfectly located on Melbourne’s Yarra River. But what was with the absence of public water fountains? After tracking miles of carpet I felt like a man coming out of the Gobi desert. Now I know why fans walk around so weirdly, I had a humpback and a stray foot from dehydration.
But onto the highs: I arrived with my girl, Cathy and was greeted by Ron Larson, a collector from the U.S., who told me he had travelled all the way to Worldcon to meet me and have his books signed. Well, higher praise I couldn’t have expected. We spent an hour or so chatting with Ron and Bert Chamberlin, who had also brought a big box of books for me to sign (I had met Bert before in L.A.). After a high-spirited chinwag I expected to see Ron again but it didn’t happen, which I mean to make up for next time we meet.
Cathy doesn’t get the whole geek thing I’m into, but she recognised the genius of Shaun Tan when I brought home ‘The Arrival’ and came with me to the book signing of his latest work, ‘The Bird King’. She was enthralled. Me too. Shaun’s understanding of alienation as visual poetry is astounding. I joined the throng, introduced myself, and he was great. But that was it, a few minutes with Shaun was like an audience with the pope, everyone wanted a piece of him and we shuffled on.