From the Collection of... pt.8

IlluXCon 7 has come and gone. A lot of artists came with mountains of boxes containing paintings, drawings, sculptures and so on. By the end of the show, a long train of collectors carrying boxes removed a lot of them from the show and took them to homes around the world.

An art collector is a very special breed of person with regards to his impact on others. As a music fan, I might purchase the entire catalog of a band, purchase many concert tickets over the course of the band's career, and maybe even some branded merchandise. But my support is distant, and my impact relatively small, even if I buy as much of the above through the artists themselves, at a merch table or their website. Doubtless, large numbers of folks like myself allow the band to continue to make music, but the scale is relatively small, and any one of us can't help too much, though I know it is appreciated.

An art collector however has a very different impact. Spending larger sums of money on original art, and sometimes very large sums, the art collector can have profound effect on the life of a visual artist.

At those amounts, the collector is most certainly sponsoring the creation of more art, and fostering a more secure life for a tangible amount of time. When an artist goes home from a show with days, weeks, or even months worth of income, they have been afforded the freedom to create more. I and some other artists I spoke with, spoke in these terms over the show: about the time that such purchases were allowing us to try new things, to create pieces unconstrained by our very necessary clients who fund much of our year by assigning us projects. Apart from that, the purchases literally pay rent and expenses that we live on.

Artists want to create, and that desire to create is so deep-rooted that it often is the last thing an artist clings to, even if the rest of their world is falling apart financially, indeed even if it would be wiser to quit for awhile and do something else to earn a living. Perhaps worse than the financial difficulties are the psychological ones faced by people who are constantly unable to provide a secure income for themselves.

"Oh, hai!"

"Oh, hai!"

As I walked around the show, filled with artists well-known and those just beginning their journeys, I was struck by how little I knew about some of the folks there. What difficulties, what challenges were there, what weight of anxiety haunted the artist? Hopefully none, and certainly I know that many are in fine places in their lives currently, but among so many, certainly there were a number of artists shouldering incredible burdens: illness or family with illness, soul-crushing doubt, 6-figure college loan repayment (a whole other topic), and so on. Each puts forward their best face, no one wants to burden others with their challenges. All artists want every purchase to be about the art--that's why they make it. And it occurred to me that even those who we think have "made it" may in fact be among those most afflicted.

For this reason, I also find it interesting how subdued artists can be in talking about their sales with each other--even though we constantly ask one another! We all want each other to do well, we want to celebrate with our friends at their accomplishments. If one of us has a great show, the others want them to enjoy that because we care about them and love their art. And yet we're all a bit bashful in expressing the happiness that accompanies our successes when we have them, because we are well-acquainted with the other side and what that feels like.

But those who collect should know that while money cannot buy happiness, it can buy relief from the tremendous weight and pressure of many worldly worries for some length of time. And it does. Sometimes, the length of time is long enough that an artist is able to finally clean up persistent life issues plaguing them. Sometimes, it gives them the support needed to strike out in a new direction, which can utterly transform their work. Sometimes, at the right moment, it might literally save a career about to end.

Collectors owe none of us these things, of course. It would negate the point of why we create to think otherwise--we only want our work to connect with others. But what I am trying to do is to connect collectors further to the true importance of what they do in the world.

There is one other, smaller effect that they may not realize they have, and that is, "The trickle-down effect."  Obviously, we artists are huge fans of art. Those who are friends with lots of artists present at IlluXCon on Facebook saw a steady stream of posts by artists who did what they always do: having sold some of their own work, they took a portion of this, however large or small, and then went on and purchased the work of others! Whether a collector intended it or not, a little of the money put into the hands of one artist was immediately handed over to another. Collectors therefore not only benefited the artist they purchased from, but in a tangible way benefited many others, as well. I can say from experience that the percentage of artists who do this on any basis is very high.

I picked up three small pieces this year. One of them is the meat of this post, and is by the incomparable Omar Rayyan. Omar holds the distinction of not only producing excellent work, but also being one of the artists in this field that my own wife has hoped to have a piece from. Actually, I own another black and white ink drawing of his, a decorative-border illustration which I haven't featured yet. But Omar's signature work is done with animals, and we had yet to pick one of those up. So, having sold some artwork, I had the distinct pleasure of talking with my wife about a few pieces I photographed and sent her to consider (with Omar's permission), and then purchasing this one directly from Omar and his wife Sheila:

Perhaps I was able to think more about all these things because my life and career have honestly been fine of late, as the rollercoaster goes. And part of that is due to collectors who have supported my work, who maybe don't appreciate how special they are. Omar may have thanked me for my purchase, but at a distance he was also thanking those who came and purchased my own work this year, whether he or the collectors who purchased my work realized it.

From the Collection of... pt.7

I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in 6th grade, when a new friend moved into town and joined my class at Stonegate Elementary school in San Jose. Either because most boys at the time had similar interests, or because he'd seen my drawings, or both, he began to talk to me about D&D. I had heard of it vaguely in the past, but didn't have a grasp on it. All I knew was it required graph paper and was like a video game you play through story-telling. Near enough!

He handed me his Red Box Basic D&D books and let me borrow them. That they were an incredibly powerful influence on my young artistic temperament is perhaps another story. For whatever reason, he and I never played, but we remained buddies on and off through High School and then never saw each other again.

My next exposure was in 9th grade, where another guy was talking about it. I recall that was in the locker room in gym class. I don't know if he was talking about it to me or just near me (he didn't like me very much, for good reason because I was a jerk to him, because I was 13 and a jerk). I had read the Red Books so still remembered the gist of the rules. This time we got together some guys and started playing, this fellow running the games. We'd play after school in an outdoor area with tables.

I really loved D&D, and began buying books and ran my own games with friends on my street for a couple of years. This high school group similarly ran for a couple of years--both ended around the time I started dating my now-wife, and likely because girlfriends require time, and D&D requires time and well, something has to give. I chose the better path, I'm quite sure.

Years later, while attending a GenCon in the 90s as an attendee and young professional illustrator, I got to meet most of the art staff who'd made D&D amazing. Jeff Easley, then and now, has always been a mild-mannered gentleman, given to few words but kind. Then and now, his original art has always been very affordable (as original art goes from someone with influential status goes). I was young and without a ton of money, so to this day I don't own any Easley paintings (though I'd love to), but I did buy 2 items from him in those days.

While at GenCon, and flipping through Jeff's black-and-white work, I ran across this little ink drawing. It was an instant time warp, as it appeared in one of the adventures we played. For the life of me I can't recall which one--if you happen to know, let me know! But I forked over money for it instantly. Also, it's a great example of his anatomical drawing style--the large-fisted brutes and his characteristic ogre-like creature faces. The piece measures ~3x5".

Every once in awhile, as an artist, I meet people who purchase artwork and you can tell that it's primarily because the art reminds them of the product specifically, and the good time they had with it. Occasionally that produces a twinge of disappointment--after all, an artist wants his work to be enjoyed because it's so awesome, first and foremost! But hopefully I never forget my own experience with illustration: quite often, the artwork has been special specifically because of the context in which I encountered it. It's probably true that any number of other works by Jeff, had I encountered them at his table that day and had I remembered them from my youth would've prompted a purchase from me. The art and my memory of enjoying it are tied together. I get that, and I appreciate it.

I don't think I've played D&D since those days, though it was a main hobby of mine for 2-3 years. I've spent more time working on the game now as a professional.

From the Collection of... pt. 6

I am hours away from my drive to Illuxcon. I drove there earlier today to drop work off, and then had to come back home. I hope to see you there Saturday and Sunday! I'll be debuting some new work that I hope to have up on the blog in coming weeks.

Everything is packed finally and I'm basically ready to go, but I didn't have a blog post this week. I'm dead tired though, so I hunted through my drafts folder and remembered that I haven't continued this series in a long time!

Lorwyn was, for many Magic artists who worked on it, one of their favorite worlds/blocks. I understand it was not a player's favorite, however, which makes me sad because I'd love to see the world revisited and would love to be in on such (ditto Kamigawa, which seems to have the same problem).

At San Diego Comic-Con that I guess it was summer 2008...I think my last year at Comic-Con after a 5-6 year run, I wandered over to my friend Christopher Moeller's booth. This painting was on his table. I hadn't seen it before, but oh man did I love it. I raved about it for awhile while catching up and flipping through his work, and expected it would disappear by the end of the show.

Maybe a year later, I did a piece for Dungeons and Dragons, some of my first 4th Edition stuff. Immediately, Chris emailed me with the word, "TRADE!" Of course I'd been secretly wanting a trade with Chris for awhile already. Possibly not-so-secretly. I asked if he still had this piece, and he said that in fact he did. It's a little larger than his usual Magic piece, but so was my D&D painting. We agreed to the trade and I am now the proud owner of this wonderful painting.

Chris will also be at Illuxcon this weekend! If you can make it, stop by and check out his awesomeness.

I think this was just packaging/promo art, right? Who cares!

I think this was just packaging/promo art, right? Who cares!