Monday, March 28, 2016

Killing Your Darlings (and just about everything else)

There is a saying I have heard used in writing, "kill your darlings". This is not a call to murder your family, this is a train of thought in the creative process to rework, edit, reevaluate, delete, or take a second look at the parts you love the most about what you are working on. If you have fallen in love with a part of what you are working on, there is a good chance you are not being objective and honest about the real merit and quality of your creation. Recently I have been killing a lot of my darlings and a lot of things that are nowhere near darling status.

A final photo of something I was scribbling on before I threw it away.

I have my current client work and I am happy with it and it is moving right along. I have my larger involved personal projects that take a lot of time and are involved, I am happy with them and they are all moving right along (albeit, slowly). Then there are my sketches and scribbles that fill in the times in between. The drawings I work on when I have a free moment, a pause in my schedule, or when I am doing a passive activity that allows my hands to work... as of late, those drawing have all been dying a quick and painless death.

Granted, a couple of these drawings have survived even if they should not have, but for the most part I have been destroying more of my drawings recently then I have been finishing them. I have been here before and I will find myself here again in the future. I find it part of the natural cycle of the creative process. No idea how long I will be crumbling up my monsters but it will pass. Got to get the bad ones out to make room for the good ones. Need to be objective and honest about the work I am making. There is DEFINITELY something to be said about finishing what you start. A professional finishes. A professional also knows when to cut their loses and move on to the next thing. I could fight and fight and fight a drawings and eventually get it to a finished state. I have done it thousands of times by now. I do not give up easily on any of my monsters. The one above went through many different states before it finally met its ultimate fate.

Not sure I can tell you when you should abandon your work or start over, that is really something only you can know. For me it is a gut feeling. I just know when it is time. Maybe it is when the drawing feels like it is going over visual ground I have traversed dozens of times, or when I see the hand of someone else beginning to appear in my work, or... I just don't like what I have made. I have high hopes for everything I make, but it would be unrealistic to think everything I make is good and will see completion. By no means should you consider ending a piece before completion a failure. It is only a failure if you didn't learn anything from it. I learn many things from every piece I terminate. I learn about myself, I learn about shapes and forms I like and dislike, I learn about what is working and not working in my visual language that I create, and I learn how I am personally doing outside of making monsters. There are times when the monsters spill forth without end and there are times making a good monster it like getting blood from a stone.

Right now I find myself killing my darlings and getting a lot of fluff out of my system. I just need to focus on the client and personal projects that are currently successful and look to the natural world around me for my next inspiration.

That is all for another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on  Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Opposite of Monsters - Day Job Adventures

It has been quite the week. A very full week... a week of a lot of monsters and a week of the opposite of monsters. I am not hear to talk about monsters though, I am here to talk about something that is very much the opposite of monsters.

<divclass="the opposite of monsters"> 
You too can have the adventurous life of working in the highly profitable table top gaming industry!

For the past two days I was part of a four person team doing all day photo shoots at multiple child care facilities. Why you may ask? ...which is totally a valid question, because it falls under the responsibilities of my day job. Before you start posting "funny" comments about children being monsters, I am talking about the work and not the behavior of the proto-humans I was photographing.

My day job involves a lot of art, but this art is focused in making functional and visually appealing (as much as it can be) online educational courses used as in-service training for people who run and work at child care facilities and homes in Florida. That is the short explanation, we don't have all day. I personally make many of these course a year and I oversee the creation of even more that are produced by a second team. I am involved through out the entire lifespan of these course from the writing phase and the way till they go live online. During the day, my world looks like this...

Woah... I know kung fu.
If only it was that easy...

SO... what does this have to do with 'not monsters' and photo shoots? We go though a ton of images in these courses. Actually, we use to use many times more then we do now, but the images we use now need to be better. There was a time when our courses were done in Flash and now they are coded in HTML, but that is another story altogether dealing with presentation and production. There was also the time when I use to my graphics / illustrations for much of the course content, but that time too has passed. We want the images we use now to be the best they can be and stock photos can do just so much to illustrate specific ideas and topic that relate to the day to day life of someone working in a child care center. Do you know how impossible it is to find a stock image of an air conditioner surrounded by a fence? Or simply an image of an adult talking to a child in a meaningful way in something that looks like a classroom? Everybody is smiling or looking at the camera and everything is just so perfect and sterile. Don't get me wrong, stock photos have their place, like when dealing with child abuse...

Sample course pages, some featuring stock photos.
I could not publicly post images from our photo shoots anyway. Not allowed, ever.

Between the eleven hour day on Wednesday and the nearly twelve hour day on Thursday I took roughly 5500 images. The other two team members taking photos took their fair too. While not every image will be usable, we have significantly increased our photograph library. I was still working on monster stuff after these long days and I have had very little sleep this week since the photo shoot has had such an impact to my schedule.

Okay, so you have read through all this and you say to yourself, "What does any of this have to do with you being an artist and making monster?" The answer is EVERYTHING. THIS, all of THIS stuff is what I do to make sure I can have monsters in my life. The opposite of monsters make it possible for me to devote as much time and energy in my life to making monsters without much of the financial worries that can be associated with being a working artist today. This duel life style does mean I am constantly working, but who among us is not already constantly working? At the end of the day the opposite one monsters covers all of my needs. At the end of the day the monsters cover all of my wants. If I did not spend so much time working the day job, maybe I could be a better artist producing so much more work... or maybe I would be a much worse artist, struggling to keep my head above water hunting down the next job. I was a full time freelancer when I lived and worked in Los Angeles in the film industry. It was hard. I was not good at living with uncertainty, it was incredibly difficult to stay creative and motivated when I was constantly worried if I would be working in a month, in a week, the next day. Many can't work like that, but some can. I knew I couldn't, and when the opportunity arose to make a change, I took it. It has its cons, but it definitely had many pros. I spend forty five hours of my week doing the opposite of monsters so that I can have as much time as I can to making them.
 
That is all for another exciting week on the blog, see you back here on Monday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Krash - Star Wars - Process

Today on the blog I have for you the process and steps that went into a recent Star Wars character illustration produced for the Edge of the Empire RPG supplement, Mask of the Pirate Queen. I was asked to create a Barabel brawler and I was more then happy to do so. This was my second time illustrating a Barabel for Edge of the Empire. The end result was a character named Krash and here is how the final illustration turned out...

Krash
Star Wars - Edge of the Empire: Mask of the Pirate Queen
9 x 12 - Acrylic and pencil on board 
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games 

As always I started with reference photos and thumbnails. Krash needed to feature his shock gloves he uses to brawl with as well as a dominate scar on his face from a shock glove wound. Pretty straight forward, right? Sure... but he also needed to be dressed all in dark clothes. Sometimes it is seemingly minor notes such as overall color request that can really make the assignment challenging. Here is how the thumbnails turned out...

Krash - Thumbnails
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games 

Speaking of photo reference, here for your enjoyment are some of the images I was working with to create this character and his illustration...

Krash -Reference photos
Photos by Achsa Nute

Thumbnail "B" was the winner and it was now time to get started on the final drawing. Not much to share about the drawing, I drew it, scanned it, and turned it in. There was a note to tweak one thing but that was done digitally and the drawing was approved. Here is how the final approved drawing turned out...

Krash - Drawing
Star Wars - Edge of the Empire: Mask of the Pirate Queen
11 x 14 - Acrylic and pencil on board 
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games  

Time for painting! I still have not figured out a good method for painting vignettes. I am a very sloppy painter in the early stages of a painting, both digitally and traditionally. I like to throw color around, splatter things, and work really loose to build up my under painting. When I work digitally I can make a quick and easy mask... I know I can do it traditionally as well, just have yet to try it. I could always try to paint cleaner and mind the edges more, but that is not my style. There is nothing wrong with painting out the background once I am done with the figure, it is just another step that needs to be addressed. Here are some images of the painting coming together in twelve easy steps...

Krash - Process progression
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games 

Please understand that the image looks more like the final image through out the process, the photos I take during the process just do not do the painting any favors. Here is an animated progression of the painting so that you can better see the steps coming together...

Krash - Animated process
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games 

From start to finish this was a fairly quick piece to work on. I was trying to make sure I worked on at least one piece for this project since it sounded like a very cool campaign. Here again is how the final illustration of Krash turned out...

Krash
Star Wars - Edge of the Empire: Mask of the Pirate Queen
9 x 12 - Acrylic and pencil on board 
© 2015 Lucasfilm, Ltd. TM Lucasfilm, Ltd. Under license to Fantasy Flight Games

That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog, see you back here on Friday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, March 21, 2016

AltCon 2016 Recap

This past weekend I attended AltCon 2016. While AltCon is not the biggest convention you may attend, it is the closest convention I will ever attend. I had to travel two to three miles to participate and I got to sleep in my own bed, so that in and of itself was a selling point for me. This was the first time I have participated in a local convention and it was great to see so many friendly faces in attendance. A HUGE thanks goes out to everyone that came out to support me and the other local artists that were in attendance at AltCon. Having done Pensacon last month we noticed a lot of familiar faces in the vendors, guests, and attendees.

We found ourselves set up next to Richard Epcar for the weekend and that was a huge treat. Richard is best known for his voice work on more then 500 characters, including Batou from Ghost in the Shell. ...which I found very cool. We had the chance to introduce Richard to one of our favorite restaurants and had an all around fun time getting to know him. The convention was fun and Saturday by far was the busy day with a lot going on and much to see. Again, a huge thanks to everyone that come out to AltCon 2016, we hope you had as much fun as we did!

Here are some images from the weekend...

The legendary North Florida Fairgrounds in Tallahassee, Fl!

I had the shortest distance ever for load in. Never will I see its equal again.

I was in building 1, which is where the Tallahassee Rollgirls use to have their games. Lots of good memories were formed in this building. Strange to be back.

Building 2 is capable of supporting balloon life.

Time to get started with set up! The most fun part of any convention, second only to tear down... 
...not really.

Being local meant I was there much earlier then a lot of people, including the people that were putting up the fabric walls and dividers.

Now, the waiting game.

The booth is all set up and ready to go. I will only have to move EVERYTHING in just a little bit.

Okay, NOW everything is all set up and ready to go. Walls and dividers are up and all that remains is waiting till tomorrow to start the convention.

Oh, those mystery boxes are here too. By a box of mystery crap or by original art from me... tough choice, right? Of course not! Everyone wants a mystery box of crap they will just throw away way more then original art used in their favorite game.

Dear wife is shocked and amazed at AltCon 2016.

AltCon neighbor, Richard Epcar, talking to a fan.

Chopper came by to say hello.

Local art Ben Bruce gives me his happy face...

...and so does Daniel Hooker! Always great to see Ben and Daniel. 

Building 2 contained the artist alley and some of the venders.

 And for some reason I could only take photos of building 2 if they were back lit. 

Another local artist, who is no longer local, Hoyt Silva brought his comics and art to AltCon.

There were plenty of great costumes to be seen at AltCon!
(Hi Steve!)

Always great when the whole family participates. 

The local 501st was in attendance with  things relevant to my interests.

There was a little tension between Chopper and R2... and they kind of got into a fight.

I think the Doctor stopped by.

More balloon life has appeared in building 2.

Having my geek out moment of AltCon 2016.

And then it was all over.
Thanks to all that came out to AltCon!

That is all of another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mr. Chinfingers - Scribblings on Paper

Today is my load in day for ALTCon 2016 so I am away from my computer, but the monsters must go on. I have for you a recent scribble on paper. This started at the local March Drink and Draw a couple weeks ago and I decided to finish it up. It was just absentminded marks on paper as I socialized with other local artists and it eventually turned into Mr. Chinfingers. Not much then that to say about this piece...

Mr. Chinfingers
9 x 12 - Pencil on paper
© 2016 Christopher Burdett

I hope to see you out at ALTCon 2016 this weekend, March 19 - 20 at the North Florida Fairgrounds!

That is all for another exciting week on the blog, see you back here on Monday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

See You at AltCon 2016 This Weekend!

As a reminder, I will be a guest at ALTCon 2016 this weekend, Match 19-20! This will be my first time attending ALTCon and I am really looking forward to it. I have shared loads of details about this earlier on the blog or you can head to the ALTCon website for all the convention information you could hope for.

See you at ALTCon 2016!

I will have all my original paintings, drawings, prints, artist proofs, mouse pads, playmats, t shirts, sketchbooks, and more for all your monster art needs! I should be doing a panel at AltCon, but a of writing this post the panel schedule has yet to be posted. When I know something I will be sure to share it.

If you are in the Tallahassee or panhandle area I hope to see you out there at the North Florida Fairgrounds for two days of fun!

That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog, see you back here on Friday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kickstarter Roundup - Miller, Flegel, Manomivibul, and Seaman!

Today on the blog I wanted to point out some current and upcoming Kickstarter projects by friends of mine that I think you all might be interested it. These run the gamut of ending very soon, right in the middle, starting tomorrow, and soon to launch. All feature amazing art by awesome people and if you have not already checked them out, you should do so NOW! 


First up is Aaron Miller's Collector Tokens Kickstarter! I shared this on the blog last month leading up to the launch of the campaign. Aaron was using the new social mediea amplifier Thunderclap to get out the word. Since then this Kickstarter has been doing GREAT and will be ending VERY soon. If you have not already checked it out now if the time. Many stretch goals have been unlocked and you will be getting a lot of bang for you buck.



Second up is Sam Flegal's Fateful Signs: The Illustrated Havamal! I am so excited about this one. Sam recently created a series of illustrations centered around the Havamal, a collection of ancient Norse wisdom. He is collecting his art, the original text, the translation of the original text, and the notes from the translator. There are a ton of tier to support this campaign at with loads of add on and extras. This is definitely one Kickstarter to now miss out on. Head over to Sam's Fateful Signs: The Illustrated Havamal Kickstarter to get all the details and information regarding this AWESOME campaign. 

The Collector's tier of Sam's campaign that I can't wait to get my hands on!
There are tiers at every price point to fit any budget.



Third on the list is Michael Manomivibul's Fathoms Art Book! This campaign starts tomorrow and will be a collection of Michael's work spanning from 2009 to the present. This is the first major collection of Michael's work and you should not miss this opportunity to get your hands on it. If you are unfamiliar with Michael's work you should check out his website or just Head to his Kickstarter. You will not be disappointed. 



Chris Seaman prepares a miniature set to be used in his Kickstarter video

Last but certainly not least is the announcement that Chris Seaman will have a Cameo Creeps Kickstarter coming to us in the near future. If you are unfamiliar with the Cameo Creeps that Chris creates then head over to his website to check them out. I absolutely love them and we own three of them in our collection. The details of the campaign are currently unknown, but I am confident that this will be one not to miss. You can follow Chris on Kickstarter so that don't miss the launch of his next campaign. No matter what, Chris will forever upped the ante for the communities Kickstarters, we will all now need to have miniature sets.

Keep an eye out for what Chris Seaman is planning for his Cameo Creeps Kickstarter!

That is all for another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Unsung Heroes of the Art Community - Guest Post by Achsa Nute

Recently Chris had some problems with varnish he had put on his paintings. I realized taking the varnish off of one of the newest, best paintings he’d done was going to be really stressful so I stepped up and offered to do it for him. It went about as well as it could have and I’m relieved to say the paintings and painter are doing well. This got me to thinking about the ways that being the partner of a producing artist is really interesting and sometimes overlooked. So this is my shout out to all of the people in the fantasy art trenches. All of you have stories that are important to the outcome of that art. Here is a little bit of mine. 

Achsa Nute keeping tabs on the booth at Gen Con 2013 using here powers of convention camouflage.

We’ve all done something, because we believe in the work. Unfortunately, my passion for his started with a lack of faith in my own. I use to make art. I got a BFA and an MFA… and then for many reasons, I quit. Then I kinda decided Chris never would. His work had a voice and a purpose that I never really felt confident in myself. Fantasy art is so filled with all of the ideas that reflect our inner stories and it fascinates me. I also realized I wanted to remain part of an artistic community. In the process I’ve seen all of the people who are contributing in various capacities and fallen in love with them. Whether you are an AD, parenting with an artist, booth sitting, arranging exhibitions, buying artwork, ordering pizza, running out for sharpies, talking someone down from a moment of anxiety and self doubt, posing in weird cobbled together outfits for reference photos… you are a critical and integral member of this tribe. I feel you out there behind those paintings. I see you in group pictures online. I see you at conventions or hear about you from your spouses and partners. Sometimes I even SEE your face in the work. When I finally get to meet you it feels like meeting some missing relative. 

One of the countless reference photos that would not exist without the tireless efforts of Achsa Nute.

I never realized how much his work would shape my life. How all of your work would shape my life. I figured when I stopped making artwork that my artistic experience would end, but it’s really made me realize it takes a community to make art happen. It contains young new people struggling and older established folks (who honestly probably are still struggling). There are those who help conceive it, give birth to it, feed eat, give it a home. Just because you don’t contain the artistic womb that it comes out of does not make you any less critical. The keeper of that spark needs support and encouragement during that labor.  

So to all of the folks out there giving birth to artwork and the ones helping to change those artistic diapers, I love you. No seriously. I want to dance with all of you. I want to have lunch with you. I want to PM you at 2 am on Facebook. You are all an amazing family that I am so grateful to be a part of.   

Maybe some day I’ll write a memoir……

That is all for another exciting week on the blog, see you back here on Monday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Me vs. Varnish - Varnish: 1 / Me: 0

Today I have for you the ups and downs of working with traditional materials and how the day was saved by my dear wife, Achsa...

When my paintings are approved by a client or I decide a personal piece is finally finished I ready them to be varnished so that they can then be framed. Varnishing is suppose to be a fairly straight forward process and something I have been doing for a little while now. Mostly varnishing has all been happening behind the scenes without much issue or concern. That all changed recently.

I was a little behind in varnishing my paintings and was tackling several all at once when it all went horribly horribly wrong. I still do not know what actually happened, but the varnish ended up streaked, drippy, and pretty much unacceptable. It seemed to happen when I was not looking. It went from completely fine to ruined in a blink of the eye. I was trying to stay positive about all of it and make the best of it, but in the end, the varnish was ruining these paintings. It was not necessarily obvious when you looked directly at the painting, but a little cross light showed the extent of the problem...

Everything is perfectly fine, nothing to see here...

This is when Achsa stepped in to save the day. Thankfully I was using a removable varnish (Liquitex Soluvar - Gloss) which meant that there was some hope of fixing the situation. Starting with the least precious of the paintings, Achsa attempted to smooth out the rippled areas of the surface, trying to be as noninvasive as possible...

Using a solvent (mineral spirits), Achsa brushed down the ripples and imperfections in my horrible varnish application.

While the attempts to smooth the surface were effective, they were not perfect. After several passes to simply refinish the surface of the varnish, Achsa decided that if the problem was to be addressed that she would need to remove the varnish completely and start over.

More images of Achsa working on the surface layer of the varnish.

While I don't think I would have been able to do it myself, Achsa removed the varnish from the paintings without any real concern or issue. This was done while I was not around to witness it or to freak out about it. Once the varnish was removed from the surface of the painting and it had dried Achsa reapplied the varnish to the paintings in a better more controlled process, which turns out to be far superior to whatever I had been doing. A quick glance a the painting's surface can show the difference...

Everything that was wrong is right again...

Achsa has stepped up to take on varnishing duties for my paintings. She jokes that I did a bad job so that she would do it for me, but there is no way I would intentionally risk multiple paintings to get out of something I was already happily doing. In the time she has been varnishing my paintings the quality has greatly improved and all of my paintings are now in better hands.

Fixed and with a fresh application of varnish, 4-LOM is now framed up and finished.

That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog, see you back here on Friday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: www.christopherburdett.com