Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 - A Year in the Bazaar

Since starting this blog in 2009 I have made a point to look back at the previous year and attempt to sum up what I learned, experienced, and did as a working artist. Every year except last year. I did not get around to even addressing that I did not do a year end recap until late March of last year. The reason? EVERYTHING was in flux, and I do mean everything. I had finally set in motion something that I had been working toward, whether I knew it or not, since I was in college, some 20 years ago. It was definitely something I had been building towards throughout my career in the gaming industry, but I never realized it at the time. It only became clear in 2016 as the pieces fell into place and it has taken a lot of 2016 and all of 2017 for it to really materialize into something tangible. And what is this thing you may ask... that would be The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia!

A book of Monsters and Stories!

The Bazaar

Some of you might already be very familiar with all this, if not... The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia will be a book of monsters and stories and will begin to introduce the Bazaar, its creator, and some of the beings that live and work there. A year ago I was just beginning to see the pieces falling into place. It was a very scary time, and in some ways it still is. Looking back at 2017 in one moment I feel like I have not completed any work and then I am struck by how much I have actually completed. It is all still very weird to me, and even though I have been building to this point for years, now that I am here it is all very strange. a good way ...mostly. I was very hesitant to talk about any of this publicly for a long time. If I talk about it and it does not go anywhere will I look like a fool? If no one cares about what I am doing am I wasting my time? What if I realize I just can't make this work and I give up? All of these things and more were (are) constantly in my head. I actually held off announcing the project as long as long as I could. I wanted to get a lot of work done on it and I wanted to show myself that I was going to make this a reality. Thanks to some sage advice, I came to realize it is never too early to start talking about something and that I might have actually waited a little too long. Of course, I needed to have finished the project's name sake before really talking about it!

The monsters of The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia
Three have yet to be revealed... or is it two?

Ethra VanDalia

I have talked about this before when I announced this project, but this all goes back to work that I began in college. I first envisioned the Bazaar, its creator, and some of its inhabitants in the print lab while working on etchings and lithographs. Many of them stuck with me, and they have popped up now and again over the years. If something is going to haunt you for 20 years, you better do something with it because it is there for a reason. The longer I have focused my work on this project the more I have realized that this is the exact time I need to be working on it. I could not have done this project before now and if I waited any longer it would be too late. The more I work on it the more it all comes into focus. Which is all a little intimidating, very exhilarating, and profoundly surreal.

Ethra VanDalia 
11 x 14 - Pencil on paper   
Original - Currently not available   
© 2017 Christopher Burdett

The evolution of Ethra
1998 - 2017

To get the word out and to help build a stand alone presence on the internet I have created a new blog that exclusively focuses on the Bazaar and I have begun my first mailing list. While I have continued to post everything here on my main blog, the new blog features samples and first drafts of some of the writing associated with the monsters. The new blog is presenting the work more from within the world of the Bazaar while my post here are more objective and focus on the art. If you have not checked out the new blog I highly urge you to head over there any have a look around!  In many ways I feel like I am starting over with my social media presence when dealing with the Bazaar, but it needs to have its own standalone hub. At least I have an established Facebook page and this blog to help get the word out. It has all been a learning experience with a few bumps along the way.

Trade Offs

With so much of my time and energy being devoted to the Bazaar it has left very little time for any other work. While I am still taking some freelance gaming work, I have stepped away from the majority of it, for the time being. This, more than anything, has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I fought so long, pushed myself to be better, did everything I could to get to where I am currently in the gaming industry... just to put it on hold. I am still interested in freelance work and I will gladly put the Bazaar on the back burning for a little while to work with certain art directors or for specific projects. In fact I did just that earlier this year. The reality is that for the most part I will be saying 'no' to the vast majority of freelance work until I complete my project. This might hurt my career in the gaming industry, but the plan is for my own work to more than make up for any losses. But it is scary, and there is still a bit of discomfort when I turn work down. I trained myself for years to take everything that came my way so doing the opposite now still feels a little awkward, but I am learning.

A look at my production board in early 2017.
I began the year working on monster #8 and I ended the year working on #30.
I could not have done this without focusing almost all of my work time on my project.

To be truthful none of this is an actual surprise to me and I knew, at least deep down, that I would find myself here eventually. I have talked here on the blog about getting burned out and losing my direction and motivation with client work. It is one of the reasons I switched from digital to traditional painting. I needed to get more out of the work I was doing for others. Now I am getting 110% out of the work I am doing and I am doing it all for myself.

Gray Wanderer
9 x 12 - Pencil on paper
Original - SOLD
© 2014 Christopher Burdett 

Finding the Path

None of this has been a straight line and none of this has gone as planned! While I have know what I wanted to DO, how it would be made real has shifted greatly, even in this last year. I can't really compare and contrast just yet, since I have not completed the project and since when it is all said and done maybe all of my ideas will end up happening. What I do know is that when I put all of myself into the work I get the most out of it and I am the most pleased. This has been happening more and more as the project has taken shape, especially this last year. When I am designing and working on a monster that is 100% me, I am getting so much more out of it. My art is once again doing what I have always needed it to do, satisfying the need to create something new and bringing what is inside me into the world. It is now always easy, actually it is never really easy, it is work after all. For the first time in years I feel like I am getting something really tangible out of my work. I am making improvements and advancements in my craft which feels so good. The way I am going about making my drawings now is very different than when I began working in them in 2014. The techniques and even the media has changed over the years, especially this year. Before I presented the originals of the completed pieces at Illuxcon in October I had to revisit a lot of the pieces to make sure they were all at the same level and were all being handled the same way. I never expected to have to do that with my work. But they all look so much better for it.

11 x 14 - Pencil on paper
Original - Currently not available
© 2017 Christopher Burdett

What's Next?

While I am nearly complete with monster #30, the last planned monster for this project, there is still a lot of work to do. I have a map to create, a bunch of environmental scenes, some spot art, and the bulk of the writing. Having the monsters done is no small feat and puts me in a good spot to keep the momentum going with the project. I just have to keep at it and prioritize my work time on the project... which can be difficult at times. As I have said, I feel like I did not complete any work this year. I look back and wonder where the year went... but then I look at the stack of my monster drawings, notes, and writing and realize I have actually done a lot. I have also really enjoyed the year and did a lot of great and fun things. I just need to continue to focus on my work and I am sure before I know it I will have much much more to share with you!

Uncanny Scribe
11 x 14 - Pencil on paper
Original - Currently not available
© 2017 Christopher Burdett

In years past I have tried to find some sort of nugget of learning, some sound bit of truth, or something that I could leave here on the blog as a product of a year's work. Not sure I have that for this year. It is still all very much happening and there is still so much more to do. I can say that making the move away from making things for other people to making things for myself has been a very challenging process. For so long I gauged my worth and success as an artist by the work I did for others. I was a REAL artist if I worked on project X. I was a REAL artist if I worked with art director Y. I was a REAL artist is I if I did Z. I am realizing that this is a really silly way at looking at all this. Doing all those things is AMAZING and I would not trade any of it, but it was all really great experience to help me get to where I am right now. I made the art, the art does not make me. I am not going anywhere and I will still be making monsters, it will be that most of the monsters I make will be my monsters and I will be telling their stories. Here is to a VERY productive 2018!

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:

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