Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 - The Year of Bad Dice Rolls

Mother's Day Memorial Picture
by Stacy J. Garrett
Many of you have probably been wondering where in the world I have been this year since 2014 has been seriously lacking in updates. Could it be that I've been on an epic journey which would allow me to level up as an artist? If that was the case, either the DM has a really bad sense of humor or the dice has been cursed to give bad rolls. On the plus side, I have been able to find ways through many of the obstacles that have come up and in the process it would seem that I have been reinventing myself as a person and an artist. So join me in your comfortable chairs with the beverage of your choice as I retell my journey of 2014. 

Wings of an Angel 
My year started like many before it, with positive hopes for a good year for business. I nor my family were prepared for what was about to happen. In February my mother, who's health had been steadily declining in the last 2 years after her fiance had passed away, had passed away at home when she and my father had returned from running some errands and picking up dinner. It happened suddenly so I could not prepare myself for suddenly seeing the light from her eyes quickly dim with the expression on her face of 'I'm sorry'. I cried my heart out that night as did my father but I was determined to carry out the last wishes my mother had - to have her cremated and placed next to her fiance at the cemetery where his remains rest, to celebrate her life with a smile, and to continue making her proud. So I have refused to cry since that day. It is hard to think that she is physically no longer with us but I have the knowledge that she is keeping an eye on me which allows me to keep smiling and that I will make her proud by continuing on improving in my work and business. I did end up designing a tattoo for myself in memory of my mother and her fiance who we were rather close with and a second father to me. 

Personal Collaboration Project
It was after everything was settled with taking care of my mother's remains and last resting place along with the 'you need to fill these out now that your relative has passed' required paperwork for the government was taken care of that I ended up getting an idea. Of course it was one of my 'late night - oh god I'm still awake at 1 in the morning- could this be a good plan' sort of thoughts which usually have a 50/50 way it could go. There are times I go ahead and post these thoughts at the time I have them then look at them the next morning wondering is my sleep deprived mind was on something the night before. This, however, was one of those rare times I decided to hold off and let it simmer in the back of my mind then wait until morning to see if I feel the same way kind of moments. 

What was going through my brain that night in late July? I had the sudden drive to create an art book with my photography friend Stacy J. Garrett, combining her photography and my paintings into an illustrated 'story' of a dreamer who's duty is to deliver messages to those in the Realm of Dreams. I was beyond excited when she jumped on board with the project idea but was not prepared to see the amount of support I ended up receiving from several other people who were willing to not only be a part of the project but to help bring my vision for it to come to life. Right now we don't have a deadline since we're working around everyone's schedules but it is slowly coming along. Once it gets a bit more fleshed out and such, we will probably be making announcements since we're aiming to have this published once it's done. 

Overwhelming Orders but an Artist Block 
Between March to about November, I had suddenly ended up receiving a large amount of orders from several customers both frequent and new. I was astonished as to the plethora of commissions but there was just one thing that was troubling me - Halfway through I was feeling burnt out and was experiencing Artist Block. It wasn't that I wasn't feeling creative. Completely contrary actually. I was having thoughts of inspiration bubbling over as if a volcano was about ready to burst. The problem? I had come to the realization that my skills as an artist were not where I wanted or needed them and it was frustrating the hell out of me. I knew I was capable of more then what I was producing but for some reason I was feeling as if I was hitting a wall that was not letting me get through to move my work to the next level. It took some time before I was able to break through that barrier. During this time of struggling, I did however end up with an unexpected opportunity which was becoming accepted as an illustrator for a small publishing company known as PDMI Publishing and have been chosen as the artist for a children's book. It will be one of those projects that I will not be able to share the work until everything's finalized and then i will be announcing things as soon as I'm able to. 

Ashes of the Phoenix, Temporarily Misplaced Artist, and Another Family Crisis
In November, things became chaotic once more when the sudden passing of a close friend occurred. My group of friends and I gathered together and gave her wife whom we are also dear friends with support and assistance to help her through the rapid change in her life. Between exchanging stories and fond memories as we celebrated our lost friend's life, I received word from the curator of the gallery I'm with that the location that they were at was being given to another business by the landlord so they were being forced to move out. The news was a bit of a mixed blessing, really, since my curator and her husband were thinking of finding another location anyways since they wanted to have a larger venue in order to represent the collective artists better. However, when speaking with her, she did express how sudden the news was and how she wished that she could have handled the situation with a little bit more grace. December ended up being our last show at the location they were at before they had to move. They are looking for a new location at the moment and planning on reopening some time in 2015. What else could possibly happen? A week after my friend's passing and just about the time that I was finding out about the gallery temporarily being misplaced, my father and I ended up getting news that his brother had been diagnosed with cancer and would be starting chemo treatments as soon as they could. Not exactly the most happy news to find out as we were preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas but we took the news in stride since there's not much that dad and I can do on a personal level.

So as you come to the end of this and wonder to yourselves how I'm able to smile after incident after incident of bad news. Honestly, I can find bits of humor in it all. Of course in order for me to pull myself through each trial, I have found that I have been reinventing myself in order to improve. One thing I have noticed about each situation is that with each moment of negativity, there has been something positive that I have been able to find. It's as if things have been balancing out. Pretty much 2014 has been my year of Chaos. For those not familiar with the reference, it means that things of old are being destroyed in order for new things to be created and that middle point which has so much upheaval as things are breaking while other forms are being created is where I have been. Will I miss those who have passed away and locations that are no longer there? Of course I will. Every day. But I have the knowledge that they are still with me in my heart and I will see them again at a later time. May not be in this life time but while I'm here, I intend on making as positive of an imprint as I can to make them proud. SO! Again I apologize for the lack of post for 2014 but I do hope that this rather condensed version of my year will give some explanation as to why I've been missing from the blog. I am planning on returning soon once things are settled and I can reorganize my thoughts on the content you have come to expect from me. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Research before Represent

Normally I don't vent through posts within my blog and even when I'm slightly irritated over something, I can still take a light hearted approach over the situation to at least make it an entertaining read. However, this is perhaps not going to be one of those cases. This month I have had my work in 2 different art auctions - KVIE 2014 Art Auction and Pence Gallery Art Auction. This evening my painting Gentle as the Lotus went up for auction. It was also the gala event at Pence Gallery where my piece Fleeting Grandeur is currently at. Of course after a long day, I was unable to attend the gala event so stayed home to watch the live auction. 

'Gentle as the Lotus'
by Dawn Star Wood
Sadly my painting did not get as high as bids as my other pieces did in previous years . It does happen from time to time and I am aware that this year's work was perhaps not as high quality as I could have made it. This I understand and I'm perfectly fine with the fact that it just means I need to do even better for next year's entry. This is not the source of my aggravation comes from. It comes from the choice of host for the segment that my work was in. 

Usually, KVIE has 2 hosts for each half hour segment talking about the work that is being displayed. In most cases, one is just a regular host while the other is an art expert who is either familiar with artists, done research into what the inspirations was, or actually knows the artist(s) in person. This usually means that they can not only describe the techniques that were used but could describe what the artist wanted to convey. Not this time around. The individual paired up with the host for my segment turned out to be a professional interior designer. Not one word about inspiration or the story behind the piece. Technique? That it was watercolors and had a lot of fine detail. What was covered? Color. Soft natural color. How the piece was made by a 'younger artist' who 'did her own framing'. How the piece was rather feminine and the frame was masculine. No mention that I have been a donator for several years now. No mention of my previous works that have been 'Bell Ringers' (any piece that gets a bid equal or greater then the suggested retail price). To say I was disappointed is perhaps an understatement with this. 

So for those wondering about the story behind Gentle as the Lotus, it was created after the passing of my mother earlier this year and was inspired by something that I had found online called Kuan Yin's Prayer for the Abuser. I have been a fan of Kuan Yin (or Quan Yin if you prefer) art and one of the last things I had ever received from mom before she had passed was a carved jade charm of Kuan Yin and a statue of her to add to my religious statuary collection. The piece was quite personal for me and was also rather healing at the same time. 

Kuan Yin's Prayer for the Abuser
To those who withhold refuge, 
I cradle you in safety at the core of my Being. 
To those that cause a child to cry out, 
I grant you the freedom to express your own choked agony. 
To those that inflict terror, 
I remind you that you shine with the purity of a thousand suns. 
To those who would confine, suppress, or deny, 
I offer the limitless expanse of the sky. 
To those who need to cut, slash, or burn, 
I remind you of the invincibility of Spring. 
To those who cling and grasp, 
I promise more abundance than you could ever hold onto. 
To those who vent their rage on small children, 
I return to you your deepest innocence. 
To those who must frighten into submission, 
I hold you in the bosom of your original mother. 
To those who cause agony to others, 
I give the gift of free flowing tears. 
To those that deny another's right to be, 
I remind you that the angels sang in celebration of you on the day of your 
To those who see only division and separateness, 
I remind you that a part is born only by bisecting a whole. 
For those who have forgotten the tender mercy of a mother's embrace, 
I send a gentle breeze to caress your brow. 
To those who still feel somehow incomplete, 
I offer the perfect sanctity of this very moment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An Epic Tale of Convention Mayhem

Take a seat, my darlings, and let me tell you an epic tale of 2 artists who had a rather busy Labor Day weekend. It may not sound like much to the average person but let don't judge until the end. This starts actually nearly 4 months previously when my good friend Stacy had contacted me about being interested in vending at SacAnime and needed a booth-buddy. Familiar with the venue location and had been a vendor for Sacramento Arts Festival for 4 years, I agreed and helped her with plans and such. Within theory, everything was fitting together perfectly - prime location for our spot surrounded by popular businesses so we would have great foot traffic, everything paid on time, and friendly correspondence with the staff of the event.

 Moving forward to a week before the event, the first indication that this was going to be a bit different from the art festival occurs. Normally for MOST large scale conventions like this gives those who are vending information on what day and time the set up is supposed to be (i.e. for the Sacramento Arts Festival, that information is included in the packet of information when submitting to be chosen as a potential vendor). Stacy ends up sending me a distress message saying that she doesn't know when we were scheduled to do set up. Puzzled, I took a look at the site and noticed that it was never mentioned. It's not unheard of for this to occur from time to time but it was a little odd, especially since my poor panicked partner was not receiving any emails back on her inquiry. So in ultimate Dawn style, I went and called the Sacramento Convention Center (where the convention was to be held) and explained the situation to the head of the events office. Though I didn't receive a call back, my initial phoned in query sparked a response by email to Stacy which let us know when set up was. 

As we move forward to the day of set up, Stacy and I get everything packed up and ready to lug to the convention center. Giving directions to the back where the loading docks were, I figured that things would be set up like how the Sacramento Arts Festival had their event set up- with blue curtained 'walls' dividing the booths and having the company names with what booth number they were on the tables. Oh how wrong I was. Right as we step in, we both got a sense of something amiss. Before our eyes was a room of neatly lined up tables inside of divided up blue taped squares. Nothing was marked and the vendors who were there were as confused as we were about the set up. Let us just say that locating our table was a bit on the interesting side. Of course the entire situation allowed us to make friends with the young woman in the booth behind us for Epic Cosplay Wigs as we assisted her in setting up her area. At some point while we were trying to unload the vehicle we came in on, I jogged from our table which was on one side of the large room to the docking bay. Not a long distance, mind you, but for someone of my... fluffiness... who hasn't run since high school to suddenly sprint any distance was just a little out of my league. As I returned with a cart of merchandise, I wheezed out to my booth buddy the only words I could think of: "Stacy, don't ever let me run again unless there's a zombie behind me." Of course I didn't even think that those around us could hear me but the smirks and giggles from the comment suggested that they more then just heard me. 

An epic Deadpool sneaking around
in a Stormtrooper outfit
(photo courtesy of Stacy J. Garrett)
The convention itself was rather entertaining as I worked on mini paintings while Stacy people watched and talked with customers. There were the cosplayers who did a stunning job on their outfits, those who did a relatively alright job on what they were going for and then there were those who I really couldn't decide if they lost a bet or couldn't figure out which character to be so they mashed up as many as they could together. Of course there were plenty of the latter who caused me to pause in my work and just stare. By the last day, our fellow vendors and we were getting rather punchy. Long days filled with countless costumed customers does sort of wear on a person but the fact there was a lot of positive energy and smiling faces certainly made things much more tolerable. That is unless you're stationed right under the speaker system and they decide to give the microphone to someone who is nearly yelling into it. Nearly all of us were plugging our ears and several were commenting that someone should go up to the table to talk to them about it. A little irritated, I finally set my work aside and headed over to the table to ask them to lower the volume. The gentleman armed with the microphone apologized for not knowing and by the time I returned to the booth, they were doing a mic test to the cheers of nearly every vendor in the room. It was later when I thought the situation over that I realized that from an entire room of people of vendors and cosplayers alike, I was the only one that actually went forward to save our eardrums. Not too sure how that worked but oh well. To lighten the mood, Stacy and I ended up coming up with a random drinking game which we agreed would have either caused me alcohol poisoning or be in a drunken stupor well into the coming week days. Good times, good times. 

There was so much more to say but if you would like to see things from Stacy's point of view, feel free to check out her blog post SacAnime Recap!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Functional Decadence

There are times when adding a little bit of sparkle or just sprucing a regular item up so that it gets that response of a gasp and a "oh how beautiful" reaction is perfectly fine. Of course the creator of the pieces needs make sure that they don't go too far or stop short of 'just enough'. It's a fine line, to be sure, and is completely dependent on the person creating the piece and those who view it. Completely up to interpretation, really. Though with all of these factors, the end result is still a show of skill and patience of the creator. What started such a deep thought of common items showing a side of decadence in an other wise regular environment? I had spotted a photo of a chess set worth $600 K made by Charles Hollander Jewelers which was covered in white and black diamonds. A truly lovely set, to be sure, which I think would be lovely in a fantasy photo shoot (though personally I would be afraid of touching it). When sharing the image with a friend, she commented saying it was too much. At that moment, I found myself thinking about some of the other things I have seen over time where everyday items are turned into beautiful works of art yet are still functional. 

'Gold Playstation' by Matthew-Walk
Matthew-Walk.deviantart.com (United States) 

Though it's in his gallery, US based artist Matthew actually features something that his jeweler step father created for singer Genuine - a gold Playstation controller. In the description of the photo, he makes note that the controller is covered in diamonds and rubies. A favorite piece among the gamers that visit the page, many have voiced their drooling approval over such an extravagant show including several wishing to sell their soul in order to have the controller. 

'Custom Majora's Mask N64 with purple flake' by
Zoki64.deviantart.com (Slovenia) 

Slovenian artist Zoran specializes in custom repaint jobs on game controllers, ranging from the N64 to SNES to Gamecube. Each piece in his gallery was ordered by customers and is a dazzling spectacle of colors and sparkle. One such eye catching piece in the collection is a custom Majora's Mask themed N64 controller with purple flake. 

ChaeyAhne.deviantart.com (United States) 

'Celestrial Sun Astrologers Feather Quill Pen' by
American based artist Chaey specializes in artisan writing quills. What better way for a writer to show a bit of flare and elegance then with the very instrument that they are using to create stories? Each one of her pieces are unique pieces of art. One such example of her eye for detail is her Celestial Sun Astrologers Feather Quill Pen which she notes in the description includes 'Hand painted with hand beaded celestial disc focal'. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Humorous Life of a Chameleon


When most people hear this term, they automatically picture a lizard able to alter its coloration in order to better blend with its environment. However it's also used to describe someone who is able to incorporate themselves into surroundings that is not native to them or change their appearance. How do I know about the latter version? It's something that I've been called for nearly my entire life. I am the type of person who actually sees it as a compliment since it means that no matter the environment, I would be able to be under the radar that I was a foreigner since appearance wise I would be overlooked since I look like everyone else around me.  

Originally it had nothing to do with what I wore but how people preserved my physical appearance. Between the ages of 3 to 8, most thought that I was adopted due to my hair at the time being straight and on the black side with my eyes being almond shaped. Compared to my father's obvious 'white American' appearance and my mother's olive completion showing her Latin heritage, people thought I was Japanese. By 5th grade, when my hair decided that it will start having it's own personality by going curly, I had the parents of my classmates think that I was an Italian boy who had a girl's name. As I got older, I had the amusing game of having people guess what ethnicity (and for a short time what gender) I was. To this day I actually haven't had anyone guess correctly what I am. Most guesses now-a-days range from European, Mediterranean, Turkish, Grecian, Sicilian, Australian, and someone from South America.

Before photo shoot
(c) Etta Jean
Where am I going with this, you may be asking yourselves. Well recently my friend, Photographer and Author Etta Jean, who knew of my chameleon nature sent me an distress call to my phone. A fellow author was in need of a photo of an Arabic or Indian woman wearing a hijab to act as the front cover for a novel she had written of her life and had tasked Etta to help come up with an image. 
Etta: Question, oh miss chameleon. 

Dawn: Yeeessssss? Should I worry when you call me that? 

Etta: I can't find any Hindu/Middle Eastern females who wear/could wear a hijab. 

Dawn: I see where you're going with this. 

Etta: Think you could be passable? 

Dawn: Maaaaayyybbbeeee >_>

We agreed that this would be the biggest test for me to see if I could pull off the look of not only a different ethnicity but a different belief system then my own. In one week I studied how a proper woman of the Islamic faith dressed, put on a hijab and wore her make up. I lost count of the amount of images I looked through and took mental notes of. Finally the day of the photoshoot arrived and I went from regular mix-breed Bohemian artist living in Northern California to a proud Arabic woman of the Islamic faith. Etta and I agreed that we would keep hidden my actual background from the author and the publishing company that they were apart of and would only bring it up once either there were guesses or if I appeared completely out of place. So the waiting game began. Then, the first comments came in from one of the publishers saying "Well, she is quite lovely and got the expression I was thinking of quite well.".  It was a nice compliment, to be sure but I was still holding my breath on what the author would say. Then this morning, it happens. I receive the following message from Etta: 
After getting dressed for photo shoot
(c) Etta Jean 

 "I am cracking up right now. It would seem that you weren't exactly what they were looking for. They needed someone a little bit more European in appearance. You were too Arabic."

I couldn't help but laugh for a good 5 to 10 minutes. My lungs burned, I was short of breath, and I couldn't stop myself from smiling. Unknowingly to this author, she had just given me the biggest compliment that I could ever receive from someone. The fact that I, a mutt, was able to cause someone else of a faith that is typically stereotyped as being of people of mostly Arabic decent (though other ethnicity are part of it) believed that I was of that background - I'm still astounded. So it would appear with the photos during the shoot, I did a little too good of a job of portraying what I was supposed to.

Once the other photos from the shoot are available, I will include a link but in the meantime, if you would like to follow either Etta or myself via social media, feel free to find us at the following locations: 

Etta Jean (author) on Facebook 
Stacy J. Garrett (photographer) on Facebook
Dawn Star Wood (artist) on Facebook

Monday, June 30, 2014

Walls, Paint & Imagination

As many of you who have been following me on Facebook have seen that I have been pretty busy with projects and private commissions for clients. Having just wrapped up a large scale project, I thought I would share what I've been up to. 

Back in January I was contacted by (at the time) a potential client who heard of my work by word of mouth from another client who happened to work with her. At the time she inquired about possibly doing murals in her childrens' rooms to personalize their spaces and reflect their personalities. Having a couple of meetings with her, I got to meet her husband and their two children so that I could get a better idea of what they were wanting. Their daughter was prepared with a couple of small sketches, torn between the idea of having either a jungle scene or the arctic for her room. Their son was a little more at ease over the whole situation and expressed his enjoyment of nature and the game Minecraft, especially the biomes known as the Extreme Hills. 

There was a bit of time between our brainstorming meetings and our confirmation meeting partially because she ended up getting a promotion at work and my mother passed in February so we were a bit busy getting our personal lives reorganized and settled. Eventually  the designs were chosen and I got started with this large scale project as soon as I was given the date to go ahead and battle the paints. 

First up was the daughter's room. Soft blues, pinks, and purples were the main colors for the subject - an arctic scene. As per the requirements, there needed to be a killer whale and a polar bear in the work since the young girl was an animal lover. The sky was relatively easy to do but the icebergs were a little more entertaining to do. As I was blending the colors, I realized that the paintbrush was making the shading too crisp and angular for what I wanted to achieve. So what did I decide to do? Yup, I ended up blending things with my fingers to give the ice a more textured affect. 

Second was the son's mural. Familiar with what he was looking for, I designed his to be natural landscape scene which had mountains, plenty of trees and a large lake. The water was a bit tricky since there were so many different colors being reflected in it. Once I had the base colors of the water then the initial reflections in place, I had noticed that the reflections themselves were too vibrant in color for what I wanted. Instead of just starting over, I ended up watering down the base color I used for the water and did a wash over the reflections then used my hand to soften the appearance of everything. 

Another little hitch which I dealt with was the lighting in the rooms (which you can see by the photos). All I had to work with was what light that was coming through their windows and the single light each room which was fairly dim and slightly towards the yellowish side. I ended up getting into the habit of looking at the wall up close and at an angle to make sure on the true hues of the colors I was using. Other then that and a few other little things, I was fairly successful in representing what the children were looking for.

Note: For those wondering- from start to finish, each room took 3 days (6 in total) to paint, 4 and a half pots (the pot I have holds 10 cups), 1 grande Iced Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, 6 bottles of water (hey need to keep hydrated), and 27 different colors (total) to complete this 2 room project. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meeting of Artistic Minds: Timothy Lantz

'Raven Heart' by Timothy Lantz
I can't help but feel excited as I present to you a brand new installment of 'Meeting of Artistic Minds'. I will be aiming to have new content for this segment for you all on a somewhat regular basis but of course it completely depends on the schedules of the artists I speak with. Putting that aside, I was able to get in contact with another long time friend who was entertained by the idea of a little Q and A session. An artist and illustrator, Timothy Lantz's unique images have been used for book covers, comic covers and CCGs such as Legend of the Five Rings - Rise of the Shogun expansion and DC Comics Vs. CCG - Legends expansion

'Unveiling the Sorceress'
by Timothy Lantz

With so much of your work focusing on photo manipulation to create a collage effect for the images you produce, is there a particular genre that you prefer working in more than another? 

I think my particular style is suited to working in the fantasy and urban fantasy/paranormal genres. I would hesitate to declare those as favorites however. In my non-commercial work,I really try to achieve an aesthetic closer to the works of the romanticism movement of the 1800's. 

Who or what has been the greatest influence on you and your work? 

John William Waterhouse and Maxfield Parrish first come to mind when I think of my favorites. For more modern inspiration I invoke the works of Dave McKean, John Van Fleet and Christopher Shy

I believe my background in art education has given me a broader context from which to draw inspiration and I think it's fair to say my work really reflects the influence of the symbolism and romanticism movements with maybe a touch of the modern. 

'X - The Wheel of Fortune'
by Timothy Lantz

Since the creation of your Archeon Tarot deck, are you planning on another large scale project in the near future? Also, for those within the community who aren't familiar with the Archeon Tarot, was there anything specific that inspired you to create the images? 

I have been slowly working on a follow up to the Archeon Tarot. It's in the writing stages now, but still a long way off from seeing the light of day. 

Originally, I began the Archeon as a response to another deck I saw being posted online. I wasn't a fan of what I saw and decided to try my hand at creating a deck that would appeal to me as an artist. 

'Her Clockwork Heart' by Timothy Lantz
Cover for 'The Clockwork Heart' by Dru Pagliassotti
When traveling for the various conventions you attend, has anything memorable happened while on the road? What are some 'must haves' that you take with you in your travels? 

I can't even describe how much my life has changed since I began displaying my work at the various shows and conventions. I've met so many amazing people and made some really good friends over the last ten years. It's just been amazing. 

Some of the more memorable moments include meeting fans of my work who had discovered me through my book covers or other projects, being interviewed on various topics ranging from digital art to publishing, meeting celebrities and seeing new places. 

I tend to travel pretty light when it comes to personal items, though I'm never without a sketchbook, a few books or graphic novels and my phone. 

'Sherlock Holmes- The Crossovers Casebook'
by Timothy Lantz
If there was another artist's work you enjoy, who's work would you like to have on the walls of your home or office? 

I have so many favorites I'd quickly run out of wall space if I tried to collect work from them all. I do have some absolute essentials though: "Duel After the Masquerade Ball" by G.L. Gerome might just be my favorite painting of all and a print of that hangs in my office. I'd love to get a reproduction of Waterhouse's "Magic Circle" and something from John Van Fleet. 

Thank you to Timothy for taking the time to answer some questions. If you want to see more of his work or keep up on his schedule, you can find him via social media here: 

Facebook: Archeon Tarot / Art of Timothy Lantz
Website(s): Stygian Darkness / Archeon Tarot
deviantART: archeon.deviantart.com 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Meeting of Artistic Minds: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Changeling: Dusk by Stephanie Law
White Wolf's Changeling Book - Dancers of Dusk
The wait is finally over for the next installment of Meeting of Artistic Minds. Today we spotlight a long time friend of mine, the wonderful water-colorist Stephanie Pui-Mun Law who has done work for several games including Legend of the 5 Rings and Blue Rose, book covers for White Wolf, her own publications and the creation of the Shadowscapes Tarot and Dreamdance Oracle. Having a chance to catch her during a rare window of free time in her busy schedule, I was able to ask this creator of mesmerizing worlds a few questions. 

With so much of your work focusing or inspired by fables and mythology, what type of stories catch your attention the most? 

I enjoy stories that have subtle elements of the fantastical. I like to have that connection to a familiar reality, an anchor, but then to have something that transcends. I think that's what I enjoy about mythology and folklore. Much of it is based on deep seated desires or needs that people have always had. Dreams, yearnings, whether for the physical, or for the less tangible in the form of rationale for the inexplicable and sacred experiences. Myths are especially appealing because these are stories that have captured the fascination of people for thousands of years. They're in our core, because they appear over and over in different forms, in different cultures that never had any contact. They speak to people on a level that goes beyond the surface words, and into the archetypes that are represented underneath. By tapping into the imagery of mythology, you can speak about a whole array of things that go beyond just the veneer of the painting. 
'Meditations of Beauty' by Stephanie Law

An example is where I was recently invited to participate in a gallery show with the theme "On Beauty". Creating in image of just simple Beauty seemed to be a very simple endeavor, but as I sketched, I quickly found that I wanted to go beyond just that word in isolation. I wanted a painting that could speak to my viewer on what beauty is. Snow White was an initial idea that came to mind, with her pristine beauty that engendered jealousy and fears of aging within the heart of her stepmother. Or Eris, throwing her the golden apple among the gathering of gods, to spark the competition between Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera, and which lead to the Trojan War. Beauty enthralls, enchants, incites, blooms and fades....  I found myself almost incapable of approaching the concept in a void -- I wanted and needed to put a framework of an archetype around it, and in that way, make the painting speak to me, and hopefully touch my audience as well.

Even though you have a FAQ section on your website answering the most common questions that you've received over the years, what has been some of the strangest or oddest questions you've had to answer from a fan? 

'5 for Silver' by Stephanie Law
I was at a convention once, and I had a girl walk up to my table, and flop down across it exclaiming, “Will you marry me?!” We laughed about it, and in future years whenever she saw me at a show, she introduced herself again as “the girl who asked you to marry her”, though the reminder was not necessary (it stuck the first time)!

I have my art spread out across many artist sites, and so sometimes people aren’t aware that it’s me behind the accounts, and they write or comment on images, “That looks a lot like this other artist. Are you familiar with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell on the internet! But on the other side of that as well, I’m often notified by my attentive fans to illegitimate usages of my art as well, and I am very grateful for all those extra pairs of eyes out there looking out for me!

Not questions, but sometimes I have been told very intimate stories from people of their lives, and the way a specific image has touched them, and that's always an honor to know that a painting has delved that far to connect with that unknown part of another person.

Like so many artists, balancing family and business along with many long nights of working on projects, what do you find helps keep your creative focus and awake? 

I actually had a very hard time with the transition. And still do at times.  I'm a night-owl by nature. When on my own, I end up staying awake far into the night, and often it would be the slight lightening of the sky that would startle me and send me hopping into bed! Since becoming a mother though, that's not a lifestyle I can maintain, and I've had to shift my most productive hours from twilight, to daytime.
'Where the Shadow Used to Fall' by
Stephanie Law

If I try to paint too late at night now, I find I'm too exhausted to do good work. I need my brain to be agile and active enough to participate fully. This does mean though that my painting hours are a bit more limited than they used to be, as it was limited in the early years to when my daughter napped, and now is slightly expanded as she goes to preschool. But I find that 4 hours during the daytime when I am On, is MUCH more effective than twice that amount of time in the middle of the night when I’m too tired to create art productively. So now, I use those night hours to unwind instead, so that I can be relaxed when I do have the blocks of time in the day to fully take advantage of them.

Do you have any major projects currently lined up that you wish to announce to your fans so they can be prepared? If not, what new publications have been released recently that they can add to their personal libraries? 

Dreamdance Oracle: Communion Card
by Stephanie Law
Well, the most immediate project on the horizon is my next Dreamscapes book that is due to be released by my publisher, Impact Books, this winter. Dreamscapes is my series of watercolor technique books, and this next one will focus on fantastical landscapes and settings. I’m very excited about it, and am in the final stages of proofing the initial draft that my publisher’s graphic designers have put together from my manuscript.

My other projects are a bit further out on the horizon. One of them is an oracle deck (the Dreamdance Oracle) that is about a third of the way to completion that I am working on as a collaborative venture with Satyros Phil Brucato. We have worked together over the past decades a few times when I was still heavily involved in doing illustration work for the gaming industry, and we quickly discovered his writing and my art were very compatible, and that we had a shared love of dance as well. Hence the theme for this deck.

Other projects are a bit more nebulous at this time, and I can’t say much yet, but one of them I’m hoping for is another collaborative project featuring a book of Chinese folktales, and another being the illustrations for an herbal guide for Llewellyn Worldwide.

Thank you so much to Stephanie for taking the time to give us an inside look of her busy life and share such delightful tidbits of information. If you wish to follow her via social media, you can find her here: 

Facebook: The Art of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
Website: Shadowscapes.com
Blog: Midnight Ramblings
deviantART: puimun.deviantart.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014

If Nature was Music

Nature has always been a source for inspiration for those in the arts, especially for musicians. You have your classic examples of Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven (1770-1827) and Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) but I have noticed a growing trend as of late of musicians taking their inspiration of nature to a whole new level. In the case of Canadian musician Rebecca E Trip, whom I've worked with, had put together an entire collection of waltzes where each one was meant for a different type of flower. She then put together videos, with the permissions of 100+ artists, that combined her music to art that featured that particular flower. A labor of love to say the least but was certainly a wonderful passion project to be a part of. Swiss composer Adrian von Ziegler, though has a wide range of music genres that he creates but there are some such as Spring CharmAutumn Forest, and Evening Breeze which combines Celtic tunes with the sounds of nature. 

Recently on YouTube, I became aware of a fascinating video created by BACARDI where a small team of musicians and technicians who joined forces to make music from the movement of bats that were migrating through Austin, Texas.

Completely mesmerized by what they had done, I was fascinated when at the end of the video, they suggested that if you were interested to hear the track they had created to go onto SoundCloud. Well it actually took me a little bit in order to find it, discovering it under the title of BACARDI #BatBeats. Though only 2:09 minutes in duration, it is still a wonderfully captivating track to listen to. 

The whole situation actually reminded me of another video I had seen recently by composer Jarbas Agnelli who had seen a picture of birds sitting on a power line and made music from their placement. According to Jarbas:

"Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the very same newspaper." 

I have a feeling that with the access to new technology and the ability of trading ideas more easily, we will be seeing more amazing works from musicians that were either inspired or pays tribute to nature. It will be fascinating to see what is waiting for us in the coming future. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

In the Spirit of Spring

There are a great many things to be found on the internet when looking for a certain topic or image. Some rather educational, some humorous, and then some just.. well... mind blowing idiotic. Perhaps 'idiotic' is not the right term to use, but rather short-sighted-closed-minded-propaganda. You're probably confused and wondering what I'm going with this so let me explain by telling you wonderful readers what had happened to me in the last two days.

This week I had announced on my art Facebook page that I was in the process of creating a new group of bookmarks with the theme of Spring in mind. Several friends of mine had suggested that I could do a bookmark each based off of various world religions, which I completely jumped on as a wonderful idea. Going through my own collection of research notes and double checking dates of certain celebrations online, I settled on the festival of Ostara (Norse), festival of Beltane (Celtic), and the celebration of Vesak (Buddhist, which left the last bookmark in the grouping open for a suggestion later on. So far, so good.

As I would have expected, finding imagery and symbols for the Ostara and Beltane bookmarks were relatively easy. Pondering what the fourth design should be, again I turned to my eclectic group of friends for advice. One of my warm and bubbly pagan friends suggested: “Well, what about the more 'traditional' Easter? An actual Jesus related thing, rather then the appropriated paganistic version?” Hmm. Shouldn't be too difficult.. or so I thought.

I was originally looking for something in the range of Pysanka, beautifully decorated Ukrainian eggs, which I thought would make a lovely bookmark design. 

Chocolate Virgin Mary & Jesus icons
My first mistake was just looking up 'Easter eggs'. There were a couple of humorous images that had come up, including a chocolate Jesus and Virgin Mary. Not too sure how that image got into the collection but I just laughed, shrugged and moved on. And then I found a certain image I just had to stare at in disbelief. It was one of the few times I felt sick to my stomach and actually had the need to share the image with my friends apologizing over the amount of bigotry and closed mindedness that was there. Before my eyes was the cover of a book titled Are Your Children Playing With Lucifer's Testicles? The truth about Easter Eggs by Dr. Daniel Cameroon. After the shock of seeing this, I just had to see if this was a real thing or not. It took a bit of looking around but to my horror and disgust, I discovered that the book was indeed a real thing. I could only get myself to read the first part of the summary of the book before I couldn't take the knots that were forming in my stomach from glimpsing the obviously hate-filled content. To give you wonderful readers a glimpse into what this book contains, 'lovingly' written by an obviously 'concerned Christian':

Are Your Children Playing With Lucifer's Testicles? is a Bible based book for Christian parents who by lack of faith can't afford to send their children to a decent Christian school. Their precious youngsters are infected by the secular filth and lies being taught by unsaved teachers in America's public school system. The book teaches parents how to easily explain to their children that Easter (as it is celebrated by the Unsaved) has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ but is actually a holiday celebrating lewd and sexually explicit pagan rituals of fertility. 

As a side note, I usually do include links to the various articles and sources that I use for information but in the case of this particular book, I don't have it in me to include it's source. I do however wish to note that yes, I am a Christian but instead of automatically thinking that anything that is not within my circle of faith is evil and should be burned, I take the time to research what is around me and understand from another's point of view. Why is that? Personally, I believe that it's not in my place to judge another who has a different religion from me or no religion at all. I know that it feels like to be judged and ridiculed for being different, odd, and even 'not Christian enough'. That last one just shakes my head considering that we are supposed to love and be concerned about each other's well being. It's fanatics like this individual who actually scare me and worry about the safety of my friends. So to my non-Christian friends and readers, I do extend my apologies for having to deal with things like this on a constant basis but please rest assured that not all of us are that way.

After I had spoken with my friends about the horror of discovering that such literature actually does exist, noting to them that the website that I had discovered it on was also suggesting a purchase of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I had to tell them that there was still a part of me that wished the entire thing was a joke but knew that it probably wasn't.

Ukrainian Painted Eggs 

To lighten the mood, one of the wonderful women who I was speaking with was able to locate for me some wonderful examples of Ukrainian painted eggs and I had later discovered that there is actually an entire museum in Kolomyya, Ivano-Frankivs'ka oblast, Ukraine dedicated to Pysanka along with a location in the United States.

Pysanka Museum
Address: Kolomyya, Ivano-Frankivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10am-6pm
Phone: +380 3433 27891

The Ukrainian Museum
Address: 222 East 6th Street (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) New York, NY 10003
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 11:30am - 5pm
Phone: (212) 228-0110

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meeting of Artistic Minds: Etta Jean

Many of you on Facebook have voiced your desire to read interviews of artists of all kinds. Well you're in luck since this has spawned a brand new segment that has been aptly named 'Meeting of Artistic Minds'. Today we spotlight photographer and author Etta Jean who is having the second book of her Chronicle series, Chronicle of Summer, being released February 14th. Speaking with her, this young woman who seems to have a multitude of muses has not only a handful of other mediums she enjoys but has a personality as colorfully woven as the worlds she creates.

Of the various mediums, what was it about photography, clay miniatures and writing that captured your attention to the point that you wished to focus on those?

As is my way, I got into my various mediums almost on accident. I never set out thinking "I'm going to do this." Photography was actually inspired in me by my uncle. I was twelve, and we had gone to Disney World. I had a point-and-shoot, and he had a 35mm Mamiya. He and my mother realized I had taken the better photos and urged me to try a class. I figured "why not?" and did so. I was immediately hooked. There's something about the capturing of a piece of time, of permanently making a memory, that moves me. Something about showing someone that they are beautiful—even against society's conventions—that drives me.
Clay miniatures . . . I have to blame my best friend, Cheyenne, for that one. She started playing with clay, and I'd been admiring mini food art, and I just decided to give it a try, and again I was hooked. It's rather therapeutic to make adorable mini versions of food that I can't eat for whatever reason.

My writing . . . wow. It consumes such a large piece of my soul. It is my salvation in so many ways. I've always loved to read, loved worlds and words and escaping into make-believe. I had a teacher push me into writing a ridiculous short story, and it was a gateway drug. The doors had opened. The characters I have created—three in particular come to mind— are a living, breathing, piece of me. A small part of me doesn't think they're merely a figment of my mind. Somewhere, in another plane, they exist, and they tell me their stories so that they are not lost to time.

For your photography and writing, was there a specific source of inspiration or influence that has been influential to each? If so, could you please share?

My photography has been influenced by the works of Ralph Gibson , Edward Weston (1886-1956), Ansel Adams (1902-1984), and Annie Leibowitz. The first two for their stark and wonderful dance with light and dark, Ansel Adams because of his eye for detail and making the mundane spectacular, and Annie Leibowitz because of her ability to connect to her subjects and bring out a powerful sense of intimacy. All of those elements are what I want to bring together into my work. I want to create connections and draw out breathless delight and sometimes I even want to inspire tears. Life is laughter and pain, and I want to show life in its whole.

My writing has been influenced by Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Kay Hooper, and Christine Feehan. I will grab every book they write even if I don't know yet what it is about. They drag me into their worlds where I can't escape until I'm done. I'm an insanely fast reader to begin with, but I'll knock out whole books in two hours because I can't put it down. That's the kind of thing I strive to create in my own work: a world you feel so deeply that you just have to know what happens next. Supposedly I'm succeeding. I've been accused of making people miss their bus stops. Whoopsie!

When it comes to your writing, is there a genre that you prefer writing in more than others?

I'm a romantic, so there will always be a romance at the core of my stories. Saucy romances, of course, because the spice is half the fun. Branching from the romance base, I prefer to move into fantasy or paranormal. A fantasy world where I make the rules, or a paranormal one where I bend the rules to my whims. There is so much mundane about my life, about many of our lives, that being able to step through the veil and find some faeries or magic helps bring a renewal. I can face the everyday grind if I can go home and throw some fireballs in text.

Some authors enjoy having fan-made art based off of either their characters or situations that occurred in their stories. Is there a character (or characters) that you would like to see an artistic interpretation of? If you could have any artist whose style you enjoy to do a piece of work for your writing, who would you choose?

I would probably squeal like a little girl and jump up and down if someone made me fanart! I would love to touch an artist deeply enough that they see my worlds/character so clearly that they just have to express their fandom via their chosen medium. To me, there is no greater gift to an artist than the gift of art from another.

Characters I'd love to see interpreted . . . Sparkle and Daylar from CHRONICLE OF
DESTINY/SUMMER. Being a photographer, I found the perfect models for Tariah, Dominic,
and Kelsey, but my little Kin Fae have eluded me. There's actually another character I'd love to see even more but she's from a story not yet released, so I can't say much about her—yet.

I have three artists whose work I love enough that I'd FLIP if they just randomly gave me
fanart. One is Brianna Garcia (dA). She has such a wonderful style, and she does awesome things like turn characters into My Little Ponys without losing the character's style. So fun! Another is Charlie Bowater (dA). She has a more realistic style and her range of depth and color is yummy. The third is actually YOU, Ms. Dawn Star Wood. As if the way I'm always dogging your heels and hiring you wasn't a clue! (By the way, my birthday is in August. Just a hint.)

With your new novel approaching its release date, is there a memorable excerpt from either Chronicle of Destiny or its continuation Chronicle of Summer you wish to share with readers?

This is a fun bit from SUMMER where we're getting to know one of the main characters, C.J.
He and his best friend Cole . . . well, there's a reason I loved writing those boys.
"They won't turn my skin blue, will they?"
"Blue?" She blinked then hid a smile. "No, they won't, I promise. You might be a little
more sensitive to the sun though, so take care not to get a burn." She put the herbs in a bowl
and began to expertly grind them into a fine powder. "I'll make it into a lotion you can rub into
your skin. It's more effective than eating them. And anyway, they might make your stomach
"I've eaten Cole's cooking and survived."
When Cole didn't say anything, Kappa lifted a brow. "No witty comeback?"
"I can't argue with the truth," was the dry response. "If they really want to get rid of the
Elite, they should feed them my attempt at sweetbread. It's probably more lethal than a fireball
from a Master Fire Magi."
She bit her lip to hide a smile. Without another word, she finished grinding the herbs.
She then added a liquid serum from some desert flowers to make it into a spreadable
condition. "The only side effect other than the sensitivity to the sun will be that you might smell
like flowers."
"I'm a Soil Magi," C.J. pointed out. "I frequently smell like anything that has to do with
growth. Spring is the worst. The findral keep trying to chew on my hair."
"That's why it's so short," Cole offered. "We couldn't get the findral away fast enough."
"Are you sure you're not brothers?"
The males grinned at each other. "Well, in a way we are," C.J. admitted. "We've been
best friends ever since I was twelve. No one knows me as well as Cole does. Actually, I've
never been comfortable around anyone but Cole, so that's part of it as well."

Thanks for having me on your blog, Dawn! The coffee is on me next time.

Many thanks to the lovely and delightful Etta Jean for taking the time to answer some questions and taking me by surprise by some of her answers. If you're interested in getting a copy of her Chronicle of Destiny or her upcoming release Chronicle of Summer, here is some information for you to check out:

Amazon.com: Chronicle of Destiny (Kindle) - $2.99
Amazon.com: Chronicle of Destiny (Paperback) - $13.21

Genocide. It marks the history of the Chronicle race. The populous Magi erased their more powerful cousins from the face of Lucksphere two thousand years ago, and any Chronicles discovered in the time since are murdered on sight. Tariah Chronis is a Chronicle. Her survival lays in a combination of her parents' love and a crafty disguise by a sympathetic member of the Kin race. Her continued survival hinges on her control of her emotions. When those emotions are released, her identity is revealed and her destiny secured. Now she is on the run, following the map buried within the lines on her body that will lead her to her other half: a Fury. Dominic Whisperer is a Fury. He has lived three centuries waiting for the day he will die. A Fury always feels the birth of their Chronicle, and they always feel their death. A Fury whose Chronicle dies will suffer endlessly until put out of their misery. Twenty years ago, Dominic put his affairs in order and prepared for that day. It didn't come. Now Tariah and Dominic will have to fight for their right to live, and to do it, they might have to save the very world that wants them dead.

Want to follow the wonderful Etta Jean via social media or check out her other work? She has you covered:

Facebook: Etta Jean (Author) / Stacy J. Garrett (Photographer)