This blog seems to exist mainly as a forum for me to post my regrets about not blogging more. I can't be too sorry, though; I've been squaring away a few commissions, getting in some work done on my card deck, and attending Illuxcon!
My booth setup in the 2015 Weekend Salon at Illuxcon
Illuxcon is a bit special to me because it's where I got my first in-person introduction to the fantasy illustration community; I've been attending since 2013, but this was my first year exhibiting in the juried show. I'd previously exhibited in the showcase (the first-come-first-serve melee that occurs late Friday and Saturday nights) - while the Salon was slower paced, I definitely preferred the schedule (10am-5pm, leaving the night free for bar crawls, catching up with other artists, and sweet sweet sleep). Another bonus of the Salon over the showcase: assigned seating with display walls and hanging hardware provided - in the showcase, the best spots always go the strongest, swiftest, and most cunning (I tend to end up in the back corner behind a pillar at these sort of things).
If the whispers of artists are to be believed, this was a pretty dismal year for sales all around (apparently a massive art auction took place shortly before the show, siphoning away a lot of the art dollars collectors tend to spend at IX).
For my part, I sold a few pencil drawings and small items, and a good number of prints - definitely enough to cover the cost of attending, but not as much as I might have expected given Illuxcon's track record over the past few years. I'm morbidly curious to see the numbers on how this year's show compare to previous years - but it seems that sales totals weren't tallied this time around (unless I just missed the call for numbers).
I don't think it will deter me from exhibiting in future years, though - as always, it was great getting to meet some new artists and hang out with my crew from the back corner of IMC again; the continued interest in the Wicked Kingdom series was hugely encouraging, and I'm glad to have had the chance to get the word out to even more people about the project. Also, Illuxcon is switching venues next year - moving from Allentown (which has never seemed especially excited to have its streets overrun by drunken illustrators for a week) to a larger space in Reading, PA. I got a chance to talk with show founder Pat Wilshire about the move, and it sounds like it's going to be an exciting change.
I wasn't allowed to buy anything this year (I've had to burn enough of my own art to make room for my upcoming move), but I was tempted. I did leave with some richly undeserved but nonetheless coveted original art - a sketch of myself as an orc by Micah Epstein, and an ink drawing of my dog Tiki reimagined as a dive helmet by Dan Chudzinski!
A portrait by Micah Epstein. (I'M SO BEAUTIFUL AS AN ORC, YOU GUYS!)
As with most conventions, I spent the duration bleary with sleep deprivation, misremembering names and forgetting faces. Nonetheless, I got to see some amazing art and talk to some amazing people (although, naturally, I missed quite a few who I meant to track down - it's hard to see the whole show and man a booth at the same time). Some of it must have stuck, though - after the usual day or two of twilight sleep that follows convention attendance, I awoke refreshed, inspired, and ready to start painting! Just in time to realize that I had less than a week to pack for a cross country move.
Which brings me to the other major news: I'm moving! After about six years in Maine (which were thoroughly unenjoyable, but probably important to the larger Wylie Beckert character arc) I'm headed back to the west coast; this time, the destination is Seattle. "But it's cloudy!", you'll no doubt protest; to such objections, I reply with the traditional Maine greeting "Go die in a blizzard."
Since I'll be driving (and taking the scenic route) new art and blog posting will most likely be non-existant over the next month or two until I'm settled in the new location; with any luck, though, I'll be doing some sketching on the road. Be sure to follow me on Instagram if you want to see clumsy plen-air watercolors of the World's Largest Ball of Twine and other holy relics of middle america.
Between commissions, moving stress, and Illuxcon prep (which takes an inordinate amount of time for what really amounts to "wrap a bunch of my paintings in bubble wrap; shake spiders out of my only jacket") I've managed to make some small progress on my Wicked Kingdom playing card series, with the Queens of Clubs and Diamonds and the Jack of Spades (I feel like the Spades have the deepest and darkest backstory of any of the suits; they're definitely my favorites at the moment, and the Jack was a lot of fun to work on). The Wicked Kingdom series will be taking a big productivity hit from the move, but I'm looking to start up again in late November, and with any luck will be ready to launch the Kickstarter in February/March next year.
Queen of Clubs, 11x17" oil, acrylic, and watercolor on paper
THE QUEEN OF CLUBS, or so she might have one day become - destined to cover her face and sit by the fire among her aunts, or die in childbirth like her mother - had she not forged her own war-club and followed the tracks of a foundling she-bear into the forest beyond her father's high walls.
None can say for certain what became of her, although there are hunters from the borderlands who claim to have seen her among the trees: a warrior maiden clad in iron and ragged pelts, more animal than human, with lichen on her armor and wildfire in her eyes. Legend names her the Bear Queen, and only the very brave or very foolish would venture to set a snare in her woods.
Queen of Diamonds, 11x17" oil, acrylic, and watercolor on paper. Original available.
THE QUEEN OF DIAMONDS: a title held by the eldest of the chosen girls, blinded by oleander, who trade the deceptions of their earthly eyes for inviolable vision of smoke and stone. In the temple beneath the mountains, they are taught to read the language of the true-sighted; the histories and philosophies lost to the rest of the four kingdoms are revealed to them in the darkness.
Upon the death of the Queen - often an early one, as the work of a vessel is not without its costs - a new girl assumes the title; by her vows she will be silent until such time as the stone speaks through her in a voice as old as the world - a voice that whispers the fates of men and foretells the rise and fall of kingdoms.
Her counsel is sought by kings, heroes, and other wanderers in the dark.
THE JACK OF SPADES: once the hope of his kingdom, heir to the prosperity of endless river valleys; now a gibbet of sunbleached bones overlooking scorched earth and blackened fields.
The legend outlives the man: a flaxen-haired prince who left his palace to work the fields with the common folk, and took up arms to fight alongside them. With his death, the royal lineage of the House of Spades was extinguished, and the King issued a final decree: that his son's body would keep its lonely vigil over the battlefield where he died until it saw the four kingdoms starve for their transgressions.
Each year, on the eve of his death, every field in the kingdom is burned to ensure a late planting and a scanty harvest - lest some unscrupulous peasant risk feeding the enemy in exchange for a few coins. Only two plots of land escape the ritual that has become known as the Prince's Harvest: the king's own gardens, lusher by the year, and the ravaged fields beneath the prince's eternal gaze; there, whatever weeds may grow from the hallowed ground are permitted to flourish.
Here's the latest piece for Every Day Original! The painting goes up for sale at 10am EST tomorrow (Sunday the 16th). If you've been looking to get your hands on one of my tiny paintings, now is a good time, since I'll be taking a sabbatical from my EDO posting for a few months in order to wrangle some looming deadlines.
For my last piece (until such time as I can return - hopefully soon!) I wanted to give myself a good send-off with a really cool image AND try something a little different process-wise. I've often said that I don't care what color my paintings are, and I really do mean it - I usually feel like most of my pieces are "finished" once the drawing is complete; while the additional layers of color make things pretty to look at, I can tweak the Color Balance sliders for any of my paintings, and get half a dozen new color schemes that I would be equally happy with.
Lately, I've been indulging my love of less saturated colors with my playing card series; I'll admit I was a little insecure setting up my beige-ish display at Spectrum Live amidst all the candy-colored fantasy art, but to my surprise, I got a ton of compliments on my subdued color palette.
With this painting, I wanted to experiment with a painted final that was truer to the initial pencil drawing. To avoid obscuring the graphite & white charcoal, I skipped my usual intermediate watercolor stage, and instead worked directly over the sealed pencil drawing in oils, keeping things as minimal as possible - just a couple of layers of sepia-toned glazing with a few bright highlights painted in.
I really like the end result - no colors to distract from the flow of the line art. I'm dying to try something like this on a larger scale.
Good (and only slightly belated) news - I've finally set up an online shop!At the moment, most of the available prints & originals are from my current playing card series; but I'm slowly adding more standalone pieces from the past few years of work (especially pencil drawings, which I have TONS of in the archives). Keep an eye out for more additions in the coming weeks; and of course, if you've seen something you like that isn't in the shop yet, shoot me an email.
To be found among the offerings: the latest card illustrations for Wicked Kingdom, the Queens of Spades and Hearts. BEHOLD:
THE QUEEN OF SPADES, an herbalist and wood-witch with a knowledge of poisons and cures. She alone knows the secret names of every root and leaf in the four kingdoms; from a meaningless tumble of bracken, hers is the only hand that can pluck one shoot to sicken, one to restore, and one to grant uncommon visions.
It is said that death itself is the only ailment for which her gardens do not hold a cure; a reliable remedy for madness, though, is apparently beyond the powers of her tinctures and poultices, for her ministrations to the king have served only to hasten his decline.
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS: still as lovely as she was on that long-ago day when the old king brought her home from his conquests in foreign lands - a painted treasure with infant son in arms and a multitude of peculiar customs in tow. Since her widowhood, many suitors have sought her favor - drawn to her beauty, or her crown, or both - but to a man, have been met only with rejection.
She is said to prefer a life of ritual and solitude; outside of the increasingly rare occasions on which she holds court for her supplicants, she spends her days alone at her mirror, letting her son squander the kingdom's dwindling wealth with impunity. The curiously frequent disappearances of her handmaidens are seldom remarked upon in noble company; after all, the four kingdoms are known to be full of perils for the innocent.
The Wicked Kingdom (a href="http://www.patreon.com/wyliebeckert" target="_blank">Patreon has been picking up speed lately, making the decision to divert some time from "real" work (ie, that which pays) to my personal projects this year actually start to feel less like a wild gamble and more like the beginnings of something larger and more awesome. To celebrate, I subjected myself to the drudgery of filming my painting process for the Queen of Hearts. The complete video series is linked below - enjoy!
If you're tuning in late and wondering what the hell all of this is, you can find more info on my playing card project at www.wickedkingdomdeck.com.
Snow White, 11x17" oil, acrylic, and watercolor on paper
As usual, the more blogworthy stuff I have going on, the less time I have for writing blog posts. As such, much of what I've been up to over the past few months has failed to be immortalized. It's okay, though, because I keep seeing headlines like "BLOGGING IS DEAD!" insisting that social media is the wave of the future/present. I do tend to keep things (relatively) current on Facebook and Instagram, in case you like your updates shorter and louder.
In my absence, I've been:
• Attending SFAL! It was my second year exhibiting; this time around I shared a booth with fellow artist Sam Guay and got to room with also-fellow-artists Rovina Cai and Matt Lewis. In an insane twist, I also somehow picked up the Rising Star award! I'm now the proud owner of this awesome trophy sculpted by Kristine & Colin Poole. It's even more gorgeous in person!
• Appearing on the One Fantastic Week podcast! I got to chat with Pete Mohrbacher and Sam Flegal about my current project, the Wicked Kingdom illustrated playing card series.
• Setting up a shop! During my 1FW appearance, Sam and Pete talked me into launching prints for the series as I go, rather than waiting for the final Kickstarter campaign - I'll be putting together a formal shop announcement in coming days, but in the meantime, check out the available prints (and originals!) at www.wickedkingdomdeck.com/wkshop.
• Painting! (Obviously.) I have the good fortune of having a piece in the Mazza Museum's Enchanted Brush exhibition - a covet (accepted collective noun) of awesome fantasy artists creating their own interpretations of popular fairytales. Check out the rundown HERE, and if you're in Ohio, stop by the Mazza Museum to check out the work in person! My contribution to the show was Snow White (final image at the top of the post.)
The open theme left me free to try something a little more fine art/a little less illustrative in both process and content than my usual work. While I normally work over a print of my pencil art, this time around I painted directly over the pencil drawing - with some interesting results. You'll definitely be seeing more experiments along these lines in the future...
I've got a few other projects that I've been wrapping up over the past month (not the least being more work for Wicked Kingdom) - I'll try to get the site updated with some of the highlights as time permits.
This is a piece from a couple months back that never made it onto the blog: a painting for the Grimm show at Helikon Gallery. It's an illustration for the Grimm fairytale "Thousandfurs" (also known by its alternate title "The King who Wished to Marry His Daughter" - in case you were wondering whether or not this is one of the stories that Disney will reboot with cute animal sidekicks and catchy musical numbers).
The finished pencil art, 11x17"
Featured in the fairytale: a dress as golden as the sun; a dress as silver as the moon; a dress as bright as the stars; and a cloak made from the fur of every kind of animal (pictured!)
The show runs through July 10 in Denver - if you find yourself in the area, be sure to check it out in person!
The underpainting in progress
A photo posted by Wylie Beckert (@wyliebeckert) on