Sunday, December 19, 2010

Interview with New York Abstract Painter Antonio Estevez

Antonio in his element.
New York, New York is a Wonderful Town!  God, I love it! And also miss it.  So I am going to get my fix by talking with someone who lives and breaths it every single day: my fellow artist and writer Antonio Estevez.  Not only is he a fantastic painter from the Big Apple, but he has a unique take on the whole scene which is colorfully splashed like paint all over his entertaining and informative blog, Lend Me Your Eyes.

Antonio has a way of making you feel like you are actually there, maybe strolling through sidewalk art fairs, rubbing elbows with the artists and fans and soaking up the local color.  (Some of the New York Art World even spills into New Jersey, too, you come to find out.)  He writes about museums, galleries, art contests, and takes you to exhibits from the lofty Guggenheim to the trendy LITM Little Wonders Art Show.  You will also find him spinning profiles of various artists such as the amazing Andre Martinez-Reed, and just generally immersing you in all things artsy and intellectual with his engaging chatter running alongside colorful paintings, drawings and photos.

The Queen

Antonio also showcases his own paintings on his blog, and we will talk about them and get to know him a little better in this interview.  His work is a rather neat counterpoint to the work of digital painter Helene Kippert, interviewed on Mavor Arts in October of this year.  There is a running "rant" as Antonio might characterize it, about Digital versus Traditional.  Silly, I think, but it persists, and I just love to show examples of both art forms whenever the opportunity presents itself in order to debunk the line of reasoning itself.

Helene Kippert's work is exciting, energetic and thought provoking and she creates it with a special program on her computer.  Antonio's work?  The same adjectives apply and he creates his paintings with brushes, pens, pencils and paint (throw in a little tissue maybe) on paper, canvas or wood.  Is either process more or less legitimate than the other? 

Absolutely not.

Detail from a recent abstract acrylic and mixed media painting on canvas, Today We Escape, where the artist experimented with tissue paper, creating lots of texture.  "I wanted to make a painting that looked as wounded, complex and chaotic as I was feeling." 

My article on Helene Kippert reveals the special philosophy she expresses in her paintings.  Here, we will take a journey through the mind of Mr. Estevez to reveal the same thing and lots more.

Elinor Mavor:  Antonio, your blog brings the New York Art Scene scintillatingly alive.  Are you a native New Yorker?  Give us a little personal history.

Antonio Estevez:  I actually was raised in Passaic, New Jersey, which back then was not much different from some of the tougher corners of Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.  It wasn't until I was about nine years old that I encountered the intimidating skyscrapers and bustle of Manhattan during a ride to meet relatives I didn't even know existed.  I wouldn't necessarily characterize my family as being poor, but to give you an idea, it was a luxury for my parents and me to have dinner at Burger King.

As a child I would have never imagined that I would be working in Manhattan and enjoying fine dining, wine and art exhibitions whenever I wanted.  Just the other night I was walking down a block in the East Village and I recognized a little Italian restaurant I saw as a boy, and remembered how I thought I would never be able to eat there.  And although I was in the mood for something Asian, I chose to go inside for the sheer pleasure of indulging the broke kid inside of me.

Nothing Seems to Satisfy

I recently moved to downtown Jersey City because of the growing art community there, but unless there is an event, I basically just sleep there and spend most of my waking life in New York ... working, attending shows, eating and networking.

At times the New York art scene might all seem the same, but  lots of talent goes relatively unrecognized, especially in places like DUMBO and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Not to mention awesome artists across the Hudson like Ken Bastard, Bonnie Gloris and Kayt Hester who live and work in Jersey City.  My aim is to give my readers a tasty, healthy balance of art news and commentary, while introducing them to emerging artists.  I'm still figuring out that balance.

EM:  You rub elbows with fascinating people.  Tell us about a typical day in your life when you are out and about.

AE:  Well, it is actually nighttime when the fun begins!  I get to hang with some amazing people like artist/gallery owner Andre Martinez-Reed, photographer/director Georgine Benvenuto, and artist/sculptor Michael Alan, who is best known for creating the Living Installation performing series.  All of these folks are accomplished and dedicated.  I also live within a few feet of some gifted neighbors like painter Grace Carrero, photographer Ilsi Molina and my surrealist buddy Erica Radol who has an upcoming show in New York.

EM:  Do you think you may be opening a gallery yourself one day?  What would your gallery be like?

AE:  Wow!  I would absolutely love that!  If I were ever to hit the lottery, this would be on my top three list of things to do (after saving the world and paying for my brothers' educations).  I would likely make it a non-profit and exhibit emerging artists who had a unique non-realist style.  Although I am open to all kinds of work, I am partial to painting and sculpture, so I would probably show these art forms in the styles of abstraction and expressionism.


EM:  Tell us about your studies with Professor Lloyd McNeil.

AE:  Well, I could write a book on how much I learned from this man.  In short, he taught me everything I did not teach myself:  drawing, color, line work, symbolism. Professor McNeil studied a short time with Picasso, learning so much that influenced his style and philosophy and I am so grateful that he passed this on to me.  All the success I have achieved or ever will achieve in my career, I attribute to him.

EM:  Who are two painters who have influenced you the most, present day and now deceased, and why?

AE:  Aside from Picasso, I would have to say Dali and the surrealists.  This might seem a bit strange to people who have seen my work but don't know me, because most of my work doesn't look anything remotely close to Dali's, but I'm the type of guy who is more influenced by ideas than the paintings themselves.  I've read almost everything there is about Dali and the surrealists plus the psychology and philosophies that guided them.  The idea of automatic writing and drawing as an expression of the unconscious mind particularly drives the majority of my paintings.

Call me old fashioned at the ripe age of 30, but there aren't any present day artists who directly influence my work.  Apparently, I am fixated on the dead such as Kandinsky, Basquiat and Munch.  Although there is a graphic novelist I admire named David Mack I have had the honor of meeting.  He writes and paints a beautiful series called Kabuki using a variety of media

Within Her Inner Chapel

EM:  Your expressive way with color and composition are very exciting.  What goes through your mind while you are creating a new painting?

AE:  Contrary to what you see in my work, I am possibly the least emotionally expressive person I know.  I internalize everything, so painting is often my only opportunity to instantly express my emotional state.  It is a safe way of letting go, being naked, and actualizing a sense of personal freedom.

Music dictates almost everything I do, guiding my color choices and paint application while ridding my mind of non-essential clutter.  The inherent drama, rhythm and movement in the music is the perfect fuel to feed my creative fire. 

Also, I often create my strongest work after an argument, a bad social/political development, a nightmare or other issue that strikes a strong, negative emotion.  I have been well-known for using my art as peace offerings: I'm sorry I was an ass, but here is a nice painting for you.  Sometimes it actually works.

Addicted to Lies

EM:  Tell us the story behind your most favorite recently completed painting.

AE:  The painting United We Stood was born out of my reaction to the downturn in the economy and the lack of support many of my fellow Americans have been receiving from the "bickerers" elected to serve them. The impoverished, unemployed and underprivileged have always struck a chord with me because these are most often the groups of people who are taken advantage of and neglected.  The colors converge in the middle in the shape of a deteriorating sphere:  a symbol of the growing rift between the social classes in our country.  I was both pleased and sad when a buyer nabbed it at a recent show in New York.

United They Stood

EM:  You work in several mediums and on different surfaces.  What determines your choices?

AE:  I'm always looking for other mediums to experiment with, but I have grown accustomed to working with certain materials depending on the project I happen to be tackling that day.  Most of my work involves building up thin layers quickly while maintaining a fluid look, which is why I am partial towards India ink and light watercolor on Yupo paper.  For my large scale wood paintings, I find acrylic paint works best to cover the unprimed surface without mixing and muddying the colors.

EM:  What are your plans for the future?

AE:  I have so many ideas, sometimes I have to check and make sure my little head hasn't exploded!  My main goal is to have a solo show in a prominent gallery next year featuring large scale watercolor paintings I'm currently working on.  Besides that, I will continue to expand my arts blog, possibly merge with another one and add another writer or two.  And last but not least, I've been toying with the idea of getting back into music and putting together a demo, perhaps play a few shows.

Antonio with his painting, The Wait, at the After Sputnik
Exhibition at the metropolitan Building, Long Island City, Queens.

EM:   Now,if I forgot to ask you about something you want to talk about ... fire away!

AE:  At the risk of ranting, I just would like to add a few encouraging words to my fellow artists.  It's normal to become discouraged or distracted, especially when you don't have positive, supportive folks around you.  You will stumble a few times, maybe even lots of times, but don't you dare give up.  Falling is one thing, but staying down is quite another.  Let your passion drive you past the BS, and keep creating work that satisifies you first.  And finally, take absolute advantage of the internet where you can promote your work for free, network, ask questions and find information on everything you need to succeed as an artist.

EM:  Thanks so much for talking with us, Antonio.  Whenever I need a touch of New York, I will drop in to your gallery of paintings to see what is new and read some articles in Lend Me Your Eyes!

Antonio Estevez is the editor of the awesome art blog, Lend Me Your Eyes, where he features his work and the work of other artists he admires.  In addition to displaying artwork, the blog also features articles on topics helpful to other artists such as marketing tips and obtaining exhibition opportunities.

He has exhibited his work throughout New York and New Jersey.  His recent exhibitions include showings at the Galapagos Artspace, Gallery 364 and the Manhattan  World Culture Open Center.

Antonio regularly donates artwork to raise funds for a variety of causes.  He has worked with various charities including Room to Read, Whole Foods Nation and the NOLA Preservation Society.

All artwork displayed in this article is under copyright protection by Antonio Estevez 2010.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Take on Our Haunting Holiday

Daisy Pushkin & Claude Graves doing
The Zombie Stomp

Everyone I know loves Halloween.  

For artists especially it is a time to revel in interpreting all the icons of the season in a variety of wild and crazy ways.  My former partner and I designed characters complete with costumes and makeup.

But everyone else also becomes super creative while indulging in costumes, makeup, decorations and food like hot apple cider, caramel apples and pumpkin pie. 

Halloween has its roots in early religions but has evolved into a time that ushers in the winter months when we want to be cozy, well fed and lifting our spirits with parties and celebrations.  Besides all that, this first holiday of the season indulges our need to challenge the things that scare us the most like ghosts and goblins and even death.  We meet them head on, enjoying the thrill. 

Tee Shirt Design

The costumes, decorations and artwork can be scary, downright ghoulish, but also satirical and even funny. Add horror films into the mix and you have covered the whole spectrum.  I spent several Halloweens past doing professional makeup and costumes for partygoers.  The most popular looks back then were Zombies (still hot I understand) and Cats from the Broadway show.   I photographed and sketched a lot of this work and some of it evolved into digital images I created for amusement and sometimes for Tee Shirts and such.

 Claude Graves & Friends for Tee Shirt design

Dancing Zombie Bride & Groom for Tee Shirt design

Zombie Bride prizewinning costume & makeup

Vampire makeup for Tee Shirt design

Funny Frankenstein Monster makeup

So, Halloween for me has always been fun and very creative.  One year we spent the evening up in Jerome, Arizona in an abandoned and very spooky old hospital which had been rented out by the city for the night to a group throwing a huge party.  My partner and I did makeup on location for everyone attending the celebration and even helped stage some grisley scenes in a couple of the old operating rooms.  It was quite a success.

Daisy Pushkin at the Jerome Hospital Bash

It is a rather eerie but very expressive season and I hope all of you reading this enjoy it to the fullest!

Al of the images in this post are copyright protected 2010 by Elinor Mavor.    

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

INTERVIEW with Australian Fractal Artist Helene Kippert


I first saw Helene Kippert's spectacular digital imagery on Facebook.  I have seen other artwork online that is technically in the same category, but hers really stands out ... way out.  See for yourself on this blog post and here.  Her pieces are sold throughout Australia, the USA, UK and Europe on the website, Redbubble.

I am keenly interested in the digital art form because I engage in it myself, although with totally different results.  And there is still an active dialogue about the validity of artwork produced by this method as opposed to traditional painting, for instance.  Every new art form seems to create this sort of controversy and the answer has often been to gather the avant-garde artists into a movement that has stringent guidelines and a very solid purpose.  Not surprisingly, there are, indeed, a growing number of digital artist groups forming that will ultimately resolve the issue.

Helene Kippert
Helene has been accepted into a new artists' group called the Energy Art
Movement which is attracting amazing people using all types of media.  She is one whose fractal creations epitomize what the title implies:  artwork that "exudes energy whether in light, color, motion or form".  This movement may well become as important a landmark as Impressionism or Abstract Expressionism.

Elinor Mavor:   Helene, tell us how you became dedicated to the digital medium in general and fractal imagery in particular?

Helene Kippert:  I've always been drawn to playing with my drawings digitally ... somehow I never feel a drawing is finished until it's been scanned and manipulated.  In early 2007 I joined an online art site called Redbubble hoping to sell some of my art, and about six months later I found out about Apophysis (fractal editing software) through a friend there.  Once I discovered fractals, that was it for me.  I knew I had found my medium.

Dancing at the Edge of Time
EM:  Tell us about "Energy Art for the New Earth".

HK:  I was looking for a way to describe my art without using the words "visionary" and/or "spiritual", since I felt both had been overused and they certainly weren't going to get me noticed on google!  Ever since I started making fractal art I've known that my images are about the depiction of energy.  One day I came aross an art competition run by a group called the Energy Art Movement and I had that "aha" feeling, like, "Oh, my god, there's a whole bunch of people out there doing exactly the same thing I'm doing!"  It really was a revelation for me, because I see it as a manifestation of a significant shift in the collective consciousness.  The "New Earth" is a reference to this massive transformation.

EM:  Do you have a body of work prior to your digital work?

HK:  I wouldn't call it a body of work ... more like a collection of drawings and paintings from my art school days.  My art aspirations were put on hold for a number of years while I built my house, and I only started to take my art seriously again after I joined Redbubble.

Flow 7
EM:  Tell us about your approach to each new composition and the various techniques you may use.

HK:  My approach to my art is intuitive ... I put my critical mind aside and play.  I have an ever-growing library of fractal images, and I will look at one and wonder what it will look like if I layer it with another image, and then another on top of that one.  When the image looks complete to me, I bring my critical mind back in so I can place the image into a context and find a title for it.

EM:  What inspires each compostion?

HK:  A sense of curiousity and wonder, and a desire to make the invisible visible.  For so many centuries, humanity has believed that our world is nothing more than a random collection of physical objects, and now we're beginning to perceive the underlying energy that holds it all together.  I feel we're undergoing a collective paradigm shift, and despite all the violence and suffering in the world today, I believe this is a magical time to be living in.  I want to share my sense of that magic with others.

Matrix 5

EM:  I really like the poetry presented with each one of your beautiful paintings.  How did you come to select the verses of 13th-century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi, to accompany your work?  Readers can see examples here.

HK:  Rumi has been my favorite poet for many years now, but the idea of combining his writing with my art actually started with a group I am in on Redbubble called Abstract Digital Art and Writing.  One of the group rules is that you have to submit your art with a piece of writing.  Thanks to that group I came to see that a piece of writing can spark the imagination and provide a gateway into the art for the viewer, especially if your art is abstract.

EM:  How long does take you on average to complete a finished piece?  Each one is so incredibly complex.  

HK:  Elinor, that's really hard to say!   When I create there's a sense of flow and timelessness  that is hard to translate into left brain terms ... there really is no getting from point A to point B in my process.  There's the time it takes to create the initial image and the time it takes to blend each layer ... and there can be many layers and the blending often takes place at different times.  I have pieces that will sit for many months before I find just the right layer to complete them.  So you can see how hard it is for me to keep track of the time it takes to create a single finished piece.   Also, should I take into account the hours I spend making all of my fractal images ... the ones that don't work out as well as the ones that do?  Like everything else, I guess it all depends on your parameters and your point of reference. 

Shatter 5

EM:  What do you think your next project beyond Energy Art for the New Earth will be?

HK:  I don't see energy art as something I will move past.  From an evolutionary point of view I see it as an idea whose time has come, and I 'll continue to work within the genre.  I'll experiment with different software and ways of working, but really I can see myself doing this as a long-term thing.

EM:  Who are some of your favorite artists?  Especially those who have inspired you.

HK:  I'm inspired by Monet and the Impressionists.  In a way, I see them as precursors to the Energy Art Movement, since the Impressionists painted light and we paint energy.  I also love the work of Susan Seddon Boulet, a visionary artist who painted shamanic figures morphing into animals ... amazing and very beautiful work with a very strong sense of energy and other levels of reality about it!


EM:  Anything else you'd like to share with us?

HK:  I've published a collection of my fractals called: Fractal worlds: A journey into vibration and light.   Just click on the title if you would like to see it.

EM:  Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your remarkable world, Helene.  Your exploration into painting energy with fractals and the philosophy behind it are fascinating.

Helene Kippert lives "amongst the Karri trees in the southwest corner" of Australia.  She graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1981 with a BA in English Literature, and from Curtin University in 1983 with a Graduate Diploma in Library Studies.  She has worked as a public servant, librarian and market research interviewer.  Although she had some traditional art training at the Claremont School of Art (1993-95), Helene has always been more attracted to digital art and she is now committed exclusively to energy art created with fractals.

All images in this article: copyright 2010 by Helene Kippert. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

INTERVIEW with Writer/Artist Ernest Hogan

with Writer/Artist Ernest Hogan

My Grandfather was a Villista curandero; revolution is in my blood.”

Ernest Hogan describes himself as “an Aztec Leprechaun with too much imagination … investigating things that humans were meant to leave alone … a recombocultural Chicano mutant known for committing outrageous acts of science fiction, cartooning, and other questionable pursuits."  

I met Ernest when I was editor of Amazing Stories and not long after I had purchased his short story back in March, 1982: a story called “The Rape of Things to Come”.  The story was way off-the-wall, the kind that wakes you up with a jolt while wading through the ever-growing slushpile of manuscripts. The kind you buy. This was his first published fiction and it paved the way for the avalanche of outrageousness that flows from him to this day.

Elinor Mavor:  How did you feel when you got notice of purchase for “The Rape of Things to Come”?

Ernest Hogan:  It was the biggest high of my life. I walked around in a daze for a week or so. The crazy quest I was on wasn't the illusion that practical people told me it was, after all:  There was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it was weird gold, stuff that keeps moving, so you have to keep chasing it. You can never own that gold, but ahhh ... the places, things and people you will see along the way!

Elinor Mavor:  How many years have you been writing fiction?

Ernest Hogan:  I first tried to write short stories when I was twelve, and my parents bought me a typewriter. In junior high I saw a film about a day in the life of Ray Bradbury and thought … oh, boy, that's the life for me! Before that I was drawing my stories as cartoons and comic strips.

Elinor Mavor:  I have seen a lot of your sketchbooks filled to the brim with cartoons and various drawings done over the years. How do you make use of these archives?

Ernest Hogan:  Often I just shuffle through my sketchbooks and find something I can scan, play with in GIMP and use on my blog or possibly in upcoming ebooks I have in mind. I am also experimenting with taking on-the-scene drawings made on some of our recent trips around Arizona and Utah, and whipping them into illustrations for some travel publishing ventures. I'd like to develop a sort of “gonzo journalism cartooning” that could have interesting commercial applications. I am experimenting with different device publishing applications and really love the iPod as one of the possible places to publish some illustrated ebooks.

Elinor Mavor:  How would you classify your writing: Satire? Ethnic? Comedic Science Fiction? How do you expect your readers to respond?

Ernest Hogan:  “It's complicated” as they say these days. Science fiction has been the commercial venue that provided a safe haven for me. I have an irreverent, satirical mind, and the ethnic stuff comes with the territory because of who and where I am. I am not now, nor have ever been politically correct. I usually start out trying to amuse myself … then it builds: I guess I do try to make the reader laugh a little, be somewhat shocked, step out of his or her ego for awhile, and hopefully come away seeing the universe a bit differently. I recently re-read Lucian of Samosata's True History and realized … wow! That's what I do. He really is the founding father.

Elinor Mavor:  What are your favorite themes?

Ernest Hogan:  The fish out of water. The traveler in a strange land. Distortions of the world around me to try to get it to make sense. I usually begin with characters that are based on me but who then start getting their own ideas and taking on a life uniquely their own.  Sometimes I try to exploit something to be “commercial”, and while it usually goes terribly wrong, it still turns out weirdly interesting.

Elinor Mavor:  Now for your influences … who are some of your favorite writers?

Ernest Hogan:  Right now I'm waiting for Tahir Shah to come up with something new, and buying books by David Hatcher Childress.  They're both travel writers and Childress is a self-publisher/businessman whom I am studying.  Of course, among the old favorites are James Ellroy, Ishmael Reed, Chester Himes, Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I love bizarre imagery and ideas and swing from pulp to the avant-garde.

Elinor Mavor:  And favorite films?

Ernest Hogan:  My favorite filmmaker is Alejandro Jodorowsky … I've watched El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Fando Y Lis since they became available on DVD and I lust after a copy of Santa Sangre. I also watch Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas over and over. My taste ranges from art films to cheap exploitation … I collect weird cheapies and don't consider it a guilty pleasure. Snake People with Boris Karloff and Tongolele is almost as good as a Jodorowsky film. I'd love to have the first Flash Gordon serial with Buster Crabbe … it's crude, but somehow works for me better than the later ones.

Elinor Mavor:  Over the past ten years NewYork publishing has been undergoing dramatic changes as internet technology has exploded. How has this affected you?

Ernest Hogan:  New York wasn't crazy about High Aztech even though the audience was out there.  They wouldn't touch Smoking Mirror Blues or anything else I was sending them during this time. I kept hearing, “You need to be more commercial”.   So I knocked myself out trying to be commercial.  Nothing pleased them.  I finally figured out it wasn't me, it was them. Ten years of working in a book store has taught me that they don't know what they are talking about. There are tons of hot, “commercial” books out there that are NOT selling. After listening to what readers say about what they like over the years, I have learned their tastes are always evolving … they are looking for new things … trends that the internet is definitely picking up on. I have sold three stories already this year through small presses reached via online connections … more than I EVER sold in one year. And this is just the beginning. After all the uncertainty, I feel I am now in control.

Elinor Mavor:  So we are in the midst of this electronic revolution and it marks the decline of traditional publishing and the rise of online self-publishing. Continuing on with the previous discussion, how do you think writers in general and you in particular should take advantage of this phenomenon?

Ernest Hogan:  Right now, writers need to learn all they can about online self-publishing, podcasting, ebooks and so on, and start setting themselves up as cottage industries. The New York-centered, traditional publishing world is going down fast. Over the ten years of working in the bookstore, I have literally seen the business wither away. Even with “bestsellers”, for every dead-tree copy that sells, a big stack gets tossed around and finally sent back to be pulped. Mass market genre paperbacks mostly just sit there on the shelf. Lots of money is being lost and yet the publishers still are thinking in terms of getting readers to line up by the thousands for the next releases of fat, expensive hardcover blockbusters.

My wife, Emily Devenport, and I have shifted to self-publishing and will be releasing existing and new material as ebooks, podcasts and audiobooks all via our blogs and new websites we are presently designing. We are easing into this and don't expect to to become rich, but this should bring more compensation for our work than doing things the old way has ever done for us. We'll also be able to market directly to the people we know are interested in reading our novels and short fiction.

Elinor Mavor: Anything I forgot to ask that you feel like mentioning?

Ernest Hogan: Writing is a unique career. There are no rules. In my experience, doing what “everybody” says you should do, doesn't work. You probably won't get rich. If you spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not you “feel creative today”, you better find some other way to amuse yourself. To me that sort of sounds like, “I really want to become addicted to heroin, but I keep forgetting to take my shots.” So, you need to write, not worry. Or pick another career.

All artwork in this post copyright 2010 by Ernest Hogan.

Photo of Ernest Hogan by Emily Devenport
Read my Post about Illustrating Belarus by Emily Devenport  

by Ernest Hogan:

Semiotext (E) SF Anthology
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection by Gardener R. Dozois
The Rise and Fall Of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars
Hindenburg's Vimana Joyride
Voices for the Cure

Other short fiction has appeared in  Amazing Stories, Analog, Science Fiction Age, Angel Body and Other Magic for the Soul and Witpunk.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Illustrating BELARUS: Part One

I have a wonderful friend,

Emily Devenport, who has had nine novels published over the past 15 years or so. We talk a lot about how the internet is making it possible for writers to publish books independently (good for her) and how it is possible for illustrators to conduct a  freelance illustration business independently (good for me).  So ... what if we should collaborate on a project and in the process create a brand new animal ... an audio/visual presentation from her already published novel, Belarus, for a new website.  This would be a very elaborate, panoramic, moviola-type slide show with Emily's voice and music in the background and would be created for the promotion  of the audio-book version of this highly imaginative and engrossing science fiction novel.  Belarus was published by ROC in 2002 under her pen name, Lee Hogan.  

Emily's new website would also be promoting audio books of her other published works, new novels and short fiction in audio or e-book format, complete (of course) with illustrations.  We even fantasize about audio-visual graphic novels to be presented online or on other digital devices.  Here I will show the progress of my illustrations for our initial project, Belarus.   

Imagine a time many thousands of years in the future where distant planets are redesigned and built to specifications by World Engineers in touch with legions of  artificially intelligent beings called "Sprites" to help them; a time when people are bio-enhanced in special ways for special tasks and live many hundreds of years;  a time of amazing achievements by men of wealth,  integrity and vision, such as Russian nobleman Andrei Sergeivich Mironenko.


Andrei Mironenko's dream was to revive  the glory of ancient Imperial Russia by colonizing an alien planet with all the grandeur of its famous cities but also with a more idealized and democratic way of life.  He planned to preside over the new world, Belarus, as Tsar until it was established enough for the people to run the Republic.  Essential to the Grand Plan were his team of talented assistants.  Pictured below are two of his closest aids:  World Engineer Natalia Korsakova and Enhanced Special Agent (ESA) Grigory. 


Natalia Korsakova, nicknamed Tally, was as technically brilliant as she was beautiful.  She used the Medusa-like "rasta-links" that plugged into her skull  and then connected to all the various sources on her command station to gather information and engineer the creation of Belarus. 

Enhanced Special Agent Grigory had bloodstones where his eyes once were, but he could "see" far more than ordinary men.  The expression on his face was usually grim, even frightening, but he was the man you wanted on your side.  He was the Chief of all the ESAs on Andrei's Staff; he was in turn, watcher, advisor, confident, defender and warrior.  All of his super-human skills would be heavily relied upon in meeting the upcoming dangers facing Belarus, its leader plus all of its people.

Another important figure in Andrei's long life (337 years), was the "Grandmother Witch" from his childhood, Baba Yaga, tales about whom his father had often told him.  Very wise, her life spanning thousands of years, Baba Yaga transcended her mythological entity to contact Andrei and even "appear" to him giving cryptic warnings and advice.

Regal beauty Katerina Pavlova Mironenko was Andrei's fourth wife.  His other wives had been accomplished women who were all  killed in the line of their work.  He missed each one of them and had now chosen a very young woman for his next wife, only 28 years old, whom he hoped would remain safe at home, build a family with him and thrive under his protection.  But Katerina was suspicious of his world-building, believing it to be against her fanatical religious convictions.  She devoted herself instead to her music and worshiping in her chapel, leaving Andrei and their young son, Peter, almost completely out of her life.

Peter was very close to his father and Tally, who was like a surrogate mother to him.  He longed to be close to Katerina, but she always kept him at a distance.  We see Peter grow from a six-year-old boy into a gangly teen ... the boy who will one day assume his father's important position in the Republic.

Illustrations are underway for some key scenes from the novel and some more intriguing characters.  Watch for the next installments, coming soon.

All of the illustrations shown here are done digitally using the Corel program, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, and various brushes I designed for painting with the Wacom Intuos Electronic Drawing Tablet.  See my post on Digital PaintingPart II for how I developed illustrative and photographic techniques using this medium.