The Green Dream

"Jojen's eyes were the color of moss, and sometimes when he looked at you he seemed to be seeing something else. Like now. "I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains," he said. "It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them."
"Did the crow have three eyes?"
Jojen nodded." -
from A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Several months ago Deb Freytag over at Fantasy Flight games reached out with a job that was too fun to refuse. She wanted a card for the upcoming Game of Thrones expansion but different from the usual art they commission. This was meant to depict a dream and so she needed a more dreamlike style and said that it seemed like a good fit for me. I couldn't pass up the chance to put what I've been exploring in my personal work into an illustration for one of my favorite series so of course I said yes. This ended up being one of the most enjoyable projects I've done with Fantasy Flight to date. I'm very grateful for Deb keeping my work in mind for such a project and giving me the chance to stretch this style into an illustration. I really enjoyed working on this piece and am excited to be able to share it now!

Below are some thumbnails and color studies for the piece. Since I knew the window in the card was going to be an oval, I tried to design the movement within the illustration to fit the shape. It was also fun experimenting with some dreamy color palettes I don't usually get to try in this context. 

Interior Illustrations for the Labyrinth of Flame

Last year I had the very good fortune to be asked to create interior illustrations for Courtney Schafer's book "The Labyrinth of Flame". This was the third book of a trilogy and, as such, Courtney wanted it to be something special. It's long been an ambition of mine to do interior illustrations, so I was thrilled to be asked to help bring Courtney's story to life. The world and characters she's created are richly developed and her storytelling fast paced and thrilling.  Illustrators don't always end up working with stories they would read anyways, but is It was a true pleasure to become absorbed with Courtney's adventure during this process. I'm truly grateful for her and her fans for supporting this project and my involvement.  You can purchase the book on Amazon.

Gorgeous cover by  David Palumbo

Gorgeous cover by David Palumbo

And here are a few of the thumbnails:

True Detective: Hart and Cohle


Hart and Cohle
Oil on Illustration Board
13" x 19"
True Detective was one of the most intense, smart and visually inspiring shows I have seen in a long time.  Even a year later, I find myself thinking about this show and it's probably about time I sat down for a rewatch. On top of the stunning cinematography, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey created two of the most fascinating and complex characters on TV.  Around the season finale last year, I began the first of these portraits with Rusty on the right as an oil demo for a class. I enjoyed it so much I kept working on it and then drew out a portrait of Marty Hart to go along. Unfortunately, as these things go, the paintings often got put aside so I could work on other things.  So it took me a while of working here and there between projects to get them finished. On top of that, I was trying some different experiments with texture and ended up playing around, starting over, trying new things, failing, starting over and then finally moving on. All in all, these were very fun to make and I can't wait to see the second season. 

Hart
Oil on Illustration Board
13" x 19" 

Cohle
Oil on Illustration Board
13" x 19"  

Every Day Original - Featured Artist Interview

As many of you know, for a couple month now I have had the good fortune to been one of the artists participating on Every Day Original. 

This online gallery the brainchild of Marc Scheff and Lauren Panepinto, the brilliant illustrator/AD team behind Drawn and Drafted. They have been working on many ways to engage, enliven and educate the community and I for one am very grateful for the incredible work they've done so far.

As part of the match-up between Month of Love and Every Day Original, Marc put together an interview for me as well. He asked some very good questions that really made me think. So  if you want to get a little more insight into my past, present and future- click on the image below to read more!


Month of Love 2015

Well another February has ended which means I have a bunch of new art from the 3rd annual Month of Love challenge!

A few things changed this year. I made a new website and switched platforms to Tumblr, which I think looks much nicer for our purposes. It was a really great year with some of the best overall quality of art yet! You can check out all the beautiful work, the challenges and the stories at http://monthofloveart.com/



I am also pleased that we were able to partner with Every Day Original this year and offer many of our originals for sale in one place! You can check them out at http://www.everydayoriginal.com/month-of-love/

Without further ado: here are my favorite pieces from this year's challenge:

Lady Nautilus and Companion
for the "Love is all Around" challenge
5 x 7 oil on panel
available for purchase from Every Day Original

"Lilith"
For the "Forbidden Fruit" challenge
5 x 7 oil on panel
available for purchase from Every Day Original 



"Halloween Jack"
For the "Diamonds" challenge
Watercolor

"Calamity's Child"
For the "Diamonds" challenge
Watercolor

"The Wolf and the Lamb"
For the "Love your Neighbor" challenge
16 x 20
charcoal
Some favorites by my friends. Clockwise from top left:
  Goni Montes, Wylie Beckert, Winona Nelson, Angela Rizza, Carly Mazur 

Henneth Annûn Guard - Lord of the Rings card game

Henneth Annûn Guard
for the Celebrimbor's Secret adventure pack
Digital
Doing card art is always an exercise in patience and changing taste. When it can take nearly a year for an image to be released, that's a lot of time to fall out of love with the art for any number of reasons.  Still, this piece I did for the Lord of the Rings card game was a lot of fun to work on and there is still a lot I like about it. So I unearthed some of my process to share!

One thing I enjoy about working with Zoe Robinson at Fantasy Flight (apart from LotR being one of the reasons I am an illustrator period)  is the descriptions. I love this world and whenever it's applicable, they will include a quote from the books in the art description. Nothing like the words of Tolkien to inspire! 
" They stood on a wet floor of polished stone, the doorstep, as it were, of arough-hewn gate of rock opening dark behind them. But in front a thin veilof water was hung, so near that Frodo could have put an outstretched arminto it. It faced westward. The level shafts of the setting sun behind beatupon it, and the red light was broken into many flickering beams ofever-changing colour. It was as if they stood at the window of someelven-tower, curtained with threaded jewels of silver and gold, and ruby,sapphire and amethyst, all kindled with an unconsuming fire."
The card description called for  a ranger of Ithilien standing guard in the entrance to Henneth Annûn
wearing a cloak and a sheathed sword.  Thinking back to the book, I remembered how ready for action and suspicious the rangers were and knew that this character would never be relaxed. Even if he'd been standing alone for hours, he would be ready at every suspicious sound. I wanted the entrance to be prominent, as if the next moment would bring someone or something crashing through. I also knew this would be a fun opportunity to play with some dramatic negative shapes and light. 

thumbnail 1

thumbnail 2

thumbnail 3
thumbnail 4 -
the winner

mood study

I knew I wanted to convey a dark, cool mood and was leaning toward a very limited palette. However, I soon realized, with some helpful feedback from Zoe, that this wouldn't be so effective on the small, card scale so ended up bumping up the palette and contrast so the figure would read clearly.


detail
I'm a traditional girl at heart and do it whenever I can but often find that my schedule makes choosing digital for either part or the whole project a better path. Time that I would spend waiting for things to dry, photographing, color correcting, I can spend on making a better image.  I really wanted to play around with color in the shadows and subtle light shifts in the character and going digital gave me the chance to experiment and push those choices with more flexibility. Thank you again Zoe for the opportunity to contribute to one of my favorite all-time worlds!


White as Snow

No one knew what the Queen whispered in her ear before she fled into the woods with the Huntsman; but as the Princess disappeared into the trees, her hair turned from inky black to white as snow...

White as Snow
Oil on Panel
16 x 24

 This is a painting that has been on and off the easel for a few months now, getting attention between other projects. I'm happy to finally share it with some process! I started with a digital rough for this one- just playing around with shapes, value and a bit of color. I did a lot of studies of my photo reference and tried to use the photographs a lot less than usual to keep a little more movement in the piece.














The Minotaur


The Minotaur
Oil on board
16 x 20

A while ago I was invited to contribute a piece to the first volume of the Fantasy Illustration Library by Michael Publishing.This high end art book will explore mythology from all over the globe with hundreds of new works of art. Not only was I thrilled to join the ranks of over 100 terrific artists (such as Donato Giancola and Michael C. Hayes) and but it gave me the opportunity to explore a character that I've been wanting to paint for a long time: The Minotaur.

Excerpt from the book:

I’ve always been drawn to stories involving labyrinths so naturally I love the Minotaur myth. I feel empathy toward the Minotaur. I see him as an innocent suffering for the sins of his parents and the whims of the gods. His story is usually overshadowed by the hero tale of Theseus where he is the lowly monster at the center of the maze to be defeated. However, the Minotaur is half human and was raised briefly with his human family so couldn’t have been all beast when he was imprisoned in Daedalus’ Labyrinth.  I imagined him as a king over a lonely domain. His human half craved beauty and so he taught himself to carve to pass the time. Many hours were counted in spirals carved into the stone and the walls became covered in years as he made his prison beautiful.

I spent some extra time getting reference for this piece since I knew I wanted the lighting to be very atmospheric and was dealing with some uncharted territory in the anatomy and some of the architecture ideas. Getting a good model (the amazing Dennis!) and taking a quick hour to build a small maquette and light it made all the difference.


One of many pages of thumbnails
One of many photos of Dennis from the photoshoot

Clay model approx 6 inches high



Some preliminary studies to prep for drawing
Preliminary Charcoal drawing
16 x 20
Digital color study

Final

The Man with Green Eyes for Creepythread

The Man with Green Eyes


Last month I got an email from Jensine Eckwall and Peter Schmidt about a book they are putting together revolving around the internet scary story phenomenon called Creepypasta. I love scary stories and the internet-so how could I say no? The /CREEPYTHREAD book will debut at MoCCAfest 2014 along with Brooklyn Zine FestTCAF, and SPX.

After reading tons of these scary shorts, I came upon The Man with Green Eyes and knew it was the one I wanted to do. It's got elements of myth and the supernatural and the character intrigued me Most importantly,  I saw an image in my head that felt like fun to paint.  Here is my version of the story:

The Man with the Green Eyes

There is a road near the Everglades in Florida which you will only end up on when lost. There is no cell service, your radio will turn to static and your map will have mysteriously vanished.

Driving forward, you will find that you can't turn around and everything behind you is dark. You will come upon a crossroads with no signposts. In the middle there will be a man, covered in various pieces of cloth. Only his eyes are visible, which are bright green.

There are a very specific set of rules you must follow in order to survive an encounter with the Green-eyed man. In the end, you must kneel before him and offer him your loyalty. If you do this, he will close his eyes and bow in return, extending a hand to whichever path will lead you back to safety.

You can read the original story and many others here.

Check out some of the other awesome art for the book at http://creepythreadbook.tumblr.com/

Fear, Love and Art Order


Inspire
 1. Fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative:
2. To cause (something) to happen or be created
 from the Latin inspirare 'breathe into',

In October I hosted another month-long art challenge blog called Month of Fear with over 20 artists contributing. There was a ton of tremendous new work from everyone and I created some of my favorite work of the year as a result.

As it happened, Month of Fear coincided with an exciting contest hosted by Art Order called "Inspiration". Ok, so the truth is, it was not really a coincidence. The Art Order Inspiration challenge was actually a huge  incentive for following through with MoF. October was always my first choice for another art challenge BUT it was shaping up to be a very busy couple of  months. MoF very nearly didn't happen because I was already feeling a bit overwhelmed. However, wanting to push myself not only to  create something for Art Order but ready for another creative work-out like Month of Love , I found myself lying awake one night thinking things over. Suddenly a bunch of challenge ideas sprung into my head.  I turned on the light, wrote them all down and got really excited. The next morning, before I could talk myself out of it, I sent out an email to my trusty Month of Love family and a few more and we were off! There is nothing like the pressure of hosting an art challenge to silence excuses.

I've combined all my challenges with their original text below. I love charcoal and have been looking for an excuse to do more with it. Each piece was done in only a day or two (mostly weekends between teaching classes all week, other art and visiting family) so beyond all else, I am very proud of myself just for pushing my finishing speed/output. I'm particularly happy with challenge 2 (Passage) which was an image I've had in my head for a while but never got right until now and number 5, (Equinophobia) which was so much fun to play with in regards to texture. But it was number 3 (House of Leaves) that pushed me through a little conceptual wall and out the other side and a very satisfying way. It was the challenge I really wanted to do the best with, because the I have such a love for the subject matter. Often as an artist, the more you are attached to a subject, the harder it is to visually do it justice. This time,  however, things seemed to line up. The resulting image is not only one of my favorites of the year but it won a place in the ArtOrder Inspiration book!  Have a look at the other winners- what an amazing line-up. I am thrilled to be a part of it.

Now on to the present for a moment. I am excited to announce that due to popular demand,  Month of Love is going to run again! We now have even more amazing artists joining the line-up and this year is going to be even bigger. We liked the MoF format with the longer challenges and staggered posting system, so we're going to be adopting that for MoL.

On top of that, we have some  ideas brewing for our  art from these challenges.

So get ready- February is going to be a ride!  Follow us on twitter for updates and stay tuned! https://twitter.com/MonthofLove

Without further Ado- The Month of Fear:

Challenge 1: What Lives Under Your Bed?


Sub/Conscious
18 x 24 Charcoal
It's funny how many artists have trouble sleeping. I have rarely had that problem. I do however have a very vivid dream-life and a lot of anxiety so my sleep is too often full of activity. All the things that might keep others awake at night follow me into sleep and transform into every manner of nightmare.

Sometimes I wish I had insomnia.


Challenge 2: What is Your Recurring Nightmare?
Passage
18 x 24 Charcoal
I used to dream of flying all the time. I still do occasionally...but it's different now.When I was younger, it would be free and controlled. I would zip around, land on rooftops to watch people or sometimes even become a hero with magical powers. However, as I grew older, the dreams started to change. I had to concentrate a lot harder to fly or I wouldn't be able to control my speed and go up way too high then start falling or get stuck somewhere, having forgotten how to get started again. Then there were the wires. It would start fine- I would be flying great, ready to soar above the city and go wherever I wanted but suddenly there was a set of telephone wires in my way. I would try to go around but there were more. They were everywhere. At last, I try to go between them but I quickly get tangled up.

The worst part is when they start to electrocute me.


Challenge 3: Do an illustration for your favorite horror story.

House of Leaves
18 x 24 Charcoal
 I read House of Leaves by  Mark Z. Danielewski a few years ago and it is not only one of the best "horror" stories I have ever read, it is one of the best books I have ever read. I have always been drawn to labyrinths and everything about this book is a labyrinth.

It's very difficult book to describe. There are multiple narrators, each with individual stories, who peel back layers of a core story: a family moves into a house where things immediately start going strange. Its clear this more than just a house. A black closet appears out of nowhere and it is discovered that the house measures larger from inside than out.  Then a hallway appears that eventually leads to a massive underground labyrinth. Characters attempt to explore and then things get really interesting for not only the family, but each narrator that in turn attempts to uncover the truth.

 But all this isn't really just a book... It's more like a three dimensional work of interactive art. The way the book is written is very unconventional. The words on the page are often rearranged to reflect something happening in the story. Sometimes it's the madness of a character. Sometimes it's the speed in which you follow someone down miles of stairs. Sometimes it's the passage of time. It's often hard to follow but when you finally solve the puzzle of how to read a passage, it is that much more intimate and rewarding a story.



 
Challenge 4: What Terrified You as a Child


Run
18 x 24 Charcoal
Growing up, nearly every place I lived in had multiple floors and several of them required me to climb or descend stairs in order to get to and from my room either on a second floor or a basement. Even my ancient grade school had several floors with trembling creaking wooden stairs that I had to use to get to the bathrooms next to the creepy boiler room. While the worst stairs were always any basement stairs (obviously), pretty much any stairs seemed to trigger every scary story I had ever heard up to that point. Going down them was like a slow decent into inevitable horror- I knew something was going to be waiting down at the bottom.  (Especially when my bedroom was in the basement and I would go to bed after watching Unsolved Mysteries. ) Going up stairs, I was always being chased. Even now I occasionally have to feed the compulsion to run up stairs instead of walking.

Challenge 5: Pick a Phobia and Illustrate it:


Equinophobia
 There are so many interesting phobias out there. Fear of Gravity (Barophobia), Fear of Beautiful Women (Caligynephobia.)... More obscure and one could argue more interesting than the Fear of Horses. But the more I thought about it, the more I just couldn't get the  image of horses out of my head. Between Henri Fuseli's Nightmare horse and the familiar Carousel Horse (why do they always look like they're terrified and screaming?), this one needed to get exorcised. A bit rushed due to a very busy week but I think it does the job nonetheless.

Challenge 6: Illustrate a Halloween memory or write your own scary story to illustrate.



The Face in the Window
18 x 24 Charcoal
The Face in The Window
(A quick Halloween Story and Illustration by Kristina Carroll)


 "Three in the morn. The soul’s midnight. The tide goes out, the soul ebbs. "
-Ray Bradbury from Something Wicked This Way Comes

She lay in bed staring at the ceiling. She could probably move if she wanted to.  She tried to tell herself it was only that she was afraid to wake her husband, not that there was a larger dread lurking at the edge of her vision.  A growing certainty should she turn her head toward the window, there would be something there and the moment she saw it,  acknowledged its existence,  was the moment it would be free to attack.

She turned her head toward the window next to the bed.

A face stared back at her from outside.

She woke up with a start. It was 3am. Again. 

The woman stared at the ceiling for a few minutes but knowing she wouldn’t get anymore sleep that night, rolled out of bed and walked to the living room. She sat on the couch, glanced at her desk in the corner, with its piles of hand-written outline notes and a few chapters stacked around it on the floor. She turned on the TV and sighed. 

The dream had started a few months ago. It was always the same: paralysis, fear, look, face in the window, wake, 3am. It didn’t matter how many times it happened, it was always new in the dream. It was always the same fresh terror. 

The worst part is that it was happening with more and more frequency.




When the sun came up, she made coffee and breakfast for her husband. She told him she’d had the dream again. Wasn't it weird that it was always 3am? He said she shouldn't read too hard into it and asked if she’d gotten any writing done while she was up. She looked down and stirred her coffee.
What was the point of having Insomnia if you can’t get anything done?

It had been nearly three months, he said. Maybe she ought to start looking for something part time at least.  Then he kissed her on the cheek and was out the door.

She sat at her desk and stared at her notes for a while. She rearranged a few sentences but soon the words began to blur. She yawned, went to the couch and fell asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.
The door slamming jolted her awake.  Her husband was staring at her from the hallway and it was already dark outside.  She cleared her throat and asked if he wanted her to order pizza.

She lay in bed staring at the ceiling, trying to move. Finally she was able to turn her head toward the window next to the bedA face stared back at her from outside. A hand pressed up against the glass.

She woke up with a start. It was 3am.

She spent the morning running errands. She bought a new notebook thinking that she just needed to work on something completely new for a few days to shake her out of her current block.  When she finally got home, she found that she needed to make room for the new groceries and while she was at it, she should probably clean the fridge too.  The notebook lay forgotten on the counter.

She began to make a nice dinner even though she knew her husband was going to be late coming home from work. That had been happening more and more these days as well. He would joke that having a creative wife was an expensive luxury.  She took some pasta from the stove and turned toward the sink to drain the water. She glanced out the window above the sink briefly and then dropped the entire pot on the floor. The shock had forced her to look down and jump back from the scalding water but she immediately snapped her head back up to the window.

There had been a face. She was certain of it.

Trembling, she leaned across the sink to look into their large backyard.  It appeared empty and even if there had been something there it would have tripped the motion sensor lights. Even a large mouse would trip those.  It was probably just the lack of sleep and her own reflection in the glass. Still shaking, she began cleaning up the mess.

A face stared back at her from outside the window. A fog bloomed on the window from its dark mouth.

She woke up with a start. It was 3am.  She stared at the ceiling and waited for her heart to slow as her husband snored softly.

She went into the kitchen to make some tea and found the bowl she had left out for her husband still on the counter.  She hadn’t even noticed him come home, it had been so late. She tossed the contents into the trash and put the bowl in the sink.

They had a dinner date with friends the next day. Their friends commented on the dark circles under her eyes and said she seemed a little bit jumpy. Still, they were very proud of her for being so brave and following her dream. They asked when they could read something from the new book. Soon, she’d said. It’s getting there. Her husband ordered them a third round of drinks.

Empty eyes gazed out of a pale face and a hand pressed against the glass, leaving streaks as it slid slowly down the pane.

She woke up with a start. It was 3am.

She was sitting on the floor staring at the half-empty pages of notes strewn around her when her husband finally woke up. Red-eyed and slightly hung-over, he grumbled something from the hallway and she said she would make breakfast while he showered.  As she stood and stretched, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye and spun toward the window. There was nothing there. Probably just a bird outside, she told herself but when she looked down at the glass, she thought she saw a fading hand print for a moment. Then she blinked and it was gone.

 Knowing her husband was running late, she wrapped up his breakfast and put his coffee in a thermos. As he grabbed both off the counter, he told her she shouldn’t have let him sleep in. Now he would definitely have to stay late tonight. Don’t wait up. His lips missed her cheek as he swept out the door.

Dark lips slowly opened and closed in its white face and soft hissing sound began to emerge from the mouth.

She woke up with a start. It was 3am.  She was alone in the bed.

She must have eventually fallen asleep again because she woke once more to the sound of the shower and smell of burnt toast. She stayed in bed until she heard the door slam and the car pull out of the driveway.

On her way to the store, she turned the radio up louder than usual and tapped her palms aggressively on the wheel to tinny pop-music. When the station suddenly began hissing static, she reached for the tuner but a something made her glance up at the passenger window.  

A pale face with a black, gaping mouth and hollow eyes stared back.

There was a loud crunching sound and a jerk and that snapped her head forward. She had rear-ended a large SUV in front of her. Shaking, she opened the door of her car to the sounds of shouted curses and pointing fingers.  The left, front side of her car had folded like an accordion. The SUV barely had a dent. Still, all she could do as the policemen and tow trucks did their waltz around the scene was to keep glancing at the window of her car, looking for evidence she knew she wouldn't find. In the taxi, she kept her eyes resolutely down at her hands for the entire ride.

When she finally got home that evening, there were shouts, accusations and slammed doors.  She lay in bed alone all night and would not sleep. Even with her back to the window, she felt a cold dread like breath on her neck daring her to turn around.

The next day she sat at her desk staring at blank pages until the shadows grew long outside. She saw movement out of every sideways glance and in each mirror she was certain that it was not her own face that stared back at her at first but the haunted, gaping face from her dreams. When the skies began to darken, she turned on every light in the house and closed all the curtains. She drank so much coffee that her hands shook but eventually her eyes got too blurry and her limbs got too heavy to fight.  She stumbled into her empty bedroom where she collapsed without turning off a single light.

She woke with a start. It was dark in the room and it was 2:59.  That felt wrong but she couldn't remember why. She shivered.   Her mind was slow and her vision fuzzy as she turned over and then immediately realized why she shouldn't have. Her senses suddenly sharpened as she gazed toward the window.

The black mouth made gulping motions like a fish. Dark, hollow eyes stared back from a pale face. A bone-thin hand reached up slowly, grasping.

And it was no longer outside.

She woke up with a start. She was standing outside but didn't know how she’d got there. It was dim and cold. She was next to a house and there was a dark window by her head. Disoriented, she did the first thing she could think of to get her bearings. She pressed her hand against the glass of the window and peered in. As her gaze traveled around the room inside, an icy chill crept over her. It was a bedroom. It was familiar. Her eyes wandered from the sleeping figures in the bed to the nightstand.

The clock read 3am.

The woman in the bed opened her eyes. 

Holiday Card

I decided to do a little experimenting with my holiday card this year. I've been seeing so many artists I love doing neat things with adding metallic leaf to their work that I had to give it a try. I also wanted to see what would happen if I started with a watercolor under-painting and then do a little work with oil on top. (partly for speed and partly to play with texture/translucence) There was a lot about this experiment that I really liked and I can't wait to do it a little more. It's a difficult effect to reproduce (I tried to replicate it somewhat with an animation at the bottom) but I love the quality of the original.

pencil drawing

watercolor layer

Bouquet 1
watercolor, oil and silver-leaf on paper.







Amanda Palmer Tarot- The Seven of Wands

Some of you may have already heard about the Amanda Palmer Tarot Deck, it has been in the works for years now. Now the deck is finally going to see the light of day and I can share what I did for it! Thanks in large to Madeline Carol Matz, who started rallying the 78 or so amazing artists in earnest (no easy task!) and organized a kickstarter to get it properly off the ground, this deck is now happening in a big way! There are still a few weeks to get your own deck, so check it out and help us exceed our goal even more. The more this gets funded, the more the artists get paid!
Digital

The initial instruction way back when this assignment was first given was to base the card off a particular song. I always loved  Astronaut, from her Who Killed Amanda Palmer series and when I read the description of what the Seven of Wands stood for, it seemed a perfect match. For me, this song was about the people who are simply destined for greater things. You've met them.They have a little extra spark, they don't seem to have any fear and don't worry about failure. They are the mad geniuses who come along and shake up their corner of the world. The Prometheuses, the  Übermensches. These are the people who make a lot of sacrifices and may give up a little of that human connection because they are so focused on doing something a little bit larger than life. They are magical and terrifying and we flock to them like moths to a flame.  Astronaut is the the song of the Moth.

I wanted my image to embody to that very human desire to steal fire from the gods.  While everyone has some capacity for this,  I think this is something especially familiar to artists. The creative struggle is long and hard and full of obstacles. Whether it's the people around us who are standing in our way  or own personal demons, it is an unending battle. But it's a battle worth fighting if, even for a moment, we get to touch a little fire.


Seven of Wands from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck
From the Wiki page for the card : "The Seven of Wands is a card that when upright, means a testing time calling for courage and tenacity for long-term success. In the Rider-Waite deck, the person braces themselves in a defensive pose against the other wands prodding in his direction. Looking strained and stressed, but standing firm, he appears to stand on a hill, or straddle a mountain range, to symbolise his strong footing. The Seven of Wands defender stands ready for battle. It is about defending the footing gained. It is the ability to cultivate the struggles at hand into a stronger position. He stands alone against a multitude, but perseveres. It is he alone who maintains the fight and is not beaten."



"Astronaut"
music and lyrics by Amanda Palmer

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to slip inside a book.
Small enough to cover with your hand
Because everyone around you wants to look

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to fit inside the cracks
The pieces don't fit together so good
With all the breaking and all the gluing back

And I am still not getting what I want
I want to touch the back of your right arm
I wish you could remind me who I was
Because every day I'm a little further off

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

And is it getting harder to pretend
That life goes on without you in the wake?
And can you see the means without the end
In the random frantic action that we take?

And is it getting easy not to care
Despite the many rings around your name
It isn't funny and it isn't fair
You've traveled all this way and it's the same

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

I would tell them anything to see you split the evening
But as you see I do not have an awful lot to tell
Everybody's sick for something that they can find fascinating
Everyone but you and even you aren't feeling well

Yes you are, my love, the astronaut
Crashing in the name of science
Just my luck they found your upper half
It's a very nice reminder
It's a very nice reminder

And you may be acquainted with the night
But I have seen the darkness in the day
And you must know it is a terrifying sight
Because you and I are living the same way

The Frog Queen's Revenge

Earlier this year Jim Burke asked me to contribute a piece to the Dellas Graphics Frogfolio. If you've never heard of it, basically it's a calendar featuring all frog-themed illustrations. Some of my favorite artists have been included in this showcase (Victo Ngai, Sam Weber, Yuko Shimizu, the list goes on. Leigh Guldig did the cover illustration) and I was thrilled  to be asked.

Almost immediately I knew I wanted to do something around the old Brothers Grimm story of the Frog Prince (read here if unfamiliar). I never really liked the princess in this story- she's sort of a brat. I thought, what is the story that isn't getting told here? With this seed planted and many sketches later, I discovered what I wanted to do: a sequel.

Because I create better when I have a solid story, I kept  fleshing out details of the sequel in my head as I worked out the image.  I realized I quite liked this character. I not only wanted to paint her, I wanted to tell her whole story. So after I finished the painting,  I sat down and wrote it out.

So here you are: a brand new painting and some Grimm Brothers fan-fiction to go along. I hope you like it! There are some notes on the process at the end.

16 x 20
oil on panel

The Frog Queen’s Revenge
by Kristina Carroll

When the large, ugly frog that had followed the little Princess up from the forest turned out to be an enchanted Prince, the Kingdom rejoiced. What a handsome Prince! What a rich kingdom he’s from! What a lucky girl to break the spell! There were lavish feasts and colorful parades. The well in the dark forest behind the castle where the frog had lived was even given a shiny bronze plaque.

 The King had been especially pleased. The Princess may have been a bit too young to marry, but she was near enough. It was no secret that the Kingdom was no longer rich and the King had very little to offer in the way of dowries. The chance to send the girl off with just a small corner of land and a new, powerful family member was more than he could have ever hoped for. Thank goodness for witches! He’d thought. The bond that comes from spell breaking was sacred and absolute. Though the Princess was already quite beautiful for one so young with golden hair and a rosy mouth, beauty did not win wars or pay for roads. The King knew that all too well. Breaking the Prince’s enchantment was the only way the little Princess could have ever made such a rich and powerful match.  The King now thanked the good fortune that had led the Frog to their castle that night.
At first, when the slimy thing knocked on the door of the castle saying the Princess had made a deal with it, the King had been red with anger and beat the Princess. She tearfully admitted to going down to the well to play with her favorite toy: a little golden ball that had belonged to her mother. She’d been playing too close to the edge, peering down into its depths, when suddenly the frog jumped out at her. Startled, she dropped the ball and watched it disappear into the darkness.  The Princess thought of how angry her father would be at her losing the precious toy and was frightened. She could only say yes when the frog offered to retrieve her ball in exchange for a promise to bring it to the castle as her companion. However, when it returned and she was faced with carrying the ugly creature back, she grew scared and ran away.
                 Normally the King would have simply stepped on such a disgusting thing, talking or not, if it came knocking on the door claiming a debt owed. However, the King thought it a very clever punishment to make the frog eat from the girl’s plate and then send it off to bed with her. She was clearly repulsed by it.
                “When you are so careless that you need to enlist the aid of slimy creatures that crawl upon the ground, you have earned no better than to share your bed with them.” The King growled as the Princess sat weeping on the stone floor and wiping a bleeding lip.  “We are royalty, child! The source of our power defines us!”

Clearly fortune had rewarded the King’s wisdom and good sense. He never did ask exactly how the spell had been broken, he didn’t care. All that mattered was that the Princess was gone to be wed in the far off kingdom and he’d already received a very generous gift of fine silks from the Prince that he could begin trading.

◊◊◊

When the young Princess arrived in the Frog’s kingdom, (for in her mind, he would always be The Frog) she was terrified. The customs, language, dress and even the weather were all alien to her. She was utterly alone apart from an old, one-eyed handmaid that was given to her. And when her wedding came, she spent the first of many nights silently sobbing on her side of their bed.

The Frog may have changed his form, but it was soon clear he was still slimy and was not kind. His father, the old King, was blind and useless so the Frog Prince was ruler in all but name and wielded his power cruelly. She wished she could once again throw him against the wall of her bedchamber like she did that first night he’d crawled, slippery and cold, into bed with her. She fantasized about the violence turning him back into the little wet creature and then ripping off his legs to be fried for her supper. (The Princess had found a delicious irony that frog legs were actually a delicacy in this Kingdom and ate them whenever she could.)

                When the Princess woke one cold, winter morning with red on her sheets, she was certain she was dying. She sat shivering and horrified as her old handmaid explained what was happening and what it meant.
                “Don’t be afraid, little bird.” The handmaid had said with a soft voice and a spark in her good eye as she stroked the girl’s hair. ‘Little Bird’ was the handmaid’s nick-name for the Princess: ‘Because all Princesses are little birds: pretty things in pretty cages.’  She was old and strange and spoke in riddles most of the time, but she had helped the Princess learn the ways of the kingdom and was the closest thing the girl had to a friend.  The Princess had asked the handmaid once how she lost her eye, but the old woman had just smiled.
                “Don’t be afraid,” the handmaid repeated, “for now the little bird has the power of life. This is a very strong power and it is only for the little birds. ”
                The Princess didn’t fully understand what the old handmaid had meant but for some reason her father’s words came back to her then: The source of our power defines us.

This secret could not be kept from the Frog and he became gentler for a time. Yet when the seasons came around to winter again and her belly still did not swell, he grew colder. Then the Frog’s old, blind father died. The Frog Prince and Princess were to become Frog King and Queen soon.  Finally the Frog turned from cold to hot with anger.  He came to the Princess’s chambers one day in a rage and threw her to the floor. He told her that spell-breaker or not, if she would not give him a son, he would have her thrown in the dungeons and forgotten.
    After the Frog left, the old handmaid helped the Princess rise off the stones. The girl looked through unshed tears at a canary in its elaborate gilded cage, a gift from her handmaid. It was still flitting around in agitation from the excitement.
                 “Grandmother…” The Princess began, using the endearment she had adopted for her handmaid in private, “Little birds have the power of life, it’s true. Our canary here has had many chicks. But do they not also have sharp beaks? I still have a scar on my hand from when I tried to take out one of her eggs to look at.”
                At this, the corner of the handmaid’s mouth turned up a bit and with a strange glint in her eye she took the Princess’s hands in her own. She looked very hard at the Princess for a long time, until the girl grew afraid. When she tried to break away, the old woman’s grip was iron.
                “Yes. You are ready I think.” The handmaid said finally. Then she began to tell a story. The Princess’s eyes grew wide first in surprise, then fear and finally, hunger.

                The handmaid told of a Prince who was spoiled and cruel. He liked to torment the servants, especially the girls. When a particular young handmaid fought back, scratching his face, he had one of his soldiers hold her down while he cut out one of her eyes with a knife. He kept the eye in an amulet around his neck as a warning to anyone else who might defy him. However, the young handmaid only grew strong in her anger and so she sought out a witch to teach her of those secret magics known only to women. Many years she practiced and grew more powerful just as the Prince grew crueler. When finally it was time for the Prince to choose a wife, the handmaid was ready with her magic and cast an enchantment.  The Prince chose a Princess, beautiful and rich, from a far off kingdom. However, when he took his new wife to their bedchamber on their wedding night and closed the door; she suddenly turned into a rotting corpse. His screaming brought the guards but as soon as others were beholding the girl, she turned beautiful again.  Certain of some dark magic, he had his wife thrown in the dungeon and married again. Once more, as soon as he took his new wife to their bedchamber, she turned into a corpse. He kept trying, but every new girl, while lovely in anyone else’s presence, became rotting and putrid as soon as they were alone. At last the madness and humiliation drove him to a fit of desperation. The Prince took his knife and cut out his own eyes, breaking the spell. Finally he was able to bed his newest wife, who was plain and not from a rich Kingdom but kind and wise. When the Prince’s father died and they became King and Queen, she became the power behind the throne. She ordered all his previous wives released from the dungeons and returned to their homes. Next to the King, she ruled the kingdom well for many years.

                “Unfortunately she died giving birth to their only child. A boy. Without the Queen, the old cruelty passed from father to son and I saw the pattern repeating itself. The Prince liked to torture small creatures so I decided to turn him into one of them. The spell would not be broken until a Princess made him feel as helpless as the little things he tormented. I had hoped it would teach him a lesson, but perhaps even my power wasn’t strong enough in his case.”
                The handmaid ended her story and released the Princess’s hands. The girl stared hard at the floor for several long minutes and then straightened her back and raised her chin.
                “You will teach me.” It was not a question.
    The old handmaid looked at the Princess for a long time. Then she smiled.

◊◊◊

                Years after the young King mysteriously disappeared, supposedly on some crusade or another; the land had grown fruitful and prosperous under the Queen’s rule.  Although she may have been a bit young to be Queen, she was wise and no one missed the cruel King. Still, tales began spreading to other Kingdoms about the wealth to be found in the Kingless land, tempting those who thought to claim it.  Though many armies marched, and many suitors came, the Queen turned aside every last challenge to her power.

                 There were whispers of witchcraft, but they never became louder than whispers. The Kingdom loved the Queen and only grew richer under her rule and so, Witch or not, the people would not speak against her.
                However, the Queen did have one particular strangeness that kept the whispers from dying out completely. More than the lavish balls, the string of lovers, the eccentric fashions, it was her crown that kept the hushed rumors going.
                After the King had disappeared and she took his throne, the Queen decided that she needed a new symbol for her power as ruler.  She took an elaborate gilded cage and had it fashioned to sit comfortably on her head. It towered above her in a dance of sparkling ornament and delicate bars. Still, it was not so much the new crown itself that was unusual. It was the other thing.

                For always inside the cage, contrasting with the beautiful craftsmanship, it sat.  Looking out dolefully from two wet, yellow eyes and occasionally giving a half-hearted croak was a very large, very ugly frog.


 ◊ The End 



Preliminary Drawing
Pencil on Paper

Below is one of my early concepts that I started mocking up digitally. I really liked it but worried that the full body composition would make the frog too small. It was important he got noticed.


Some thumbnails and quick value study:



I love high fashion and try to steal from it whenever I can. Tex Saverio and Alexander McQueen are two of my favorite designers. They provided a lot of inspiration for this piece.

Tex Saverio
Alexander McQueen
Photo by Scott Bakal

Watcher of the Bruinen for the LoTR card game



A while back I did this piece for Fantasy Flight games' Lord of the Rings card game. I do love Tolkien, so this was a lot of fun. I did a few color studies because really wanted to push my colors here to get that sense of early morning, as if this guardian has been standing still for a long time. It made me realize how much those help, and started me on a trend of using them regularly. 

I don't believe I will never tire of painting elves.

© 2012 Fantasy Flight Games
10x10 oil and digital
© 2012 Fantasy Flight Games 

Pond Ghost drawing


This idea sprung from a random abstract thumbnail I did in my sketchbook several months back. I'd begun the drawing right after, then it got pushed aside for other projects for a long time. I started it up again recently with the lofty idea that I might make it a painting for Spectrum Live, but it wasn't to be so.


Looking back at the thumbnail, I might change the figure a little bit to bring back some of the original shapes, and I am on the fence whether to light the candle or keep it smoking. But I like the overall feel of it, and look forward to moving into the paint.

EDIT: Went back into it and changed it up some. I think this has a little more going for it:

Jorge Luis Borges


Jorge Luis Borges is one of my favorite authors and probably the most influential Spanish writer after Cervantes. Many say he is one of the founding fathers of speculative fiction and you can see his influence all over the genre from William Gibson to Doctor Who. His stories weave in and out of reality and psychology and I often find myself thinking about one of his stories years after I've read it. Nearly all of his works include reference to a labyrinth, which is a symbol I have always been drawn to and is certainly another reason his writing speaks so strongly to me. The profile portrait is traditionally used to depict someone passed in a more symbolic and immortal composition, and I thought would present him as the noble, timeless titan of literature he is. Even though he struggled with poor eyesight and blindness for a good portion of his later life, he saw realities enough for a hundreds lifetimes.

If you have never read Borges, I recommend starting with his "Labyrinths" collection. The Garden of Forking Paths, The Lottery in Babylon or The Library of Babel are some of my personal favorites and you may recognize some of the ideas.

Cover Illustration for Realms of Fantasy




I am very pleased to announce that my art will be featured on the cover of the August '11 issue of Realms of Fantasy! This is my second time working with Doug Cohen and RoF, and it was once again a pleasure. One of my favorite things about working with them is their philosophy of creative freedom. It is a very rare thing these days for publications and art directors to show so much trust in their artists, and it is a big breath of fresh air to be allowed to really bring a personal voice to a story and feel supported doing it.

Originally this piece was commissioned solely as the interior illustration to a story called Leap of Faith by Alan Smale. The story had a lot of themes that really appealed to me: archaic biblical gods, the imperfection of creation, flawed industrialization. It brought together very separate historical elements that you wouldn't expect to see together in one world, and it was a fun challenge to bring them together. I did pages of thumbnails but eventually narrowed down what I wanted to a scene with the main character and Smale's incarnation of the Lilith 'demon'.



I played with the composition and size relationships a bit but decided the first two felt a little too "Night on Bald Mountain' for me. The last had the best movement and hinted at a more communal relationship between the characters. Plus the view of a vast ruined industrial landscape from a place of height tied in better with the story theme for me.

Progress shot of mostly under painting.



The final piece!



Now you may have noticed a slight difference in my final piece and the one appearing on the cover. That's because when it was just an interior, the presentation of the Lilith's 'femininity' was still ambiguous enough not to be worrisome. There was no blatant nudity after all. However, when Doug started talking about using it for the cover, there was then the question of how ambiguous is not ambiguous enough for the general public. While Doug and I both loved the piece how it was, I didn't think a little edit for peace of mind would do anything to its integrity and a few more appropriately placed feathers did the trick. Et Voila!



I can't wait to see the cover all shiny and in person!

Realms of Fantasy



Realms of Fantasy has been a great outlet for new artists for as long as I can remember . I have a lot of friends who have produced some turning point pieces for the magazine- largely because they gave you the sort of creative freedom that is pretty much extinct nowadays. I've wanted to work for them ever since I became interested in fantasy illustration ,so when Doug Cohen asked me to do a piece for the December Issue- it was a no-brainer. He even wrote a lovely blog post about how he first saw my work:
http://www.rofmag.com/2010/08/06/rof-art-department-latest-artist/

Unfortunately not long after turning in the art we were sent the sad news that the December Issue was to be the last, and would not make it to paper print. The final issue has been placed on the RoF website for free download here:

http://www.rofmag.com/rof-dec-2010-free-issue.pdf

Where you can read the story this piece was done for and see the rest of the magazine, including a fantastic piece by David Palumbo and lovely feature on Terese Nielsen.



So long Realms of Fantasy. You will certainly be missed.