Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, an E-Card of sorts...

While most illustrators draw something of their own for "Christmas Cards" I'm choosing to showcase the art of a long lost buddy of mine, Damian Zari. He's awesome.

2008 has been an awesome year. Awesome as in "Awe Inspiring", not necessarily "good" by any stretch for many people. As I sit here in frosty Wisconsin, thinking about Christmas, years past, and the future I am reminded of how many wonderful things happened this year.

1d10 Reasons 2008 Rocked!

10. The return to full-time illustration and the line in the sand...
This year I faced a choice. I life-changing choice. This choice has come with a heavy debt, but the payoff is ultimately the freedom of my soul. I left my on-again, off-again IT career. I sunk a chunk of cash in to a whole new re-branding/ product recognition campaign in order to help drive my freelancing career. New domain, new emails, new blogs, cast away all the old handles and aliases.
Several people have been key to this endeavor and for the sake of brevity I'll only name a few: Jason L Blair, Leanne Buckley, Matt McElroy, Monica Valentinelli, Adam Fuckin' Jury, Jess Hartley, Bill Bodden, Matt Forbeck, Todd Lockwood, jeebus, the list goes on and on. Not even mentioning the people I've worked for who have been awesome.

This endeavor has not been without hardship. Financially we're taking a massive hit. Without gory details, it's huge. Even with the financial hit I consider us in a solid position and making long strides upward towards not only success as an illustrator (which I think I'm pretty much on-target) but financially as well. I have tons of work flowing in. As a matter of fact this month I started turning down work due to having only so many hours in a day. I've retained my 100% on or under deadline reputation and not once sacrificed quality. It's all working! I'm gaining momentum!

The lure of going back to IT has been there. Several times actually. The finances have been so tight on occasion that...well...they've been tight. And sometimes I looked hopeless. It would be easy to give up the art, suck it up for the sake of a dollar. That I found is the easy road. I learned in my absorption of all things freelance, from Matt Forbeck about the Season of the Pitch and the cyclic nature of freelancing. That got me by. I hung in there and the contracts began to flow! Thanks Matt!

9. Seeing old friends and new...
Thankfully part of my work as a freelancer is attending conventions. It's absolutely crucial to go, see and be seen at these conventions. Shake hands with all the people you've worked for and make new contacts. This year I was a man with a plan! I showed up with business cards, new domain and web gallery and hand-out portfolios. I shook a lot of hands. Ultimately it comes down to numbers. A small percentage of those you talk to and shake hands with will actually contract you. I'm something of a zealot when it comes to organization and follow-up. I've actually got a spreadsheet with every publisher I contacted and like clockwork I followed up with them. I'm getting work from maybe 10%. All of this I attribute to being able to put names to faces and following up.

In addition to simply working conventions, it is absolutely wonderful to get to see old friends. So much of my life is lived online. I don't have an office other than my living room and PC and drawing boards. I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to being online a lot. For me it's how I get (almost) human interaction. With that comes a multitude of "Online Friends". The fun part of Conventions is that those "Online Friends" get to get promoted to "FRIENDS" pretty easily. I haven't been let down yet. Thank you Jeff, Chris, Andy, Darykk, Dan, Bull (my GenCon Roomies) as well as all the other folks I wait all year to see.

8. My Wife the Cop...
Okay, she's not a cop YET. She's at the top of the list though for the next class, so soon she will be. One of the things that irks me the most, about anyone really is people who bitch and complain about things...yet do nothing to change the issue. As far as I am concerned, if you aren't willing to make the changes for yourself, and do something about your own life, even make the effort, then I have no sympathy for you.

"The gods help those who help themselves"

For years my wife bitched about her job. She hated them.
"Well...what do you WANT to do?"
"I dunno."
For years. It bugged the shit out of me. I don't really care what she does as long as she sets a course and steams at any speed in that direction. As long as she was miserable in her career, I could never be happy, so I had to suck it up and drive on.

A year ago she accepted a position with the Sheriff's Department. She files reports with the FBI. Incident-Based Reporting or IBS. Great job, she loves it. Here's the icing on the cake. Once there she decided on what she wanted to do as a career. She wants to do Crime Scene Investigations. CSI Kay. All she has to do is become a deputy and go in to that unit. He second career choice is Detective. She tested and interviewed and did all the steps and is now out of 60 applicants tested, and 25 chosen, she's #7 on the list for hire and school.

I'm so proud I cannot see straight.
(Am I terrified of her being a cop? Yes. But really, when it's her time, or anyone's "Time" it doesn't matter whether you're a cop, or stay-at-home mom...your time is up. Maybe that's my years of Infantryman attitude or my norse-ness showing through)

7. My relationship with the gods...
I'm not overly religious. The Gods, or God...really...nobody knows. That said, I do keep a little shrine and give offerings. Usually Olives and Water or wine if we have it, replenished as it goes dry. When things go well for any reason, I thank the appropriate gods. I'm a thankful person and on the off chance Thor, Odin or even Hermes is listening, I gave thanks when it was due.

I think that when people "pray" for help all the time, it uses up "credit" with the gods. The gods are more likely to be helpful if you've built up good credit already. I think the gods survive on the offerings and power we give them.

Of course I could be wrong. If so, well...I'm out nothing short of a few thanks to nobody and a few olives and a cup of wine every few days to a week. Hedging your bets is a very period practice.

While I myself my not see eye to eye with many of my Christian friends, my relations with them has been exceptional. I have no disdain for Christians. I freely admit that I may be barking up the wrong tree(s) religiously-speaking. I have respect for those of almost any faith who are honest and true to it (not hypocrites). Belief in something, anything is important to me. Even if that belief is Atheist.

6. We have our health!
We've largely been healthy as horses this year. Small bits aside I think we've done well. Thank the Gods!

5. Illuxcon!
As recommended by Todd Lockwood, this is THE con to go to this year. If I go to no other...THIS is the one to go to. At least for being a Sci-Fi/ Fantasy Illustrator and Concept Artist, et cetera, blablabla. All the best people are going and it's a learning convention, based around hands on learning of techniques, etc.

4. Gaming!
I have been fortunate to get some gaming in this year and will continue to do so next as well. I think it's important for anyone who works in the gaming industry to play games. You've got to. Otherwise how do stay abreast of what's going on, what works, what doesn't? Without active participation you're developing in a box and relying on theory and other people's opinions.

3. Getting back to my gaming roots...
Thanks to the efforts of many "Grognards" I've begun having more of an appreciation for Dungeons & Dragons in it's original and early forms and become a student of The Evolution of the RPG in a manner of speaking. In the course of these studies I've learned to love and hate some of the prevailing attitudes out there. I learned (and am still learning) that there are a wide variety of games and players, play-styles and all that...and ultimately, regardless of what any of the more vocal critics/ opinionists say, ultimately there is NO ONE TRUE WAY.

Thanks to all of this, I have been able to dive in to the works of Pulp Fantasy, especially the works of Robert E. Howard and the stories of Conan the Cimmerian.

2. Politics...
This has been a very political year. Understandably so. I'm glad the reign of G.W. Bush is almost over. I'm glad we have Obama incoming and I believe that things will improve with him at the helm. I'm no fool, nothing will happen overnight. It's going to be "a tough row to hoe" but I think as long as Americans work together as Americans it'll get done. The coming of Obama isn't going to be all sunshine and flowers either. Actually, if anything I'm hoping for a moderate result out of all of this. I want to see Democrats and Republicans quit this bipartisan bullshit angling and work together for a change. See the extremists in BOTH camps ostracized and see the middle make a difference. Maybe it's a pie in the sky...but it's a hope.

1. My family...
The most important thing is that my family; My Wife and I, out four-legged kids, and the folks I've chosen as family, whether blood-relatives or not are as tight or tighter than ever. Most importantly Kay and I are closer than ever, which is almost impossible as we've always had the idyllic relationship. We're almost never apart and while most couples would get on each other's nerves, we don't. We actually far prefer each other's company to anyone else's. Actually if we're not careful we hibernate and see nobody at all (which isn't healthy). It's been eight years now and we're still joined at the hip...happy just be in each other's presence, the very best of friends. Absolutely honest, at all times, able to speak of anything, encouraged to disagree, always learning...together. I keep thinking it can't get any better, but every year it does. Every year with her is the best year of my life. I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

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