• The mind of an artist or the mad monkey inside.

    Recently an artist friend was expressing that she was having a very common feeling expressed not only by creative types but professionals of many walks and even parents in some cases. The Impostor syndrome, that dark little imp that saps the joy from efforts and awards telling us we aren't any good or that someone made a mistake giving us the accolade and it's only a matter of time before they drop the other shoe on our heads. The feeling that everyone else has their shit together while you're just flailing about or that people know way more than you.

    I've attended many conventions with this artist over the years and i've watched her art skills grow in leaps and bounds, we're both now "seasoned" professionals apparently. I told her that I too still go through this and I've just been awarded an Aritst Guest of Honor at an upcoming show I've been attending for 14 years.

    My deep dark secret...I never feel like I've accomplished as much artistic gravitas as my peers, there is a certain visual style that many of my contemporaries produce with epic painted landscapes rife with adventure and emotion that only someone without eyes would not want gracing the walls of their home. While I'll be setting up with my stuff in the 10' x 20' booth with weird little homonculi, visual slapstick, and eye puns galore.

    Then I do a bit of fact checking because my brain conveniently tends to forget all the cool stuff I've done artistically and how many people have said many kind words to me about my work and my sense of humor.

    It doesn't stop the little grey monkey in my head from poop targeting my self esteem but it messes his aim up.

    Self confidence in your ability to succeed is such a hard thing to juggle sometimes. There are people I'm sure that are unflagging in their abilities and position in this grand show but I posit that they are few and far between and that our minds generalize and normalize people we admire who happen to do amazing stuff as the status quo. They must obviously get up every day with hot and cold running awesome and unicorn bacon sammiches and thus we mere starstruck mortals with our pedantic "coffee" and "work" are utter failures because we're not sucking down mana with the gods. That's the monkey talking, the monkey doesn't hate you but it's not here to help either. It's noise, pay it as little mind as possible. And it's always ok to take a sounding now and then however you feel comfortable by asking friends or posting something for feedback. My fellow meat beings, unless people are hitting you with sticks or setting you on fire, they probably like you.

    The Beer: New Holland Dragon's Milk Cherry Choclate stout (duh.)

    This one was unusual in that it was delicious as I've come to expect Dragon's Milk BUT the cherry and choclate notes were really mild to me. The only reason I knew i had actually not been drinking regular Dragon's Milk was someone asked how the cherry was. I had to look at the label. Still delicious as Dragon's Milk with it's thick stout and bourbon wonder and it may be better for people that don't like alot of other flavors but just to have a hint of it.

    I give it 6 chewed dwarves lightly roasted.

  • Alone again, creativly.

    Not quite in a Gilbert O'Sullivan way but there you are.

    While not exactly lonely the life of a creative individual specifically one that uses the majority of their time to create and manage a way to support themselves through life with their works is a solitary one for the most part even when surrounded by friends and family. Some are introverts that thrive in the solitude but an equal number of freelance social animals that crave company who find the exile a bit stressful at times as the want to bounce ideas off of someone gets on top of them and the quietude seems oppressive.

    A price to be paid for steering your own ship of fate.

    While collaborations can be wonderful things in the end an artist can only create alone. The introverted artist is a common theme and there are people of note who've done studies on the psychology of creative solitude, of the flow of the artistic mind. This why interrupted artists tend to get cranky because they can't just drop back into the stream where they left off, they mentally have to go back to the start and go forth again, now trodding a path that has soured. Before a pristine expanse undiscovered it is now a pragmatic path of utility necessary only to get to the point and robbed of some of its joy.

    Many artists have gone on at length of the creative power of solitude saying that is when their best ideas arrive.

    I've personally found a wealth of ideas and flow when I'm having "Shower thoughts", that is mind rambles while I'm in the shower. Something about the enclosed space and constant spray of warm water helps me focus like no other and I've actively focused on one idea before entering the shower and found an ease of solving that particular creative question upon getting out. Other artist friends have written about shower thoughts as well and the need for seclusion when creating as well as the benefit of returning to the throng of life and feeding from the energies of the collective. I love being around other creatives at conventions and in groups, recharging my internal batteries and getting my needs for social interaction met in the bargain.

    It's a weird world that we walk in.

    The Beer: The Mitten Brewing Co. Peanuts and Cracker Jack Robust Porter.

    This is one delicious drink and no mistake. Dark beer with a nice aroma of peanuts, chocolate and a bit of malt. Peanut and caramel flavors, slightly sweet malt but not sticky. Not as heavy as I thought it would be. Goes nicely with many things. Caveat it's made with peanuts so if you have an allergy I'd stay away.

    I give it 3 Damn Yankees and a handful of cornfield baseball ghosts.

  • Win some, lose some. Try none , win none.

    Recently put in for the jury of Spectrum, a fantasy art anthology of some note and...didn't get in. There are always a lot of heavy hitters artwise in these things and many are people I know and well deserving of the accolades due them. It can be tough for some artists to be judged and found wanting, some creative people never put their works out there in the public for that very reason and so the world never knows them. It is disappointing to not be chosen, the signal that your personal skill bar has been raised and more will now be expected of you. The feeling to throw their hands in the air in disgust and yell "This is bullshit, I quit!" and burn their portfolio in the driveway and never create again is strong. But my advice is to not give into the quit monster, the bar has raised for you either way and now keep doing what you were before. You don't create so you can win an award, you create because every day your skull is hammered with inspiration, some many ideas that you've forgoten half of all the things you thought of. You have people, monsters and worlds you need to show people. You need to communicate about places that don't exist and times that never were. You're the only way the people of planet Earth will ever experience them. A creative travel agent to fly the weird skies.

    The beer: Magnum Mead Ale by Black Dragon Meadery

    That's right, not a stout or porter again. Look at all the personal growth. I'm a mead fan to begin with and this one is a beer/ mead hybrid and is a nice balance of dry and sweet in one golden beverage. Really nice aroma and very tasty.

    I'd let it shiver me timbers and follow it anywhere. 4 booties and a yard arm.

    (photo courtesy of Black Dragon Meadery)

  • Honorable mentions

    Recently I was asked to be the Artist Guest of honor at one of my big shows, Origins Game Fair (http://originsgamefair.com/). A show that I've been doing for 14 years now. It was my first BIG show when I started attending conventions with nothing but 6 prints and a purple tabel cloth. I was sat at the beack of the huge exhibit hall between two more experienced artists, Heather Kreiter with a table chock full of paintings, prints and taxidermy gryphons she'd made herself and William O'Connor, a quiet fellow seated at his table with one big painting behind him and a few prints on the table. As an aside I thought William was also a new guy because he wasn't loaded down with product. Later I found out his astounding artistic pedigree and would see him at many shows after.

    Over the years the artshow would move across the hall and then down the hall, they took a cut of the slaes for awhile because they could run credit cards for us and hen we just hadnled the money. I would meet so many of my art compadres and ride the warp and weft of the business of the fantasy art world growing and improving. Gaining more experience through working with the show and with game companies. It would become one of my regular big shows where i would meet actual fans of my work and see regulars every year for commission or just a kind word or two. It really is a marvel when i sit and think about it.

    All that said Artists and other creative types that rely on being the avatar of thier profession often have what is known as "Imposter syndrome" where we don't feel estimable of accolades bestowed on them no matter how well desreved. That it's only a mtter of time before the world finds out what frauds we are and takes it all away.. Kinda messed up right?

    It's a tough rumble sometimes but at the end of the day I'm grateful for the nods and odds that people feel is worthwhille of them to grant me. I

    ll still keep drawing but it's nice to know I'm not unnoticed.

    The Beer: Barley's Scottish Ale ™

    Barley's Brewing is across the street from Origins and I frewuent it while I'm there and one of the beers they make is particularly delicious AND it's not a stout. Pause for surprise.

    The Scotch Ale is a little citrusy and so carmelized and rich. It's not as thick as a stout and is a wonderful end to a hot day of setting up for the show or after a day of selling and hanign out with the fans. It goes great with all their food, I like it with burgers and they sell out of it at the show so get it whiel it's there.

    I give it 5 days of gaming out of 5 and failed my save vs. beer.

  • The Lady or The Turkey (A retelling of a time long ago.)

    Once upon a time there was an artist. Not a Jackson Pollock artist or a Grandma Moses artist, just a big, friendly con artist.

    With sleeves rolled up and diligently working Our Hero is approached by, let's call this person, Bowling Ball Head.

    The hall was bright and cool and ripe with the smell of commerce, Dame fortune smiled on us all and we were flush, baby.

    "Good day, stout yeoman!" cried BBH. " I seek a drawing, as a child might do by tracing it's hand, of a turkey."

    "Certainly" our hirsute scribbler replied, his mind already in motion and his mood was high as the task amused him. "For this I shall require $25".

    The storm-cloud of incredulity swept over the proto-customer's face "What?! It'll take you like 5 seconds to do! Why so much?" BBH cried, fists shaking to the sky.

    Our Hero explained that he could do something for free or he could work on something that makes him money. "I would love to work on it for you but I must be paid for my time." he said sagely.

    "Fine, I'll go find another artist! Harumph!" said BBH. And with that the figure harumphed away.

    And so our doodler dude was a little spare but with good friends around him his mood lightened and the day was sweet.

    Later that day our man looked up and found the excrement eating grin of BBH standing before him with a picture in hand of the familiar turkey drawing deftly done by one of his peers.

    "He did this for me for $5" the now very annoying and rude BBH smirked "would you like to change your offer now? *grin* *smirk*".

    Our Hero, having been hoisted by his own petard...oh wait that's total crap!

    Our Hero looked calmly into the black rimmed glasses that barely contained this breathtakingly stupid question and said with a small smile "Not now."

    With that BBH skipped off tee hee, forever doomed to live in what was loosely called a skull ,though gerbil litter-box might be more appropriate, forever.

    The next day upon reflection Our Hero decided to do a turkey for himself and hung it up on the wall with a much more agreeable price...it sold of course.

    The moral of this story: You'll get more turkey with politeness than by being a dork.

    The Beer: Oddside Ales Mayan Mocha Stout

    This thick concoction is the stuff of legends. Spicy and rch, peppery and chocolate. This beer has a lot to unpack. The slight zing at the end keeps around like a guest you don't want to leave. Really good with a meal, not so much a summer drink. Not sweet enugh to be a dessert beer. It's like a hug in a bottle.

    Rating: One giant sun baked pyramid where you rule for all time.


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Tony Steele and may
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