Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm Back & Stuff...

I've been away busily writing for Gaslight Underground over the last several months and I've really missed talking with you.  I'm going to try to incorporate my blog writing with all of my other duties so that I can keep those of you who're interested up to date with what's going on with me, my projects, my band and my own little view of the world.

About me:  In April my grandmother, Eunice McCleanon died.  She'd been battling lots of health issues as well as Alzheimer's for quite some time.  My mother and sister had been saints and took care of her for several years.  They really improved my grandmother's quality of life with a lot of hard work on their part and love.  My uncle flew in with his wife and it was great to be able to talk with him, Tony Harris proved to be a tremendous friend to our family as he provided my mother with a strong shoulder to lean on and my dad was on the phone with us several times a day to make sure we were alright.  You guys are true heroes and I love you all.

For my part, I went through a lot of emotional stuff during my grandmother's last days, not the least of which was having to perform with Pandora Celtica at Anomaly Con the day she died.  (I had gotten the call very early that morning.)  My girlfriend, Nessa was really amazing for helping me get through the weekend.  My band was great in standing by me as well as Shawn & Ellen Gore who helped tremendously.  James Nay & Derik DaSilva even stepped in and helped so I want to say to all of you - thank you SO much!  You've proven that love is really, truly all you need.

So as of now - I've started working out again, I'm trying out Google Calendar so that I can better organize my time and life is really very good.  In fact, I was surfing around on the web and I came across this really groovy piece on me, which you can read here.  I was practically blushing when I read it.  Thank you Steampunk Tribune!!

In other news my band, Pandora Celtica is preparing for a big show on August, 21st at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret.  We're calling it our "Mad Faerie Revel" and we'd really love for you to be there!  You can go here to get details and to buy tickets in advance.  There are only about 130 seats available and if we can sell out the show we'll be able to book that venue for future gigs. By the way we're going to be performing 2-3 brand new songs!!

Lannie was one of the judges for this regional harmony competition Pandora Celtica was involved in earlier in the year.  She was the only judge that really "got" us and I think she really appreciated the fact that we were different than everyone else in the "competition".  Speaking for myself, she was really the only bright spot in that whole experience and we like her lots and lots!

I'm going to try to do my blog at least once a week and I'd like to add book & movie reviews, interviews with cool people in the Steampunk, Art and Gaming communities as well as turning you guys on to other really cool blogs out there. In the meantime, I'm leaving you with a new piece of art on sale in my Etsy shop here.  I call the piece "Sabina" and I really very much groove on it.  I hope you do too:

OK - until next time... Remember that love is really all you need.  :).  - Chaz

Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of Interviews with Phantoms Siren and Real Pirates

Heya!  It's been a pretty interesting week so far:  We went up to Steamboat and had a blast in the amazing natural hot springs over the weekend.  My band Pandora Celtica had a gig at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in honor of their "Real Pirates" exhibition.  We saw some good friends there and got to perform for quite a few people who'd never heard our music before so that was awesome.  When the exhibit officially opens in March you should absolutely go if you're in the Denver area.

And now another interview!  Phantoms-Siren (who's real name is Vyctoria Hart) is an up and coming artist all the way from the UK.  She has a way of mixing Art Nouveau, Steampunk and imagination to create some really astounding pieces.  I would definitely count myself among her many fans and I hope that by the end of this interview, you will too.

Before we start, let me say that it's an honor to have you join us today.
Thank you for interviewing me, it's great to be here!

So, let's start with the obligatory question, what is Steampunk to you? 
Broadly speaking steampunk is an alternative history (or possibly future) set in something that resembles the Victorian era but with distinct post apocalyptic overtones.  But I think it's safe to say that there are probably as many definitions of the genre as there are steampunks on the planet!

As a relatively new genre with roots in so many diverse origins (goth, science fiction, historical re-enactment) steampunk is something of a creative sandbox.  Pretty much any direction you choose to take yourself in can be justified within one or more of the plethora of alternate time-lines.  There's a huge amount of freedom to be found in this once you get beyond the urge to add cogs, octopi and zeppelins to everything.

Being from the UK, do you see the genre as strictly a British thing or as something a little more international? 
I was originally introduced to steampunk as a genre by American bands and the North Carolina based radio show Clockwork Cabaret so I wasn't initially aware of the British side of the genre as a separate entity.  The internet is a wonderful tool that lets us cross oceans so easily we sometimes forget to look in our own back yards.  There are some differences between countries, the Stateside steampunk seems to have more elements of pioneering and adventure for the individuals sake, whereas Empire building and exploration is more likely to crop up on this side of the pond.  We also seem to have differing ideas relating to the punk element of the genre, which can be seen if you compare the albums of Abney Park and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, for example. 

However when you have a whole world to play with, and a number of questionable histories to rewrite its not surprising that bands with truly international influences like Sunday Driver are gaining ground.  So even though you have cowboy hats whilst we have pith helmets, we all have goggles and aviator caps.  Ultimately it's the similarities that will draw us together, and the differences that keep the genre interesting.

How does Steampunk inspire your work and how do you continually try to make your art unique?
I take a great deal of inspiration from steampunk music and literature, so much of steampunk writing is a lesson in obscure history and literature that can lead you to some really interesting places.  I also enjoy the challenge of looking at something familiar and changing it to something new, but old at the same time.  I think my use of specific brushes and blending techniques makes my work pretty recognisable, but at the same time I do still experiment with other techniques and take on board those that work. 

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Historically speaking my favourite artists are Alphons Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I love their graphic style, beyond the realism of the Pre-Raphaelites but not yet at the surrealism of the styles that followed.  I'm especially influenced by their contribution to early advertising and aesthetics, so it's usually into their era that my steampunk works tend to fall.  In terms of contemporary artists my influences include Henning Ludvigsen, the Arkham Horrors artist; Tracy J Butler, the creator of Lackadaisy; and Ida Mary Walker Larsen, the fantasy photomanipulator and one of the finest sources of Steampunk stock photography.  However, my greatest source of artist sanity comes from Dr Geof Banyard, the comic book artist who isn't afraid to point of the funny (and often adult) side of science and steampunk. I recently had the honour of contributing this design to his fantastic travelling museum.

I worship at the altar of Alphonse Mucha and Ida was my model for Steampunk Sally - ya... can't say enough good things about her.  :)  So, how long does it take you to do a piece from start to finish?  Can you take us through a little bit of your process?
An average piece can take between 14 and 20 hours to complete, though some of the more complex images can take over 30 hours. I've streamlined a great deal of my process over the years to reduce the time spent on the basics. I'll usually decide which stock images I want to use before I start. Then I build the basic background frame before I add the figure lines and basic colours. I have set groups of brushes for skin, hair and clothing. Usually the background is added last. I keep all the clothes and accessories on separate layers so the colour scheme can be adjusted easily. However, it's often  the small things that take the longest, colouring the main figure might take four hours but designing the repeating motif behind the model can take up to six. 

What methods seem to work best for you in terms of self promotion?
Personally I've found one of the best ways to promote myself is through other people. Helping others is one of my main drives in life and I find that the work I've created for other people is often the most successful. I've also found that joining local and international art or craft groups can be really productive in reaching new contacts and markets.

What's the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring artists that want to follow in your footsteps?
Don't be afraid to charge for your work, and where necessary don't be afraid to charge in advance.  Conversely, enter as many contests as you can, the experience of working to other peoples requirements opens up your range and even if you don't win you'll often get some free exposure.  Join an artist community, the resources and feedback can be invaluable, and you might make some good friends on the way. 

Ya, Deviant Art has been invaluable to me over the last few years.  It's a fantastic resource and community for artists.  When you need to recharge and get out of your head a bit, what kinds of things do you like to do?
I'm a huge geek so I spend a lot of my down time watching sci-fi or fantasy movies and I have a soft spot for classic shows like Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.  I don't like to sit still without doing something productive though so I'm usually sewing, knitting or crocheting at the same time.  I also read pretty much anything and everything available, the last books I read were Cherie Priest's Dreadnought and Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia.

Hey, I just finished Dreadnought myself, in fact.  You'll have to tell me what you thought of it sometime.  OK, last but not least, where can we look to find and support your art, Vyctoria?
Irregular Magazine - http://irregularmagazine.com/
Davenport and Winkleperry - http://www.davenportandwinkleperry.com/
Craft Candy - http://www.craft-candy.org/
Island of Doctor Geof - http://islandofdoctorgeof.co.uk/

Thank you so much for spending time with us, Vyctoria, I absolutely appreciate it!  This concludes the interview but I'll leave you guys with a few more pieces of her amazing art.

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Interviews with Megan Lara

Heya!  As promised, here's the first of hopefully many interviews with amazing artists.  Megan Lara is an up and coming Art Nouveau artist who's work is beautiful, creative and very, very fun!  She has definitely taken the style and made it her own.  She loves Dr. Who, Firefly, Dr. Horrible and fainting goats!  In other words, she's just like us and I get to interview her - Woo Hoooo!"

·        OK, first off, Megan - thank you very much for chatting with me today!
Hi Chaz! You're welcome. :D  Thank you for interviewing me. 

·        So, What is Art Nouveau to you?
To me, it's taking things that normally might not be seen as blatantly artistic (in my case, pop culture/video game characters) and turning them into something beautiful.  I would love to see a revival of Art Nouveau in advertising.  Can you imagine labels and such with Art Nouveau inspired lettering?  I mean, I've bought some wine just because they have Art Nouveau labels. 

·        How does this genre inspire your work and how do you continually try to make your art unique?
Art Nouveau inspires me because it's just so frackin' beautiful.  I mean, I love pinup work as well, but with pinup there is a fine line between sexy and cheeky, or trashy.  It's hard to strike a happy middle.  I really haven't seen many nouveau pieces that come off as trashy, and they're just so pleasant to look at. 

As far as keeping my art unique, I try to look at my subjects (lately it's been video game characters) from different angles than others.  To elaborate on that a little:  If you look at my Samus piece, you can spot the obvious references to Metroid fairly easy.  But, I try to look for little things that the casual gamer might not catch. I used: the shape of Metroid Prime's interface to frame the background (after distorting it a little); the shapes on the back of her zero suit to create the embellishments on the side of the seal; the blue and orange lines in the background to create an abstract nouveau representation of the Metroid symbol.  I try to do a lot of that kind of stuff in each piece.  

·        Right on!  So, Megan, how would you describe your particular style?
I was trying to think of some clever  word for it, but right now it's just nerd nouveau.  Word's aren't really my bag. :)  I'm really into realistic figures and portraits with  bold, chunky outlines.  I have a huge fascination with line.  You should see my house: it's pretty much lines and circles everywhere. :)  I draw other things, too, but right now I am just really inspired by nouveau art. 

·        What are some of your favorite things to draw?
Women!  Women and faces.  I am a portrait artist at heart and am slowly learning how to do other things.  I suck at landscapes and silly things like flowers.  As someone who does a lot of nouveau work, you'd think I'd have them down.  :) 

·        I, like many artists working from home, get easily distracted by the TV, the internet, my cat, etc.  How do you stay focused on the project at hand without getting too distracted?
Oh crap, I'm still so bad at this.  I use a website blocker to block Reddit and other sites that distract me, and I have a separate Facebook account that I use for my page—that way I don't wander over to my main FB account and get distracted.  I don't usually watch TV while I work—never really had that problem.  My dog and facebook tend to be the worst distractions, but I'm improving!

·        What methods seem to work the best for you, in terms of self-promotion?
Not being afraid to post anywhere and everywhere about your art.  Luckily, since I am a huge nerd, I frequent a lot of nerdy forums that are into this type of art.  I am part of my own audience, so I think that helps a lot.  I can really identify with who I'm making the art for.  I haven't actually done any advertising yet, but I do take advantage of twitter and tumblr—those seem to be really good at getting people to come to my website.

·     Ya, I'll have to try Tumblr for sure.  So when you need to recharge and get out of your head a bit, what kinds of things do you like to do?
Paint.  Hahah.  There is nothing quite like oil painting.  Aside from that, I love to read (reading Snow Crash right now), play video games (currently Fallout: New Vegas) and run on my treadmill.  Not too much though, I'm still wicked out of shape. :P

·        What are some of your favorite video games and books?
My favourite video games are a weird combination of genres, haha.  Final Fantasy 3, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Katamari Damacy, Dance Dance Revolution, League of Legends, Civ.. lots. Haha.  Books:  Dark Tower series, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Hobbit, The Gospel According to Biff (Christ's Childhood Pal), World War Z and The Stand.  Read the Dark Tower, people.  Read it! :D

 ·        What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to aspiring artists that want to follow in your footsteps?
Be confident and don't be afraid to show your stuff.  Just a few months ago I had finished that drawing of nouveau Peach, but I was to afraid to try and get it out to the masses.  I only showed my friends.  Finally my husband posted it to Reddit for me, and it showed me that there was a market for nerdy art.  Don't sell yourself short.  And, If you have to, fake it until you make it. Convince yourself that you're awesome.  :) 

Super important: accept that you will receive criticism.  Nerds are a freaking hard crowd to please—they're like the comic book guy from the Simpsons.  They know their stuff, and they aren't afraid (what with internet anonymity) to tell you why and how you suck.  :) 

·        OK, last question: How can fans like me show support for your art?

Adding me on facebook/twitter/tumblr/wordpress/redbubble/deviantart  would absolutely make my day.  
Website and blog: http://www.meganlara.com
Tumblr:  http://meganlara.tumblr.com
RedBubble:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/meganlara
Deviantart:  http://chesheyre.deviantart.com

and buying my nouveau stuff at LevelUpStudios.com  would be awesome. :)

Hey thanks a TON, Megan - you're an incredible artist and a fun person to be sure.  This was fantastic & I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I'm going to leave you guys with a few more of Megan's pieces and hopefully you'll be inspired to check out her links and give her massive amounts of support!

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Of Secret Societies... (Shhhhhh!)

Good morning, agents.  Today I bring you a few classified images from the new LARP, Gaslight Underground.  Classified because they are logos representing some of the secret societies that populate the game world.  I've given 'M' some very brief descriptions of each, which he may reveal to you once you have received clearance.  If he deems it necessary.  Or if you have a few quid.  Or if you have a particularly cute bottom or happen to know where he can find one... or two.  *Ahem*  For now though - I am authorized to show you just a few of the logos.  Please commit them to memory.  It is our fondest hope that showing you these will get you excited about the upcoming game!

As an added bonus, I've included the artist's rendition of Queen Victoria, Monarch of Great Britain, High Queen of Ireland, Empress of India, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, blah, blah, blah.  I think you'll agree that she's never looked better.  No really...

Well, there you have it...  Next week I'm hoping to have an interview for you with a promising up and coming artist who shall remain nameless... for now!  Shhhhhhh.  :)

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Of Multi-Cultural Steampunk, Showcasing Art in Faraway Lands and Agent Jiang

Hello all!  How are ya?  It's been a week and I've missed talking to you but I'm back with a couple of things to share while Nessa is getting some sleep before our busy weekend.

I had a great opportunity this week to send some of my art to Boston to be displayed in an upscale coffee shop.  Nessa's sister, Sarah got it all set up for me, the owner liked my work and it seemed like a slam dunk.  Once I did the research, I realized that displaying my art will involve a lot more preparation on my part.  After calculating printing one copy of each piece, framing them using the cheapest frames I could get away with using and then shipping, I found that it was going to cost a little over $300.  Then other questions arose:  What if the owner wants more than one copy of each piece?  How much is insurance?  What if they don't sell?  Having never done anything like this, I had no idea of the up-front costs.  The conclusion:  A little too cost-prohibitive right now but I will do this at a later time and I'll give myself time to save up.  Thank you, Sarah!  We'll definitely revisit this in a few months...

So by now you know that I have more than a passing interest in Steampunk.  It's new, (so to speak) it's groovy and it's rife with possibilities.  Most steampunk is geared (ha, ha, ha. OK, not so funny really...) towards a Victorian English setting.  So I started thinking, "How would you portray a steampunk character from a different culture?"  Now while I freely admit that this is not an original idea, it still opens a door to some interesting possibilities.  What would a clockwork samurai look like?  Would an Irish character look any different than an English one?  How would an African steampunk warrior dress?  It's all very intriguing!

To continue this thought, I pulled an older piece out of mothballs and revamped it with my eye towards doing a multi-cultural steampunk character.  May I present all the way from China, Agent Jiang - the newest member of Sargas Prime.  She has danced upon the Affinity Bridge of Fengdu and battled Tick-Tock Tigers in Wuhan. She stole the Omega Engine from Fu Manchu himself, which earned her the nickname, "Ghost." I caution you to treat her well because you will not see her coming if you don't.

This will be on sale in my Etsy shop very soon, but in the meantime, please comment and let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear from you.   :)  'Til next time...
- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Of Postponed Gigs, Quests, True Names and Happy Discoveries

'Allo my peeps!  It's been a few days since my last post but I've been drawing like a dervish all week and now I have stuff to share with you.

First off, the faerie convention Mysticon was postponed, which is a drag.  Pandora Celtica (my awesome band) was to perform but the director of the Con had to get emergency surgery.  He probably flew too close to the Balrog again and got his wings singed... again.  *sigh* I'll keep you posted on the rescheduled date, but in the meantime I'm keeping positive thoughts on his swift recovery!  (Rubiee says glitter fixes everything.)

Speaking of Rubiee... she's the soprano in my band and not only is she an amazing singer, but she has an extremely cool blog.  She also does some pretty amazing artwork her own self - you should check out her shop called, Silver Faerie Designs!

So I was on a quest yesterday, my friends!  I was searching around to buy this video called, "Alphonse Mucha, Art Nouveau Visionary".  (I am a HUGE fan of Alphonse Mucha and his work influences my art almost completely.)  I was having absolutely no luck, although I did manage to find the whole hour-long documentary on YouTube, which can be counted as a partial victory.  Apparently this video was made in Germany and there is no American distribution yet.  *siiiigh* 

During my search I sent emails and commented on many blogs to try to find this elusive DVD.  Maelle Jayet responded with a couple of helpful hints (Thank you, Maelle!)  and I discovered her AMAZING blog called, Color Me Mucha.  It's all about, you guessed it, Alphonse Mucha!!!  Woo Hooooooo!  She features not only Mucha's work but the work of other super talented artists who are inspired by him and the Art Nouveau movement as a whole.  A very happy discovery!

So as a quick side note - I've been referring to my beloved by both Emily and Nessa.  Emily is her birth name but I and those in the band prefer to call her Nessa, which she likes.  So since I thoroughly enjoy making her happy, she'll be known as Nessa from now on in my future scribblings.  :)

OK - I'm going to leave you with a couple of my recent line drawings for the upcoming Gaslight Underground Project. The first is Agnes & the second girl is Grace.  (Click on them to get the full-sized version)

So until next time, please check out a super wonderful site called The Steampunk Empire!!  The people there are extremely cool and it will make all of your gear-driven fantasies a reality!  I've heard that the site may even cure small pox and scurvy...  I'm also going to try my hand at interviewing and featuring other artists in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Of Cirque, Vespertine, Le Style & French Clowns

Heya!  What a fantastic weekend and wonderful day I'm havin'!  My life is sweet, Emily is amazing & my family rocketh verily!  Awww Yaaaa!

My GF got me tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Alegria for Christmas!!  (That's the amazing part!) The show was last Saturday in Colorado Springs and it was spectacular.  I'll hit you with the highlights: Band = awesome, Hula Hoop Girl = tall & flexible, Trampoline Act = Filet McGroovy, Bungee Cord Guy = meh, Mongolian Contortion Twins = mesmerizing and kinda creepy, Clowns = funny and talented.  If you have the chance to see any Cirque show anywhere, you should go.  I mean it!  GO, dammit.  Don't make me come over there...

Speaking of clowns... I had one of those performance dreams that night.  (insert sexual reference joke here)  I dreamt I was auditioning for Cirque to be a clown specializing in pantomime.  So there I was in a big room filled with french clowns and they're all staring at me as I go through my routine.  I say "routine" as if I had a plan... I will clarify.  I did not.  I was winging it.  Because they were french clowns, they couldn't speak so they all gave me disapproving looks.  The look that said, "I would hate you but you suck so much that I can't be bothered to actually have an emotion for you aside from pity."  I laughed myself awake.  Even now thinking back to it, it's still cracking me up.  :)

I made a new Steampunk friend on the interwebz and her name is Vespertine Nova Lark.  She's a wonderful artist from Detroit that makes spectacular jewelry!  Each piece is unique and Ves herself is one of the coolest people you'll ever meet... just sayin'.  You should visit her blog and read about all of the steampunk goodness goin' on in Michigan.  After that take a stroll through her shop and weep openly at the beauty displayed there.  I am still something of a newbie when it comes to the Steampunk genre - Ves and many of her compatriots have welcomed me in with open arms!

OK - last but not least I got to work on an ad for a brand new project called, Le Style Magazine.  It's an interactive, Anchorage-based lesbian fashion magazine printed bimonthly with a web-based counterpart.  It looks like a neat project and I know it'll be successful because Camden Yehle is super talented.  Go here to get more details and in the meantime... here's the ad I finished today: (Click it to see the larger version)

Bit of a long post today.  Thanks for hanging out while I rambled like I did last night at Bruce & Beth Telford's dinner party.  They were very kind... or rather polite... or rather... tolerant.  lol.  Anyways - I'm out and I pray that none of you get visited by apathetic french clowns anytime soon.

- Chaz -
Buy my art here:
Look at my art here:
Listen to my band here: