Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Demonic Calling

"I just want a hug"
I recently picked up a item called 'Hymns & Wretched Offerings to the Golden Ones'. It's a gorgeously made book that was put together by fantasy artist Jim Pavelec. The book is 135 pages long (counting from page 1 to the last page featuring artwork) and it's full some beautifully grotesque artwork showcasing tons of unearthly beings drawn by some of the coolest artists around.

The first tome
I bought the book from Jim at his table in the IlluXcon main show and I got to briefly share my enthusiasm for the book and how I'd been itching to get my hands on it. I had also overheard Jim explaining to someone else that there was a second book in the works called 'Parables & Prophecies of the Golden Ones'  and I told him I would really like to be a contributing artist if possible. He told me to send him an email...

'If the offerings are sufficient, I may then enter the mortal plane to conduct endless chaos and misery' a couple weeks after I got home I made the above drawing and sent it to him. I hope you can see from the piece how excited I am about this upcoming book. It would be a HUGE honor if I was given the opportunity to be a part of the book. Some of my all time favorite artists made it into the first one and I would be extremely excited if I got to see my artwork sitting side-by-side with theirs in this upcoming book. But in order for this book to become real, it needs your help; so if you're interested in seeing a 2nd book happen (and maybe even MORE) then I strongly encourage you to swing by the kickstarter page and contribute a little something. Just $30 gets you the book itself, and even just sending the page around to others would be a huge help. With your help, you can make our nightmares come true!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bring home some prints of my work thorugh InPrnt!

I recently set up shop over at where you can buy high quality prints of some of my work!
Screenshot of my InPrnt page
If you like my work and want to show some support while getting something cool for yourself or a friend, please take a look! I'll post updates here on my blog when new work is added to the page. I'm currently working on getting my new Dark Dragon piece up there *fingers crossed*.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

IlluXcon V 2012: Omega Sci-Fi-Fantasy Smackdown 5: In Review, Part 2

Soooo...onto Saturday!!!...

Saturday was another really big day for me, I spent most of the day attending more lectures. As soon as I got to the building, I headed straight to the lecture being held by Christopher Burdett and Jon Schindehette on the topic of "Getting Serious*". The room was absolutely packed with people and I wound up standing up against the back wall, but it was 100% worth it. They shared a lot of personal experiences and the advice they gave made a pretty big impression on me. I have notes on that lecture too if anybody wants them, let me know and I'll send them your way. I also got to catch a little bit of Winona Nelson's 2nd Lecture, "Break the Rut*" where she talked about her personal journey on how she lifted her artwork to a more meaningful level for herself and how that lead her to creating her best work thus far. The lecture also covered ways that you can try to push yourself to break out of your own artistic rut, and it was cool hearing her own personal experiences. After that I wandered around the main show a bit more then headed over to see Todd Lockwood do digital paint-over critiques in order to kill some time before my portfolio review with Jon Schindehette.

On Friday I had a portfolio review with Andrew Vallas from Paizo, and Saturday, a portfolio review with Jon Schindehette from Wizards of the Coast. Both of the reviews went well, and the comments on my portfolio were along the same lines I had been hearing all weekend. Without getting too much into what they said, I know I'm really close to working with these people, I just have to work on addressing a very clear issue with my portfolio, and I think I'll be ready. It was a really exciting feeling that really cranked up my excitement and it has me really craving to break through this wall that's in front of me. A few well planned out pieces and I should be blowing that wall to pieces and then I'll hopefully be in a much better place with my work and my career.

Soon after my review with Schidehette was over, I left the convention center to head back to the hotel where they were hosting the Illie Awards ceremony followed by the IlluXcon Jam. The IlluXcon Jam was an idea concocted by the guitar-wiz and very skilled painter, Mark Zug. Mark thought it would be a fun idea to bring together the visual artists who are also involved in the musical arts as well. I was one of the several artists who took part in the Jam the first year around (I play the drums for anyone who doesn't know) and it was so much fun and people seemed to enjoy it. The second year they put on the Jam (the year I didn't attend) apparently there was no drummer and based on what I heard from people the drums were missed. This year was the third IlluXcon Jam and I was back on the drums. I was pretty nervous as I hadn't really played much since the first IlluXcon Jam two years ago, but people seemed to be pretty happy to have the drums back. It felt really nice hearing the reaction to me being back on the drums. I know my skills had gotten a little rusty, but after I got a few rough songs out of the way I really started having fun and it was such a great experience getting to play along with some of my illustration heroes. I was happy to have my dad in the audience as well to cheer me on. I know that night will stick with me for a very long time, thanks to everyone who took part and to everyone in the audience who listened.
Here's one of the better performances of the night, Fiona Apple's "Criminal" Click here to see the playlist of video I was able to have recorded that night.

After the jam I was pretty exhausted, so I went straight back to my room to sleep. Sunday, being the last day of IlluXcon, I spent a few hours walking around the main show, talking to any people I missed, getting some final portfolio reviews, making my final purchases, and saying my goodbyes. Sunday was also the day I was able to convince my dad to come see the main show with me. My dad was a little out of his element, so he was a little shy walking around and I'm sure he felt a little tense when Matt Stewart starting handing him original paintings to look at. My dad is a fan of the World of Warcraft MMO so I made sure to point out all of the WoW art for him at the show. I even specifically asked Matt Stewart if he could pull out his WoW pieces so my dad could see.

It was really nice getting to show my dad around the main show. My dad has been a huge support for me and my art ever since I was a little kid. I do my best to keep my dad informed as to how the art world works and while he definitely understands more about the art world than most parents might, it really meant a lot to me that my dad got this chance to take a closer look into my world through IlluXcon. It was really exciting watching him react to all the amazing artwork, and he even bought a few prints. All the artists were very welcoming to my dad when I told them who he was and a special thanks to Matt Stewart for sharing his time and talking about his work with us, it really meant a lot.
A farewell photo with J. Edwin Stevens, Dave Mallon and Myself (thanks Jeannie!)
After I made my last purchases and said my final goodbyes, it was time to head back out onto the road and head home to Philadelphia. I had an absolutely amazing time the whole weekend. I can't express that enough, just a wealth of knowledge, advice, inspiration, and good times. I learned a great deal and I'm super excited to get back to work. Next year, IlluXcon VI is going to be taking place in Allentown, PA, so I'll only have about an hour drive from my home to the convention, so hopefully everything works out for me to go again next year. I hope to brings some more friends with me next year as well...we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Me and my dad posing with the amazing work of Tom Kuebler
Lastly, I would like to extend a huge thank you to my family for all the support throughout the years. I know the path I've chosen with art isn't the easiest, and it can be very difficult to understand when you're not an artist yourself, but I'm very thankful to have the huge support from my family in order to help me get to where I want to go in life. A special thanks to my dad, Michael D. Burns for taking the time to travel across the state with me and for helping me with all of my IlluXcon arrangements. I would never have made it to IlluXcon this year without him, nor would I have made it this far in my art altogether. Thank you so much!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IlluXcon V 2012: Omega Sci-Fi-Fantasy Smackdown 5: In Review, Part 1

Last Thursday, my dad and I loaded up the truck and made the 5 hour drive from our home in Philadelphia, PA to Altoona, PA to attend IlluXcon V. A lot of awesome stuff went down over the weekend, and in the next two blog posts I'm going to share what my experience was like this year as well as how it differed from my last time attending, two years ago at IlluXcon III.

That place where I wanted to go to and then did

IlluXcon III was my first time attending a convention of any sort. When I arrived at the main show I was blown away by all the amazing artwork and I felt really intimidated by all the talent I was surrounded by. I felt pretty insignificant that first year. I knew I had a lot to improve upon, and I was too scared to talk to a lot of the people I wanted to talk to. Getting sick halfway through the show didn't help either, it only taxed my energy and excitement even more. Yet despite all of the hurdles during the convention I still left feeling inspired and motivated to keep creating and honing my skills. The year after, when IlluXcon IV came around, I had just graduated from college and somehow talked myself out of going to IlluXcon that year, and I never forgave myself for not going.

My first year at IlluXcon I felt like I didn't get the most I could have out of the experience, and the next year I was kicking myself for not even going at all. I mention this because these things put me in a state of mind this year that really forced me to get the most out of the experience.


When I arrived this year I was overflowing with excitement and energy. I was so happy just to be standing in the main show room that any fears or insecurities I had in the years before flew right out the window and I was able to just enjoy talking to all the artists without worries. When I showed up the first night I talked to a lot of awesome people like Chris Rahn, Ralph Horsley, Steve Prescott, Matt Stewart, and plenty of others. These guys are some of my illustration heroes and it was really exciting to get a chance to pick their brains, listen to their critiques and just share a laugh with people who I really admire. It's not everyday you get to meet one of your heroes, but at IlluXcon there are rooms completely filled with them.

The next day (Friday) I spent a lot of time sitting in on lectures and taking notes. The lectures I attended that day were: "Self-Teaching & Self-Design*" by Winona Nelson, and "Narrating in the Dark*" by E. M. Gist. Winona talked about how to make ourselves most efficient and how it's important to be open to experiencing new things because you never know who or what could wind up teaching you valuable information. Erik Gist's lecture covered popular conventions in telling horror and dark fantasy stories, and gave plenty of great examples of where these methods have been executed successfully. Both lectures were very interesting and insightful, and they got me excited to apply what I learned to myself and my work.

*Note: I typed up my notes from all the lectures. Nothing can replace actually being in attendance yourself, but if anyone missed a lecture and wanted an idea as to what was talked about let me know and I'll happily email you the document.

After the lectures I spent some more time in the main show, making my way around to artists I didn't get a chance to talk to the first night. I met the very talented Milivoj ─ćeran who came all the way from Croatia to attend the convention, and I also met Jeremy Caniglia, whom I had never heard of before but I wound up really liking his work. I stopped by and chatted a little with Randy Gallegos who I'd met 2 years ago. And I also got a really helpful portfolio review from Winona Nelson, and since she lives in the Philadelphia area she was able to give me some really great information to help me find resources in my hometown.

It's almost like I'm a professional or something...
My Showcase neighbor and good friend, Jimmy, aka J. Edwin Stevens, aka Level20artist, aka J master Flash

Friday night was a big night for me because it would be my first time being a part of the IlluXcon Showcase event and my first time ever setting up any kind of convention table. My 2 artist friends J. Edwin Stevens (aka Jimmy, also setting up in the Showcase for the first time) and Dave Mallon made sure to save me a table next to Jimmy's so I had a familiar face to keep me company. As we were setting up we both could tell we were a little bit unsure of how to arrange things, and what to expect from the coming event. By the time people started pouring into the room we were all set up and ready for, well...whatever was going to happen. For me, the night was full of highs and lows, but overall I'm very satisfied with my first display at Showcase. At one point I was sitting at my table and I look up and there's Julie Bell taking a look at my work. She said a few kind words to me about my work, and upon seeing my Wights painting she tipped me off about a Game of Thrones exhibit happening in Austin Texas. Later in the night Raoul Vitale and his son Santino stopped by my table to check out my work and also share their excitement with me about Santino and I performing in the IlluXcon Jam the next night...but I'll talk more about the Jam in a bit. It was really great feeling having artist's I admire so much taking the time to check out my own work and spending some of their time chatting with me, it helped keep my nerves from getting to me. In the middle of all the hustle and bustle of Showcase night I even sold a couple of my pieces! I sold my 18"x24" Boo Berry, and my 11"x14" Darksol portrait. Thanks again to China and Shawn, I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of them! Towards the end of the night I decided to step away from my table so I could see what else the Showcase had to offer. It was great seeing some familiar faces like Chris Burdett and Jeremy McHugh, and I met a lot of great new people as well, and of course collected a bunch of postcards and business cards. It was a long night, but overall a great experience and I hope I can be a part of Showcase again next year.

That's all I'll cover for today, I'll cover the 2nd half of the con in a later post, so stay tuned if you enjoyed reading about my experiences so far. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rise of Dark Dragon

Here's the piece I finished up right before heading out to IlluXcon. It's is a companion piece to the Darksol portrait I did back in March that I've been meaning to tackle for a while now. I kept the image mostly secret until I presented my work at my Showcase table this past weekend. I've been making a huge effort to really push myself to limits of what I'm capable of doing, and I'm really happy with the quality of work I've been producing.

"Darksol Ressurecting Dark Dragon" from the Shining Force video game for the Sega Genesis
I'm going to make another post very soon covering everything that went on at IlluXcon this past weekend. My brain's still trying to digest everything it got bombarded with, but in a good way. I have so much I want to share so please stay tuned if you're interested in hearing all about my IlluXcon experience!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

IlluXcon 2012: Omega Sci-Fi-Fantasy Smackdown 5: Ressurection

^I want to go to there^
Next Thursday (in less than a week) I'll be heading over to Altoona, Pennsylvania to attend this year's IlluXcon. I'm immensely excited to see all the new work, attend some exciting lectures, buy some sweet goodies and of course setup my very own table in the Showcase room! If you want to find me and say hello (*wink wink* art directors) look for the image below...

"Come visit Mike Burns' Showcase table or I'll haunt you forever"
It's the image on my business cards, and there will be a nice sized print on display at my table as well. I'll have some things for sale, including a couple framed prints (like of the piece above!) if you're into that sort of thing. I've been preparing for this con for over a year, and it's almost finally here. Looking forward to the awesome time that's sure to be had. Hope to see you there!