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Airships and Tentacles – my new 140-Page Art Book

Over the past months I have been tapping away at keys, collecting scans of artworks old and new and even a lot of forgotten works, in order to make a very intensive book of my works to date.

At first, it was only going to be the Airships and Tentacles series, but I began to use “lost” artworks for section endings, and decided I should include old paintings from before the series, as well as all of those pieces I have worked on during the series as album covers, book covers, commissions, illustrations, or things I did during the series just to clear my head and work on something different. It even includes a few samplings from my-yet-to-be-published literary works, and some pieces I’ve done relating to the works of others (Voltaire, Clive Barker, Dexter Palmer, Bethalynne Bajema, and others), and collections of doodles and sketches to decorate text pages (such as the Table of Contents, Words from the Artist and other sections)

The book has a cover specially designed by Bethalynne Bajema from my existing artwork, and I *love* what she did with it. Click the image or link below to view as a PDF online, or right click (recommended) to download and view in 2-page side by side book format.

This book is available NOW as a preorder, shipping August 5th. Click here to buy.

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Steampunk Symposium and coming conventions

So, we’re back from the Steampunk Symposium, cooling our jets for a few weeks (read: working frantically on other things and preparation for coming conventions).

We had a great time; Aloyisius and his team put on one extraordinary event, and did one seriously good job of keeping everything organized and running splendidly. We would *certainly* love to come back next year to see the next and bigger version of this convention. Many triumphs to expand upon, and, as far as I can see… no mistakes to learn from and that is an incredible feat for a first convention.

I had several panels there, and I hope that people enjoyed them as much as I did… even the second one wherein “hungry” influenced my conversation and concentration a bit more than I would have liked it to have. I’ll learn from this and avoid early morning panels in the future if I can at all… but I did somehow manage to fill a whole hour, and keep people there and asking questions.

I had a tall stage, a big screen, and a digital projector… which I of course did not use. I suppose I like things to feel smaller and more intimate- and have always felt a bit out of place on a stage doing anything other than karaoke-ing 80s and 90’s post-punk tunes.

Outside of the panels, we spent most of the days at our tables, selling art prints and speaking with people – and I experimented by bring many large giclee prints on heavyweight fine art rag paper. I came up with this idea so I could add an alternative above our less-expensive and convention-priced prints, and below that of the giclees on canvas and original paintings/engravings.

In that, I learned pretty much what we had established before: To stick to the $5 through $30 range items. I did however establish that it is not the thought of carrying around some huge-sized canvas print that hinders sales there – but that price, is purely the reason.

People at sci-fi/fantasy/subcultural conventions, myself included, are primarily looking for clothing, accessories, gizmos, trinkets and such… and when it comes to art, they are looking for something more in the souvenir range… perhaps as a keepsake reminder of the convention, to have something that is signed, or simply to show some support for the artists they like.

I’d have to say my first thought whenever I arrive at any convention, is that if I make X amount of dollars, I am going to buy myself a cool vest, a nice pair of boots, a well-made pair of gloves, a new shirt, etc… why should other attendees feel any differently?

It is because of this that I had a thought: Next convention, I will focus more on the smaller prints, and otherwise I will bring the originals for the devoted buyers, and I will be bringing some new things as well… hand-crafted works in wood and brass, mechanical or just practical/handy/decorative… and I’ve got a lot of things in mind, all of which I am excited about having the opportunity to show and offer. I’ll have more on that when I have made them… for right now, it is a bit of a secret.

So, I return home with a great amount of fond memories of the convention, and souvenirs in the form of prints – special made for this convention. Each are rather large, printed on 390 GSM (super heavyweight) rag paper in fine pigment inks. Each are signed, and dated “Steampunk Symposium 2012”. These are *all* rather rare, one of a kind for their size… They are 13 inches by up to 24 inches. Most average about 13×20 inches, and are all beautiful and sturdy reproductions on my work.

Our table at Steampunk Symposium 2012

I *thought* about offering them all as a set… and if you make an offer before any of them sell, I would be more than happy to offer them that way), otherwise: I’ll be putting them up for sale over the next few hours. There are some available now, and by morning I’ll have them all up and available, in their own category here:

http://www.mykeamend.com/new/products-page/unique-prints/

There is only one of each, so if you see one you like, this is a good time, the only time to grab it.

So, what is coming up? Well, Jfax in June (Grand Rapids), In October we’ll be at Kokomo-Kon in Kokomo Indiana, and are hoping to be a part of Utopiacon in Cincinnati the week after. We’ll be trying to fill in many more spots as we can, hopefully some more guest spots and panels, but we’ll be looking at conventions to just vend at as well… maybe a few to simply enjoy attending. Please watch this space, and I’ll try to be much better about announcing our future appearances in the future.

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The Hanging Gardens

This is one of my three final commissions for this year, meaning I have two more to go before this series is done and I can finally start lay-out for the “Airships and Tentacles” book.

These have been rather slow-coming – I’ve been chomping off bits of my work list, and well, between home repair, prepping for coming conventions, keeping food on the table (web/programming work), shipping, and *still* catching up on kickstarter stuff… it all feels like ‘nibbling’, though I haven’t slowed down or stopped in nearly a year.

Anyway, I painted this one at 18×12 inches on Oak panel… you can see a few details below, but certainly not all of them. As per usual… tiny, tiny brush strokes and figures about the size of a grain of rice…

I have it imaged at 600DPI, to ensure that these details show as well as the original in printed form, and those prints are now available HERE.

There are only 10 available, they are printed on canvas at the exact same size as the original painting. As an early buyer incentive, the first two to sell are available for only $190; They’ll go back up after those two have sold.

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Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of …Gin?

Hendrick’s Gin is giving away a custom box, made by me, including an original painting, 11 giclee prints on acid-free paper, a 14×11 metallic print, my Coloring Book for Grown Up Kids, and a copy of Insects and Angels Magazine.

The giveaway, as well as some added related features over the coming weeks, are at the magazine web site here: http://unusualtimes.net/announcing-the-myke-amend-artist-box/

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For the Kids in You

So, Valentine’s Day is over, and this is my belated Valentines gift to you, your young ones, your students…

A coloring page – something to confuse the little ones in a good way, and promote a bit of thinking outside of the box, while introducing them to some elements of classic artworks as well.

(DOWNLOAD HERE)

Enjoy.

– Myke

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Hendrick’s Gin Giveaway

Recently, being some several months ago or less, as “recently” tends to go for me, Hendrick’s Gin contacted me to participate in their “Curate a Box” contest give away.

Though I have been rather up to my neck in getting out the rewards for the Infernal Device Kickstarter (which when done I plan to celebrate by logging all the ins and outs of the experience into a seriously detailed tutorial), I really hate to pass up good opportunities for promotion, especially when it involves interesting new challenges.

So, in between bonding prints to wooden constructs, waiting for layers of decoupage glue to dry, refining screens for printing, and wrestling with packages, I’ve been hopping into the basement workshop and doing some work on this wooden box they sent me – the box and contents to be given away by Hendricks Gin when done, through their fascinating newsletter and blog at Unusual Times.

My plan, as with all things I do, is to make an heirloom quality and long-lasting piece, so I felt I should do a bit of added reinforcement to the original box with some fine bits of oak, birch, mahogany, maple, and/or cherry, which are the sorts of wood I prefer to make my constructs of and paint my paintings onto.

The wooden box, straight out of the package
The wooden box, straight out of the package

The very first step, of course, was to remove the box from the package. There was a wonderful promotional book from Hendrick’s Gin in there as well, but Insects and Angels Author and Editor Bethalynne Bajema so-loved the little book and all the artwork within, that well… she was still thumbing through the book, and I might have lost a finger if I tried to reclaim it. Anyway.. the box, above.

Basic Box opened
Basic Box opened

Another shot of the box, it’s insides just the perfect size for a number of unique 8.5×11 printings of some of my select artworks.

I plan to fill this box with:

1) At least 6 hand-signed fine art prints on a special paper and of a special size to make them one of a kind.
2) A Magickal Bag of Holding
3) A polar bear
4) A bunch of Arctic Salmon for the polar bear
5) Bethalynne says that Magickal Bags of Holding are not available anywhere around here, and are quite likely mythical.
6) An original painting, as the inside top of the box, which fits snugly but can be removed and framed.
7) Tacos! Everyone loves tacos!
8) Apparently the above is also a violation of postal code.
9) Some sort of sea monster… though a rather tiny one, made of clay and hand-painted.
10) I don’t know yet… it seems like a lot so far, so I’ll have to see what else the box can hold…. maybe some stickers and patches.

Stage One: Cut a piece of oak to serve as a sturdy top to the box.
Stage One: Cut a piece of oak to serve as a sturdy top to the box.

The first thing I did was to cut some pieces of oak – two for the insides of the box (one to reinforce the bottom, one to be painted and inserted into the box later), one to make for a hard and sturdy plate for top of the box.

Box Top
Box Top
Panel for Painting
Panel for Painting
panel for the bottom of box insert
panel for the bottom of box insert

Work Space: YeGads!! …

Ground Zero
Ground Zero - dust, wheels, pulleys, cogs, a half-repaired bandsaw, and more dust
Ground Zero 2
brass bits, metal fittings, brass switchplates, knobs, more pulleys...
Ground Zero 3
Ground Zero 3 - saved bits of cherry, walnut, heartwood pine, oak, and mahogany. I use every little bit of wood, down to tooth-pick-sized bits, for everything from furniture, boxes, painting, down to using the smallest bits for fine details and decorative touches.
Ground Zero 4
Ground Zero 4 - animatronic bat machine - in pieces and on hold for a little while more.

Above 4 photos: Ground Zero… I have been working from one thing into another for way too long. The workshop is piled in bits of brass and unsorted wood… and I am pretty sure there are some clamps and other important tools under there somewhere. I should clean up beforehand to make all of this go easier…

… ohhh… maybe after one more cut.

Balls!
Balls! ... made of cherry, flattened on the tops, drilled, and dowels glued into them.
Holes drilled for the "feet" of the box.
Holes drilled for the "feet" of the box.
Feet Attached
Feet Attached - Outdoor quality wood glue on each dowel, pushed into snug holes in the bottom of the box.
Box, Standing
Box, Standing, feet attached
Clamps
Clamps - not the best for the job. I have lots of ones perfect for ths task... which I am sure I will find when I clean the basement.
Stained - top view
Stained - top view - a mixture of red cherry and deep mahogany
Stained-bottom view
Stained-bottom view
Varnished
Varnished - partially... many more steps to go.

A thin coat of poly completes the night’s work. Tomorrow I’ll sand this down with fine paper, varnish it again, wait another day, sand it down with steel wool, varnish again, wait another day, sand with steel wool again, wax, buff, wax, buff, wax, and buff… until the box is looking very nice.

During that time, I’ll also be working on the painting to go int this box, 3 other painting commissions, shipping, and kickstarter rewards… the good thing about all these projects, is that they each have steps that involve waiting for things to dry or to set… the trick is managing that time so there is always something to do on the next while waiting on the other.

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Black Ships Ate the Sky

I started this, thinking I was going to take an 8×10 pencil sketch and make a neat water-colory looking piece of it, or maybe just smooth it out and make some edits.

I began by making it 16×20 at 400 DPI, and then took to smoothing out all of my pencil grainy-ness. I chose this size, because I like my works to be high resolution, and my prints to be perfect – I also always consider that I might finish a piece, and then wish I had made it available much bigger.

The downside to working digital for me, is that can I zoom in to where I can see the individual pixels when it comes to detail… I begin just doing this for one part, then realize that the entirety of the work now needs to be in this ultra-high resolution – and set off on a journey of exploring a miles-square map of pixels for.. as long as it takes… in this case, over 300 hours I really did not have to spare. I think I spent nearly two weeks planning on being done “tomorrow”.

It was certainly a way to indulge though – as an artist these days, I don’t always get the chance to put so much work into one piece – though I do put a tremendous amount of work into every one comparatively.

From pencil sketch, to over 2 gigs of file size, hundreds of layers of painted elements, plus all the modification layers for overlay, lightening, darkening, color, multiplication, saturation, etcetera…

About a day or two in, I decided it would be a great idea to actually log the process for this one… and I saved a lot of progress pics.  Below, you can actually see the details of the finished piece. One thing with all of my paintings and other images: Web resolution will never let you see how packed with detail every inch is, or all of the interesting scenes, items, and mini-artworks semi-hidden throughout the painting.

Below that, I’ve added my progress pics – for people who are interested by such things.

Oh… if you would like to buy printings of this: There are giclees available in my store – There are also poster prints and photographic prints available at our Redbubble shop – Also in my DeviantArt account.

Image and details:


Progress Pics:


A rather rough sketch… these were quickies done for $25 a pop for bus fare a year or so back. The paper type really did not allow for erasing, so they were one-shot deals. I liked the concept and base layout enough, I thought I would do some digital work on it to make it print-ready.


A lot of steps went by before I realized it was going to be a much bigger project than I planned. It was the point where I was fleshing out this airship where I decided some screen caps would be good. I had started on the girl, switched to the airship, cut my pencil work out to its own layer, and placed other airships where I wanted them, as placeholders for the sake of layout.

I blacked out the girl for this stage, I didn’t want its pencily quality drawing my focus from the background I was working on.


head/face. This part took all of my night – so not much else has changed.


boots and leggy things… I put a lot of base work into this, then decided I would need to enlarge the feet, and widen and lengthen the lower legs. I write notes to myself whenever there is something important I want to hit first thing the next day… you’ll see these notes in other screen caps below.


The very beginnings of the holster and belt… I would later go in further, and further, sharpening up these details, then making details within these details… and sharpening those up. Oh, you can also see the base/beginning brushings of her stripey-pants.

… and done.

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The Mighty Bloop

Painted in acrylic on tempered hardboard backed with birch, 12 by 24 inches – added to the airships and tentacles series because I might as well – since the book is not yet compiled and won’t be in time for Holiday selling.

I’ve been having a rather not so spectacular month – with lots of things I need to catch up on, and sickness, fatigue, and finances getting in the way at every turn it seems. Christmas season is always terrible on artists, especially us for some reason – and we hoped to be on top of it this year by finally offering calendars and greeting cards… all we ended up doing was using a lot of valuable time laying these things out – and though I closed down most of my store to get people to shop over there, I think all I have done is to cut ourselves further out of holiday sales.

When there is nothing else I can do, I paint – and this one is the product of a few multi-day – never leaving my table except for restroom breaks – sessions.

The original, since it is already made, can ship immediately, but the giclees cannot ship before the 20th… making them scary last minute gifts, especially with all the last minute and overdue shipping I need to catch up on.

If this painting sells, I will be super happy, and able to catch up on many things, I’ll even be able to visit family for the Holidays – which would be super-awesome.

If it doesn’t sell by then, well, I’ll mark the thing back up to $2400 or more, and just count on it to sell when it sells.

Available as a giclee here: http://www.mykeamend.com/new/products-page/all-products/the-mighty-bloop-24×12-inch-signed-limited-giclee/

Original Painting Available here (until the 11th, then if it hasn’t sold that day, it’ll be available here again): http://www.mykeamend.com/new/products-page/all-products/the-mighty-bloop-24×12-inch-acrylic-on-board-painting/

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The End of the Series

Think of a visual representation of a statements or concept, as a series or a single image.

Consider a style or media that would be striking, and imagine it taken to a level beyond your ability.

Research said media if it is new, and think on the concept or image for a while – but not so long that something new takes its place – because the longer this thought process, the more ambitious it should become.

Once the thought of even trying begins to fill you with an equal level of dread and excitement, begin.. even if it is after your bed time.

Don’t stop until it is looking as good you had hoped, because this is the *true* starting point. Now work to take it even further, as far as the piece demands, beyond whatever level of ability you  thought you were limited by.

Walk away regularly with the image in your head, process it, think of the parts you like, the things you don’t, and things you would like to add.

Remove and go over anything you have doubts about without mercy.

Add in only what won’t crowd the piece

When you reach the point where any change will only make it “different”, but not “better”, you are done.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things by breakfast”, is a good phrase to remember.

Most *Everyone* draws at some point in their life. Those who are intrigued by failure, inspired by the seemingly impossible, continue beyond the point of jagged teeth and crayoned stick fingers.

An artist should never seek to do what they already know they *can* do – and perhaps such is the evil in commissions, which are most often specified according to past works, and limited by scope. Not that all commissions are bad – an artist must accept only those that allow the artist a fair share of creative freedom, as well as room, opportunity, or even obligation to try something new.

An artist who finds himself or herself with extra money, tends to spend it exploring a new mode of art, a new mode of printing, or trying to break into some bigger and more time-involved media or project. It isn’t that we are without wisdom, we know what is wise, and choose to ignore it out of a strong and passionate love for art. Buy canvas, sell paintings, buy scanner, sell reproductions, buy printer, sell giclees, buy lithography press, sell lithographs, buy bigger canvas and better paints, sell paintings, fret over a choice between crowns or a big chunk of marble, sell sculpture, buy clove oil … some ramen noodles …and a better chisel.

When I first started the “Airships and Tentacles” series, in wow… 2006… I don’t even think that “Air Kraken” was a word yet, though I could very well be wrong. I can’t remember specifically, but given Final Fantasy’s tendency to make *some* version of every base creature for each and every environment, it would be insane if they never had some sort of airborne cephalopod in all those years.

Yes, It is foolish of anyone to believe they invented anything… logs and stones rolled down hills long before the wheel, and there is sure to be a comic book from the 60s or illustration from the 1800s with flying cephalopods *somewhere* – and a hundred movies and books in-between. I am only saying I hadn’t yet seen them in paintings, especially luminist and/or American arts-movement-styled paintings, and I thought it would be fun to add hints of in the first painting – and loved that touch enough to continue it through the series.

The Rescue -Steampunk Airship painting featuring Abney Park's HMS Ophelia

My airships, started with a commission for Robert of Abney Park, based on the existing designs by Eliza Gauger, which may or may not have been based somewhat on an equal interest in things such as Final Fantasy. The fun of imagination, came more in execution and styling, and moreso in the landscapes themselves. Over time, as the result of much research on bag sizes, gas content, altitude, temperature, etc… balloon sizes grew, ship sizes and engines shrank – I also started to lean more towards the stylings of DaVinci for wings and other parts – and mixed a bit of the aesthetic stylings from my favorites like Derek Riggs, Michael Whelan, Brom, Bethalynne Bajema, Gustave Dore, Pieter Breughel (E&Y), Zdzislaw Beksinski, and others wherever characters, creatures, scenery, or technology allowed.

Anyway, I wanted to do a series of what is essentially landscape art, explored by this fascinating mode of travel – as a means of adding a human element for the viewer to view through, without focusing on figures so much as to make it “character art”.

I sought to combine Lovecraftian elements and mythos with Vernian machines and aptly romanticized visions of exploration; in this, I also wanted to hide every bit of my usual dark and spooky art in such a way that it goes mostly to completely unnoticed.

The latter is most likely why this series was the first series I ever did that people *both* liked, *and* would hang on their walls (Criteria: Does not scare children, much; Does not creep in-laws and future in-laws out; Does not give the potential future girlfriend reason for pause; Does not get a cubicle-dweller fired).

Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series (crop)
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: crop 2
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view. This, the last of these images is finally available as a giclee on fine art paper, a giclee on canvas, and a metallic print at our Etsy store: http://ettadiem.etsy.com

I *thought* I was going to explore this into many, many other types of media – and planned to have a sculpture in wood and a sculpture in metal in the series of nothing else. But, I’ve done more paintings in this series than I intended to, and many, many engravings. The very last painting ships out tomorrow… technically that is not true, because there will be *some* of that in the Infernal device – but I am counting that as my sculpture piece to complete the series.

I’ve got one hell of a collection together in this – plenty enough for the book I committed myself to making works for. I’ll be releasing it in a time when dirigibles and flying Cephalopods have over these years become an odd sort of ‘norm’ (a subcultural standard that to most, comes out of *nowhere* for no apparent reason). The journey has been in interesting one, and I feel that alone merits the book’s release if nothing else… pending until all this Infernal Device stuff is under control.

Thank you everyone who supported the making of this series by buying prints, sharing links and such – and of course thank you  everyone who continues to do so.

I really have no idea what I am going to do from here, because I have *many* ideas and will have to choose one, or combine a few – but whatever I am thinking, I am sure going to look forward to it the moment I allow myself to look forward to other things.

Right now I am looking forward to getting the first build of the Infernal Device done, and looking to make it better than anything I could ever possibly do.

In celebration of the closing of the series (okay… I really need money to get my butt to Maker Faire Detroit), I am making large giclees of the very first image from this series available online. They are 30 inches by 24 (printed area is slightly less), and they are printed on fine art rag paper. I will also sign and date these. These are not limited editions – the reason is that the metallics and canvas prints I sold as limited editions, must always remain more special than any version I put out afterward. These are prints I make available in small quantities at conventions, with no set number to be made – but they beautiful, high quality, and they are the biggest prints of this  image you can get without buying one of the 4 remaining giclees on canvas.

If you would like one, these few prints are available HERE – and are only $100 until they  are gone.

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Slave 1881 Finally available as a giclee on canvas

The HP 4670, rocks. 600 DPI, in seconds. Perfectly flat, no distance from the painting, means I can finally get good imaging of my paintings without the $300+ a pop imaging fee, which means savings to you.

I decided to take this one step further, because limited editions and all, though they appeal to some people – most just want a good wall hanging at a good price. And the added cost of having these shipped to me, so I can stretch them, sign them in paint, re-varnish them, print up certificates on hahnemuhle paper, stick holograms on them, etc… well… this is a bit of an experiment.

Not to say they *aren’t* somewhat limited, I mean, my life is finite… unless you both believe in quantum immortality and also believe that you and I will never part coils – in which case I guess you have forever.

But, whether you and I live forever, or otherwise – I anticipate I’ll probably sell about 20 to 50 of these, before I stop selling them, and you can be one of 20 to 50 owners – without all that cost and delay involved in limited editions.

You can buy  them here