The second annual conference dedicated solely to author R. A. Lafferty and his work will be held in Lawrenceville, NJ this June. The organizers, again, asked if I would like to create the poster for the event.
The theme was to be Lafferty's book Fourth Mansions, a book I had not yet read.
Several chapters into the text, I'll admit I had difficulty finding good ideas for the event poster (Not that ideas weren't manifesting. Several illustrations in volume 5 of Feast of Laughter will now be pulled from this book. Two have already been finished). The difficulty was pulling material from the book that could represent visually 1) the event and 2) the main theme (R. A. Lafferty). What became quickly apparent was that, like the LAFFCON1 poster, it was essential that Lafferty the man be incorporated. This led to sketches of various types where things weaved in and out of Lafferty's face, animals leaped out of his open skull, and one sketch where the man just held a beer grinning before a chaos of iconography from the book.
None of these ideas worked. At least not in my hands.
Eventually I asked myself the question, "If I did not need to include Fourth Mansions in the poster, what would it look like?" And that was all it took.
The new difficulty was that I would need to do a couple of things I'd never attempted before. First, I would need to paint a portrait (I've painted still lifes and landscapes but never portraits) and Second, I would would need to learn the tools for painting on the digital canvas. For Christmas I'd received a copy of Clip Studio Paint Pro (formerly sold as Manga Studio), installed it, and then watched repeatedly a Youtube video of someone using the program to paint a very convincing Ogre from World of Warcraft.
The poster progressed quickly. I cannot say enough good things about the software, it's intuitive tools, or it's reasonable price. I have a Wacom tablet I'd purchased in college and used maybe once, kept pristine all these years in it's own black leather case (as any bad-ass graphic illustrator would do). I will say that painting digitally is not like painting in real life and has clear advantages and disadvantages.
I worked about 2 hours each evening for a week, pushing digital paint. References were mainly from two images of Ray found online. As I painted, I was surprised how well it was progressing. It felt a bit like Jason Bourne discovering his suppressed killing skills. Had I been able to do this all along? I must have asked aloud at least ten times "How is this happening?" -Not that the final image is without its flaws. It's still a first and shows it in many ways. But it's much better than I'd expected for so many firsts.
The text and layout were also added using the same software and, luckily, the conference planners were quick to forgive me for leaving behind the book theme.
The end product is, I think, welcoming. It's a little funny. It's secretly a "see what else I, Anthony, can do?", and, most importantly, it is a distinctly LAFFCON related image. One I will remain proud of for some time.