Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ginny Wrapped in the Sun

R A Lafferty, Ginny Wrapped in the Sun

“Here come the religious nuts again,” Doctor Dismas said. “I may have to kill one of the fools if they keep coming back.” 

         R. A. Lafferty, Ginny Wrapped in the Sun


Sometimes when I'm reading a Lafferty story I have a bad habit of focusing on the wrong parts, that is, if you can manage the argument that there are wrong parts in a Lafferty story.

Reading Ginny Wrapped in the Sun, I hyper-focused on the religious zealots and their misguided and fruitless hunt up and down the mountain.

Two other things influenced the illustration. Namely, my having recently poured through everything I could find online of Harry Clarke's artwork (the designs with small figures in large landscapes were particularly in mind) and the other thing being that during this time I was trying desperately to find a speedier way to produce these illustrations.

Drawing in vector is somewhat tedious and does not have the pleasant pace and fluidity that painting or pen drawing can. It would take a week for me to finish a fully vector-drawn illustration. For this one, I tried merging vector and hand drawn and it still took a week to complete. So go figure.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Feast of Laughter Vol. 4

Feast of Laughter is now a four course meal!

After organizing, editing, and negotiating for a year, the Ktistec Press have gone to publication with the fourth volume in the Feast of Laughter series.

When we completed Vol. 3 of FOL I was under the impression that the books that followed in the series would be smaller in page count as the breadth of older, pre-published material we pulled from (making up roughly half of the total content) had been thought mostly exhausted. But within the crust of a flat Earth internet exist deep dark crevasses and in a few of these lay notable pieces written about Lafferty. This and the ever sharpening skill of the Kistec Team in negotiating rights to content (there's an essay by Gene Wolfe in there for goodness sake) led to Vol. 4 being the bulkiest book of the series, thus far.

Also included is the first ever publication of the original Lafferty short story The Rod and the Ring. Lafferty was prolific and had an enormous number of works published and a modest pile of works that were, for one reason or another, not. For us, it was very exciting to find out, over a year ago, that we would be the first to share this story with the world. And that excitement sustained itself throughout production -A new Lafferty and our labors forever listed with the "First published in" attribution. Wonderful.

It's also the first volume to feature a cover by artist Ward Shipman, who created a piece just for this publication (featured on the back cover). Ward's covers were another secret that we celebrated and giggled over for, in his case, well over a year. Many of the compliments we get on the volume begin with a comment about his cover. For my contribution, I did the cover layout this time around and was far too proud of the idea of hiding the title behind the mountains in Jeff's illustration. I suppose I still am.

Inside volume four there are also nine or so of my illustrations based on Lafferty's stories. In most cases, these are a little bit better than the ones I'd cut my teeth with in the previous volume. I will be posting more in this blog about the individual illustrations in the coming months. I will confess that I was trying to find corners to cut with the art this time around -Trying to weigh out how much of the illustration I could draw out in hand and still have that clean vector graphics look.

Feast of Laughter 4 was also the first volume in the series to run into a publishing hiccup, as sales were abruptly halted only a few hours after becoming available. We don't know if it was a random check or, if not, what made Vol. 4 different than previous books. But all movement was stalled until we offered validation that we had the rights to all the works in the book. It was a jarring start for what we had hoped would be a swooping debut for The Rod and The Ring. But, in the end, only tripped us for a few weeks before production quickly resumed.

And now it's finally out there. The Rod and The Ring. Ward's haunting cover. A few illustrations by me. All our art, our thoughts, and our hard work. Available for purchase on Amazon but also free in a pdf format from the website.

Friday, February 24, 2017


LAFFCON, R A Lafferty

The second annual conference dedicated solely to author R. A. Lafferty and his work will be held in Lawrenceville, NJ this June. This year I'll be in attendance. Again, the organizers asked if I would create the poster for the event.

The theme was to be Lafferty's book Fourth Mansions, a book I had yet to read.

Several chapters into the text, I will admit, I had difficulty finding good ideas for the event poster (Not that ideas weren't forming. Several illustrations in volume 5 of Feast of Laughter will now be based on this novel. Two have already been finished). The difficulty was pulling material from the book that could represent visually 1) the conference 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 wherein things weaved in and out of Lafferty's visage, animals leaped out of his open skull, and one sketch where the man just stood boldly holding a beer and grinning before a chaos of iconography behind him.

None of these ideas worked, at least not from 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 challenge was that I needed to do a couple of things I'd never attempted before. I would need to paint a portrait (I've painted objects and landscapes but never portraits). Also, 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), finally installed it, and watched three or four times a Youtube video where someone using the same program painted a very convincing Ogre from World of Warcraft.

After that my poster progressed quickly. I cannot say enough good things about the software, it's intuitive tools, or it's reasonable price (currently around $25). I have a Wacom tablet, purchased during college, rarely used but kept pristine all these years in it's own black leather case (as any bad-ass graphic illustrator would do, yes?). 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, experimenting and pushing digital paint. References were mainly from two images of Ray found online.

This is my fourth or fifth depiction of Ray Lafferty. It's a difficult portrait to nail down. There aren't a great number of pictures to pull from and Ray, in the latter half of his life and with regularly fluctuating weight, looks different in nearly every photo you find of him. I chose the healthy, full faced, younger version.

As I painted, I was surprised how well it was progressing. I felt a bit like Jason Bourne discovering he knew how to kill a man using only a thimble. Had I been able to do this all along? -Not that the final image is without its flaws. It's still a first in many ways and shows it. 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 image. One I will remain proud of for some time.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


R. A. Lafferty, Pennies by Anthony Ryan Rhodes

They were beautiful, musty unknowns.

There was a period, just before I left Tulsa, where I frequented antique shops. Mainly, I looked for odd photographs. Most Tulsa shop owners didn’t ask much for old pictures, not like they do here in Florida.

I looked for photos and I looked for odd old books, ones I never intended to read (I didn’t look for R. A. Lafferty novels. I didn’t know they existed.) I found and I brought home many books with cloth bindings and warn edges that carried an air musty dignity that my shiny comic book collection could not and that went well with all the old photographs now populating the walls of my apartment.

Most of these old books were mysteries until you opened them. Along the spine the ink was flaked or faded, the indention smooth.

I wonder if this is why Ray made his own spines, crowding his office with shelf upon shelf of tombs with yellow tape and bold handwritten titles. His eyesight wasn’t the best. We know that.

When they cleared out his office, most of Ray’s books wound up in places where they served no function, mostly due to Ray’s spines. Regardless of their intellectual contents (and their previous owner), school librarians would not keep them on the shelves and bookstores could not move them, not for more than a few coins.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Santuario de Chimayo

Feast of Laughter, Santuario de Chimayo

Kevin Cheek is a gracious man. He is a technical writer by trade and editor of the Feast of Laughter book series. For volume three, Kevin asked if I would create a non-Lafferty inspired illustration for his article Outside the Cathedral (a self-aware and personal piece about being a non-Catholic who enjoys reading the often Catholic undertones in R. A. Lafferty stories).

El Santuario de Chimayo is an historic church in New Mexico known for good pilgrimage and holy flavored dirt, and is of significant interpersonal and spiritual significance for many, many people. Kevin frames his article around his experience of regularly visiting the church with his family.

Since I've started making art again, everything I have created has been for Feast of Laughter. This was the first illustration in that time that was not for an R. A. Lafferty story. The process of pulling lines in vector drawing is so tedious, it's not something I can do to just while away the time, but Kevin's commission gave me an excuse. It was nice to turn away from stories and silly characters for a bit and stare at a place and try to pull some emotion out of those images.

I should do this more often.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

FOL3 - Back Covers

My first duties on Feast of Laughter were as a volunteer, digitally removing dust and patching scratches in what is probably the best photograph of R. A. Lafferty I have seen (taken by Keith Purtell).

R A Lafferty, Feast of Laughter 3, Back Cover

For Volume 3, I had the pleasure of designing the back cover using dozens of photos of Lafferty's office door, courtesy of Mr. Warren Brown. The editorial team had wanted either something with the full door or something with a collage of it's components. Eventually, we settled on the image above, which uses both.

Digital collage of Elements from Lafferty's office door by AR Rhodes.

Much of Lafferty’s office (doors, walls, and furnature) was decorated in this manner. He had fully decoupaged his creative domain. I cannot speak for the man, but this is exactly the kind of creative inclination I get when I’m wistfully drunk and especially bored. I shall never show you my guitar case or my poor, poor guitar, for that matter. But will say they are both hopelessly enwrapped in lawless visual trivia.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Feast of Laughter, Vol 3 - Now In Print

Feast of Laughter, Vol 3, 2015

R. A. Lafferty was a science fiction writer from Tulsa, recognized by many writers as one of the most original authors of the Twentieth Century. These days he's mostly forgotten.

A handful of fans started a book zine for him in late 2014 and I've been fortunate enough to have fourteen or so illustrations printed in the third volume alongside critical essays, correspondence between Lafferty and Alan Dean Foster, and even a gushing interview with Harlan Ellison.

The books are available Print-on-Demand from Amazon, but a free pdf version can be downloaded from the website.

I'm very happy with the production quality of the book, both inside and out. It was a joy working on this volume and with the team of fans who found the time in their full lives to make it.

Recently, author Michael Swanwick had this to say about it on his blog:

"Feast of Laughter has to be one of the most extraordinary fannish feats of recent years. It's a full-length book/zine containing new and reprint essays, appreciations, letters, whatevers pertaining to the man who was easily the most original science fiction writer of the Twentieth Century -- Raphael Aloysius Lafferty.
R. A. Lafferty, "Ray" as his friends called him, was, during his lifetime, recognized as one of the giants of the field. Now, alas, he's close to forgotten.

But not quite! Some of the great man's friends and admirers have been working hard to reignite Lafferty's reputation. This volume of Feast of Laughter is the third collection of Laffertiana and it is a must for all serious Lafferty fans."

I'm beaming.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Laff Libs

Laff Libs, RA Lafferty
Laff Libs by Anthony R. Rhodes

How impishly giddy would it feel to buy a book of Mad Libs that both mimicked and illustrated the complexity and style of a couple dozen great authors?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ghost in the Corn Crib

RA Lafferty, Ghost in the Corn Crib

“And be careful you don’t let go of it till after you’re dead.”
‐‐Ghost in the Corn Crib

This particular illustration for RA Lafferty's story Ghost in the Corn Crib had some rough starts for me. After several aborted tries, I ended up using a tiny 1-inch sketch scanned at high resolution and worked out the details in the computer.

It's the first illustration I would not send my grandmother. My mother, always proud to show off my work, raised a few eyebrows with it at her workplace.

But I'll stand by it, as the physics in the picture work the same as they do in the story (intimidating ghost and all).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lafferty in the Green Room

R.A. Lafferty, In the Greenroom

This illustration, at some point, had text on the wall behind the character that read "Dare to Know Your Heroes." It was to be an exclamatory charge into battle against preconceived expectations, and my answer to the old adage to the opposite.

"Never meet your heroes" is a good warning for avoiding disappointment. But it recommends we hide in our sunny, honeysuckle worlds and that our heroes be larger than life. It is not a path to acceptance or any other real understanding of an individual. We are human, through and through, and even the best of us are good, at best, in spite of ourselves.

Just as I finished the illustration a discussion spilled into the Lafferty Facebook group with some expressing concern that Ray's drunken exploits at conventions would stain, overshadow, or otherwise take away from his literary works.

I understand their concern, but disagree. In fact, with convention tales as eccentric as any of his short stories, I think it only makes reading Lafferty more interesting, endearing, and complex.

Nevertheless, I struck the text from the illustration. Partly because I was still introducing myself to the group. But mostly because the lettering itself started to feel too heavy handed.

That said, please do dare to know your heroes.