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.