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 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.