Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An open letter to those image thieves...

The above image, the original black & white version of Zombie Sam, is all over the freakin' internet now. Unfortunately the version floating around is one that amateur has hacked up and added some crappy text, see below.
Pretty shitty, eh? So when I began finding this image around I started asking for credit. Just a link back to my site. All I'm askin'. Nobody would respond! Nuthin'! So lucky for me image hosting sites like Photobucket, Flickr and MySpace can be held responsible for images on their servers and all it takes is a strongly worded email and the offending image is gone. Poof!

There are times when I still ask for credit. Looking over the site you can usually tell who's got enough class to stand up and give it. One of these sites is Zombies & Toys. Turns out he's actually a great guy and you should check out his site if you like...well, zombies and toys!

I'm seeing the tide is turning. More people are willing to give the credit and that's fine. But I shouldn't have to ask for it. When I approach these thieves the response I get 99% of the time is "I didn't know you did it. I just found it on somebody else's page and decided to use it". There are a couple things wrong with this excuse:

1. You found it on somebody else's page and decided to STEAL it...Yes, steal is the correct term. It's on their page, you thought it would make you look cool and you took it. Maybe it belonged to the owner of the page you stole it from. You didn't credit them either. You gave credit to nobody! Even crediting an image to the wrong person shows that you tried. You stole it!
2. Even if you knew the image didn't belong to the person you stole it from if they didn't credit anyone that means...Class? That's right, they STOLE it too! Because they did it doesn't mean it's OK for you to do it. If everybody walks by and punches your mother in the face does that make it OK for me to do it too? Maybe that's a bad analogy because she did raise a thief afterall but you get my drift. The point is someone drew that picture. And there's a chance that that someone is trying to make a living by drawing those kick-ass images you love to put on your MySpace page. Oh, and those really cool animated and glittery images that say "Happy B-Day" or "Thanks for the add!" someone out there drew those too.

I'm a professional artist. That means art is how I pay my bills. That doesn't mean I'm rich and famous and all that crap. Most professional artists are just like you, living paycheck to paycheck. And it's getting harder to be successful at what we do because of douche bag thieves laying claim to something that took hours of our time. Granted most thieves mean no harm. Most people don't realize what goes on behind the scenes. Thus the reason of this blog.

So just remember, that nifty little piece of art you want to use as your background is there because someone spent many, many years honing their skills and talent and because they took the time to sit down and dream it up and took even more time to make that vision a reality. They didn't do it for you, mind you, but for their families. That image helped keep bread on their tables and when you take it without giving proper credit that artist ceases to exist in the eyes of the public.

Don't be part of that.


Sunday, June 28, 2009


Just got back from Origins Game Fair. We had a fantastic show but the four day events are exhausting and very slow getting warmed up. Setting up we had the pleasant surprise of discovering that we were neighbors with our old friends Zombie Buddy Productions. Strangely enough we first met them when we were neighbors at my last Origins show a couple years ago. Deja vu?

We also got to meet with a lot of old friends from my last Origins show. I'm flattered that my work was remembered because one can be easily forgotten with all of the "glitz & glamour" there.

We discovered that fellow Abyss Walker artist Katey DeHay was in attendance as well putting her mark on many of the faces there. We had the pleasure of chatting with her a bit. Heather and I also had the opportunity to have dinner with the guys from CharCon, a gaming con in Charleston WV at which I'll be Artist Guest of Honor the October. I dare you to find a better bunch of guys. I'm really, really looking forward to CharCon!

Speaking of guest spots; I also met some of the folks with MarCon which as some of know I will be GoH there next May as well.

Con on the Cob friends Armorcast & Andy Hopp was there as well. Unfortunately when we were in the art room Andy was deep in conversation so we didn't have the chance to say hi. So if you're out there listening Andy...Hi. We also had a brief conversation with Nigel Sade. My one complaint with Origins: The art room is waaay too far from the dealer's area! I feel so left out...

So other than the horrible hotel experience we had a great time. Did an interview with some guys and I can't remember the website they're with but I'll be posting a link once it's up. I also have some teasers of things yet to come...maybe:
1. A new deal with a company to put even MORE of my images on t-shirts.
2. A Zombie Sam model along the lines of the Aurora models of the 60s and 70s
3. Some higher end merchandise like...well, won't really say right now but I am excited about these possibilities!

Off to beddy bye for me but before I go thanks to everyone at Origins for the phenomenal hospitality.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Papa's got a brand new bag...

...of body parts that is! And we're bringin' back to Origins Game Fair in Columbus OH this weekend. We attended Origins back in '07 but that was before the Dead White & Blue. This go 'round we have better art, better merchandise and of course better ZOMBIES!!

Origins will see the debut of 3 new art prints including the newest Dead White & Blue piece. Our booth will be somewhere in the dealer's area so stop by, say hi and get some zombie lovin'!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to art - Lesson 1...

Occasionally someone askes me some technical question about how I do what I do. I thought I take an opportunity to put together a FATQ (frequently asked technical question) for everyone. Because as we all know everytime I open my mouth gold falls out of it...at least that's what I've been told. And I really should look up the definiton of this sarcasm I keep hearing about...

1. Do you paint wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry? Yes.
2. How do you choose your pallette? I go through all my tubes of paint, openeing each one up until I have a bunch of colors I like.
3. What brand of paints do you rec- OK, this is pretty lame. And I can assure you all my answers will be lame.

Here's the deal: I really do go through my paint until I have a bunch of colors I like. But there is a method. I know by sight what colors are cool or warm, which ones are opaque or transparent, etc. But I don't know names. Name recollection is a left brained function and mine seems to work less and less as I get older. I know the tools at my disposal, I just don't know what they're called.

I use both wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry. Whatever I need to get the painting done. I approach each piece as a problem that needs to be solved. How I solved the previous problem may not be how I solve the problem before me. And my problem solving is a very fluid process. When I start I have an idea of the path I want to take but that could change as I go along. And I am open to that change. I'm a firm believer in happy accidents. All artists should learn to recognize them.

My inspiration comes from shit I like. And it helps a lot that you guys happen to like the same shit. That's inspiration enough.

So I guess you may be wondering exactly what the purpose of this blog is. I've type a whole bunch of words and haven't really said anything. My point is this: Enjoy art for what it is. Too many people worry way too much about the technical aspects or the purpose behind the piece and they miss the point. Granted it's OK to wonder about this stuff. Artists will dissect the work of others. Art critics & lovers will psycho-analyze it. That's OK. But there's time for that later. When see a piece for the first time clear your mind. Absorb what has been placed in front of you. Let your thoughts jumble together and as you take in the piece that was created just for you (and art was created for you) those thoughts will begin to fall into place and your feelings about the piece will take shape. You may be surprised at what you discover.

As a general rule I dislike abstract art but that rule does not keep me from liking a piece of abstract art. Don't choose the art, let it choose you.

This post may seem a little out of place for me. I'm usually talking in a down to earth manner about the business side of art and crap like that. Thought maybe a step back was in order. Yeah, art is my career but it is also so much more. Art is a journey. It is a destination. It's a struggle and a free ride. Art is everything to everybody whether they realize it or not.

I've said before that if everyone in the world went blind tomorrow except me I would still paint. I am not an artist because I create art, I create art because I am an artist.

So next time you run into your local neighborhood artist give him or her a big ol' non-sexual smack on the ass and tell them "Keep artin'!"

We now return you to your regularly scheduled ego trip...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I just added some new dates to my schedule. As you can see I'm doing a lot more local shows. I'm in the process of confirming two gallery shows, one will feature my fine art and the other will be inconjunction with some art related Halloween festivities!

Jun. 24-28, '09 - Origins Game Fair, Columbus OH
July 3-5, '09 - Northside Rock n Roll Carnival, Cincinnati OH
July 17, '09 - Fountain Square T-shirt Fest, Cincinnati OH
Aug. 13-16, '09 - GenCon, Indianapolis IN
Aug. 22, '09 - Covedale Arts Fair, Cincinnati OH
Sep. 11-13, '09 - Scarefest, Lexington KY (Guest of Honor)
Sep. 18-20, '09 - Horror Realm, Pittsburgh PA (Guest)
Oct. 3-4, '09 - Dark Carnival Film Fest, Bloomington IN (Guest)
Oct. 10-11, '09 - ZombieConX, Milwaukee WI (Guest)
Oct. 17-18, '09 - Nashville Comics & Horror Show, Nashville TN
Oct. 23-25, '09 - CharCon, Charleston WV (Guest of Honor)
Nov. 20-22, '09 - Horrorhound Weekend, Cincinnati, OH
May 28-30, '10 - MarCon, Columbus OH (Guest of Honor)

Monday, June 15, 2009

East Tennesee Tattoo Fest...

Just getting back from infecting Knoxville with my gooey zombie goodness! In some way this had to be one of the more unqiue events we've attended. I'll explain later but first I would like thanks Bryan from Tattoos by Bryan and the entire staff of the festival. East Tennessee Tatto Fest is a top-notch event! I'd also like to thank Lynda & Robbie from Coon Tattoo for helping us. You guys rock!

So we roll into the Hilton and set up with a primo spot just outside the ballroom. With nothing but awesome music and the steady buzzzz of guns as our soundtrack. At one point I said to my wife "If they play another Motorhead song I'm gonna have a big "O" right here!" Needless to say I had to clean myself up within no time!

Things started out well and never slowed. At this event I had the opportunity to chat with a lot of the artists there. Eventually I came to realize that I was in the presence of greatness! Ain't no posers or wanna-bes in this crowd! These were the real deal. True masters of their art.

On Friday an online friend, author Shane Berryhill stops by the booth. it turns out the pop-culture fest AdventureCon is being held across the street, just mere yards from where we're set up! We talked shop for a while, traded secrets and such. He lso lets us in on some of the industry people that are attending AdventureCon and offers to give us a pass! So now Shane has been added to the "You Rock!" list.

Just a side note: I'm sure some of you reading this have been to fandom conventions. If not they are pretty much the same in some aspects: Dorrs open around 10 am and the place shuts down around 6 or so. Occasionally some will be later. But tat fests are a different breed. Doors open at noon and close at midnight! So that doesn't leave much socializing time afterwards for us fuddy duddies.

We decide that on Saturday Heather will pop over to AdventureCon, give out some cards and do some basic promoting. Figured with us being so close it almost like being at 2 cons at the same time! While she's there she discovers that Kane Hodder is there as well so she pops in at his table to say hi and let him know we're just across the street. During the conversation he introduces her to a person who may help us take Billy Tackett Studios and Dead White & Blue to a higher level. Stay tuned for info on that!

Sittiing at my booth I usually have a drawing of some sort going on. This time I decided to do a car. A '58 Caddy to be exact. That got a lot of attention. Some of that attention came from Ian Jones and his wife (whose name escapes me at the moment...Sorry!) . If you're curious I highly recommend you check out his site, Hot Rod Pencil. Black and white hot rod art at its finest! And he's a swell guy to boot!

I had the opportunity to talk with Kelly from Kelly's Tattoos in Tyler TX. He let me watch while he created a tattoo using a bamboo stick. THAT'S something you don't see everyday.

I got to chat with Angel of Queen of Hearts Tattoos which is Nashville's oldest tattoo shop and the folks from Studio Ink in Lexington & Danville KY and Blackheart Tattoo in Youngstown OH. I know I'm leaving people out but those are the cards I happen to have in front of me at the moment.

Along with hanging out with Robbie & Lynda and Kane we met up with some folks we had met at the Nashville show like Megan Zass among others. Oh, and I got to sign Robbie's penis. I wasn't the first! Don't ask but you can read this article on Robbie.

Hanging out with tattoo artists is humbling and inspiring. It amazes me. These guys and gals goof around and joke but once they sit down with gun in hand it's all business. They are the best of the best for a reason and I'm glad they let me hang out with them this weekend.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Cashin' in vs. Sellin' out

So lately I've been thinking about the differences between selling out and cashing in. I won't bother you with the details of why but I figured that since I had a few minutes while waiting for a canvas to dry I would pose the question, my conclusions and maybe get some feedback.

I have heard a lot of creative folk called Sell-outs. Movie makers, musicians, artists and authors. But what makes a sell-out? Being an artist that makes an actual living doing what I love, making art, could put me in the Sell-out category in the eyes of some. But am I really?

I think selling out is determined by the intentions of the creator. Here's an example:
I have a picture of a vampire getting ready to do battle with a werewolf.

It's an old piece that was done for a book cover that was never published. It was on the verge of fading off into obscurity when lo-and-behold Twilight became bigger than Jesus and I was told by more then one person that this reminded them of the book. So I began to feature the prints a little more prominently. Because the picture was done before Twilight I consider this cashing in. 

But what if I had painted because Twilight had become so popular? I think the line gets fuzzy here but this is my take: For one thing vampires and werewolves would be something that I would do regardless. So taking that and the fact that it's not a particular character into consideration I think this would probably fall into the "Cashing-in" category. Maybe if I didn't do this type and/or it was a specific character I would have probably been a Sell-Out.

It's the same with my Dead White & Blue zombie paintings. Initially hadn't planned on doing any more other than Zombie Sam but because he was such a huge hit the others came along. Am I selling out because I've found something commercially viable? I would still be doing zombies whether people were into them or not. The types of zombies are inconsequential. Unless I painted a Twilight zombie...  There's that damned gray area again!

Here's some thought provocation: I used to consider Metallica Sell-outs because once they became commercially successful with And Justice For All everything after that seemed geared towards the general record buying public. But hold the phone! They were in it for the money. Music is more than fun it's a career. Very much like my art. So they're doing something they love and trying to make money at it and in order to make money they had to...that's right, sell records. So, even though I'm personally not fond of new Metallica I now respect them more.

Flip side of that? Megadeth released some music that was "radio-friendly". To me it looked as though they were trying to follow in Metallica's commercial footsteps. In my eyes that was selling out. I don't know what was goin' on in Dave's head but that's the way it looks to me on the outside. 

So with zombies being all the rage it's hard to tell the Sell-outs from the Cash-ins. But I think you can get some idea by the quality. Cash-ins are doing it not only for the money but also because they like it so the quality is higher. Sell-outs are doing it for the money and it will show in the quality. A perfect example is the remakes of the classic George Romero flicks Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Dawn was a good flick. Some purists will argue this point but I don't think anyone will argue the point that Day was a real stink hole! Somebody somewhere said "Hey, Dawn made a ton of money. Let's throw some shit together and call it Day. It'll make money on name recognition alone!" Dawn: Cash-in. Day: Sell-out.

The book Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? By reading the Wikipedia entry my money's on Cash-in but you can bet your sweet zombie ass the market will be flooded with many Sell-outs and a few Cash-ins very very soon. It happens with any successful venture. Look at all the freakin' pirate crap that was out there when Pirates of the Caribbean was hot!

During the elections several people told me I should do zombie versions of the candidates. But I felt that would be selling out. My criteria for Dead White & Blue is that the images I zombify need to be iconic. Now I knew that regardless of who won there would be an icon there, either Obama or Palin. But I feel there needs to be time. After an as-of-yet-to-be-determined amount of time I will be cashing in. Any sooner and I will be selling out. Make sense?

Some Sell-outs are obvious. Others are not. I suppose the difference between Cash-in vs. Sell-out is debatable. Like me everyone will have their own criteria and opinions. I'd like to here them. Maybe you can change my opinion...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Gallery Hop and a quick pro artist lesson

Pop quiz: You've gotten your art degree and one of your first gallery showings. One of the attendees at your show is someone who has been in the business for 20 years. Do you:

A. Chat this professional up to see what morsels of advice may be spewed  forth that could be relatable to you and your career path of choice
B. Chat this professional up because you never know who has connections...or may have connections in the future.
C. Dismiss this professional as soon as you discover their professional status and go drink cheap, warm beer with your buds.
D. A & B

Wanna guess what happened to me during the gallery hop last night?

So we head up to the monthly First Friday Gallery Hop in Covington KY last night. You know the drill; free wine and snacks, mostly good art, great company, fabulous networking opportunities, blah, blah, blah. *note* If you haven't done so I recommend reading my guest blog on Apex Books site regarding my experiences with artists and galleries here.

We start out at the Artisans Enterprise Center which is the hub of the Covington arts scene to say hi to the Arts District MAnager Natalie. The theme for the night was Re-cycled art which was nice. We were also happy to see a larger turn-out. While there Natalie told us about their Halloween themed shows. She has told us that she wants my work in one of the galleries for the October shows (details coming soon) and had mentioned a haunted house but last night she informed us of an art themed Zombie Walk! As long as our schedule allows we'll be volunteering.

From there we're onto Encore for a quick visit with Karen and displaying artist Holland Davidson. Rumor has it Encore is interested in displaying some of my fine art (meaning non-horror art) sometime this year. Details coming soon as well.

Before proceeding I think I must make clear my stand on art. Art is in the eye of the beholder. I don't like all art. Well, actually, if I don't like it I don't consider it art in most cases. Like Warhol for example. Or Dada. But it's my opinion and I would never consider arguing what is good art and what is bad art because all art is all a matter of opinion. And I would never slam someone else's talents or percieved lack of in public. But one's lack of professionalism is fair game...

And now to the MarX Gallery. We walk in and look around. The art is wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. There are ripped up inflatable riding toys shoved into wooden crates. An old phone. A beer keg. A large Star Wars action figure glued to a board. A Pee Wee Herman doll nailed to the wall. A fairly nice city scape hung sideways.  And one pretty cool painting of a Lego version of Abraham Lincoln. Not my cup o' tea but hey, who gives a shit about what I think but me (see previous paragraph), right?

A young guy approaches and we begin to chat. He is one of four artists displaying that night. He tells us he's graduating with his MFA and this is one of their first shows. So I give him a card telling him I'm a professional artist. We notice his interest begin to fade, especially after he sees the pic of Zombie Sam on the card. We tell him how great things are for the arts scene in the area now compared to how they were when we first moved there. How I couldn't get the time of day from a gallery because I didn't go to school (see the Apex blog) but now I have two, possibly 4 gallery shows. BANG! Right there's when we totally lost him. He began looking over our shoulders. His side of the conversation stops. And all it took was me mentioning I never went to school. 

He may have missed an opportunity to further his profession. He didn't know who I was. He doesn't know who I will be. But I was dismissed. Possibly deemed unworthy. Here's the lesson to be learned: When you dismiss people, slam them, talk about or treat them badly you are burning a bridge. You never know if that artist you consider lacking in talent will someday become the curator of that hot, new gallery you want in or art director for that top-notch, top-paying book company.  At least be courteous to everyone. You never know...

Case in point: Later we end up at a small military museum on the gallery route who has local author Ellen Everman peddling copies of her book Pink Dice. During the conversation we tell her about my book and graphic novel that's coming out and we begin to pick up some advice from her on interviewing and such. But soon we're giving her advice on marketing. It's that give and take. Always be open and always be forthcoming. 

From there it's next door to Covington Clay. Owner Rick Hoffman is working on an installation piece called First Amendment Friday. Gallery hoppers stop by and make two ceramic tiles. The gallery keeps one and you get one. After the gallery has collected over 800 tiles they will be used for an art piece in the city. We made ours last hop and stopped by to pick them up. 

That's my contribution in the top right corner. My very first clay sculpture!

From there what is possibly the highlight of our gallery hops: A visit to our little gold mine of a restaurant AmerAsia. If you're ever in the area check this little gem out. Not much to look at but the food is spectacular! And the service is outstanding. So if anyone ever wants to meet me for dinner this is where I'll be taking you!

So kids always be kind to strangers. You never know when they'll be the hand that's feeding you in the future!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Showin' some love...

Recently I have been asked to do several interviews. I would like to take the opprotuntiy to list a few and give links back to those who have supported me!

BelkisNYC - If you're a creative type she can tell you how to market yourself. I wish I had run across her site a long time ago!

ZombieCommand - A cool site for zombie news!

Florence Recorder - My local paper.
Interview (PDF)

ImagineFX -  Digital art magazine. Whether you're a traditional or digital artist I highly recommend this magazine. I was a featured traditional artist in issue 43. Below is a scan of the page but if you want to read it buy it!

Night of the Living Podcast - A freakin' hilarious horror review podcast. Theu interviewed me at Rockin' Rooster Comics' Free Comic Book Day. My part is in the first 15 minutes or so. If you're a horror buff looking for some laughs I recommend listening to the entire podcast. 

Here's some places you can see some stuff from me in the future:
Infernal Dreams - A great horror review site that did a video interview from the World Independent Film Expo. Will be posted in the future.

Sketch Magazine - A magazine for comic creators. I'm working on a tutorial for a future issue.

HorrorHound Magazine -  Obviously a horror magazine but what might not be so obvious from the name is that HorrorHound is one of the best. Check 'em out. I'm doing some art to be featured in the near future.

ArtLibs - An interesting art based blog. The cool thing is that when she interviews she does a little mad libs game with you. 

Lastly but not leastly - A Prisoners Welcome - I'm doing art and book covers on a regular basis for Shane Moore's Abyss Walker series. If you're looking for a great read check it out. It has zombie deer!

Here's links to some events that have been very gracious hosts to me and my wife:
Thanks everyone!