Friday, April 20, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them. 

Today we'll be interviewing Amanda Makepeace.

Kaminski: First question is always the same, tell me a little about yourself. What made you pursue the tricky minefield of creativity? Is it something that you always saw yourself pursuing? What KEEPS you pursuing it?

Makepeace: I suppose I have my mother to blame for my creative passion. As a child I was surrounded by art, sculpture, and books around the house. I use to beg her to draw my toys and watched with amazement when she recreated them on paper with an ordinary pencil. By the time I was 8 years old, I was drawing all the time and essentially never stopped.

While I've always considered myself an artist, I don't know that I could have predicted I'd be a working artist, traveling around to conventions and creating book covers. I began my journey as a fine artist more than a decade ago. It's only been in the last 5 years I've turned my focus toward illustration and fantasy/scifi themes. It's been an amazing experience.

What keeps me pursuing it? I honestly can't imagine doing anything else with my life. I see art and stories everywhere. It's a joy to create them and share them.

Kaminski: Interesting! I've heard of many an artist talk about the variance between fine art and illustration.

Since you say you've been a part of both worlds, what's your take on the two? Are there any differences that you can see or do you see them as distinct branches? Do you enjoy one over the other and/or why?

Makepeace: I’m sure someone, somewhere, has written a thesis on the world of fine art and illustration. In simple terms, the main difference between the two is intent--one is narrative (illustration) and the other can be whatever it wants. One focuses on publication and the other galleries and collectors. There's a grey area between the two that overlaps and connects them. We can see that especially now, where galleries are catering to illustration themes. During my time as a fine artist, I was more focused on still life painting and nature themes. But even then, there was often a story hidden within the art. When I moved more into the world of illustration that story became less abstract.

I love both and I still create pieces that I wouldn't call illustration. The difference now being I'm less concerned with showing them in galleries. I have the control in where and how I sell them and reproduce them.

Kaminski: Yeah, there was always this upheaval during my stay in college between the two, so it's refreshing to see another person agree with me that they are more-or-less one and the same.

Switching gears: your artwork seems varies from piece-to-piece. Not just in terms of theme, but in terms of media used, size, etc. Is there one that you find preferential over the others (media-wise)? Or do you love the versatility offered? Does one media effect your output over the others?

Makepeace: I do work in a few mediums! My main mediums are graphite, watercolor and digital but there was a time I only worked traditionally in acrylics and watercolors. I have an autoimmune disorder that effects the connective tissues in my body. In 2011, it became increasingly difficult for me to paint my large acrylic paintings. It was a difficult time for me. Out of desperation to create, I began experimenting with digital painting and fractal generation. Working with a Wacom Intuos turned out to be far less strenuous on my hands and I fell in love. Digital art opened a door--it tapped into a part of my creative mind that had been dormant.

I love both traditional and digital, but my traditional work tends to be smaller in size because of my health obstacles. Digital let's me go as big as I want to print, but it's not necessarily faster. I approach digital painting far more like a traditional artist as far as process goes and use far less of the nifty tricks. However, I'm continually pulled back to traditional. I love my pencils and watercolor too much to let them go.

Being true to yourself, your art and to others will set you apart--it will make you shine.

Kaminski: With your background in traditional roles, what made you dive into the convention scene and not strictly gallery work? What effect have conventions had on your work? Are there any cons you particularly enjoy over others? And lastly, what makes them stand out over others?

Makepeace: I owe my leap to conventions to an illustrator I met at the DragonCon Art Show, who has since become a close friend. He convinced me my art would be a good fit. At the time I had only just begun my journey transitioning to fantasy and sci-fi art. I was unsure, but after my first art show the following year (at DragonCon) I was hooked. I have since had a few pieces in galleries, but I love conventions for the interaction you get with the fans. Having a chance to interact face to face with someone who loves a piece you've painted, in a truly honest way, is priceless. I've never had that with galleries.

From a business standpoint, conventions have allowed me to make more lasting relationships with those who graciously support my art. Those relationships have evolved beyond just the conventions themselves. I'm creating art not only for myself but for them as well, and it's a wonderful experience. I'm quite partial to the conventions here in the southeast but I'm planning to branch out more in the coming year.

Kaminski: Yeah, I feel you on the relationships being more meaningful - hell half of the people that I talk to currently are from people I’ve met at conventions. Social media is great and all, but there's something to be said about face-to-face.

Speaking of social media and relationships: What are some suggestions you have for promoting yourself and/or keeping yourself relevant? Do you have any particular suggestions for things that have worked for you in particular?

Makepeace: [On] social media and self-promotion... I used to spend an enormous amount of time researching ways to stay relevant and sell my art online. I still try to stay in the know, but I worry about it far less. I think the internet is flooded with art and illustration. Artists have to work ten times harder to gain any traction on social media, whereas, face-to-face interaction is instant. They either love your art and buy it, or they walk away and you greet the next person. Ultimately, if you're making connections with fans of your art at conventions and other events the best thing you can do online is stay true to yourself, interact with those fans, and keep creating and sharing art. That's the core of it. I like to think of social media as a way for my fans to stay up to date with what I'm doing till they see me again.

At the same time, you're putting art out there that may be seen by other eyes--potential clients. It's important to remember what you post online is a reflection of you and your business. Not much is truly private anymore. How you present yourself online can be a deciding factor in whether a client will hire you.

Kaminski: Do you have any project or series in particular that you'd like to throw out there - along with some of the ideas and reasonings behind them?

Makepeace: I don't tend to focus on very specific personal projects or series of works, which I know is out of line with what a lot of other artists are doing right now. That's probably a side effect of being an artist that works in multiple mediums and genres. My mind is an endless stream of ideas and visions. I've found, as long as I'm creating something I love and connect with on a deeper level, then others will connect with it too. However, there are themes and subjects that I gravitate toward and I think they can be found in almost all of my work. There are strong elements of nature/organic and magic/power that span my art, from Fantasy to Science Fiction and from my Traditional art to my Digital. These are themes I've always been pulled toward and they permeate other parts of my life too, not just my own art.


One project I would like to shamelessly promote is the Bird Whisperer Project Melissa Gay and myself launched in 2016. What began as a fun monthly challenge between the two us has grown to involve dozens of other artists. It's an open challenge to artists of all levels. The core idea behind it is to have fun and promote making art. It doesn't hurt to have a love of birds too!

I'm also participating in two group projects that are forthcoming. One is a card game being developed by the Changeling Artist Collective and another is a collaborative art book focusing on Victorian Horror. I'll be sharing art for those online in the coming months.

Kaminski: Which do you prefer more, the convention scene or the gallery scene?

Makepeace: I very much prefer the convention scene! I love being there as an artist and interacting with fans, but I also love all the fandoms too. I attended DragonCon long before I was ever an artist there.

Kaminski: Since Midsouth Con last month was my first jump into doing a convention's art show, I felt a little lost myself, even though after-the-fact I see that it's pretty self-explanatory.

What tips and tricks for solidifying your work in the art shows for conventions would you be able to toss out there? Do you find any particular method to arranging your pieces or mounting or anything seem to change the end-result of your art show? Do you find art shows to be more or less rewarding than tabling at a show?

Makepeace: Conventions are a great way to grow your fan base and sell your art but they can be intimidating when you're just getting started! They can also be a bit of a long game too. I've found that the first year at a convention is the one where everyone gets to know you and your art. When you return the second year you're a known quantity and it makes a big difference! I also suggest taking the time to be observant. Look at what other artists are doing, look at their setup, how their table is arranged, etc. and take notes. I'm not saying copy what other artists are doing, but you can learn from them and adapt things to suit you. There's a lot of trial and error involved until you find that sweet spot.

For example, my gallery setup for Art Shows is continually evolving as I find what works for me. I also change it up depending on the show. Some shows like more of my SciFi than my Fantasy. Some want it all! My table setup is still evolving too. But one thing I've found in both instances, is you need a lot of stock. You need a library of art to show. The more you have, the more rich your display/table. Also having various price points can be helpful--something for everyone.

If I could, I'd table at every show. Having a table is usually more financially rewarding, but it also lets me interact with more people too and I love being able to do that. But that won't be true for all events, especially smaller conventions. Those that are small, that have an Art Show, allow me to be involved in other ways that are rewarding too and give me the opportunity to make connections with fans and potential clients. I've found that if you stay positive and open you can often make any convention work in your favor in one way or another.

Kaminski: All great points!
I think that the niceties get lost on convention vendors sometimes.
I was at a show one time and the guy behind us was absolutely losing his mind. I'm assuming that he wasn't selling well or that the customer base wasn't reacting as well as he had hoped. That being said, I think that the crankiness was rubbing off on everything around him to the point where his entire backdrop actually fell apart, taking his framed pictures with it.
It was really sad and I bet made his show ten times worse than it could have been had he walked into it with a good mindset.

Makepeace: Yes, I know exactly what your talking about. I've even seen a few artists come onto to Facebook after a con and completely bash the event and the fans. So sad and incredibly unprofessional.

Kaminski: What drew you to birds? And also, what kinds of birds happen to be your favorite to paint / draw?

Makepeace: Uh-oh, you've opened a can of worms now...

It's rather ironic I've become so entwined with birds in recent years. I owe that very much to The Bird Whisperer Project. The truth is I'm drawn to them for the same reason I'm drawn to all wildlife. I love their beauty and their spirit. As a child, I spent a lot of time outdoors, playing in the woods, going on camping trips, riding horses, etc. Horses were actually the first animal I practiced drawing. Birds came much later! But at the core of it, there have been times in my life I've felt more connected to nature and wildlife than people and society.

That applies to birds too! I'm especially fond of Corvids (Ravens, Crows, Magpies...) and Owls, but if I had to pick one I would narrow it down to the entire Tyto genus (Barn Owls and their cousins). My latest Bird Whisperer painting features myself (as a child) and a Barn Owl. It's a painting close to my heart and definitely a favorite of mine for the moment, or until the next one!

Kaminski: That's intriguing! I think much like you I'm drawn to nature - which a lot of people might find so funny because I draw so much cyberpunk.
In my own way, that's why I try to connect that juxtaposition with the natural and unnatural.

Makepeace: Interesting!! I wouldn't have expected that. But the flip side is, I love Science Fiction too. And I'm a HUGE Alien/Aliens fan.That often surprises people too.

That's very cool! I like that idea of that juxtaposition. Glad I'm not alone in having two very different parts of me. For a long time I didn't really share that side as much. Last year was the first year I began showing my Scifi art alongside my Fantasy/Nature. And it was a hit.

Kaminski: As well it should be!
Ashley always says it's best that no matter HOW fantastical, to always root it in reality. Hell, even Neil Gaiman said such things during some of the interviews about NeverWhere.

Makepeace: Yes! I think it gives people something to relate to and that's so important in art and illustration. I'm just glad to hear that more artists aren't so cut and dry and there they are all multi-faceted

Kaminski: What goals do you have set for yourself for the immediate? And the long term?

Makepeace: After winning my first DragonCon Art Show award last summer, I wanted make an effort in 2018 to attend more events. The goal is to get my art seen by more potential fans and clients, but also to make new connections with other artists too. That means there are more expenses to tackle this year, but so far it's been worth it. I started off January at ChattaCon and won 1st Place Professional Science Fiction for my piece Saturn's Twilight. I have eight events on my calendar that I'm attending and two I'll be mailing out to for the art show. It's turning into a lesson in time management, since I also have commissions from clients and I'm continually trying to build up my portfolio.

Long term I'd like to get to a point where I'm making good profit from shows. I want to build a library of art that speaks to people. Time and persistence are my friend.

Kaminski: No doubt! You're definitely getting there though!

What's the best piece of advice you've received OR what's some advice you could give fellow artists?

Makepeace: I had to think on this one! The best advice I could any artist is be genuine. Being true to yourself, your art and to others will set you apart--it will make you shine.

Kaminski: Thanks so much for another awesome interview. It's always fun to learn about another illustrator, especially one so fond of birds, such as myself!


Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Amanda Makepeace.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Amanda's work at her WEBSITE:
You can also learn more about the Bird Whisperer Project HERE:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!



Thursday, April 5, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them. 

Today we'll be interviewing Sal "TheDarkcloak" Vador.


Kaminski: My first question is pretty much always the same: Firstly, tell me a little about yourself. What got you into art? What makes you continue perusing it? Is it something that you always saw yourself falling into?

TheDarkcloak: Well, most call me Sal or simply 'Cloak’. I'm a full time freelance artist going on three years now working across, as I like to say, "page, stage, speaker, screen, skin, sculpts and now polygons!", meaning I work in a variety of mediums, analog and digital, as well as visual and aural.

I'm not sure what first got me into art at a young age. I know I've been drawing and doodling since I was about three years old. From then on, via magazines like Mad and Cracked I discovered caricature, but what really drew me to those magazines was how well drawn everything was. I remember being about somewhere around seven or eight, and I'd run to the corner store to pick up the latest issues. After that I started getting into comics more seriously too.

I'd say initially comic books and animation are what drew me in the most, though later on, when I started getting into artists like Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell, Frazetta etc, that my view of art and illustration started broadening and I found it all very exciting and imaginative. When I started playing Mutant Chronicles later on when I was about thirteen or fourteen, that's when I discovered Paul Bonner's work and it all seemed very much like what I saw in my head. I would say that's what got me to get seriously into painting and pushing my work the hardest; more so than comics or cartoons did previously. I mean the Frazetta / Vallejo stuff was great, but I never really made the connection for myself as that being something I would do. Something about Bonner's work really clicked and I became obsessed with the challenge.

From what I remember and from what the family says, it seems I've always been enraptured with storytelling. I think that's what has kept me pursuing creative work in general all these years. Whether it's through the art I make, or music, or even the character voice stuff I do.

In general, though, I would say I have always been drawn (no pun intended, maybe) to making art and creative work as a whole "what I would want to do with my life" from a very young age. Which likely solidified in my person around third grade or so.

Kaminski: Sounds like Mutant Chronicles had the same effect on you that ShadowRun did on me.

TheDarkcloak: Oh yeah, man, Shadowrun is in there as well. The whole... cyber-techno-barbarism has always been an appeal to me. Same with monsters, demons, swords and sorcery.

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Thundercats and I think they nailed that whole mix of mutants, technology, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. The implications that it's actually a post-post-apocalyptic earth? That's my jam. Both the intro and the end credits sequences from Thundercats have always had a BIG impression on me and my art psyche, in ways that I've only recently started to realize. I mean... when you look at my work you can start seeing it. It's now becoming deliberate and whole for me. Before that, I didn't even know I was doing it.

Kaminski: Finding your voice is probably the most self-satisfying thing we can do for artists (for a time at least). I'd only just recently discovered my own with Ashley kind of guiding me along the path. She has insights that I don't even know how to tap into yet.

TheDarkcloak: Yeah, there's a lot of frustration out there for that, it seems.

Most artist interviews I hear or other artists I've talked to, it seems to always come about naturally or accidentally. Like a realization of getting to know yourself for the first time. I think it's great and an integral part of self-development.

I feel like finding your voice is much like finding a relationship - it usually comes out when you're not looking.

Kaminski: Speaking of finding voice, was it hard to narrow focus after you'd discovered all your different outlets to art or do you prefer to be very multi-faceted? Does this help or hurt your creativity?

TheDarkcloak: Not really. Animation, comics, story-boarding, voice acting, making music, sculpting, make up, special effects, storytelling - and then of course the visual artwork stuff - to me this is all part of the same wheel. To the outside world it may look like I am multi-faceted and have a 'jack of all trades' thing going on. It's not. It's all the same house.

I have a bone to pick with this mentality of 'jack-of-all-trades-equals-master-of-none' mentality. My gut feeling is that it is a way of limiting the self. A way of imposing barriers to expression, or to strive for less. We highly revere musicians that are multi-instrumentalists, and painters as well to boot! I don't see why the other way around can't be true as well? We hold the renaissance masters in high regard, and yet so many of those guys and gals had more going on than "just being painters", you know?

Leonardo Da Vinci - need I say more?

I don't think it hurts my creativity. Perhaps at first it may have a bit? But I've come to realize over the years this was mainly due to poor time management and prioritization.

Animation, comics, story-boarding, voice acting, making music, sculpting, make up, special effects, storytelling - and then of course the visual artwork stuff - to me this is all part of the same wheel. 

In my teens, especially after discovering what goes into movie productions for example, and learning more about James Cameron, Stan Winston, and all the amazing folks who worked with them, it really became clear to me that all these disciplines not only work together, but can be harnessed as part of one whole wheel. We can call it creativity, or storytelling, or design. One of my favorite books of all time, when it comes to what really cemented this approach and way of thinking for me was the 'Making of Terminator 2' book. It is CHOCK full of everything that went into the film. From miniature work, digital effects, set design, costume design, concept art, storyboards, cinematography, practical and make up FX, pyrotechnics, props, you name it. Seeing all those components working together to tell a story and to create some memorable sequences as they did with T2, really brought it all home for me.

Another aspect of all this, something that is pretty personal to me, but inevitably comes up every time I examine all this. My sister. I'm the oldest of three, older brother to two younger sisters, and the middle sister unfortunately got Meningitis when she was about six months old... and it wasn't caught in time. It fried her. She's essentially been a toddler all her life, which meant I had to grow up very quickly at a young age, helping with the responsibilities of having a sibling with mental disabilities such as hers.

Funny story, when I was a little kid, I have a very vivid memory of watching her for a few minutes and then turning to my mom and going "You know... what if she's just faking it? She gets everything she wants. We're all always fussing over her. She doesn't have to do homework or go to a normal school... What if?" This made my mom crack up a lot, while tinged with heartbreak at the same time. We still laugh about it to this day.

Case in point: from a very young age, I learned to be grateful for having a body that works. A mind that works. Being ABLE. Being appreciative and cognizant that not everyone can DO many of the things that so many of us take for granted. In a way, me pushing myself to be the best me that I can be, not just in the things that I DO, like the art stuff, etc., but also in who I am as a person, is a way to honor and I guess make up for what she's never going to be able to do. From a place of gratitude and appreciation that I can. A big part of me hopes, that I can make everything I push be a success, so I can contribute to the family in a meaningful way to look after her in future. My parents are getting older... and it'll likely come down to my youngest sister and whatever I can do as well. Hard not to think about that.

Kaminski: That's beautiful, Sal! It shows with all of your work and communal push, that you are striving for something greater at all times. It seems like your back story and growing up really had a long-lasting effect on your person as a whole, which is a direct reflection on your creativity.

Besides your personal life, what creative endeavors would you sparked your 'AH-HA' moment? What made you want to dive into this career path full-speed?

TheDarkcloak: I kind of touched on this a bit earlier, when Paul Bonner's work on Mutant Chronicles / Doom Troopers / War Zone clicked for me, coupled with the realization of what all goes into producing a film such as Terminator 2. Further than that, though, I think it really comes down to telling stories and exploring unconventional ideas.

For example, one of the first books I ever did was in the second grade, and it was a story about a slime monster that was brought to earth in some 'space rocks'. Through the course of the story, gruesome as it was, even at second grade, you basically find out that the monster really is not in the environment it needs to be. It was completely unstoppable. The army fights it, the world unites against it, and it only seems to make it stronger and bigger. No surprise that giant monster movies always have had a strong place in my heart. Anyway, finally a scientist figures out that our atmosphere and gravity are part of what was contributing to it's mutations, and the course of action from there was to capture it and launch it to the moon. That sorted everything out!

I think my disappointment with humanity set in at a very young age and I sympathized with monsters - something which makes me very keen on one day working with Guillermo Del Toro. A lot of what he talks about regarding monsters, love, humanity, innocence etc speaks right to how I view those things as well.

No surprise that giant monster movies always have had a strong place in my heart. 

Kaminski: Your love for Del Toro makes a ton of sense though. He has that aesthetic as well for your kind of work.

TheDarkcloak: Yeah, when I went to his museum exhibit it was like visiting an old friend.

Kaminski: As a side question, have you been going to cons for a long while? What are some of the ones you've done?

TheDarkcloak: Mostly local ones here. Been doing conventions for eleven years now as a vendor. Too many to count as an attendant.

Crypticon, Days of the Dead, Mars Con, CONvergence, GlitchCon, Minneapolis Comic Con, FallCon, to name a few

Kaminski: How's con life treating you? Have you ever found any ups-or-downs with doing cons for you in particular?

TheDarkcloak: Con life has been pretty good. I think I started out pretty strong, thanks to listening to hours and hours of artist podcasts and working in event planning.

The biggest up is seeing all the familiar faces and friends that end up becoming your convention family so to speak, in a way it can be a bit of a mini-vacation! Aside from that, it's obviously a great way to meet with your audience and get a grasp on what they like or don't like about your work.

The downside that stands out the most is not ever having enough time. No matter how long you prepare for, there's always something that needs doing and it seems to always be crunchtime for long hours leading up to the convention itself. Whether it's needing to restock on prints, or working on your display, even simple things like making sure you have food and drink and other necessities in your survival kit to get through the weekend.

All in all, I enjoy it though. I don't think I could be one of those folks who do nothing but conventions full time, doing sixty plus shows a year though! We talked about that briefly on one of the streams.

Kaminski: Con-vacation. That's what I consider every one of them.
I'm not there to look like an ass with my assy face on the whole time if I don't make money.
If I make table plus food, WIN!
If not, well... it did get me among "the people".

TheDarkcloak: Yes! All of the above. The assy face? Seriously, that seems to be such an epidemic.
Treat everybody who walks by as if they're your first customer of the day, even if they don't buy anything. You never know what kind of great conversation you may strike up, friendship you may spark, or what you may learn. Same goes for other vendors around you. Be friendly, be respectful, be approachable, be the kind of neighbor you want to have.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat across from other vendors who sit there buried behind stacks of merchandise, glued to their phones or books, who end up glaring over at our table when we're bantering with people and making sales, as if it's your fault they aren't selling or being approached.

Kaminski: I've also found that being a panelist and doing art shows helps to pull people to your table.

Since your very active in the art community, how do you manage to keep track of everything? Do you have scheduling software or something or do you just have specific days / times for things?
Basically... what is a day-to-day like for a Sal?

TheDarkcloak: That's a really good question! Through a combination of the sticky notes on my desktop and private note channels on my Discord to keep reminders open, cloud synced calendar apps across my desktop tablet, and phone, and some other apps to help keep things organized and scheduled, even my social media posting. Otherwise, my day to day is generally structured and balanced for work, working out and studying; promotions, answering emails and other communication, and organizing the aforementioned notes and apps. Once you have a routine down for that stuff it becomes second nature.

Usually I have Monday for studies and workshop time, not just limited to art but self-care stuff too. Wednesday is my streaming and hangouts night. Sunday morning is worship day at the Dungeons and Dragons altar.

Kaminski: Yeah, a majority of the time my desks (at home and work) are filled with notes and doodles on sticky notes to help keep things at least pseudo-organized.

Switching gears: When you get bored of your work, whats a way that you find yourself getting back on track? What coping mechanisms can you dole out to help deal with a lull in creativity?

TheDarkcloak: This is a tough one. I rarely get bored with my work, unless it's in the stage where you're basically just rendering and rendering, sometimes that can get a bit dragging. In those cases I'll switch over to something else I've got on the burner to refresh my approach. Since I get into quite a few different things, sometimes that will help break the monotony up too. For example I might tackle a sculpt, or some music. I sometimes find that I can come back to the piece with some new observations and thoughts as well. Same goes for any of the other creative work.

As far as creative lulls? Well, what I find usually helps is doing some art ABOUT the creative lull or block. Maybe representing it through a creature, or personification of it. Or get completely silly and do something really random, either based on something or some combination you find funny, or a random suggestion by someone else.

For example, I once ended up drawing Wolverine juggling chickens because I joked about it when someone asked me to draw something. Same with a pole-dancing Hulk.

Otherwise, there's also the squiggle challenge things I've been doing on my streams. I ask people to submit random squiggles or scribbles which I then turn into stuff. I also keep a sketchbook full of squiggles that I have my friends do with a wide light blue Copic marker, which I then turn into things with black ink. It's kind of become a bit of a ritual when I go out with friends or to play Dungeons and Dragons, where I have folks make those squiggles in my sketchbook and then I problem solve and noodle the shapes and blobs into things.

Kaminski: Sweet! So many creative solutions to common-place problems!
Speaking of many different projects that you're juggling: do you have any specific one that you'd like to talk about or promote?

TheDarkcloak: Well, there's a few that I'm working on right now, some personal, and some in collaboration with others or as part of a studio effort. More updates on those as they develop!

The most public one I'd like to talk about is a video game by Lonely Egg Studios, founded by Jessica Fong and Mark Biundo, called 'In the Keeper's Shadow'. We recently dropped the trailer for it and they'll be talking it up at this years' GDC and other events.

The other major ongoing thing that's been going on, as you well know, is The Anvil - Art Forge. Which is a group co-founded, co-admined and run by me and a few others focused not only on development of craft and technique via critique and resources, but also of mind and self, geared very much from everyone to the beginning artist to the established professional or long time veteran.

It's a small but very focused group and it's been around for just over a year and a half, only more recently going public as a 'closed' group.

Kaminski: Yeah, that's actually how we were initially introduced, via Jen Waldon (she was part of the interview series, #6).

The last two questions are typical final questions for the interviews:
What goals do you have set for yourself for the immediate? And the long term?


TheDarkcloak: Immediate goals: Finish ripping through this stack of deadlines! Otherwise, finishing up rebuilding the downstairs to set up shop there, both for art and for making music - really any creative production in general. I'm also developing my 'Conversations w Cloak' real talk videos addressing various artist issues and questions as well as a mentoring package (focused on working with creatives in general beyond just the 'how to' aspects of art), which I'll be talking about more in the coming weeks. Working with the team on where the Anvil is going next, including a dedicated Twitch channel with various people contributing streams to it. The plan is to have folks doing live critiques, demos, walkthroughs and more for the group, with the stream also being bounced to the group directly.


As for long term: The personal projects I mentioned like the card game, video game and IPs I have been developing some of which take place within a shared universe. I would love to continue working on big projects (in film, games, collaborations, etc). Really, I'm open to where all this has been heading. It's been one of the best adventures I've ever been on, and I am really looking forward to where my work, travels, and friendships go next!

Kaminski: Final question: what's the best piece of advice you've received OR what's some advice you could give fellow artists?

TheDarkcloak: There's just so many great moments and conversations and pieces of advice that I've gotten from people across the various arenas I've had the honor of stepping into, and even through the stories I've read, watched, or heard over the years. Artistically speaking, I think it usually all throws back to the spirit of what the great Frazetta said: Don't be a second rate Frank Frazetta, be a first rate You.

A lot of the advice I give and have gotten that I have found to be the most helpful really boils down to simply that.

We put a lot of pressure on meeting or exceeding assumed or imagined expectations, or expectations we created for ourselves that become overbearing to the point that we forget what gets us started on this road to begin with... We forget that we did that in the first place, created the rules of the game so to speak. The irony of it all is that getting out of your head and out of your own way seems to be the most authentic path to being a First Rate You. By my observation it seems like most artists hit their stride the strongest when they hit on this idea or path, and my impression is that it paves the way to the most satisfaction overall.

Other than that? Little things and phrases like:

Play. Work. Balance.
Plan your work, work your plan.
Say what you mean, mean what you say.
Own your sh*t.

Kaminski: Hell yeah! Espeically that last piece of advice.
Well, Sal, it's been an absolute pleasure! You are definitely an incredibly busy guy, and this interview, the longest to date, should attest to that.


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