Wednesday, January 31, 2024

What it means to be an artist, or an oyster...

"What it means to be an artist, or an oyster..."

A statement that I wish I had a better answer for.

I wrote this with Luna Lovefood on my lap in her new sweater.

If I gave the definition of what western society in general defines it to be, it might be a life of non-work. An existence sleeping in, doing what one wants, when they want. A life mitigated only by the imagination of the artist. When seen at an art show, they've undoubtedly "made it". They have numerous patrons, gallery shows, and the visual appearances any creative will have, should be reflective of the perhaps bohemian and borderline lawless and carefree lifestyle they no doubt enjoy daily.

That fantasy laded optic is so askew of the truth for at least 95% of creatives, it's depressing.

A message posted by a friend and colleague, really hit it on the head about being an artist in this modern world. It reflected the same sort of thoughts I have about money, social media, and the almost mundane necessity to stay relevant or at least seen, by participating in digital interactions as much as possible.

Facts be told, one must not only be "out there", putting time into creating, but also learning, marketing, attempting to capture the attention of anyone willing to listen, read, or appreciate what we offer through the semi porous translucent membrane of human perceptions and expectations.

As I shared in my last video journal entry, this is a year I'm taking to experiment and attempt to expand my horizons. All without doing the shows and conventions that I've normally done.

If it sounds insane, that's because it is.

But to that point, I am the single person effort behind relaunching my podcast, to all of the editorial, site design, media creation, and marketing that is involved. This takes no account of my comic work, illustration and design for clients, or time for rest and spending time on things like hobbies or those that matter to me. 

A point was made, in that post from my colleague, about the way that modern day marketing works. It's an unfortunate and uncomfortable truth that the more we post, promote, and create content of whatever kind, the better a chance we have of our work being discovered and appreciated. Even if most of the time it feels like we are yelling inside of an auditorium, with empty seats or worse yet, seats filled with people brimming with torpid disinterest.

At conventions and shows, you may find yourself silently screaming for attention as everyone else around you does the exact same. All vying for the chance someone will choose to stop and consider what we have and who we are. 

It reminds me of the faces of the animals in shelters. The overlooked ones feel pain you might not immediately recognize. The difference is many of us get to go home. They may never get that chance.

When I create something, and take the time to nurture and entwine it with effort from the mind and heart, navigated by an eye for clean design and presentation, rounded out by a proficiency and knowledge in them, I would love to think that there would be no problem gaining ground and making a living as an artist. That people would be elated to see something new. That people really can appreciate something made by a fellow human being.

Typing that last paragraph out makes it sound like I'm being petulant and difficult in my expectations of how working in a creative field is.

It's more born from burnout and the understanding that I'm part of a generation of artists drawn to mirage like goals placed by college and societal expectations. But then realizing that my career started at a point where a lot of the ways that the world of illustration worked, were heading on their way out. An extinction of skillsets in the name of corporate progress and banality.

Don't misunderstand me, I am grateful for the opportunities I've had and the often tumultuous paths I've taken to get to where I am. I’m just more of a realist these days.

But I'm well aware that life is often presented to us as an oyster when we are young.

You know the saying. 

That the world is our oyster. That's a weird idea to present to a graduating class, or someone suffering depression. 

I imagine it means that when we open it up we will find a pearl. But if I remember right, it takes a granule of sand entering the internal area of an oyster, causing irritations, which lead to the creation of a pearl.

If one takes that literally, it makes no sense in today's world, but then again it does. Much like the struggle of maintaining an online presence and attempting to be witty, creative, authentic, whatever other sort of adjective you want to place here, there is a duality to the idea of an oyster being your world.

It would mean that you have to be irritating enough to create something that is held at value by others, who can forcibly remove it from you and then present it as something they found and will sell at some later point without your involvement. We've become so comfortable with the work for hire aspect of nameless creation in the name of an umbrella brand, it's a wonder that any creative cut loose in layoffs doesn't just take up a whole other less stressful job like bathing rabid orangutans. 

But an oyster does tend to parallel to what a lot of people in life do.

When we are young starting as larva/children we are buoyant and move around by foot until we find somewhere to attach themselves for the rest of their lives, until something comes along and removes us forcibly. Oddly enough historically, that's one commonality, it's almost always humans that will do that to both of us.

Talking specifically about creative people, and I will use myself as the example, it's extremely easy to look back on my younger years and realize how much more freedom I never realized I had at the time.

How today, I am much less entrenched in my worldviews and habits. But that isn't true of the points of my professional life. I'm not even talking a physical location necessarily. It could be a long standing goal I've never gotten to. It could be making time for other people or experiences. Or dealing with any of the other challenges in life that fear and insecurity threatened to rob me of.

And yet there's a necessity to put myself out there. It goes beyond whatever I create, and relies on me doing all I listed above and also being some form of a social butterfly.

Marketing and taking the time to engage and network in a world that already doesn't know which direction it's really going, is simultaneously somehow erratically rewarding and also the most infuriatingly manufactured effort any one of us could produce.

There is no such thing as perfection. At least not in the way that so many of us strive for an expect out of life. In fact we will often raise or lower the bar to attain a status closer to our idealized concept of perfection, to make ourselves feel better and keep ourselves motivated.

Back around the middle of December I had decided that I would more than likely get completely off of social media for one year, and do absolutely no shows. I wanted to see if anyone would notice. I wanted to see what that would do to whatever ego I had. I wondered how much interaction and reciprocate of comments or likes were more valuable in my head, than me creating anything of real artistic merit or worth. I did realize quickly that that is financial suicide in more ways than one. That and I only have so much bone marrow to sell.

The unfortunate truth is that so many people are far more engaged with what they have going on that unless one has a sizable following online, I'm willing to wager that most people wouldn't notice or care that someone hadn't posted or shown anything off for a while. 

The social media machine is one that doesn't allow for extremely critical thinking or deep assessment of the connections we carry in life. To the contrary, it becomes more and more of an echo chamber.

Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely somebody that understands where I fit in all of this. And social media can and has often provided a connection point for people in my life that I may not see as often, or realistically may never see in person again. There are good things about it.

But the questions come up in my mind about how necessary and how honest are my efforts in what I create. I wonder to myself that if I excised myself from focusing so much on interacting online daily, exactly how much more what I accomplish in a week, a month, or a year?

I'm approaching this from a very personal standpoint. The more innocent, possibly high minded concept of what the internet would be and had potential to become, has more and more become a reflecting pool where we sometimes don't recognize the reflection anymore. What was once heralded as a bastion of information exchange has instead become a bastard. But a charismatic bastard, wearing cheap AI cologne.

It's an addiction, an emotional one, that is fastidious and painfully hard to rid of ourselves. Modern interactions happen more often via phone and screens, and it's not uncommon to see derisive ideologies about interacting in person with others. Something that is so fundamentally skewed when you consider that the human race is fundamentally community based and herd like mentality.

Everything I've stated above is what lingers in my mind when I release an image of a piece of artwork that I've spent a few hours on. It's what's in my head as I edit the videos that you may watch on my YouTube channel. It inhabits my secondary reactions when I forget my phone and cannot chronicle something to share later in a journal, or I'm unable to write something down and save it to my notes app. 

All of those reactions come from the need to stay current, gain the attention of people if even for a few seconds, and also bring about a disability in comparative structure with others experiences and lives. We see things said online as windows into another person's life. We often forget how carefully edited and staged much of what we ingest truly is. Some people would say that we've had that as long as storytelling has existed, as long as television programs have been around, so I feel honest when I'm trying to tell the stories of what I go through as an artist today.

I have to remind myself that what I'm trying to do will have longevity and merit if I keep it honest, straightforward, and keep as much of myself in it as I possibly can. While also at the same time not flinging myself off the cliff's edge of oversaturation and overexposure, or if quite frankly, I do whatever and no one gives a shit.

Sometimes I wish humans could live to be older, perhaps around 200 to 250 years old. Not just because of the immense amount of things we could learn and master with an extended lifetime, but we would witness even more vibrant and probably confusing trends emerge in modern society. I say that from a  somewhat ignorant view, that a longer lifespan could allow us all to give time for the things in life that matter. 

Self reflection and taking time to appreciate the world around us more, embracing wisdom to a depth few if any have ever achieved. Maybe in that stretch of time we'd also come to realize that things like engrossing ourselves within the modern facets of social media, need not be anything more than a passing fad. Enjoy it, but don't make it a false alter of worship and admiration. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, as much of a challenge as it is to be a creative individual, it is far more difficult to be a creative individual today, that can produce things that people will take the time to invest in and value. Because the real challenge may not always be that it’s your art that is undervalued, it's instead the amount of time and life spent on our parts that has no real perceived value. Just ask anyone working in HR. 

Don't believe me? Go to any major museum and listen to the some of the comments and conversations in the art galleries, the history item rooms. Just make sure you have a therapy appointment later that day lined up.

Thanks for reading, I sincerely appreciate it. 

- Mario, the Artisan Rogue

Monday, December 18, 2023

Closing out the year of 2023

Lamps light the darkest recesses, when we need them most.

If you look above at the top of the website, I slightly updated the banner above to feature one of my favorite lyrics from the irreplaceable Tom Petty.

This year I turned 49. Saying that out loud, never mind typing it out, is utterly surreal. 

Some mornings I still connect with the younger versions of myself still within me, other days I have aches that remind me not of the years but of the mileage earned.

Burnout this year was more than I thought I could endure. So many times, dour feelings surfaced, driving my mind to where I simply wanted to walk away from being involved in anything creative.

I do enjoy setting up at shows, it bolsters the interactions and stories I get to hear.

Thankfully being around other colleagues and professionals stemmed any foolish decisions I most certainly entertained. Make no mistake, to define a path a progress for myself when my future seems so incredibly nebulous, makes decisions at a crossroad in life all that more painful.

Learning to fly...

I had an opportunity to have Marc Scheff, a man of interminable skills and capacity, as my career coach for a few months. If you are looking for someone that offers services and knowledge that can help you out personally and professionally, I recommend him highly. When a route seems darkened, often a guide who is familiar with what you will traverse, can help lighten the path and the load you bear.

Creating some personal work that broke rules I had set for myself, was really a release.

A lot of perspectives shifted for me during the weeks I participated in the sessions. I began to rediscover and learn more about myself. In ways I had never allowed myself to consider. I connected with a group of people in ways I wasn't really capable of anymore.

Being able to work through designs for clients during the coaching sessions was beyond helpful.

Something I began to celebrate was acknowledging when I am able to accomplish things that I am proud of. It's nothing I felt doing before, but it has helped me understand how far I've come along, and gives me examples of my ability to do things I'd wanted, and see them through.

  • I've learned Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese for 30 minutes a day, for 513 days straight
  • I have been learning ASL for 212 days, and it's been one of the most rewarding things.
  • I started creating and learning animation a week ago, with the goal to have a video covering my year long journey from awkward beginning efforts to hopefully much better end results.
  • I have made every effort to push forward into the mental health challenges I have, to better understand myself and overcome so much of what has held me back
  • I have said no to less and less things in an effort to experience more in life, but with that comes the ever fragile component of work and life balance
  • Every morning, for the last 789 days, I practiced mindfulness as the first thing every morning, reminding myself of what brings joy into my life, what I'm grateful for, and what opportunities lay yet to be found
  • I've taken to reciting and enjoying the works of Shakespeare daily, and have done so now for 412 days.
  • I started relearning and practicing music from the most remedial level just a month ago
  • I've kept to meditating now at least 15 minutes every other day
  • A rekindled interest in archery has manifested, something I had forgotten how much I enjoyed when I was a youth around 19 years of age using an English Longbow. It turns out my first effort with a compound bow yielded 7 out of 8 arrows hitting a bullseye 
  • I touched a sea anemone and a sea cucumber for the first time ever
  • I started a daily bullet journal to track my habits for one year
  • I've now completed a few physical journals that go more indepth on things I really want to remember 

There have been other minutia and weekly goals including organizing and re-naming files on my hard drives for projects years down the road, reading more, and a few others, all of them small steps forward.

Nights of Lights and Memories...

Since I didn't do reviews of all of the shows I participated in this year, just allowing myself to be in that space, immersed in those moments had me enjoying things a lot more.

The KC RenFest has been a place of many happy memories for me over the years.

This last weekend, I once again visited the KC RenFest's Knights of Lights. It was great fun, and led to an unexpected meet up with an old acquaintance of mine that I had not seen in almost 20 years. After about 10 minutes of reintroduction and recollection, we were waist deep in conversation, swapping stories about days in the Society for Creative Anachronism, experiences at museums, times working as security guards, how life was treating us. It was almost a solid hour and a half of storytelling and laughter.

Almost 20 years is too long to let conversations continue.
It rounded out something that I made a point of really emphasizing this year. To focus in on forging new and good memories with people. Not just the few that I'll see from time to time at shows, but so many more that I've known over the years and have lost touch with.

One of the side effects of recording and writing about my life over the last 10 to 15 years, is that it becomes evident what has changed for myself. People have moved in and out of my life, jobs have ended, new ideas have come and gone, and sometimes sadness is involved in those aspects. 

I've spoken previously about the concept of mindfulness. That has allowed me to think about a day as it begins, which is important, become it's all too easy to become encumbered with being busy.

I did stay busy this year, tending to a small garden. It felt like time stretched out as watched the plants grow.

Sure there's something to a robust career, to be in demand, or just letting ourselves be weighed down with "to do lists", that we never make the time to think about the success we've garnered, nor the reality we sit within. It's an easy way to keep people at distance, and attempt to conjure a sense of being in control of our lives.

I'm certainly one of the people that spent the better part of his professional career letting go of all the free time I did have, chasing many dreams that were not my own. Many late hours in cubicles, some years I stayed working three jobs. There were so many more things that I could have done in regards to simply living more in the moment, and allowing myself to ask... What was I running from? Depression? Thinking responsibly? The passage of time?


I really pushed myself to reach out to people, creating new friendships, finding new clients, and most importantly, learning new things. But the concept of connections isn't just gaining, sometimes it's also losing them. I learned the not every connection in life is absolutely necessary, in fact some can be downright negative to have.

Connections can also be with one's surroundings, even ones you come across on a trip. Take that time to stop. Take a photo, a video, or just live in that moment.

The best ones are the most organic ones, that bloom forward from seeds planted in the gardens of our minds, when things like mutual interests, beliefs, or circumstances allow for us to embrace a wider world.

While out and about in Louisiana, I came across this. Reference discovered like this, ignites the mind. Already I had two or three story ideas running through my head.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I had started isolating myself as I wrestled with clinical depression for the last two or three years. I also had no less than 4 journal's worth of "receipts" that whether I liked it or not, stood as a chronicle of every moment I took. That can humble you really quickly, but it also gives a very transparent view into yourself. Toxic positivity is one of the most damaging things anyone can market or endure. For a long while, I practically had an intravenous flow of it, because of social media, the nature of conversations changing for the majority of people, and convincing myself that if I only focused in on the positive, that was key to a happy life.

Not even remotely close to how reality works... 

Know what's worse than social anxiety? Regret.

Days of despondency...

Tumultuous things continue to happen within the creative industry.

Even as I worked on my reproductions this year, I wondered to myself, how many more years will it be viable to be an illustrator? What will things be like for anyone in this industry in ten years?

The latest public corporate incident, came from Hasbro, who announced the letting go of 1,100 people this month, bringing the yearly total up to almost 2000 people. My heart goes out to all the people let go. It reminds me a lot of the hemorrhaging of positions that Hallmark had for so many years, the company is physically shrinking, it's down to two floors of operation at it's Kansas City headquarters. But I'm sure the CEOs and others are fine. Even if let go to show some PR damage control, the severances and stock portfolios they left with could have kept many employed.

The discussion of AI's place in any sort of creative space reached multiple fever pitches this year, and no doubt will reach an ever higher zenith of argument and morality play over the next few years. A few creatives, myself included, have already felt the initial hit of losing work to AI. The most sobering thing about all of this has been the slow infusion of it into the public mind, and the both defiant and unnervingly acceptable place that it occupies from it's staunchest defenders, to the average person that just wants cool things created without the hassle of an artist being involved. Many are calling this a fad that will fade. I think we have yet to see just how much damage this will end up doing to all creative outlets.

Rest in peace man, and thanks for the conversations and advice those years ago. [Image from BrianEwing's website.]
In more personal news, earlier this year in April, Brian Ewing, a fellow illustrator, metalhead, and all around fucking awesome guy passed away from colon cancer. I had the opportunity to meet him once or twice, (my memory fails me, I need to go back and look at my photos from Spectrum Fantastic Art Live) but in the short times that I got to speak with him he was soft spoken, but that fell to the wayside as soon as you witnessed his powerhouse talent and indelible skills as a creative. I've been very lucky  over the last decade, to meet some incredible heavyweights within the world of illustration. The vast majority have been kind, patient, and very open to sharing stories and knowledge.

Brian Ewing was absolutely one of the ones at the top of that list.

His passing earlier this year, was very much the catalyst that got me to start thinking about myself more seriously as a professional artist.

It reminded me that we don't know how much time we truly have. It gave me a foundation to stand upon again and take note as to what I want to accomplish. 

It's never easy when someone in our field passes on.

Those creative motions, that unique perspective within that individual, and the landscape of the mind, all fall silent, the remnants and memories now become stories told in fondness, echoing in the creations they left behind.

Fade into new...

As I've stated every single year that I have had any sort of online journal entry for the month of December, I don't believe in, nor appreciate the concept of New Year's resolutions.

I know that it works for other people, especially any owners of gyms that deal with about a month and a half of brand new memberships which have attendance fade away beginning halfway through the month of February. 

I always viewed it that new beginnings happen every day.

I spoke earlier about learning animation, this has been an effort that has involved watching YouTube tutorials, mining my memories and watching a lot of DVD extras of many of my childhood heroes who were animators. I made it a point to not wait until after the first of the year to begin my effort. Calendars were invented by us. So I thought I might as well invent a reason to not care about when I choose to start something, and not let it be held to a specific starting date. Today is always better than tomorrow unless we are talking about death.

It does no good to wait to begin something if the end result could be any one of the following, an effort that resulted in learning, a final product that may not be perfect but is finished, or when unique opportunities present themselves, even if they reside on the other side of barriers built up of fear, insecurity, and a reluctance to fail.

This entry took me the better part of three days to write.

Writing anything, not unlike living life, is very much, a work in progress.

For years I had fooled myself into thinking that there was this attainable plateau of perfection, or at the very least an acceptable mode of professional accomplishment that would cast a natural harmony over my life. 

One that would allow me to make no more wrong decisions, or at the very least have very little to lose if something went wrong. I'd be the first to tell you that growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was a particular expectation as to, if one simply applied themselves and had natural talents that rose above the others, there was no goal you could not attain.

No job you couldn't secure with a firm handshake.

And it took a few years for me to understand that many of the people I worked for, and indeed my own parents, were very much people that believed in those ideals.

Which unfortunately also meant that the vast majority of companies that exist today function on those sort of antiquated systems of reward and acknowledgement, so long as year end earnings consistently go up regardless of what else is happening in the world.

As I've gotten older it's become less and less important for me to accept things that are going wrong in the world. But I imagine like many of you who may also feel this way, how does change come about?

I've had debates over the years, many postulated on the positive interactions with aspects ranging from politics, to religious interaction, which raised so many varied reactions to sociopolitical, economic, and human rights, that it can seem like the world is at times filled with nothing but anger and insanity no matter where we look. The vast majority of society prefers for people to fit within preconceived notions and reduced down to numerical data. It's not as clinical as it sounds, we are engorged within it, as we scroll social media, adapt to trends and ideologies that are presented well in 4K video, are veneered over with marketing 24/7, and are willing to back the loudest representative of our more reserved or liberal thought processes, even if that person is the least informed person in the world. 

Influencer, politician, or holy man, they are all the the same...

I believe the scientific term for them is, moron.

It doesn't matter what angle any of the people who are calling the shots come from, it always seems that the vast majority of them, want what they want. Which means that the rest of the world suffers as we fight amongst ourselves, and they reap the money and returns.

I know what you're thinking, wow this shit got really heavy really fast. 

I think about everything I've written in this entry almost daily. If you don't believe me you should read my journals sometime. I'm hoping to put all of them together someday, and publish them, but also have them placed in a time capsule to leave a record of what an average person went through and their lifetime. Maybe it's because I feel that to speak out today, primarily can result in either reactions of ignorance or others simply ignoring. 

And when you're a visual artist, a performer, it can seem like the creative efforts you want to get out into the world may not matter. But they do, they truly do.

It matters if you're doing the best you can. Creative or not. Let me be clear, your job title doesn't define you. You're interactions with the world and the people you come across, do.

So for any of you reading this, I hope that today you'll pick up something that maybe you left behind because you didn't feel like you were good enough at it, I hope today that you'll realize you are the only one that can tell your story, And I hope that today you'll realize that you are far more than what any company could ever begin to define you as.

The strongest form of self love, is remaining dedicated to your dreams. It’s keeping that promise your past self pined for, current you is building discipline for, and is what future you is depending on.


Brian Ewing

KC Knights of Lights

Marc Scheff Coaching

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog, it sincerely means the world to me when I've had people talk to me about the stories and thoughts I share on here.
Remember to support artists and small businesses. Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist
-All photos, editorial content, created by me. One dude. Thank you for reading.-

Sunday, August 13, 2023

1313 Mockingbird Lane's 5th Anniversary Show with Galactic Empire and Full Metal Z

Terry and Liz are two of the kindest and most down to earth people I've ever met.

The anticipation I had for this show was a mix of nervous energy and a hell of a lot of excitement. See, I had never been to the Granada theater before, nor had I seeing the band Galactic Empire perform live. Top that off with the fact that this was a celebration for the 5th anniversary of the toy store 1313 Mockingbird Lane, and that I was asked along with two of my friends who are also artists to set up at the show. I was just over the moon. But between you the reader and me, I had this wave of insecurity wash over me like Oh my gosh is anyone going to even like the new Star Wars artwork I had made for this event?

But my mind quickly went to the reason why I wanted to do the show. Terry Taylor and his wife Liz, are two of the most wonderful and rad people I've ever met. Every time I've ever been to the store they are welcoming, engaging, and very positive people to interact with. I always find myself admiring the work and love that they put into what is now the third version of this toy store. There's a link below to their website at the end of this blog, but I'm telling you if you're in Lawrence Kansas, do yourself a favor and stop by and check out this store and the wonderful duo that run it. And if you're a pop culture or music lover, bring your wallets because the inventory does not disappoint.

I still had a lot of artwork, and it was all packed up still from the weekend prior, so I wasn't too worried about having items to sell at the show. What I was worried about is that I don't normally do a whole lot of Star Wars artwork. That's mostly because I've been focusing on my own IP's as of late, but I did have a few that I had created beforehand for this show. But like a maniac about two hours before I had to leave for Lawrence, I decided to do artwork that was my version of Darth Talon. I'm glad I did, and I'll come back to that point more towards the end.

I was running a little bit behind by the time I finally got on the road, and I really need to learn my lesson because every single time I feel like I have exactly the right amount of time to make it to a location, there is always construction on the highways.

Having the astromech droids doing security and promotion out front.

Thankfully it wasn't a big issue, but to any of you that have ever tried to find a parking spot on a Friday afternoon in downtown Lawrence, you'll understand what kind of a challenge that can be. As I pulled up to the front of a Granada there was a parking space out front, and with Cameron and Bryan's help, I got all of my stuff inside. I then found a parking spot one street over, found out I had to download the parking app, pay online, and then made a beeline through the alleyway and parking lots in between to get my table set up.

I was never so glad that I had my little personal battery powered Ryobi fan with me. Because that afternoon heat was not playing around.

It's the little details in any establishment that speak to how good of a place it is.

I got inside, hit the restroom real quick, and quickly set up my table in about 20 minutes.

Sound check was going on while I was setting up. I was really lamenting the fact that I had not managed to get to the venue earlier because I really wanted to be able to capture some additional photos and videos for social media, but also to get a better idea of what the Granada looked like pre show. 

Finally the line of people started filtering in, escaping the heat of the setting sun, as the opening band Full Metal Z was preparing to play.

Set up was pretty painless. Tables and chairs were provided and appreciated!

For the most part I stayed at my table because as people filed in after paying for tickets, the vast majority of them took the time to take in all of the artwork we had brought. And it was very heartening to not only see the interest people were showing, but also the sales we started making.

I cannot speak for the others, but I did extremely well. At first there were a few people reluctant to buy, even at the show specific prices I had set, but that was because all of my artwork is 13”x19” so I can understand no one wanting to hold on to that during the show. So I offered to set the artwork over to the side with their name on it, because a few people were worried that I would sell out before the end of the night. I'm glad I listened to them, and not my own internal monologue, because I did in fact end up selling all but one of my Star Wars pieces. I sold out of all of my arc trooper art reproductions of the character “Fives”, and remember that Darth Talon art that I had made just before the show? Sold all of them as well!

Galactic Empire hit the stage with a John Williams sized amount of epic wall of sound effort.

One really unexpected part that was a nice surprise, was the couple that had bought one of my Godzilla art reproductions mentioned in passing that they had hoped I would have some of my comics with me because they had seen me on the Robot Co-op twitch stream! I asked them how they found me on there and they had seen me post about being on Twitch after following the link that had my artwork that 1313 had posted about. Rikk Wolf had shown off Ardor issues #0 and #1 on the stream.

That moment reminded me that no matter what, always take the time to talk about things that you are doing for your art career whenever you are given the opportunity. It makes a difference, in raising your brand awareness, and helping you sell art. That and always carry business cards. Always.

I don't think any of us expected the really awesome crowd interactions we all got from show attendees.

Galactic Empire then took the stage, and holy hell this band is something to hear live. Every single Star Wars theme that they tackled, really with something to hear. But the one standout for me, was when I was standing talking to the other two artists during a lull, and Cameron recognized the first notes of the Jurassic Park theme song.

I've spoken before about being at an event or experiencing a moment out somewhere in public that immediately ignites memories in me from the 1980s or the 1990s. We stood there exchanging memories of Jurassic Park, and I mentioned that the very first time I saw the movie, it was at a drive in theater. The surreal nature of it being about 10:00 at night, when Dr. Alan Grant sees  the brachiosaurus, and hearing a chorus of car speakers sounding out that scene into the night sky, will forever be burned into my memory.

I think they had just played an amazing rendition of the Jurassic Park theme at this moment.

Standing there in the lobby of the Granada, that memory became so clear and immediate in my head, it was overwhelming. Thanks for that moment Galactic Empire.

I can't explain the vibe of what essentially was a 3 artist pop up art event, but it was fucking rad. I genuinely was sad the night ended.

Finally, like all good things, the music ended and the evening was drawing to a close. Attendees came by to pick up artwork and final sales were made. I also handed out the last few of my business cards, asking people to check out this blog post.

A lot of firsts this week. First time streaming on Twitch, and first time being at the Granada.

After we had all packed up our things, we stood around and spoke about random things from shows, to late night food, you know things that artists will talk about at the end of a show. Terry and Liz came over and thanked us for being in there, for my part I was thankful they had invited me, because the whole experience really helped prop me back up after the weekend prior.


1313 Mockingbird Lane

Galactic Empire

Full Metal Z

the Granada

Bryan Timmins

Cameron Keiffer

Thank you so much for reading, I am Mario, the Artisan Rogue, and until next time, remember to support artists and small businesses. And if you liked what you've read, and want to support the blog, there's a donation button just below.

Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist
-All photos, editorial content, created by me. One dude. Thank you for reading.-

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

"Like a Rainbow Road in the Dark" Mario Kart 8 w/ Robot Co-Op

I can't remember the last time I laughed that long playing games.

When Rikk Wolf of Robot Co-Op asked me to be a part of a stream on their twitch channel I was really excited! Never mind the fact that it had been a good long while since I'd hung out with him, it was the opportunity to play video games with friends, and I was about to stream on Twitch for the very first time! I’d also get a chance to go behind the scenes, to witness incredible work ethic, voice acting, and production work come to life in front of my eyes.

The whole experience was a hell of a lot of fun. If you get a chance please check out the stream located here: "Like a Rainbow Road in the Dark" on Twitch

Rikk was kind enough to show off some of the story of Ardor #1

The live stream started off with us talking a little bit about my background, some comic books I had created and an upcoming hybrid music and comic show that was going to be at the Granada in two days. I had also brought a few items from my Sega collection, specifically Panzer Dragoon oriented rarities for Rikk to show off on the stream.

A wonderful highlight moment was getting to meet the show mascot Drac, who is immeasurably, unapologetically, and overwhelmingly, adorable. And he knows he is.

Drac is insanely cute. LOOK AT HIS EYEBROWS.

Getting to be involved along Rick and Zack (who voices the hilariously offbeat and quick witted Cylon the robot) was absolutely equal parts tight professionalism and entertainment in the moment.

Comedy, especially improv and reactive comedy, is not easy to sustain or perform unless there is a rhythm and an unorthodox woven synergy. These two gentlemen, along with many of the other actors that are involved with Robot Co-op, have it in spades.

Some of it could be that every single one of them have unique and specific musical backgrounds. Music by its nature is mathematical, but it is also emotional, and exploratory. If you've ever played in a band, there are organic times that the rhythm and the vibe of the moment lead to unplanned moments of grand improvisation and discovery. I realized how truly lucky I was to be invited to be a small part of that. The wild part about the mathematic aspect present in the performances, is that it is a surreal algebraic ride. Jokes, vocal harmonizing bits, and rapid fire pop culture references, are the variables. It is solving for “X”.

Even though I was absolutely awful in gameplay, I had a blast!

At the head of the class is Rick, reigning in and manipulating the performances into a single focused maelstrom for entertainment. LIVE.

I have previously watched other streams in the past that had moments of amazing chaos, and some technical problems, that become infectiously, hilariously, candid, endearing, and even meme level legendary. Especially for the resilient fan base they have. They call themselves "Coggers".

If I get another chance to do this, I don't care if I have surgery scheduled, that can wait just so that I can be part of one of the most creative whirlwind efforts, I've ever been part of.

If you’re not following Robot Co-Op.

Do it. Do it now. And say that in your head, in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. 

Thank you so much for reading, I am Mario, the Artisan Rogue, and until next time, remember to support artists and local businesses. And if you liked what you've read, and want to support the blog, there's a donation button just below.

Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist
-All photos, editorial content, created by me. One dude. Thank you for reading.-

Monday, August 7, 2023

Fountain City Con 2023

Never underestimate a fuzzy little companion's ability to ease anxiety over financial woes.

I don't know how many of you reading these blogs do shows, but I imagine that a fair amount of you do. I hope None of you have to deal with pre show anxiety. It's actually not complete anxiety it's a mix of some excitement, a bit of actual anxiety, and almost always a dose of fatigue.

Whenever I have any sort of event that I have to do, all sorts of thoughts start going through my head and begin to drive me down the road leading to a sleepless night. Thankfully my little pooch Penny must have sensed that I was filled with unease, and after about 5 minutes of her attempting to get comfortable in my beard, I finally went to sleep.

Set up and the show hours

I spent the better part of Friday morning just getting the last minute things I needed printed out, bagged up, and accounted for. After getting everything loaded up I headed out to Kansas and got to the show location with about 2 1/2 hours time to still set up. Even with a day or so worth of preparation I had still managed to forget my display rack. No big deal I'd bring it with me tomorrow in the morning since I plan on getting in at least an hour before the show started.

[Friday] Setup went pretty well. [Saturday] Taking a selfie all kinds of awkwardly. Like a boss. 

This overview of the show isn't in any real particular order, I opted to just cover the highlights and then go into how the show came out for me. I'll make sure to add in the information for the photos and the captions below them.

[Saturday] Photo from above level, about 10;45 AM or so.

I made sure I had permission to go up onto the upper level to take a picture of the show from above. According to the metadata on the photos this was about 10:45 in the morning. I was originally going to stitch them all together but then realized in this blog post that it would look ridiculously tiny. In the photo above you can see my booth down towards the left hand center. When anyone came in, my booth was first and nearest in view to the entrance/exit.

[Saturday] Above photo #2

[Saturday] Photo 3 of showroom floor.

There was enough time that I was able to reorganize my wall display, update the inventory listings in my square account, re-bag some of the art productions, alphabetize the art reproductions I had in my print bin, answered a few emails, started writing this blog post, filmed and edited 3 TikTok videos, and got caught up on three of my coaching class sessions daily work assignments, while also talking to my booth neighbors about action figures, shows in the area, and artwork.

That was about 12:30 PM according to my notes, so I was going to eat the lunch I had packed but my buddy Marty (GodBeast) stopped by and offered some pizza so I was all about that.

Added in some new art reproductions.

If I have spare time at a show I will start to do what I did when I was a security guard, count the people in a venue. I always carry a legal pad with me that allows me to take down notes during a show, ideas on the fly, play tic tac toe against myself, or in this case since I was able to see the front door I just looked and checked off every single time people came in. Back when I still worked at bars I used to carry a little physical counter you know the little silver round ones that have a button and there's a three digit readout? Those kind. I was actually missing that little tool as I was sitting there.

The good news is that Saturday allowed for me to catch up with a lot of people in the afternoon, And I went and picked up an action figure from my buddy Terry Taylor over at 1313 mockingbird lane. He was only set up for one day, just Saturday. I'd be seeing him in a few days again on Friday at the 5th anniversary celebration show for his toy store at the Granada in Lawrence KS.

I made my first sale of the day right around 3:45 PM, I sold one Godzilla art reproduction to a young gentleman. I think it was Saturday that I caught up with my old friend Rick Stasi, who was kind enough to gift me a copy of his latest publication, "Letters from the Exodus".

After that, I spent the rest of the afternoon until 6:00 PM when the show ended, just catching up with people and trading with anyone that was interested.


I finally got home around 7:30 PM. Add a few things I had to get done before I could get to bed, but when I finally did I passed the hell out.

I woke up early enough on the morning that I had wanted to get to the show about 45 minutes before it opened, but I instead just spent some time watering my plants out back before I got on the road.

The traffic on the way in was practically nonexistent, and when I got to the venue, I parked behind the building and made my way inside. I had a nice unexpected meet up with a few of my other friends where we just talked about shows, old age, aired grievances, and ending it with me oversharing way too much about an awkward appointment I had with the doctor a few months back. If you know you know. LOL.

Jake Angell's sculpting skills are insanely rad.


On Saturday I had set up a trade with GodBeast for some of his Glyos figurines in exchange for two of my works of art, and I also wanted to pick up a few things from some other people. Those you'll see at the end of this post as well.

This may be a future purchase in the near future for me... Pixel Dan needs to know these exist.

I have a lot of Jake’s creations in my collection, and his work is always an inspiration to me. But I was super excited that his son Rylan was that the show and he had some custom action figures! The one that immediately drew my attention was his clear Boba Fett on a white cardback. I also ended up picking up a custom action figure from my buddy Bryan Timmins.


I didn't really see a whole bunch of cosplayers go by my booth, but the ones that did were fantastic.

[Left] These three made me miss NakaKon [Right] Love this take on the Mandalorian.

Every single time I see a cosplayer I tell myself, "I want to do a show and I want to run my booth in cosplay"! And every single time I have an attack of common sense and realize that I would probably injure myself and a lot of innocent bystanders in the process of simply trying to run a credit card while in cosplay. 

[Left] The Monster Hunters LEGO sets are some of my favorites, as was were this vampire trio! [Right] You can't go wrong with any version of Bob Ross! The tiara of brushes was a great idea!

The trio in Lego cosplay above reminds me that there was a Lego group that had an amazing set up at the show and although I walked back in that area three or four times I forgot to take photos of the amazing setup they had!

Time to catch up and meeting new friends

The show ended at 3:00 PM, but thankfully I made my second sale of the weekend at 1:47 PM. I also brought my total of business cards handed out for the weekend, to a total of seven. I had stated that wrong earlier to somebody that I was talking to, I had handed out four business cards on Saturday, and three on Sunday.

[Saturday] Onua and Zen absolutely were awesome to have has table neighbors! I traded for some amazing art, and to find that they that were as into MOTU, Jurassic Park, and the She-ra Cartoon as I was. Really missed these two Sunday.

I kept my booth together until about 2:45 PM, when I slowly started to pack up the extra stuff I had. I had everything torn down in 15 minutes, and it took four trips out to my vehicle with things to get everything loaded up.

Studio collection additions and final thoughts.

I'll start with the final thoughts on the show. First the positives.

  • ·         The booth was free
  • ·         the venue was well lit and spacious
  • ·         there was a lot of amazing vendors and creators on site
  • ·         I caught up with a lot of people
  • ·         I had time to get a lot of my business stuff out of the way and organized
  • ·         My booth neighbors were phenomenal company on Saturday

now the not so positive

  • ·         I sold two pieces of art totaling up to $60 for the weekend 

With every show and event I do, I have a handful of various people that will reach out and give me their thoughts on what I write when it comes to my experiences doing shows. Thankfully it's been a mostly positive experience over the years, of which I'm very grateful for and extremely appreciative of.

Doing show reviews initially started out as a personal record, but then also evolved into a resource for vendors, creators, and as I've come to find in recent years, attendees, both new and old to be able to utilize. The one review I get the most feedback from in person is the one of my C2E2 experience.

One thing that I take pride in is providing an honest, open, and fact based viewpoint when it comes to my experiences doing any event or show. I'm 100% transparent about financial things.

After working 20 plus years in marketing and promotions across various companies, I understand that people want to know about an show experiences, specifically creatives, because for the vast majority of us, income and reliable avenues and venues that provide that, are becoming more scarce even as the number of shows inflate yearly.

I hope to keep reviewing shows like this for years to come, even long after I've stopped tabling at them. 

With that said, let me share the handful of amazing things that I got while at this show, all of them from incredibly skilled and dare I say talented people, all of them being creatives that I hold in very high regard.

[Left] Horde Trooper from 1313 Mockingbird Lane [Right] Hallmark 2021 Ornament of Castle Grayskull by Jake Angell

Stickers and a Zombcicle by Jake Anglell

Warduke (Nemesis format) and Boba Fett (Mushi format) inspired releases from the Godbeast 

Custom Action Figures [Left] Revenge of the Ninja figure by Bryan Timmins [Right] Clear - what I christened the 'John Cena edition' - Boba Fett by Rylan Angell

Four phenomenal art reproductions by Onua! 

And a wonderful surprise on behalf of Rick Stasi, his latest publication Letters from the Exodus.

Thank you so much for reading, I am Mario, the Artisan Rogue, and until next time, remember to support artists and local businesses. And if you liked what you've read, and want to support the blog, there's a donation button just below.

Here are also links to many mentioned in this blog update:

Jake Angell

Bryan Timmins

the Godbeast

1313 Mockingbird Lane

Rick Stasi


Fountain City Con

Pitch Weekly Coverage of Fountain City Con

Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist
-All photos, editorial content, created by me. One dude. Thank you for reading.-