Of Gargoyles and Gatherings

Dear Elf-friends,

Y’know, there are times when I really must defer to Elfpop in the area of descriptive talent. Between his photos and his personal impressions of San Diego Comic Con 2006, you’re getting an excellent (and unnerving) idea of what it’s like to navigate your way through a giant, buzzing beehive. I’ve never seen the like of this particular convention…and I’m not so sure I like what I’ve never seen the like of! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

Give me the small-but-energizing con, such as last month’s Gathering of the Gargoyles 2006. (I have a huge fondness and respect for the animated show and always wanted to express my support and appreciation.) When I learned of the Gathering…that it was just a week away and local…I quickly contacted the con committee and was delighted to learn there were Elfquest fans among them. Long story short I was invited as their very last, last-minute guest.

What fun we had! I was given a table in the art room and spent hours sketching and chatting with some unusually talented fan artists. I especially enjoyed talking to con attendees about the scope of the achievement… what Greg Weisman, creator and producer of Gargoyles, and his team were constantly up against in terms of Disney “suit” interference, meeting last-minute schedules and coordinating which animation unit with what episode. The average viewer doesn’t understand what it takes to last three years on the air, then forever in syndication. (You, elf friends, are more savvy because we’ve explained in depth why an EQ movie or TV series may or may not get made.)

Meeting Greg in person was a special treat (see our photo in the newest Matter of OPINIon). He’s a good-looking, medium-sized dynamo who is not intimidated by the word “no” and has sold more TV shows, probably, than anyone else in TinselTown. Seldom have I met anyone more generous with his knowledge of how the animation industry works and what it takes to hang in there. He’s also very funny; he managed to keep all us convention guests awake during the interminable opening ceremonies, which was a feat in itself!

I won’t go into detail about the shenanigans at the masquerade ball (not for the faint of heart or prudish of mind) except to say that the judges (Thom Adcox, voice of the Gargoyle Lexington, Samuel Bernstein, Brynne Chandler-Reaves, Michael Reaves, Greg Weisman and myself) were more out of control than the contestants. Thom Adcox is the excitable character he plays. Let’s just say he gave us all a shonen ai Gargoyle moment we’ll not soon forget.

All in all, I met some wonderful people, renewed some old friendships and began new ones. And I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome of the Gargoyles fans, many of whom are Elfquest fans too. Greg’s decade-long love affair with his creation is quite similar to our relationship with Elfquest. In fact, members of the Gargoyles writing team – Michael Reaves, Brynne Chandler-Reaves and Greg himself – were Elfquest readers in the “before time.” Greg is currently writing a brand new Gargoyles comic book series, so there’s definitely some mutual admiration/inspiration going on. I think he put it best when he introduced me during opening ceremonies: “Gargoyles fandom…Elfquest fandom…(slaps hand to forehead) Duh! Why didn’t we make this connection before?

(Note: for juicy Gathering highlights and details, visit his journal at Ask Greg.)

Shortly after followed this year’s Anime Expo in Anaheim – huge but still manageable as cons go. Through the good graces of my GoComi friends (you fans of superb quality manga, please check them out at www.gocomi.com), I wangled a badge and attended more or less incognito. Sometimes it’s really nice to roam a big con as one of the crowd. Puckernuts, but manga/anime fandom is just taking over the world! Who’da thunk it?

Outstanding moment? Being in the right place at the right time to walk up to Lance Henrickson (the Aliens movies, Pumpkinhead, Disney’s Tarzan and other animation voices) and give him my heartfelt thanks for his performance in Powder. If you haven’t seen this much maligned, super-spiritual yet utterly misunderstood movie, rush out and rent it now. And if you can maintain dry eyes during Mr. Henrickson’s go-for-broke emotional scenes… (‘scuse me while I get a tissue. Just thinking about it… sniff). Anyway, I told him he’d helped more people than he knew with that role. I really appreciated his warm thanks.

In many ways, Richard and I really weren’t prepared for San Diego Comic-Con but we made the best of it…managed to have some good fun, good eats (away from the convention center) and good schmooze. For me the highlight was, as always, the annual charity art auction graciously overseen by Clydene Nee who is looking more and more like my cute, long-lost sister every year (for sure I’ve had an Asian past life or two). The auction, as usual, was to benefit the con’s Services for the Handicapped. Never had I seen such an array of wonderful art donations!

Once again I stood before a blank piece of illustration board pondering what artistic deviltry I might muster. Then it hit me …a nighttime scene with Skywise, Cutter, a wolf and zillions of stars! “The Stars Await” would be the title and it would be a more ambitious composition than last year’s. Knowing it would take several hours, I and my Calvin Kleins got to work right away.

The sketch formed a rectangle within a rectangle…unusual for me. Normally I like to work “tall” rather than “wide.” This time Skywise would be (appropriately) the star, pointing out the vast universe to a thoughtful Cutter. It took quite a while to complete the careful sketch . Then I had to leave to do a signing at the DC booth with Richard. That was tough because you sort of get a momentum going with these things. I really wanted to get back and finish the piece, which I’d fallen in love with by then.

The sky was to be both the negative space and the strongest element of the composition. I used a mix of black and ultramarine blue acrylic paint, working quickly in a dry brush technique. The stars, I knew, would go in last. Since the art auction committee had been so generous with supplies, I selected some fat magic markers to lay in the colors on the elves. Then I painted the wolf in layers of acrylic washes of blue and gray to bring out the texture of the fur – also in Cutter’s vest. Richard faithfully showed up every half hour or so to record the process.

Finally I added the stars, first putting tiny daubs of acrylic white in select spots and rubbing them with a fingertip to create an airbrush effect. Then I dotted in the rest of the stars, taking care not to overdo it. Lots of people, including Elfquest alumni Brandon McKinney and Janine Johnston, enjoyed watching this last step. Everyone, it seems, is fascinated with a starry night sky.

And there it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the finished painting and how it was created. As usual we missed the auction on Sunday, so if any of you out there know how the piece did (we’ll check with Clydene, too) drop us a howl. (News flash – July 28: Just got word from the convention that “The Stars Await” went for $1,100.00 – first time for an EQ painting to break a thousand at the art auction! Soon as we learn who the buyer was, that’ll get posted here too.)

Much love and blue fingers,