Friday, January 31, 2014

Trojan Horse Was An Unicorn 2014

-By Serge Birault

A few years ago, I did a workshop in Lisbon for Odd School called 'Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn' (probably the best students ever). There, I met Andre Lourenço who told me he wanted to organize a big event in Portugal. I told him it would be a bad idea ... I was wrong.

Last year's edition was incredible. I mean I didn't expect that.

Scott Ross said it was 'TED Talks meets Burning Man'. A lot of very good (and very kind) people from various fields (animation, VFX, video games, illustration, sculpture, etc), speaking about art for one week. The place is unbelievable and this festival was an amazing experience.

This year, I just helped a little bit because I have a lot of friends and some good contacts in this field. It was quite easy for me to convince some of the speakers to come. My two buddies Loïc Zimmermann and Jose Alves da Silva did the same.

Here's the list of the confirmed speakers for this year (more to come soon !) :

Ian McQue – Lead Concept Artist, Rockstar North Ltd
Kyle Mcculloch – VFX Supervisor, Framestore
Ben Mauro – Freelance Concept Designer
Catherine Mullan – Animation Supervisor, MPC
Gavriil Afanasyev Klimov – Senior Concept Artist, Treyarch
Alessandro Baldasseroni – Lead Character Artist, Blur Studio
Andrew Hickinbottom – Freelance 3D Modeler and Character Designer
Rebeca Puebla – 3D Character Artist
Denis Zilber – Freelance Illustrator
Michael Kutsche : Freelance Concept Artist

Art By Ian McQue 
Art by Michael Kutsche
For more information, visit:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gallery Openings

 by Donato

Once in a while I love to pull myself out of the studio and enjoy attending a cultural event in New York City.  It is one of the main reasons why I live here.  Back when I was looking to advance my non-existent art career right after college, I had two choices:

1.  To stay in Vermont where I had free rent (the parents home), low cost living,  a girl friend, and job security in a company I had worked for the past five years.  Good near term prospects, but not much for developing an art career.

2.  Move to New York City where I had to pay rent, high cost of living, had no job prospects, no family, and no girlfriend.

In less than a heart beat I moved to New York.

Seriously, it wasn't even a close call.  Nothing could stop me from moving to New York, not even getting my right eye shot and permanently damaged with a paintball two weeks before the move - true story.  New York was and is the center of Art through publishing, advertising, comics, museums, galleries, studios, art supply companies, painters and also mafia, crack, corruption, crime, homelessness, graffiti (art!) and worries to keep my parents up at night.  Not only was it me moving to New York, but my younger brother Dave also took the plunge at the same time.  2/3 of our family's genetic heritage (there are three brothers) was now walking the streets of New York at who knows what hours!

I wanted to be in the center of it all for my art and career, where ever that may have taken me.  I have been lucky that I found a home here and have not moved from the city since I landed in the Fall of 1992.  Part of being in a large artist community like New York is reaping the benefits of social collectives, and this past week has offered up a few wonderful opportunities.  Artist Marc Scheff hosted an artist's party at his lovely home Saturday night in honor of a visiting friend, Kristina Carroll.  Kristina was my assistant for five plus years, a hard worker, wonderful artist, and beautiful person, it was a pleasure to see her again at the party, hanging with a bunch of talented people.

Donato in front of the Desiderio
Another inspiring event involved heading into Manhattan for the opening of The BIG Picture, an exhibition of large scale works by some of the heaviest hitters in the fine art world of Figurative Arts.  Leading off the round up is my mentor and friend, Vincent Desiderio, showcasing a work nearly thirty feet in length.  You gotta paint bigger Vince!  Other works shown were by Jenny Saville, Eric Fischl, Mark Tansey and Neo Rauch.

I was joined in the celebration by a good friend Mark Ross, visiting in from Dallas.  Mark is in town working as a Matte Painter for some Superbowl Advertising due, you guessed it, by this weekend.  I met Mark at Syracuse University where we hung out around the studios together. He was one of the trail blazers who set up an apartment in Brooklyn back after graduation.  It was in part because of Mark that I found my way into Brooklyn and have stayed ever since.

Mark and Mark
A major bonus for the opening night was that Mark Tansey was in attendance.  Mark meet Mark.  My friend Mark Ross finally got to meet and chat with the man who has inspired him for decades!  Needless to say it was an unforgettable evening, wrapping it up with dinner with Mark Ross at the most excellent Lombardi's Pizza on Spring Street near SOHO.  It brought back many memories of when I would hang with  Tony Diterlizzi, Steve Ellis and a few other friends at that place as we wound down the night after an evening of figure drawing at Spring Street Studio just a few blocks away.

My point here is not to glorify New York, but to speak to the ways we can feel inspired and connected to our communities, whether they be a small gathering of friends or at a public sharing of art at a cafe, gallery or museum.  Get out there, converse with your peers and nurture your passions!

The Big Picture

Wilkinson Gallery
New York Academy of Art
111 Franklin Street
New York, NY 10013

January 28 – March 2, 2014

On view daily 2 – 8 pm, or by appointment
Closed Wednesdays & holidays

Donato and Mark at Lombardi's Pizza
Donato and Vincent Desiderio

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Unified Lunge

By Jesper Ejsing

This illustration is for a special Magic card set, where you fight against a Hydra. I was asked to do a painting showing the moment right before you die. last thing you see are the multiple heads of the Hydra all fighting together, snapping right at you.

I love the hydra monster, but thought it was very important that the heads were very different. As if they have different aspects. One is more intelligent, one is for brute force and so on.

I turned the angle so that it you look up at it, as if you were already lying on the ground. I also chose to fill the whole frame with heads, cropping the ones at the edges to give the impression that they are so close you cannot see all of them.

I had one thing a bit different with this painting that perhaps is only something i notice. i painted this after having done a whole lot of digital artwork. Coming back to acrylic I felt very spontaneous and loose in painting the skin textures and sort of just threw the painting dots down. I experienced, that the freedom of digital painting seeped into my mind, fooling me into believing I could alway cover again or go back or whatever safety issues the digital technique has. It meant that the whole richness of the colors and texture of the painting came out much easier and more effortless than usually.

Unified Lunge, Magic the Gathering

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pain and gain.

-By Dan Luvisi

I had a big large post, but I messed up my drawing-arm the other week, and it hurts to type, let alone draw. Letting it rest now, as I've faced this before and definitely don't want to go through that again.

So I hope you can excuse me, as it will have to wait until next week. Instead, I offer you a little something I was working on...


Monday, January 27, 2014


-By Arnie Fenner

Next month Maria Cabardo's documentary, Better Things: The Life & Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, will be released on DVD. It's a heartfelt film and Maria did a wonderful job while facing difficult challenges; Cathy and I are proud that we were able to help a little as Executive Producers just as we were proud to premiere the movie at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 1 in 2012 as a way to mark Jeff's passing a year earlier.

Now Irene Gallo is organizing a major exhibition of Jeffrey's art at the Society of Illustrators' Museum of American Illustration which will run from March 5 to May 3 in New York. Relying heavily on the extensive collection of Robert K. Wiener plans are also afoot for a screening of the documentary sometime while the show is hanging. Since his professional career took off when he and his family moved to NYC in the 1960s, it seems appropriate that his first museum show take place there.

So Jeff is getting some welcome recognition from a wide variety of sources: what he would have made of it all is anyone's guess. We had produced two art books with Jeffrey and the experience was both frustrating and rewarding—which pretty much sums up everyone else's experiences with Jeff through his lifetime. I thought I'd reshare this slightly modified essay I wrote several years back to celebrate, to remember, and maybe explain a little bit who Jeffrey Jones was.

Above: We were in the middle of producing Jeff's retrospective for Underwood Books when he experienced a severe breakdown and was hospitalized for an extended time. Cathy and I had to wing it and put it together without Jeffrey's participation. A few errors, flopped images, and misidentifications slipped through, but for the most part it turned out well and when Jeff was able to read the book he was extremely happy. Which was a huge relief.

I’ll be the first to admit that I did not really understand Jeffrey Jones. He was at once contradictory and perplexing and inexplicable as an artist and as a person; an odd amalgam of illustrator, cartoonist, and painter; a philosopher, a sly comedian, and a nerd. His transgender exploration, rather than providing concrete answers only succeeded in making his story even more confusing. When asked to explain “...what’s up with Jeff?” in recent years I could only shrug in reply. I always tended to think of Jeffrey as a fragile and somewhat lost soul, but—again, contradictorily—also as a person of great strength and resolve.

The one certainty was that I liked Jeffrey: I respected his work (and there was some that I truly loved), I admired him. His art—whether created with paint, pencil, or pen—was inspiring, evocative, and memorable; as a person, he was thoughtful, humble, and kind. There was a southern charm and gentility about him that tended to emphasize his emotional struggles and often elicited both a pang of sympathy and a feeling of sad frustration.

Jeff started out as a science fiction fan—an amateur rocket enthusiast and avid reader of Heinlein, Bradury, Campbell, and Clarke—and honed his artistic skills drawing for fanzines like ERBdom, Amra, and Trumpet. He turned pro illustrating comic stories for Eerie, Creepy, and Flash Gordon as well as providing paintings for Red Shadows, a hardcover collection of Solomon Kane stories published by Donald M. Grant. A move from Atlanta to New York with his pregnant wife, Mary Louise “Weezie” Alexander, led to a career creating paperback covers; he was fast, versatile, and had a style vaguely reminiscent of Frank Frazetta’s (who was much in demand, but rarely interested in increasing his workload), all of which made him extremely popular with art directors. Besides providing paintings for books by Fritz Lieber, Jack Vance, Andre Norton, and Robert E. Howard, he produced numerous romance, adventure, horror, and spy covers. Jeff also maintained a relationship with the comics industry and for a number of years provided monthly strips for National Lampoon and Heavy Metal. But even as his popularity grew and the quality of his work increased, he became more disenchanted with commercial art and his life in general. Jeffrey always seemed to be searching for something—just as he was never quite sure what that “something” actually was. Following a separation from Weezie, he and his friend Vaughan Bodé openly experimented with cross-dressing (which Jeff had been doing secretly since childhood) and female hormones, but both became alarmed with the changes taking place in their bodies and stopped the treatments.

Above: Jeff's cover for the Zebra Books edition of Worms of the Earth by Robert E. Howard. I believe this painting will be included in the exhibition opening in March.

He produced some of his most accomplished paintings while a member of The Studio with Michael William Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith, but the experience meant much less to him than it did to observers who desperately wished that they could have been a part of it. A difficult childhood relationship with his father, the dissatisfaction with his career path, his failed marriage, his self-doubt about identity, and Bodé’s accidental suicide in 1975 undoubtedly contributed to Jeff’s abuse of alcohol and ultimately his clinical depression. He once said, “My life describes the stories of boys and men for thousands of years: boys who were beaten by their fathers, boys whose capacity for love and trust was crippled almost at birth. Men, whose best hope for contact with other human beings lay in detachment, as if life were over. It’s how we keep, in turn, from destroying our own children and terrorizing the women who have the misfortune to love us, how we absent ourselves from the tradition of male violence, how we decline the seduction of revenge.” He was hospitalized several times through the years when his emotional turmoil became unbearable.

In the late 1990s Jeffrey renewed a series of treatments with female hormones, married Maryellen McMurray, added “Catherine” to his name (though he never changed it legally), began dressing and living as a woman, and came to be described as “she” by many. Family and long-time friends, however, continued to call him “Jeff” and refer to him as “he,” often to the consternation and anger of those who didn’t know Jones as well. The truth was that the changes compounded his unhappiness rather than resolved it. The quick dissolution of his second marriage made matters worse; an arrest for a traffic violation and being held in jail with the male population was his darkest period. Tim Underwood came to Jeffrey’s rescue and posted bond for his release, but the trauma was too severe: he experienced a mental breakdown and prolonged hospitalization beginning in 2002. Jeff lost his home, his studio, and most of his possessions and only made it through the hard times with the help of his daughter Juliana and friends Robert Wiener and Allen Spiegel. Though eventually he was able to move into a small apartment and begin to paint again, Jeff was never entirely whole. His new art lacked the skill and, above all, passion of his earlier works. Conversely, he became very active on eBay and Facebook and interacted with an expanding circle of fans and admirers.

Above: This was the first book we did with Jeff: it was slim but really pretty lovely. Jeffrey was under contract (and had received an advance) for another collection with Underwood Books, but was never able to deliver. Though several other Jones books appeared from other publishers before Jeff's death, Tim very graciously chose not to challenge them, saying, "Jeff's had enough pain in his life and needs the money much more than I do." Tim Underwood has always been a class act. 

For a time I never knew how to properly address Jeff after the hormone treatments and the adoption of the Catherine name. It’s often been misreported that Jeffrey had undergone sex-reassignment surgery, but he never did (and said he had no intentions of doing so); I had always known him as a lanky, bearded guy and he was distinctly male in all of the photos he would send Cathy and me for inclusion in his books. So I was flummoxed as to what to call him in emails or conversations or when writing about I asked him directly years ago around the time that we were working on The Art of Jeffrey Jones just prior to his major collapse. He told me to call him “Jeff” or “Jeffrey” and since the law considered him a man, it was perfectly fine with him if I did, too.

Though he lived the rest of his days as a transgender person he told me candidly in 2006, “It was a mistake. I was convinced that my turmoil was because I was a woman trapped in a man’s body and for a time I was happy with my decision. But I came to realize that I still think like a man and desire women like a man does. I thought it would make me less depressed and I was wrong. I drove down a dead end road and now I can’t back up or turn around; the only thing I can do at this point is accept things as they are. And I think I have. Besides, what other choice do I have?”

We had asked Jeff how he wanted his nameplate to read on his Spectrum Grand Master Award and it says, per his instructions, “Jeffrey Jones.” “That’s how people know me,” he said. “That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Above: To the left is one of a number of self-portraits Jeff drew; to the right is the cover of the book Maria Cabardo produced as part of her Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to cover additional expenses incurred during post-production of her film. 

The easiest thing some might say about Jeffrey is that he was born out of his time; others, of course, would agree with his occasional statement that he was born the wrong sex. He has always been portrayed as a brooding and mysterious talent, both troubled and romantic: the Byronic figure of the fantasy art world.

And perhaps he was. But for my part, I’ll always remember Jeff as someone who was on a journey that was sometimes uplifting, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes heartbreaking—but he always had hope of finding a place where he felt he truly belonged. Like so many in our field, Jeffrey Jones’ brilliance was both a blessing and, sadly, a curse.

I hope finally, at long last, he has found the peace that he was looking for and so deserved.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Health Hazards of Sitting

Here is a brief, and interesting infographic from The Washington Post.

Ironically, I'm willing to bet that the uncredited artist who drew this infographic looks just like the person in the image.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cats in a Hurry

-By Terryl Whitlatch

Deadlines are that necessary part of an illustrator’s life that keep things moving steadily along, bringing doodles to fruition, and force the mind to creatively solve a problem in a limited period of time. And of course, met deadlines (assuming the art is also satisfactory) not only bring joy to an art director’s heart, but have much more far reaching effects, beyond the publishing house and/or movie studio, to the audience at large, often for years to come.

I had such a deadline right on the heels of arriving back from a busy weekend at November’s CTNX 2013 (The Creative Talent Network Animation Exposition in Burbank, California). I hit the ground running—less than four days to draw, paint, digitally clean up, and submit a finished illustration. Of a reconstructed sabercat, Smildon fatalis of La Brea Tar Pit fame, no less.

The Art Director at Aeon Magazine wanted the illustration to be in the spirit of my book, The Katurran Odyssey, simple, with personality, and some environmental elements. Fortunately, being a paleo geek, I was pretty familiar with this prehistoric group of big cats, and had read the article prior to leaving for CTNX. I only had time to dash off a few very simple thumbnails prior to departure. No time to noodle, add details, or anatomy. Needless to say, I had sabercats on the brain the entire time I was there.

Sabercats of the genus Smilodon are only distantly related to the Big Cats of the genus Panthera (Lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards. Snow leopards, clouded leopards, cheetahs, and cougars are physically and genetically distinct, and have their own genera. In fact, cheetahs and cougars are more closely related to one another than to those others aforementioned). In addition to the long canines, to look at these creatures, you’d note that sabercats have much longer muzzles than lions, and shorter hind legs relative to their forelegs, giving them a more pronounced sloping hyena-like silhouette rather then the classic feline profile.

Arriving back, I chose the rough that seemed to have the most interest as far as composition, environment, and story element went (the seated, snarling saber cat being mobbed by jays), and got going. Spread over my drawing table were skeletal and muscular references of Smilodon and African lions (despite the genus gap, they still had the essentials of feline anatomy between them). In my arsenal were years of drawing felines, and some photo references of lions and other large cats, even house cats, to make sure the pose and expression I was creating was on target.

At times, I even recruited my whippet Timmy, to sit in the same pose. A very patient little dog is he.

One thing I had to keep in mind is that due to the relatively long muzzle, the eyes of the Smilodon seem to be optically closer together than that of a typical lion, although this isn’t physically the case, and I had to discipline myself from automatically putting them farther apart!

Because of the short deadline, it was really important to put that reality completely out of my mind—to quiet the angst factor. Worrying about making it would not get things done any faster, and most likely would hamper the process and waste precious energy. So, I decided to relax and enjoy the process. I was doing what I loved, after all! Paleo illustration, how cool is that!

Plus, like myself, Smilodon fatalis is a native of California, and the environment would be similar to what I see every day, from the California poppies, to the scrub jays that are mobbing him (and yes, I double checked with La Brea to make sure).

I drew the beast using an ordinary pentel mechanical pencil (from Walgreens) on Canson tracing paper, copied it digitally onto bond paper, and then used Copic Sketch Markers for their speed and watercolor effects (a technique we used widely in the ILM art department). I had PBS online Nature videos going on in the background, learned things I’d never known about wild turkeys, and before I knew it, a full day before deadline, the picture was done. Keeping things simple, deciding not to worry about the impending deadline, and enjoying what I love to do made this a wonderful and happy experience.

Now, I want to do a mastodont!

You can view the full article at:

Drew & Bob

Yesterday was the start of an exhibit of Bob Peak and Drew Struzan movie poster art, entitled 'Drew & Bob: Masters of Movie Art'.

There seems to very little information available about this exhibit, except that:
1. It takes place in Glendale, CA.
2. It's being held at a funeral home (seriously)
3. The opening reception is February 1st.

I don't know how many works will be exhibited, or which pieces. But I expect if you're in the area, it's going to be worth a visit regardless. (If one of our readers DOES check it out, please fill us in on the details!)

January 24, 2014 @ 10:00 am - May 26, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

Start: January 24, 2014 10:00 am
End: May 26, 2014 5:00 pm
Venue: Forest Lawn – Glendale – Museum

For more information, visit Bob's website:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Full Circle - Dragon Magazine Cover #430

-By Howard Lyon

I feel like whenever I do something for Dungeons and Dragons, especially Dragon Magazine, it feels like am visiting my youth.  I remember sitting around the table, playing D&D (which for me, consisted mostly of drawing characters and creatures) and thinking that if it were possible to do this for a living, that is what I am going to do.  I was 10 at the time.  By the time I was 12, my ambition included wanting to paint like N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Arnold Friberg and a few others, but my roots were in D&D.

My very first freelance illustration was for Dragon Magazine, then produced by Paizo Publishing.  I can't help but cringe looking back at the illustration, but I remember feeling like I had finally arrived upon receiving that commission.  So, here I am, again fulfilling the ambitions of my youth, painting for Dungeons and Dragons.

I start with some rough sketches... I hope that at least some of you can tell what is going on in here.  It is rough!  The loin cloth hanging down is so long would have been a terrible liability in battle, and the Lich King looks more like he is playing keep away than surrendering the orb.

A little closer to the target, but still not quite right.

Here we are.  Still some work to do on poses, but this sketch is close enough to the vision that I move forward.

Sometimes I will build clay or wood and foamcore models to paint from, but sometimes 3D is nice too.  I built this little set out in Blender.  I used to use 3D Studio MAX and then Maya, but Blender is free and does what I need it too.  I am actually finding it very powerful.  I build out the basic set and add in a few skulls and bones from a skeleton model.

I knew that the stained glass was going to be an important part of composition.  So many dungeon paintings can get really grim.  In this case, the illustration needed to show that the Lich King had taken over this throne and that it was formerly a place of light and beauty.  I thought the colored light and saturation of the stained glass would provide a nice backdrop and framing element for the foreground and figures.  Taking advantage of the digital toolset, I designed out the stained glass straight on and then positioned it in the scene.

After a quick photoshoot, I was off to the races painting the characters and details.  I wanted the fighter in the scene to feel grounded, armor simple and believable.  I kept his palette very warm to contrast with the cool colors of the Lich.  I was aiming for a character out of early Hollywood adventure movies, like Ivanhoe or the Sinbad movies. Another nod to my youth and watching Adventure Theatre on Saturday mornings.

Thanks for letting me share a little nostalgia with you along with the process for this painting.  Also, thank you to the lovely Kate Irwin for this fun commission!

I am off to New York this week and will be taking lots of pictures of the great art there.  If all goes well, I will have a few blog posts from the trip!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Artist Selfies: Everybody's Doing It

-By Lauren Panepinto

Thank you to every amazing artist who dug into their files for me and sussed out these little gems for public consumption. I appreciate you all risking the threat of public ridicule in the service of convincing new artists of the worth of getting in front of the camera.

I review a lot of portfolios. I tried to guesstimate and I probably reviewed about 750 portfolios in person alone last year, and that's leaving out all the samples I get mailed or websites I review. A lot of those reviews are from very green artists and students. When I'm reviewing a portfolio of someone who isn't ready to work for me yet, I still like to give them some feedback, some things to work on in the future. And one of the most frequent things I recommend is to start using better photo reference. The internet is a great resource, but often I can tell when someone used separate images for say, a figure's face, then a different one for hands, and another one for clothing. The angles don't quite match up, the lighting is hard to match up, there's little cues throughout. 

Starting to shoot reference very often brings a huge leap forward in the work of young artists, yet it's also the piece of advice I hear the most excuses about. I hear "My friends don't like to pose." "I'm not a good photographer." "I don't have money to hire a model." "I don't have good props." "I don't have a good camera." and I say the best artists in the world use themselves for reference all the time. With rulers standing in for swords, with any kind of camera or webcam, and without even cleaning their studios, if these guys are shooting themselves, you can too. You, yourself, are the most reliable model. You know what you want, you are always available, and you work cheap.

Since this is crazy deadline week at Orbit, I asked around for some help in getting this week's post together. I reached out to some fabulous artists I know that use self-reference all the time, and asked them to share. Enjoy, but also look at how these shots really served the final work.

So get over your embarrassment, break out your camera, camera phone, or even webcam, and get shooting! I've included some helpful tips where they were included. And for further reading, a ton of artists have done great process posts that involve self-reference both here on Muddy Colors and across the internet, go check them out. I've started a list at the end of this post, feel free to share your favorite links in the comments!

First off, fearless leader of Muddy Colors Dan Dos Santos as fearless leader Captain Mal from Firefly

Tolkien fan Donato Giancola as the man himself

Another appearance of Donato Giancola in his piece, Progeny

Greg Manchess appearing on a recent bookcover

Greg Manchess defending A Princess of Mars

And my favorite submission: Greg Manchess as Captain Morgan! Liquor stores will never be the same, right?

Treefulls of Dave Palumbos
Dave's process: I chose this example because it is probably my personal record for number of self-references in one image (14). My submitted sketch on the left established the basic concept, composition, and overall blueprint for the final image. Once this was approved I set my camera and lights up. The lighting in this image is subtle to describe an overcast snowy day but it was still deliberately planned and executed.

I operate my camera for self-reference images using a digital shutter timer controller set to fire every four seconds until I turn it off. This allows me to get into position and act out the scene comfortably without having to be distracted by a remote control or running back and forth to reset the in-camera timer. I simulated hanging bodies by jumping in the air timed to the four-second shutter release to capture me in midair descent. I also did some digital manipulations of the secondary foreground figure to alter my proportions ever so slightly so that he might represent the father of the younger figure next to him.

In the process of shooting refs, I also fine-tuned my sketch in slight details, the most significant being the hanging feet being barefoot rather than wearing shoes as in the sketch. I shot photos both ways and preferred the bare feet. Good ideas often happen in the moment when shooting reference, so I try to keep a flexible mind. 

Jeffrey Alan Love appearing in New Yorker magazine (using the ruler-as-sword trick)

Dave Seeley shooting himself
Dave wrote: Originally, I was using a long cable release, and prefocusing on about the right spot, and using a small aperture for max depth of focus (which gives up some sharpness).  Lots of back and forth to the cam...  Now my camera finds the right focal point with great automatics, and I use an intervelometer, which is a cable release with timer.  I find that about an 8 second interval is plenty of time to change my pose for the next shot...  and do a series before checking them out.  You can also use usb, or wireless to view shots on a nearby laptop screen or iPad... and adjust your pose accordingly.

Zelda Devon with a foam stand-in for a Big Fish

Kurt Huggins and an evil cereal bowl

Marc Scheff making pretty hands

Marc Scheff also using the infamous ruler-as-sword trick

Marc Scheff getting the arm just right

Randy Gallegos as a Red Knight
Randy wrote: 
1) Discovering the GorillaPod tripod for my camera was a Godsend. Get the right size to support the weight of your camera. For this illustration, requiring a slightly high perspective, I mounted the camera to the top of a closet door in vertical orientation. A camera with a swivel LCD screen that you can point towards you when facing the lens (as the Canon G12 has) is also really helpful for seeing yourself--however tiny--while shooting self-ref photos.

2) The composite reference was done in 3 stages: 1.)720HD video of me posing without "cape" (actually a cloak), 2.)720 video of my wife flopping the cape around to simulate movement and air. I composited frames from both of these to make one photo. 3.) a self-ref taken another day of the foreground character. He was going to be covered mostly in furs so wearing a T-shirt was no problem. I suggest holding something in your hand, but if you're in a pinch at least don't tighten your fist--leave a "hole" for a handle to go through (an alternate shot that I apparently didn't use has me holding a lint pic-up roller!). Though I had a hand with the cloak, it didn't require a third party to pose or a model to pay; you could invite a friend to help like this and not require a third person to snap photos with this setup. You have a friend at least, right?

3) The lighting was approximate, and I worked entirely from a black-and-white image since none of my lighting or clothing was color-matched anyway.

Sam Wolfe Connelly as The Butcher

Scott Brundage's Oscar attempt

More of Scott Brundage's great facial expressions
Scott gives a ton of advice at his own blog, see links below.

Rebecca Yanovskaya and a dangerous banana

Sara K. Diesel and a lovely salad bowl helmet
Sara says: I've only been out of school a few years, but what I can say for students is to invest in a quality camera and light set. You can find models in other students that you bribe with pizza (or like me, family members) but if you don't have a good light source or a good camera, usually it doesn't matter what model you have.

Tony Foti's Jedi meditation

Toni Foti as a Drow
Tony wrote: As far as tips are concerned, I would just say try shooting outdoors. If you can muster it, outdoor sunlight will give the most clearly defined shapes and boundaries. Also, any quality camera phone can be a lot of help, because they're so small. The size of the camera determines how much of the image it blocks (when shooting selfless), and heavier machines require most pose adjustment to keep them level and steady. When the camera is small, it's much easier to work into the pose.

Oh, and having mirrored closet doors is a godsend.

Extra credit when you use the AD's Selfies: Magali Villeneuve using Zoe Robinson for Asha Greyjoy

Another AD Selfie: Henning Ludvigsen painting Zoe Robinson as a Lovecraftian Cook

And here's a bunch of further reading:

I'm not sure which half is more beautiful—Rebecca Guay or Rebecca's painting.

Kristina Carroll as an Elven Warrior
Kristina's notes: This card was an experiment in light for me. I wanted to get really specific with the time of day and I actually got up before sunrise so I could set up and try to replicate the light as close as possible. I tapped Scott to man the shutter for me as I tried out a few different versions of the pose. That random sequin shirt has stood in for armor on several occasions.

Kristina Carroll gets the award for most creative weapon stand-in
Kristina's notes: The great gender swap illustration is always a learning experience. I was looking for shadow shapes and textures that I could transfer to my drawing (which was loosely based of Robert Carlysle). Spray bottle gun is not nearly as funny as banana gun- but does the trick!

And vying for SFF underwear model award, we have Noah Bradley...

...and Andrew Cefalu. Extra points for cat photobombing.

Aaron Miller with a John Stanko cameo

Allen Douglas riding a chicken. Nice armor!

I love this one by Christopher Burdett so much. Most creative use of household miscellanea.

Milivoj Ceran as a convincing skeleton

I already loved this piece by David Seidman, but now I love it more, seeing behind the scenes

Eric Wilkerson, slaughtered by Martians (I'm starting to feel very Edward Gorey)
Greg Titus going the extra mile - photo-manipulating his selfie to make monster reference

Bruno Cerkvenik in the town square

Moar tentacles for Byron Winton

Carla Secco astride the furniture - and great dramatic lighting

Ed Watson as Ninja Turtles

Jon Hunt gets extra credit for the best action pose

Twice the Kelly McKernan

Lindsey Look makes a great pirate

Nick Benson with Banjo

Ralph Horsley, points for epic sneer
So the moral of the story is, if you don't feel ridiculous you're not trying hard enough. Thanks everybody for contributing!

And another round of additions...because they're just too fun to stop...

Kirbi Fagan makes a great Powerpuff Girl

Preston Peter Jackson actually using a blade instead of a ruler stand-in

Levon Jihanian uses VIDEO capture then pulls stills...taking selfless to the next level

Nick Russell using the the old camera-gun swap

Craig Wilson as a whole pack of ninjas
And, for reals now....LAST UPDATE:

Bastien Lecouffe Deharme proving that you need reference no matter how much you're going to abstract it.

Matthew Warlick balancing atop a tortoise

Claudio Pozas with....a rolled up magazine sword? Guess he didn't have his ruler handy.

Stewart M. Craig turning himself into a goblin

And last, but not least, a Selfie-with-James Gurney tribute by Lucas Durham! (and if you're any kind of artists and not reading Gurney Journey, then stop whatever you are doing and set aside at least 12hrs to read every post.)
Whew. Ok, no more updating, you all had your chance. Thank you for everyone who submitted! So this year, when I review your portfolio, no excuses about not using photo-reference, ok? See you at Spectrum in May to kick off my con season!

.....and I know, there's no finals in this, but it's too hilarious not to post—thanks Michael Marsicano!

The Self-Reference Shimmy!