Monday, October 20, 2014


Día de los Muertos is almost here, and the Calaveras have arrived. 

Calaveras (skulls) are icons featuring Muertos-inspired aesthetics and decoration. They're everywhere this time of year -- as food, as packaging, in our media, on our clothing, in our art, and in our stores. At its roots though, Día de los Muertos is a quintessentially Mexican religious phenomenon when the living not only remember the dead, but prepare offerings to them -- including favorite foods, beverages, gifts, flower arrangements, and other ephemera. 

The great Octavio Paz best summed it up: "To the people of New York, Paris, or London, 'death' is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love."

Día de los Muertos starts October 31st and ends November 2nd. It's one of my favorite times of the year, and to celebrate, presented here are thirteen Calaveras, as the holidays approach.

Witness the wonder of 3D printing. These remarkable plastic sculptures are available in three sizes. Even if your living room isn't rocking a Día de los Muertos altar, these are so gorgeously cool.

Created by Ariel Rojo and Stephanie Suarez as part of Kikkerland's Mexico Design Challenge -- I love the design here. Sangria-making just became even more fun. 

His popular Calaveras playing cards sold out, but his shop still carries reasonably-priced 22" x 26.5" uncut sheets. Check out his Calaveras shirts and woodcut prints too.

Sugar skulls or 'calaveras de azúcar' are festive treats made from sugar and icing, offered as gifts to both the living and the dead during Día de los Muertos. Even if your home decor isn't a holy shrine for 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', these pillows are pretty fabulous.

Black Milk says they've discontinued these, but they're still available via select vendors. 

These fabulous thermochromic packaging designs feature skeletons that come to life in full-color when chilled to at least 42 degrees. This color reveal designates that the tequila has reached optimal temperature. How great is that? The campaign originated in 2011, so these bottles may be hard to find, but some vendors may still have remaining stock.

And if you can't find those 2011 edition bottles of Cuervo -- check out another tequila's terrific packaging design. Inspired by legendary artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, Steven Noble's illustrated labels for Espolon pay tribute to "the Mexican artists who inspired the world with true portrayals of the country's rich history and complex everyday life."

Sharpen your scissors -- the award for "Coolest Muertos Party Decoration for Low Budgets" goes to Crafty Lady Abby with this ingenious tutorial for how to make your very own Skull Paper Snowflake.

You won't find this unique cotton fabric anywhere other than The Crafty Tree. Now you know what to gift that Loteria-playing, stamp collector in your life. 

Made by a family near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, these clay candle-holder sculptures are ready for custom decoration. 3" tall x 3" wide" x 3-1/2" deep. (Candle not included.)

I would eat off these year-round, not just for Día de los Muertos and Halloween.

South Texas artist Cayetano 'Cat' Garza is an Ignatz Award winner for his Year of the Rat comics work. I love his 'Gato de los Muertos' icon and if your wardrobe closet is full, you can rock his Gato as an iPhone case, tote bag, throw pillow, shower curtain or art print.

Online ordering for this closes Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 at 8pm CST. Get these while you can, folks. :) No more online orders for them from my shop after that date.

'La Calavera' features art from my Loteria series -- an 11" x 18" signed, limited-run poster on heavy cardstock. My 'La Luna' and 'El Corazon' posters are also available online until this Wednesday. Stock up while you can!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

AetherFest 2014

Good news for all Steampunk fans in the southern USA -- AetherFest is coming to San Antonio! The historic (and reportedly haunted?) Menger Hotel is the place and it all happens on November 21-23, 2014. AetherFest is billed as "Texas' premier Retro-Futurist convention, put together by fans for fans."

I'll be Special Guest there, and none other than Michael Moorcock will be the Author Guest of Honor, along with Steve Jackson as the Gaming Guest of Honor, and more!

They've just released their programming schedule -- and it's loaded with retro goodness.

I'll be doing several panels and programming events, highlighted by Loteria! on Saturday from 2p-3p where I'll be conducting an hour's worth of this classic Mexican game of chance (think Mexican Bingo) for fabulous prizes. Come on out, have fun learning a new game, and score cool sf/f loot!



3pm: The Worlds of Michael Moorcock


10pm: AetherFest Opening Ceremony
1pm: The Art of John Picacio
4pm: The Picacio-Moorcock Hour
5pm: Guest of Honor Meet and Greet
6pm: VIP Dinner

Additionally -- AetherFest will be the last convention of 2014 where fans will be able to purchase my Loteria posters, including the new one, 'La Calavera'.

Register now and be there for an amazing weekend, SA!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Presenting the final color artwork for 'La Calavera' -- the latest in my Loteria series! In English, 'La Calavera' means 'The Skull'. Those who own the 2014 John Picacio Calendar will notice that a progress version of this work is featured for the month of October. I retained the concept, but completely started over and overhauled the art from scratch. Here are the new improved pencils, created as the foundation for the revised final.

And for those who are unfamiliar with the game of Loteria, here's the Don Clemente/Pasatiempos Gallo version for this icon, and as with all of my Loteria work, this is what inspired me.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos is right around the corner, and a ton of Alamo City Comic Con attendees asked if my 'La Calavera' would be available as a poster.

Good news -- for ONE WEEK ONLY -- it is. :) Previously, neither my 'La Luna' or 'El Corazon' Loteria posters were available for sale online.

They are now available via my website, and so is the new poster for 'La Calavera'!

Each measures 11" x 18" and is printed on thick cardstock. Only 500 posters of each will be printed, and all are signed. The 'La Luna' and 'El Corazon' posters are already in reduced supply because of heavy sale during my summer convention appearances.

Heads up -- deadline for all orders will be Wednesday, October 22nd at 8pm CST. After that, I'll close online ordering for these items and process as many orders as I can before Dia de los Muertos.

All posters will be shipped in a protective tube. Prices include shipping. Unfortunately, I can only accept continental US orders at this time. :( I'm unable to do shipping outside the US because of rising shipping rates, but also because it will take too much time to handle the customs paperwork for orders shipping outside the US. I'll be doing fulfillment on this by myself, and in order to do it efficiently, I have to make some time-saving choices for this limited campaign.

Thereafter, these posters will also be available at the following 2014 appearances:

Saturday, October 25th: DRAGON'S LAIR, San Antonio (in-store signing from 10am to 2pm)

Friday, November 7th: WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION, Washington DC (at the Mass Autographing)

November 21st to 23rd: AETHERFEST, San Antonio (poster signing details TBA)

So for all that are traveling to WFC from outside the US, that convention is a great opportunity to score posters for yourself, and probably your only chance for the foreseeable. (If you're not attending WFC, perhaps you might contact an attendee from your country who is, and ask them to acquire the posters for you?)

Thanks to all for the kind words about the Calavera concept featured in my 2014 Calendar. I hope you all enjoy the revised version as much, if not more! :)

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Thursday, October 09, 2014


Here's the final cover art for the Subterranean Press limited edition of Dan Simmons' ENDYMION, the third book in his all-time classic sf literary quartet. Preorders for this one are being accepted right now!

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Alamo City Comic Con 2014: What Next?

Busy days since Alamo City Comic Con happened this past weekend. It was epic, with a reported 100,000 in attendance -- in only the con's second year. WOW.

Thank you to all who scored Loteria posters, calendars, and art goodies at my Artists Boulevard table there. It was a pleasure to visit with every one of you, and yes, there's more Loteria news coming down the road from me soon. Stay tuned. :)

HUGE thank you to all who played Loteria in Ballroom B on Saturday night. We played over ten rounds, and gave away the most prizes yet. SO MUCH fun. That was the largest attendance I've yet experienced for a Loteria session, as we had close to 100 people who played or watched. The attendances seem to grow every time I do this. I'll keep doing it into 2015, on all of my road appearances. :) (Next stop -- actually another hometown appearance -- Aetherfest.)

Recently, there's been a lot of discussion about whether conventions are a viable marketplace for artists and independent creators, and I want to address some of that, in terms of what I'm seeing at Alamo City Comic Con.

To Apple, Garrett, Izzy, Fred and the entire ACCC team -- take a bow, people. Seriously. I'm so impressed by what you've achieved thus far. MAD APPLAUSE for all of you. You're doing it, people. You're building an amazing beast, and it's only going to get better.

I think this con has a chance to do some revolutionary things in the coming years -- and perhaps develop models that can influence the future of conventions. I know -- you don't usually think of the word 'visionary' and 'San Antonio' in the same sentence, but when I look at what's happening here, times are changing. San Antonio has never experience anything like this event. Granted, like many other comic book conventions, ACCC has headliners led by artists, writers, media celebrities and cosplayers. Nothing revolutionary there. I would say that the majority of the attendees are driven by an expectation that they're going to rub shoulders with celebs and cosplayers. This is how they're pre-conditioned, and if you look at the con's VIP packages, they're designed to build this expectation.

The good news is that this attracts attendees and families who wouldn't normally attend if this were solely an event built around comic book vendors and toy merchants. The bad news happens when fans spend big money on VIP packages and then feel unfulfilled because the celebrities don't fulfill obligations, they have a bad experience with the celeb, or a snafu happens that devalues the VIP from feeling....well, like a VIP. This has been a vexing problem in the first two years of ACCC but I think it's also part of the growing pains of an event that is aiming for the moon. I think Apple and company realize they need to solve these problems, but I think the fact that this event is only in its SECOND year has to be factored. They're learning, and they're growing FAST.

Speaking as an artist vending in Artist Boulevard, the celebrities, the cosplayers, the VIP packages are all good for the ecosystem of the convention. If an artist or independent creator isn't making money at a show like ACCC, it's not the fault of those parties. Me -- I did really well this year. As always, I want to do better the next time, meet more people, make even more money, and see more of my artist compadres make more money too.

The best news is that I see an untapped solution staring ACCC in the face that can improve matters for many parties at once -- especially the Artist Boulevard folks -- and it could be a potential gamechanger and value-added experience for not only this event, but other similar comic-centric events.

This year, ACCC presented "Preview Night" to its VIPs and all-weekend pass holders. Much like San Diego Comic Con's Preview Night, this special 4-hour window from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday night allows those special passholders to glimpse the vendors and attractions before the rest of the weekend's human tsunami crashes through the doors on Friday through Sunday. Basically, people who attend Preview Night are people who are paying extra for the privilege of a VIP experience.

What I saw on ACCC's Preview Night was that my town doesn't quite grasp the concept as there was light traffic and very light sales throughout throughout Artist Boulevard. It felt pretty empty, and it didn't help that many vendors didn't even open up for this window of time. During this time, most cosplayers and celebrities were also absent.

Hold on to that thought.

So basically, we have a wave of eager attendees paying a premium for an exclusive experience during the first four hours of the show, and we have a roomful of artist vendors who are eagerly trying to connect their products and projects with these attendees. We have a growing convention building its financial ledger on VIP passes.

For many of the VIP packages, being a VIP means standing in a long line for the privilege of paying a small fortune to celebs for a hasty signature, and maybe getting photographed with said individual. Even if that's not my definition of being a VIP, I'm not gonna bash anyone who thinks it is. What I would suggest is that consumers spending quality time with creators, and getting memorable experiences with people who might remember them back is perhaps a little more 'VIP' than the aforementioned.

So let's look at Preview Night and imagine if all of the Artists in Artist Boulevard showed up at 5pm and had pre-arranged with ACCC to offer something special to those VIPs... something exclusive and tangible for Preview Night attendees only. Maybe it's a 20% discount on certain merchandise at their table for that night only.... maybe it's a free exclusive promo not available any other time during the con.... maybe it's a special buy-1-get-1-free deal only for Preview Night.

It's up to the artist. Not every artist HAS to do it. But for the ones that do embrace the concept, Alamo City Comic Con could print a special listing in its Program Book that would celebrate Preview Night and list each artist's booth number along with their special deals so that VIPs could seek out these exclusives like a rocking treasure hunt. ACCC could promote this info on their website two weeks in advance so that shoppers could make their lists.

It would take advance initiative from the artists, and coordination between them and ACCC. But look at the rewards that happen as a result -- a booming, energetic crowd for Preview Night; a potential rocket boost to sales for artists in Artist Boulevard; new fans for those Artists; more Preview Night VIP passes sold for ACCC; AND maybe most importantly -- attendees who feel like they got treated like VIPs because frankly, I don't think the artists are going to be charging $80 for their autograph and photo (or at least, most of the sensible ones), and the VIPs get access to special deals that the rest of the con doesn't.

It's even more effective because Preview Night really is the time when artists and vendors have more visibility as cosplayers and celebs don't arrive until later in the weekend.

I think it's a major opportunity for ACCC, and could be a way to elevate even higher in their third year, while cleaning up some of the VIP PR hiccups of the first two years.

That's my two cents for now.

I see HUGE things for this show, and I'm grateful for Apple and the entire team who are making San Antonio into a rising force amongst the Geek Kingdoms.

Cheers, all. See you next year!

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