Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Heads up: NEW Blog Home!

Last day of 2014 and with the New Year comes a new look and new home for my blog. I'm switching over to WordPress, and I should have the new blog flowing smoothly within a few days, along with a new web shop! Thanks to all who have been with me here on Blogger. Come join me over at the new home. Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 26, 2014


Presenting the final color artwork for 'La Escalera' -- the latest addition to my Loteria series! In English, 'La Escalera' means 'The Ladder', inspired by the traditional Loteria cards I played with as a kid, such as this one:
Those who own The 2014 John Picacio Calendar will remember a progress version of my 'La Escalera' artwork was featured in the August layout. As with 'La Calavera', I liked the concept but felt I could do a better drawing. So I started over, and re-drew the entire thing from scratch, and then added a stronger, final color treatment. Here are the improved pencils, followed by a look at the 'La Escalera' Grande Loteria card  -- available very soon!

If you're not a member of the Lone Boy List, send your email addy to info (at) lone-boy (dot) com, and we'll add you to the List! :)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy 75th, Michael Moorcock

"Moorcock is dead."

A publishing executive said that a few years ago, dismissing Michael Moorcock as an author who could connect with today's audiences. It was an off-hand apocalyptic remark, the kind of overreach that people make when they're worried about their jobs.

The next night, Mike had heard about it, and he started laughing. "They've said that at least four or five times over the course of my career," he replied. "They've left me for dead and I've always outlasted them. That's what you do, you know. And in the end, I'm still here -- and they're out of work. It's the way of things."

He said it gracefully, like someone who had been there, done that, several times over. No bragging. No malice. No sweat. Just smooth. When times are tough, I replay that moment in my head. It was a gentle career lesson delivered in a few killer sentences, wrapped in a smile. 

Mike was the first author that I ever cover-illustrated, and I've been fortunate to illustrate several of his works, including major editions of the Elric of Melnibone saga for Random House. He's the one that taught me how to be a pro, usually without even trying, sometimes without saying a word. He owns the career that we all hope to have, the one that has multiple lives and new possibilities for the world, the one that shapes change instead of gravytraining it, the one that celebrates all we can be. 
Locus Magazine's December issue celebrates Mike's 75th birthday and with it, his prodigious career as one of The London Times' "50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945." He's widely regarded as one of the most impactful creators in the history of science fiction and fantasy, and quite frankly, that's an understatement. If you haven't bought that issue yet -- grab it. I think you'll find it well worth your time -- and if you've never read a Moorcock book, it's a welcome compass for navigating his literary landscape in search of the right work for you.

He's a must-read for anyone who loves fantasy literature. In an age driven by social media and the perception of followers -- Moorcock's all-time 'follower' list includes legendary careers that were directly spawned by his authored works and editorial tastes: Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas M. Disch, Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Michael Butterworth, John Sladek, and so many more. If you're a fan of the works of Alan Moore, Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville, Grant Morrison, Graham Joyce, Chris Roberson, Tad Williams, Paul Cornell or Neil Gaiman (see Neil's terrific story, "One Life Furnished in Early Moorcock"), he's a fundamental wellspring of inspiration for all of them, and legions of creators from around the world.

His imagination and influence weave through the history of gaming, fantasy art, rock music, comic books, and filmmaking over the last 50 years to the present -- thanks to concepts, characters, narrative devices, and archetypes he conceived which others expand upon, or imitate, often without knowing he was there first.

I can't wait until his new book releases in January from Tor. It's a fantasy novel called The Whispering Swarm, and it's part personal memory, part history of London. I'll buy it the first day it releases, and start reading that night. Whatever I'm illustrating that day, I suspect reading The Whispering Swarm will challenge me to be better at what I'm doing, and inspire the hell out of me, as all great works and great people do.

Cheers, Mike. Happy 75th. I hope it's a terrific birthday week for you, and that you and Linda celebrate and enjoy all of the best.

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Friday, December 12, 2014


Here's the next artwork in my Loteria series -- "El Venado" (The Deer)!

My concept for this one was inspired by the novels of my friend, author Leigh Bardugo, and namely Shadow and Bone, the first in her New York Times-bestselling Grisha Trilogy, followed by Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.

I had a pretty strong idea of where I wanted to go on this one, even at the sketch stage.
Leigh encouraged me, backing me all the way. Without her, the art would look very different.

This work is definitely a love letter to her Grisha Trilogy. There are homages throughout the middle ground and background. Some of them are overt. Some are subtle. See if you can find them all. :)

However, even while paying tribute to these books, the key challenge was to create an iconic Loteria illustration that could stand on its own for those that haven't yet read them.

I'll be doing a Grande Loteria card of this one in the near future. If you're on the Lone Boy List, you'll know first. If you're not on the List, now's a good time to get onboard! Just send an email to

info (at) lone-boy (dot) com

We'll add you!

Happy Holidays, all.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

WFC 2014

Crazy week after returning from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. It was a terrific con, highlighted by one of the best art shows (if not the best) I've seen at a WFC in the last ten years. Hats off to Mike and Beth Zipser, and the entire art show staff for ringleading it.

To all sf/f conventions who say that paying Art Show artists their sales money upon exit is too hard or impossible to do? Talk to the Zipsers and Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink! They paid all artists immediately upon exit with no hassle whatsoever. Way to go, folks!! :)

To Peggy Rae Sapienza, Michael Walsh, Colleen Cahill and the whole WFC staff -- take a bow. HUGE applause. This was a dynamite WFC, and you all did a tremendous job!

I conducted a rousing hour of Loteria games on Saturday at the con, and it was a huge success, as it has been all year. It brought literary folk and art folk together, and we had an absolute blast. Thank you to all who came out and played! And THANK YOU to all who bought my Loteria posters at the functions across the weekend. Very appreciated.

I've already said on social media how happy I am to see so many of my friends nominated or win World Fantasy Awards this past weekend, but again -- congrats to all!! Thank you, Mary Robinette Kowal, for the kindness of the gathering late Saturday night. Best of times. :) And thank you, Jane and Howard Frank, for the kindness of the visit to your house and collection!

As far as the pictures at the top of this post -- those are tiny detail shots from my iPhone of seven of my favorite things I experienced during WFC weekend, courtesy of an unnamed offsite visit. They belong to a collection of work that I was privileged to see. Out of respect to the owner, and at his/her request, I will not divulge where I saw these, and would prefer those who know to not share that here. Not top-secret, but it's the owner's preference and I'd like to respect that.

Otherwise -- feel free to guess or discuss any or all of the artists responsible for painting these! No problem there. They inspired the heck out of me this weekend, and on that note, it's time to work again. Thank you to all of the friends that shared visits with me at WFC was a great weekend!

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Karen Jones

A great person died last week. Her name was Karen Jones and she was my friend.
I heard the news Saturday night when I was heading out to the World Fantasy Convention Art Show Reception. Jennifer Heddle phoned me and let me know. It was a shock, to say the least. She introduced me to Karen at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2002, and they were very good friends for the better part of two decades.
Rather than dwell on Karen's death, I want her to be remembered for the good that she brought. She had an infectious smile and laugh, and for several years, a group of us including Chris Roberson, Allison Baker, Lou Anders, Paul Cornell, Jen Heddle, Alan Beatts, Jude Feldman, and Karen were a rolling 'rat pack' of sorts that banded together at more conventions than I can count (shoutout to Joe McCabe and Jess Nevins, as well). We were all building pro careers in various publishing capacities, whether it be as editors, illustrators, writers, retailers, or publishers -- all of us it seemed, except Karen.
She was a voracious reader and connoisseur of film, TV and video games, and she wasn't chasing a career in publishing. She was simply one of us. She was strong, quietly confident and true to herself. I think it was Chris that once said Karen was the smartest one amongst all of us, and it was true. I don't know what Karen's IQ was, but if one of us was officially 'genius', it was her, without a doubt. She never flaunted. She was unabashedly geek-proud, passionate about the things and people she loved. She brought joy wherever she went, and I'll always remember her for that.
She may not have been chasing a career in the arts or publishing back then, but lo and behold, in recent years, she ended up becoming the art director for Lightspeed Magazine, once again proving how diverse her talents were.
She was funny. She was brilliant. She was luminous.
You will not be forgotten, Karen.
(pictured above: (l to r) Jennifer Heddle, Karen Jones at the 2002 World Fantasy Convention)

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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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