The Map of Elvonia

 

I am so happy that a fantasy map I did last year may finally see itself being published. Not a stand-alone, it is a part of the novel, “The First Fable,” by K. R. Bourgoine. The white space in the middle of The Map of Elvonia  accommodates the gutter margin of a page. The Dragon was a special touch I added, a personal device of the author’s I noted from an old business card of his.

I was really happy to be doing fantasy maps again. There’s something about them that feeds my soul. And I hope my incredible feeling of awe while creating the map somehow gets infused into the printed copies.

The author, K. R. Bourgoine, recently began a KickStarter on his novel, “The First Fable,” and it’s up and running at the moment. Interested individuals, please inquire by hitting this link below:

Thank you very much for your interest.

The Birth of My New Endeavor

It’s no good to be mad at myself for not being able to perceive the solution earlier, especially since it’s a no-brainer. But it’s all in the timing, as they say. I needed to learn some key concepts first. I needed to know how crucial the energy of JOY is and how pervasively JOY operates.

This JOY concept is rather alien to me, given that I’ve had my share of misfortune. I thought I had many reasons to wallow in dark’s anonymity. As if martyrdom was a virtue, I fully participated in my depression. If I allowed myself to feel true joy, wouldn’t it diminish the seriousness of my suffering? I now allow myself a small chuckle at the memory. I was taking myself much too seriously.

It’s great to be at the point where I can finally laugh. It’s funny to me now, remembering myself as the misunderstood, deeply feeling artist working from the depths of despair. Who could have guessed the seeds of (my) art grows faster when JOY is present? The answer is so obvious, its hidden.

But still, I’ve ever so slowly been rising up, like a mist, from gloomy subterranean chambers into a lively expanse of light above. Today, I can appreciate the value of creating JOY. I LOVE that my early RPG illustrations of women provided lasting memories for so many. That’s why, in recent years, I’ve lent the bulk of my energy towards creating art for classic RPGs—in hopes of building positive memories for the next generation of gamers. Contributing to the feel-good memories associated with game play is a very worthy goal.

My newest dawning realization came when I proudly showed off my Coloring Book at a Feminine Empowerment Weekend. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, I’m expanding my market to include a demographic that has been as dispossessed and as invisible as I’ve been. My new demographic is women seeking feminine empowerment. Yet, I want to offer more than an awesome coloring book with archetypal images of powerful women.

I received so many comments about women’s love of mermaids, it got me to thinking. If a lady identifies with being a mermaid so much, why not create a painting of her AS a mermaid? What if I create fantasy portraits for women who wish to sustain the awesome shifts they’ve already achieved? Would women welcome seeing their innate genius and strength of spirit expressed through fantasy imagery? I hope so.

Many ideas occur to me. I could create portraits of women alongside their power animals, or as cat woman, or as an Egyptian goddess or queen or character, the possibilities are only limited by the imagination. Whatever their fancy may be, my portrait paintings will remind women of how unique and special they are—like beautiful, magical beings of light who have much to offer the world. The thought of uplifting their self-image through my art brings JOY to my heart and feeds my Soul.

I realize that this slight change in focus—from a fantasy artist to a fantasy portrait artist—has been staring at me in the face for a while. Haven’t a clue why I could not perceive the clarity of making this shift before now. But I won’t continue to admonish myself. It’s all in the timing. That’s my out. My new, and entirely unique creative endeavor feels good, appropriate, and totally right. I’m not saying that I will not also consider painting portraits of RPGers as their favorite character (think cos play)—of course, that’s always a possibility—but I’ll be directing my main focus as stated.

The portraits I’m envisioning would be painted on large canvases measuring around 36″ x 60″ in size, substantial enough to make an impression from a distance. There is so much to do to prepare this idea for launch and make a go of it…

Thank you for witnessing the birth of my new creative endeavor.

Shifting my Artistic Focus…

There is a secret language of signs and symbols that is accessible to anyone who is sensitive enough to take notice. People should be more aware of how dynamically the Universe (The Divine) speaks to us. Communications from the Divine world are constantly being directed our way to guide our paths and decisions. I’ve learned the wisdom of “going with” whatever the messages present. That’s the beauty of it. We need only be present enough to recognize these messages AS messages whenever they appear. First, notice the message and second, be able to receive its meaning.

The customary ways messages manifest are through dreams, synchronicity, song lyrics suddenly popping up into one’s head, a person inexplicably remembered, street signs and bill boards, the unexpected appearance of certain animals, significant phrases from an overheard conversation, hearing something on the radio, a broadcast or a particular movie scene being shone, recurring numbers, contact from an old friend not seen for decades, an accident –literally any happenstance or encounter can have significance enough to guide people in the right direction. All here is to do is to be open.

In a similar way, a major shift in my artistic focus recently became revealed. Back in September, I’d paid for a marketing class I was unable to attend. A portion of my payment had to be swapped out within a certain time for me not to forfeit. I transferred my funds to a weekend intensive in Colorado called “The Art of Feminine Presence” because it was the closest in cost. I took this odd change in focus as significant and chose to be open to whatever the lessons would yield.

This is where it gets interesting. It wasn’t necessarily, what was taught. It was the fact of me attending with a copy of my recently-created “Fantasy Maidens & Beasts” coloring book to show. My artwork received such an overwhelmingly positive response that if I had brought a stack to sell, they would all be gone. That’s when I realized, “Gosh! I’m catering to the wrong market.”

What a realization! The true demographic for my work are the participants of this class. Thus, I’m reorienting my artistic focus to cater to women who are stepping into their feminine empowerment. So, in a very interesting, but round about way, I found a key piece to my marketing puzzle, even though I did not take a marketing class. My creative orientation will adjust towards aiding the course of feminine empowerment in my art through the use of fantasy images.

And I thank the Divine Universal Mind for revealing this to me.

Darlene’s Design Tips: Characters Per Line

In reviewing some design portfolios of candidates seeking layout work in the RPG genre, I was very surprised. From the samples I have seen thus far, I wonder if anyone has any feel for using type at all!

The last portfolio I reviewed, there were only two readable pages among twenty. Only those two pages used flush left/rag right alignment and the ratio between the size of the type versus the length of the line was finally correct. Unfortunately, it was all wrong on his other sample pages.

If this person were a student of mine (I used to teach graphic design to University underGrad students), I would point out some things he did that are not reader-friendly, such as his persistent use of justified text. According to Wikipedia, when justifying text type, “the minimum number of characters per line (cpl) is 40 characters; anything less than 38-40 characters often results in splotches of white spaces (or rivers) or too many hyphenations in the block of text.”

Apparently, this designer does not know that using the optimum number of characters per line (cpl) greatly impacts legibility. Basically, anything from 40 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory line length for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters. Font sizes need to be adjusted up or down to achieve it.

Therefore, if designers insist upon using one column of type across an entire page, they must strive to make the type conform to 66 characters per line. Otherwise, the page will look like the suspiciously small type within a lawyer’s contract. Longer lines (between 85-90 cpl) may be acceptable for bursts of discontinuous text, such as in bibliographies and footnotes, but for continuous text, lines with more than 80 characters is unacceptable. On the other hand, study participants preferred shorter lines over long lines, likely because they feel more at ease with the format. Also, short text, such as ragged marginal notes, can be as little as 12-15 cpl.

Whatever the format, the text should be always be inviting and easy. Avoid the mistake of presenting a wall of text with no breathing room. Don’t make leading–the space between the sentences in a paragraph–too tight. Think of the leading as the road that brings the eye back to the right to read the next line. The pathway of white should, at the very least, be 20% of the font size, or two points above the size of the font. That’s what is meant by 10 on 12 (written 10/12). It means to set the text using ten point type with twelve points of leading. The same paragraph set solid is written 10/10.

The designer would be cruel to the reader to set a paragraph solid with a justified type alignment. When the text is set as thick blocks, it becomes an almost impenetrable wall. Reading is slowed and comprehension is compromised. It’s also a recipe for a head ache. I wonder why this mistake is done so often in the RPG genre? Why is there so little regard for making texts legible and accessible to the poor reader? Is it possible people are unthinkingly proliferating the mistakes created by others before them?

Another portfolio I perused showed the complete opposite. This designer used the page like a canvas. Also being an illustrator, she used the text to accentuate her art. She made a statement about not liking there to be too many lines of text on a page. That’s ok if she was also the author. If not, I would hate to be someone who was trying to communicate something vital in the midst of visuals competing for attention. This designer was self-serving, showing off. Her allegiance was not true to her role as designer: to accentuate the meaning of the text.

A good designer makes sure that everything is accessible to the reader. The page is not a canvas for the designer to express himself–that takes away from the purpose of the page and spread. Nor is it a contest to see how many words can be crammed onto a page because printing is expensive. In good design, the words always take precedence. They are supported. Information is easy to find. Reading becomes a joy. Good design is reassuring to the reader. Good design is invisible. It does not call attention to itself. It faithfully supports the meaning of the words and looks easy.

Successful graphic design is Zen.

Sources: Bringhurst, R. (1992). Horizontal Motion. The Elements of Typographic Style, pp 25-36. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks.

Art created with pencil, colored pencil and grease crayon

For much of the art I have created for AdD&D, I used the medium of pen and ink. It was the preferred medium for the RGP genre, a hold-over from the print technologies of the past, before the digital age. Back then, it was simply easier to reproduce illustrations for offset printing where black was black and white was white–with no grey-scale in-between. Obtaining the illusion of grey-scale using only black was possible, (like stipling with dots) but very time-consuming.

At that time, turning in art using pencil was frowned upon because reproducing grey-scaled art for print via Photo-Mechanical Transfers depended upon the skill of the camera person. The results were not always happy. Often, the subtle details of the art was lost in translation, making the art appear lacking in the printed version. If artists wanted their work reproduced accurately, they defaulted to pen and ink.

But that was back then… This Gallery displays art I’ve created using different types of pencil.

Art created with pencil, colored pencil, and grease crayon

These are from my Sacred Places Series:

Gallery of 12 Calligraphic Art Works

By no means exhaustive, the works within this Gallery were chosen for their unique qualities–like utilizing paper Darlene made herself, her experiments in combining calligraphy with photography, non-usual layouts, calligraphy etched onto glass, type face design based on calligraphy and angelic alphabets, etc..

GALLERY of CALLIGRAPHIC WORKS by DARLENE

Although Darlene started dabbling in calligraphy early on in high school using a Speedball pen and guidebook, officially, she dates learning calligraphy “properly” when she stayed in London in 1974 as her Field term at Beloit College. Her teacher was Dorothy Hammond, Craft member of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators.

Many years have passed since that time. Darlene has learned her craft from the “who’s who” in the Calligraphic Arts–Shelia Waters, David Howells, Ian Reece, Donald Jackson, and Thomas Ingmire to name a few. Along with a myriad of different scripts, she also learned quill making, vellum preparation, paper-making, Medieval Gilding techniques, marbling and book-binding. Darlene’s also taught calligraphy and helped to co-found The Wisconsin Calligraphers’ Guild. Her calligraphic works have also been published in several books.

About works within the Gallery:

Flower of Darkness. Darlene wrote out in calligraphy several depressing poems using different colored inks for each poem–pale blue, black, crimson–on black paper she created herself. Darlene also hand-bound the book which fits within a box she made in the shape of a coffin. The binding incorporates the accent of a paper sculpture on both the cover and coffin-shaped case. 1986.

Flowering Tree Roundel. After Darlene researched the different flowering plants associated with the 12 months of the year (according to Sun Bear), she arranged the information in a roundel, combining illustration with calligraphy. Likewise, the colors she used for the calligraphy were also associated with the months. 1988.

Albert Einstein Quote. This calligraphic piece, which incorporates illustration with text, was published on the front of the Wisconsin Calligrapher’s Guild Newsletter. It is one of her favorite quotes from Albert Einstein. 1981.

Dragon Alphabet of Decorative Caps. These Capital Letter project combines two things Darlene loves: letters and dragons. 2003.

Photographic Calligraphy. Darlene used her favorite Einstein quote in her photography class at Indiana University. The piece was created by brushing photo-emulsion onto a piece of paper and exposing the portrait image through a layer of acetate that she had calligraphied. When exposed, the places where the light could not get through shows up as reversed lettering. 1986.

Pasolini Quote. Darlene stayed in Italy, attending a 4-month Artist Retreat when she created this calligraphic piece on paper which she made herself. As the time wore on, many of her fellow artists got fairly depressed and this quote somewhat reflects the mood. 1983.

Manjushri. This is a fairly straight-forward calligraphic piece dedicated to Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. In Mahayana Buddhism, his name means “Gentle Glory.” 2006.

Voyagers of the Light. The calligraphy was etched on Glass. 1987.

Osiris, the Plant of Life. This calligraphy was produced using different ink colors for different lines of an ancient Egyptian poem. 1998.

The Power of Love. This is not calligraphy–this is a typeface Darlene designed based on calligraphy. It’s included it in this gallery because it looks fairly convincing as hand-work. 2006.

Troubadour Poem. On the occasion of a marriage, Darlene created a calligraphic piece reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript page, complete with borders and illustration. The illustration is also crammed with hermetic symbols. 2001.

Ophanic Characters. Darlene re-designed a 16th century angelic alphabet, known as Enochian but re-named as Ophanic, according to the principles of character readability. 2009.

Book Covers designed by DARLENE for Stephen E. Crockett



This Gallery displays eight recent book covers designed by DARLENE for author, Stephen E. Crockett. Stephen’s subjects and themes are drawn from the mountains and foothills of his North Carolina home and each story is its own little slice of psychological horror…

About Stephen E Crockett:

Before turning his attention to autobiographical, truth-based fiction novels, Stephen E. Crockett started his writing career back in 2001 with the publication of  “The Prophet Code” by Aethyrea Books, which he followed up with “Bible Prophecy” in 2006.

In 2010, he published in Kindle, “The Dark Man” followed in 2012 by the biographical story, “Black Tar: For the Love of Heroin.” Then came “Ocular: The Monster in the Mirror” in 2013;  “Knob Hill: The Grey House Murders” in 2014 and “The Island” in 2015. “Ouija: The Devil’s Doorway” and “Diary of a Drug Addict” were both published in 2016 while “The Puppet Master” was published in 2017.

Stephen’s works are only available as Kindle ebooks on Amazon.com in the Kindle bookstore. Just use your ebook reader and do a search on Stephen E Crockett, or click on the titles below. 

For anyone interested in knowing something about any of his books, here are their descriptions:

BLACK TAR: FOR THE LOVE OF HEROIN

  • Black Tar is a biographical look at the use of heroin and the toll it takes on the addict. It is written from an addict’s perspective and details the day to day existence of one junkie as he lives from fix to fix and watches as his life spirals from alcohol, pills, and Cocaine to heroin and intravenous drug use. His attempts to free himself and live a sober life are always half-hearted at best and so his casual drug use spirals from a clean life, with a job and the hope of a family to a heroin addict; living hand to mouth–unemployed and desperate on the mean city streets. In this smack-tinted world, our junkie bounces back and forth between the extremes of overdose and withdrawal, both of which have the ability to kill him. Life is desperate for a junkie and all too often, they find themselves dangling between the fix that will kill him and the sobriety that will let him live.

DIARY OF A DRUG ADDICT

  • A heroin addict looks back over a life of misery and addiction. From his earliest days experimenting with “gate-way drugs” to his spiraling descent, through every available illegal drug – into the hell of heroin addiction. He gets pushed by his addiction to heroin from a manageable addiction that he can control, through the loss of everything he owns and holds near and dear to his life. Heroin becomes his ever-present companion and over the years it turns him into a homeless, jobless heroin addict living under a downtown highway bridge. At his lowest, suicide seems to be the only way out, but when he finally hits rock bottom he realizes that in the mess, the muck and the blood that his life has become, salvation may still be possible. If only he can stay away from the needle and be as successful sober as he had been as a drug addict.

OCULAR: THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

  • Within every mirror, there is a reflection; and within every reflection, there is a world. It may be as simple as your face in the morning or as complex as the world behind you. But not every mirror projects a reflection of whatever you place in front of it. Some mirrors have depth and in that depth, there hides another world–a realm you will never see unless you go looking for it. Sometimes you can find it, most times you don’t. Those that do open themselves up to a realm beyond our physical world, a place where dreams hide and nightmares come true; where monsters are real, and a man can quickly find himself hunted by creatures he knows nothing about and has no control over.

KNOB HILL: THE GREY HOUSE MURDERS

  • Following Hurricane Donna, a struggling family of four follows their dream to own a house. They run the real estate gauntlet, never finding anything they like until their agent shows them the last house on her list. A run-down Victorian style mansion sitting all alone on a piece of property the locals call Knob Hill. It looms over the valley like some giant gargoyle and is known to the locals as a place of mystery and great horror. Undeterred, the family buys the house and begins remodeling it. But just as they are settling into their new home, the nightmare begins. A silent, residing evil force reaches out to the oldest child and establishes a connection that slowly but surely guides him through the house’s violent past. When he is commanded to exact the same horror on his own family he does as instructed, skillfully killing his family members until there is no one left but himself and the demon who then drives him to suicide thereby reclaiming the house that has been its all along.

OUIJA: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY

  • A group of young friends form a club to investigate occult subjects. From witchcraft, to mysticism, to magic. They get together on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. In the beginning, nothing much comes from their persistence. But then, one of them suggests they test the Ouija Board to see if there is any truth to its fabled abilities. Their main objective is to see if they can use it to summon invisible forces from the other side. Their experiment is successful, but quickly gets out of hand. All but one abandons the project. The last standing member of the group takes the Ouija Board home and continues using it to contact spirits. Demons or Angels? He can’t be sure until they leave little doubt in his mind as to what forces he has been dealing with.

THE DARK MAN

  • Scott Clemmons lives in a world of hurt. Abused by an alcoholic father who murders his mother when he was twelve years old, Scott must deal with his own increasing paranoia and insanity. A big black bird shows up, invades his sanity, helps him murder his father to avenge his mother’s death, and then attempts to protect him from attacks that Scott believes is launched by his father’s disembodied soul. As he spirals into alcoholism, he must defend himself from “The Dark Man” who haunts the family farm and seeks to destroy everything that Scott holds dear. Scott fights hard to live a normal life and for a few short years is able to do so. However, as time passes “The Dark Man” consumes each and every part of his life, from his sanity to the love of his life and in the end this evil aberration consumes Scott as well. This story contains graphic depictions of demonic possession, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, murder, death and suicide.

 THE ISLAND

  • On a small island off the Carolina coast, there lives a beautiful woman whose life is marred by grief and tragedy. Her world is dark and loveless. Her marriage is miserable and the pain of losing her only child has almost destroyed her. Her pain is as real as the ocean that surrounds her and she has long made peace with the idea of committing suicide. And then a chance encounter with an uninspired writer turns romantic and although she’s married, she allows this stranger to swept her off her feet and into his arms with promises of a Summer she will never forget. For a time, their affair is a whirlwind of sex, wine, and cocaine. A life of excitement and pleasure await them at every turn and their secret affair is all consuming. As they share their darkest secrets she lets slip the fact that her husband is the island’s cocaine kingpin. He is a shrewd, evil man with illegal resources and no weaknesses. Once he learns of their affair he swears revenge and they are suddenly in great danger. As more and more details of the affair emerge, her husband’s contempt boils into a rage he cannot contain. They know their disappearance would be nothing more than passing gossip and the question is not IF he will seek his revenge but WHEN and, as she knows far too well, his actions will destroy everything and completely.

THE PUPPET MASTER

  • On a south-eastern Virginia farm, a dirt-water, back-woods rendition of fundamentalist Christianity dares to rear its ugly head. Heavily influenced by a little red book–based solely on a deep misunderstanding of basic religion and Biblical principle–written by a mysterious missionary, one believer’s brain is being cooked. He uses his Bible with the little red book to terrorize his family in the name of religion and stews in a vat of ignorance and superstition from which springs forth a most unholy doctrine. He’d totally inflict his insidious beliefs on his family were it not for his wife, who would stand for none of it. She’s ready to protect her children from what she believes is her husband’s religious insanity. And then the puppet master appears. Revealed as the author of the red book, he arrives with extensive plans to build a network of churches based on the dictates of his little red book. The farm is sold and the family reluctantly moves from Virginia to North Carolina where the first church is to be built. It is here that the shellacking begins. The church attracts its fair share of attention, however, nobody hangs around for long as the church evolves from great hope and possibility to empty pews and bankruptcy.

Just Finished 10 Health-Related Affirmation Cards

Lately, I’ve been consumed with understanding and defeating my auto-immune condition of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve been so focused on the subject of late that my creativity got involved. The result was the radical idea to create a line of Greeting cards based on Affirmations to promote the Health of different parts of the body.

People may, or may not understand, that their unpleasant emotions from the past are stored in various parts of their body and create conditions of dis-ease in the area where it’s stored. Some of these emotions are anger, resentment, fear, hatred–all the usual suspects. Interestingly, the places inside the body which store each negative emotion seem to be consistent in all human beings. But the longer these emotions stay unclaimed or dealt with, the malady will continue to fester until the body manifests an actual disease.

Affirmations, in and of themselves, don’t represent the only answer towards healing an illness, but they represent a means to focus the mind on a different, alternative dimension of healing. Maybe you are among those who have already resolved their diet, their environment, the job and other stress factors in life. What remains are one’s own internal blockages which sabotage all healing processes. We may not understand entirely where we received these blockages. But by making affirmations, sooner or later, the core incident will arise from the unconscious for one to see, acknowledge and correct.

Thus far, my ten different affirmation cards address Back Pain, Cancer, Foot Pain, Heart Conditions, Joints, Liver, Neck Pain, Nervousness, Skin Problems and Stomach problems. If you know of a loved one who could benefit, send them a card so they know you care…

Click here to view the Cards in a Gallery Format

At my zazzle store, I call this card line “SACRED ART of the SACRED HEART”

Following are links of the affirmations for different ailments:

For the Relief of Back Pain

For the Healing of Cancer

For the Healing of the Feet

For the Healing of Heart Disease

For the Healing of Joint Pain

For the Healing of the Liver

For the Healing of Neck Pain

For the Healing of Nervous Energy

For the Healing of Skin Problems

For the Healing of Stomach and Digestive Issues