When faced with extra-ordinary events, there’s no way to react but to get creative.
Thank You for Your Patronage.
When faced with extra-ordinary events, there’s no way to react but to get creative.
Thank You for Your Patronage.
I wonder how many people know or have guessed just how much I’ve been a recluse during the last quarter century. I’ve seldom been “out there” in the public eye, much less actively hawk my art. I probably do less than the minimum when it comes to touting my own abilities. For a long time, I’ve chosen to remain passive, and for all practical purposes, invisible…to myself. Turns out, I haven’t been all that invisible to my fans.
I became willing to see a different perspective. I realized my decades-old story regarding my role within the budding RPG industry has only represented the beginning parts of a saga that’s still unfolding. The past represents only the first chapters of a continuing story. In fact, I can shape and reshape the greater saga (in real time), to embellish the rest of the story–so as to inspire, empower and nurture creativity in other gentle souls working from the heart. Perhaps I could be like a beacon for women in the gaming industry (as well as those not within the gaming industry) to never give up on their integrity or passion. By example, if I’m to fully participate in life, I must relinquish my “safe” status as hermit. But it’s all good, because it’s no longer about me.
To repeat, it’s not about me anymore.
No, it’s about new generations of gamers–female and male–who, at whatever age, are maturing into a sense of who they are, and what their lives’ contributions may be, but who sometimes need inspiration, guidance and a foundation to assure them they have a place and can make a difference in this crazy world.
Currently, we reach back into the past to acknowledge, touch, and revere the genius and the synergistic mix of how, when and where it all began. We honor our beginnings while projecting ourselves into a ripe future, bridging our past with the next step towards embodying the relevance needed to create a bright, bountiful future for games and gamers.
It’s an energetic.
Choosing to embrace the energy of a new perspective, all things become possible. As I become open to possibility, I take off the hand-brake of my limiting thoughts. Finally, I’m prepared to, as my late husband would say, “surf the crest of the apocalypse…” (What an image…)!
If you care to ride along with me, just lean into the wave, and allow it to lift you towards wherever your own potential takes you…
Tally Ho !
I am pleased to show off my latest piece of artwork. This is a cropped version of a much larger submission to the author of a children’s book for consideration to be chosen as an illustrator of her series. Hopefully, my vision and the author’s are copacetic…
If not, I can still use the art, perhaps my image is striking enough to serve as a greeting card. The caption could read: “My Heart Misses you in Waves…” or “Sending Heartfelt Hugs,” or simply “I Miss You.”
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.
These are from my Sacred Places Series:
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.
I’m really proud that the debut of my “Fantasy Maidens and Beasts” Creative Coloring went so well at North Texas RPG Convention during the first week of June this year. My hat’s off to Texan hospitality! I am also pleased with the very favorable and encouraging comments I received from everyone who found their way to my art table at the con. Thanks for buying a coloring book! You guys are awesome!
What I think is particularly innovative about my coloring book concept is that it invites participation in story creation. Colorists can give names to the maidens and the fantastic animals associated with them. They can also make up narratives about who, why, where, when or what may be happening on the page.
This interview first appeared in Tim Kask’s blog: DRAGON GRUMBLES on May 17, 2016:
DARLENE, best known for her iconic work in illustrating AD&D (1E) and the Greyhawk maps, and I go back a long way together. Even before TSR was buying her art, I was buying it for Dragon Magazine. We share many interests and it was with great delight that I found out about her involvement with this unusual system and that she was “back with us” in the gaming field.
For the remainder of this piece, we will only use initials—less typing. Tim Kask
TK: So, D, what have you been up to lately?
D: I’ve been up to my share of mischief. But what I have on my mind to talk about today is my artistic contribution to a (virtually) new 336-page hard-back fantasy role playing game published last December, 2015.
TK: So tell us…
D: The book is called Mythos Arcanum and its game system was inspired by old school D&D.
TK: I have skimmed it, mainly to see all the gorgeous art; what makes this different from all of the other clones?
D: The author, Joe Aragon juxtaposes modern day rules with allegorical content. It’s different from older fantasy role playing games in that, during the course of the game, it encourages players to explore meaningful self-reflection with their characters. The first concept behind this game is to have fun. Joe Aragon simply broadens the basic package of fun with a new, mind-expanding component. By allowing philosophical queries of illusion and reality to surface, Mythos Arcanum becomes a gateway for young minds to explore the nature of reality.
Q: How did you first get involved with the project and the author?
D: Joe sorta courted me…
D: (laughing) In a chivalric sense and only as an artist. I have never personally met Joe Aragon. He contacted me around 2010 via email asking me to create a logo for his company, Mythos Arcanum Games Imagined (MAGI), which I did. After that, he persistently raised the possibility of me creating interior illustrations for his book. We e-mailed back and forth for a spell. At the time, I was closed to that possibility and tried to communicate my reluctance to return to RPG illustration. Joe pointed out that my endeavors in fantasy illustration were not just relegated to the past. He indicated that a lot of people would welcome seeing new RPG art from me.
TK: Wasn’t I telling you that very thing?
D: Yes, you were. You pointed out that people still remembered me even though I was out of the loop for 30 years. Many fans honor the Greyhawk maps as classics and still relate to my illustrations as integral and formative to their early gaming experiences.
Tim, it’s due to your prodding as much as Joe’s that we are even having this conversation today. You have a leading role in my return to the RPG fantasy scene. That’s why I thought you’d appreciate hearing about my new RPG endeavor.
TK: I do. Continue.
D: Initially, I refused Joe as I had not done any serious illustration work for over 25 years. With a full time job, I felt I did not have the time. Then there’s the fact that monetary compensation for RPG interior art in the industry is notoriously low–at least compared to rates in the real world.
TK: What made you finally decide to work with Joe?
D: I relented after I finally grokked (Oooh, a Heinlein reference) Joe Aragon’s innovative concept behind his new game system. In Mythos Arcanum, Joe Aragon improves upon an issue that has never been satisfactorily addressed in RPG game settings. Consequences exist for the taking of life. Joe calls it, “philosophical role-playing” and explains it like this:
“In a standard fantasy role-playing game, a knight might kill a group of bandits. For this, he is awarded treasure and experience points. In Mythos Arcanum, in that same situation, the knight might have to face up to that what he’s doing constitutes murder and that killing the bandits may not be the right thing to do.”
As in real life, it does not matter if the unfortunate man who met his demise was a thief or murderer. Nothing ever condones the taking of life. The laws of karma are in full play.
TK: There have been a few occasions when thinking about our whole genre that I have been somewhat appalled by how casually we shrug off all the killing. I then remind myself that it is all make-believe. This game seems to be a lot less blasé about that.
D: The moral lesson (of there being consequences for ones choices and actions) is a vital lesson to learn deeply in today’s world–especially in the case of young players. So yes, I could easily devote my time and energy to produce something worthy and beautiful for the next generation of table top gamers. All could benefit from knowing some key life lessons.
Oh, yes–another reason I’m on board regards the game’s take regarding the nature of good and evil. He writes this about the issue (page 106): “The intended spirit of Mythos Arcanum is purposely designed to portray the universal struggle of good vs evil. Various archetypal character classes are created as symbols of these principles in order to play out scenarios of good versus evil in a medieval fantasy setting. As the heroes fight against monsters of darkness and villains with selfish agendas, they explore various fantasy realms of the imagination. It is assumed the players will play the side of good or at least neutral as they strive against the ever-present and destructive agents of evil, destruction and darkness. This is not a game to indulge an individual’s attraction to those things both dark and sinister… There are many other game systems designed for such endeavors.”
That’s why I think this is a fantastic RPG system to introduce to young people and why I went the extra mile.
TK: I have a slight issue with his characterization of other games indulging attraction to the sinister, but I still find the premise refreshing. On another note, you mentioned being worried about starting back up with doing illustrations. How did that go?
D: Well, I got off to a very shaky start. That was five years ago. I was the opposite of prolific. I think I astounded Joe with my snail pace, averaging about one illustration every moon cycle. Since I had not touched pen to paper in years, it took me a while to get acclimated enough to find my groove. Once I finished the art, I scanned it. Usually, this is the final step, but I found it was but the first. Dogged by the perfectionist within me, I found myself “cleaning up” imperfections on the scanned electronic version. I’d readjust the proportions of figures, alter backgrounds and props, re-crop, re-define, and sharpen the lines.
TK: So you like using the computer.
D: Like it? My computer is more than an artistic tool. I love the fact that I can zoom in really close without straining my eyes physically. The best part is the computer’s ability to “undo” strokes–which is impossible with ink on paper.
Also, with the computer, I can contribute a lot more detail. In a piece of art, I love to balance richly textured areas with non-detailed areas. I seem to use the mouse in the same way I use a pen.
TK: Wait a moment–you don’t use a stylus? Don’t all computer artists use those?
D: Apparently not. I never invested in a stylus. I forget the reason. I simply learned to use what was at hand to work with. Every dot and every line equals one mouse click. It’s no different than the pointillist technique I did during the day, and takes about as long.
TK: Let me get this straight; you’re saying that all of your art in this gorgeous book was done using just a mouse? Including this one that looks like a woodcut?
D: Good eye! And I mean that in more ways than one. (Happy your eye operation was successful)… Yes, I opted to preserve the mystique of something from yesterday-year. It was not hard because I seem to naturally drift towards doing a woodcut effect anyway.
TK: Wow, D–The book is profusely illustrated.
D: This was the result of a successful 2014 fall Kickstarter campaign. One of the stretch goals was to have me fill in the gaps. I am not the only illustrator. Between everyone, every monster, racial type, and character class is fully illustrated. Jim Holloway created the cover art and about 27 of the interior illustrations. The other artists who contributed are Rowena Aitken, Vaggelis Ntousakis, Laura Siadak and Martin Siesto. So all of a sudden, I had a bunch of illustrations to complete in addition to the book’s design.
TK: How many illustrations did you do?
D: Officially, I created 52 illustrations of various sizes. But while I was designing the book, I thought it would be neat if the Herb Lore section could appear like an old Herbological Guide Book. So I gifted the project with 34 small spot illustrations of plants. Simply to delight the reader, I also created 17 symbolic emblems in the Deity section to fill it out. I think these special little touches entice the imagination. So to answer your question, I did over 100 new illustrations for this book.
Q: Isn’t doing all this detailed work time consuming?
D: Very. But if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well, don’t you think? The successful Kickstarter helped to free me from the 20th century notion that “time is money.” In that world, it makes no economic sense not to declare a piece of art finished as quickly as possible. That doesn’t work for me.
Time is art. That’s my new paradigm. I added detail because I love the richness of juxtaposing different textures. Besides, I consider the time I devote on my illustrations to be a gift to my fans. Locked into my work is the spiritual substance of my artistic focus, beneficence and devoted presence which can be felt through the images. Sensitive players can touch Joe’s strange and beautiful World of Rocheron within Mythos Arcanum.
TK: You mentioned designing the book?
D: Before I came on board with the project, around 2011, the book was technically ready to go to press. However, the previous layout person made all the customary mistakes novices always make when they attempt to design a publication. Even if space is dear, people must avoid starting a new section in the middle of the second column of a left hand page. Equally bad is splitting up graphs and text so that a page has to be turned to glean important information.
Amateurs at design also tend to be horrorvacuists (having a fear of white space) so they are compelled to fill up every available area of every page. Unfortunately, this practice produces uninviting walls of text which are a chore to read (decipher). The alternative is to sculpt the white space to improve the reading experience. That’s why I urged Joe to reconsider publishing the book as it was.
TK: And you improved upon this?
D: Absolutely. I wanted the design for Mythos Arcanum to be the best the industry has yet seen.
I took a tremendous amount of care with the design of each page. Stylistically, I adopted the use of a medieval canon as the underlying grid design for the book. This resulted in a healthy amount of marginal white space bordering each page. A page’s superior readability depends on the correct interplay of positive and negative elements and shapes. When plenty of white space surrounds the text, readability always improves. Studies show, when something is more easily read, comprehend is improved.
Another important thing about text columns most beginners don’t understand is the optimum ratio between the size of the font to the length of a line of text it’s set in. The optimal line to character ratio is between 50-60 characters, including spaces. That’s why 12-point type set solid in a one-column format is so difficult to read. The eye too easily loses its place when jumping down to catch the next line. The space between lines should be two points above the point size.
TK: Page breaks are sensible. There is an index. Information appears to be easy to find. The illustrations all seem to make sense in conjunction with the text.
D: Superior design never calls attention to itself. To serve the meaning of the text so that information is more accessible, great design steps away from the limelight… It’s neutral, invisible, subtle and unassuming.
TK: I can tell this subject is near and dear to your heart, but moving on…
What final things would you like your fans to know?
D: I went the extra mile in this book for my fans. I wanted to acknowledge and give something back to them for all their support throughout the years. I also wanted to pay it forward to the future generations of table-top gamers. Thus did I place all my time, effort, sincerity, and breath of creation into what I once considered to be my one final RPG project, my swan song.
TK: And now?
D: I’m sticking around. I’m staying.
TK: OK D, it’s time for your plug. How may people obtain a copy?
D: First, I wish to be very clear. The copies I am offering are among those I already purchased from the author. The copies he may have available on his website are not a part of this offer. Since I am selling these books as collector’s items, purchases will directly benefit me as the artist.
In exchange for their purchase, people will be getting something special from me. For each book sold, I’ll create a special bookplate (ex libris) to be placed into the book, personalized with the name of the purchaser specially lettered by me. I would also affix my signature to the plate, making this a signed copy. Viola! Instant collector’s item!
TK: I get it.
D: I believe collector’s items are worth more if they remain in their original packaging. Therefore, each book sold would remain shrink wrapped. Each ex libris I personally create will be shipped in the same package as the book. I will spring for priority mail within the continental United States.
Interested parties can send a $100 check made payable to: Darlene to P.O. Box 877, Mount Gilead, NC 27396
She can now accept credit cards on her darlenetheartist.com web site. This is the link to the payment part of the site
TK: Thanks, btw, for my signed and personalized copy of the book.
D: My pleasure.
There you have it, fans of Darlene’s work.
You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
A shift has been happening within me. But I’m not the only one. Now that I reflect upon it, I’m aware of many other sensitive people who’ve also intuitively been preparing for a major shift in perspective. We could feel it. We just did not know how to name it. Nor did we have the language to describe it. Like others I’ve shared with, I feel we are at a critical juncture for planet Earth within our current space/time. I am consciously tipping the balance in favor of an emerging paradigm of life that compels vision, skills, creativity, courage and collaboration.
During the last couple of years, I chose to select projects–like Kathleen Wiley’s two books which combine Jungian insights with biblical wisdoms–that see old subjects with new eyes, new perspectives. By putting my focus on Kathleen’s books, I am adding my energy and input to her message. Both of her books have been very favorably received.
Before that, I devoted my time to a much larger book project several years in the making. Occupying most of 2014 and 2015, I am proud to have added my artistic touches to “Mythos Arcanum,” a new RPG game system based on classic D&D. It’s innovation is that it introduces the concept of “philosophic gaming” which encourages critical thinking about the nature of reality. The morality question is openly addressed. There ARE consequences for stealing, plundering and killing. As in real life, players must figure out alternative ways to achieve their character’s goals. So I am choosing to lend my energy to worthy projects that will help people in some way.
The project I’m currently finishing up is a medieval fantasy and mythological coloring book which I will first publicly present at NTRPGA Con (June 2016). Most images depict powerful women with their animal helpers and familiars. The impetus behind the coloring book is due to the gift of a little girl who showed up at my exhibition booth at GaryConVIII. In response to one of the drawings I had on my table, a little seven-year-old girl presented me with a small piece of paper upon which she depicted a unicorn in colorful felt markers. Her gift delighted my heart.
When I looked around the room, I noticed there was not much merchandise being sold for smaller children. Then it hit me. What if I “give back” to the RPG industry by creating something to delight the children, the next generation of gamers? Could it not also feed the child within the adult? I started my coloring book project with images of things I loved and dreamt about when I was a little girl–mermaids, unicorns, dragons–then expanded it to include a centaur, a winged comic-book heroine with a lion, warrior women with different animal mounts etc…
It’s not only about the coloring. It’s about jump-starting the imagination and enticing new creative neural pathways to form and develop.
This is the way I’m making a modest contribution towards solving problems and offering solutions at the micro level. Yet, in terms of the collective, by adding my piece to a new story, I’m helping to change the conversation. My micro becomes a mega when viewed from the perspective of the collective. At the core is the quiet force of Feminine Power.
The transformative properties of Feminine power are effective because it works from the inside. Residing just under the surface within timeless time, The Feminine broadly understands and works with complexity, bridges ideas in novel and surprising new ways and offers brilliant solutions for all aspects of society. My art is my contribution. As I add my essence to the collective dream, the time ripens for the emergence of a new paradigm of cooperation, a world revolution from the inside-out.
I’d not thought much about it before. But now I can identify the main reason I like creating art and graphics. It’s the gift of being able to enter into “the Zone…”
Recently, I was working on the computer creating a representation of a strawberry plant. As I was manipulating the pixels, this is what was going through my mind: “leaf, leaf, leaf, leaf, curve, curve, up, up, smooth, deepen green, add more yellow, contrast, no, lighter, stem, smooth the arc…” When I worked on the blooms, as I blended colors and shapes, I also imagined smelling their fragrance. This is the moment I suddenly “woke up” from my reverie and became conscious that I was in the state of DOING, not thinking—I was totally engaged in the moment, becoming fully engrossed within my creative endeavor. That’s when I grasped just how much I give myself over to this trance-like process.
After much consideration, I think “Entering the Zone” is a form of active meditation, a means of exercising the intuition (as opposed to the intellect). Whatever it’s called, I believe any artistic thing created with intent retains the artist’s energetic signature and it seems to have a lasting effect. To me, this comprises a sacred act. To impart to one’s art the qualities of what is aesthetically pleasing is special. I’m becoming more aware of how noticeable this energetic residue is to others.
The only other person I know who talked openly about “the Zone” was the cousin of a friend, an Indiana University professor of some renowned in computer language. At the time, a couple of large Texas corporations were courting him to work for them and offered three times his teaching salary. When I asked him why he stayed, he said that whenever he teaches, when he speaks he goes to a place where the words easily pour out of him. He enjoys being on the threshold so much that he would not trade the feeling of being in the Zone for anything. He’d really miss out if he simply worked at a desk all day.
Becoming consciously aware of the value of creating while in the Zone also means taking responsibility for the energy I impart. With Kathleen’s book, I was “there,” in timeless time during the entire creative process–open to Spirit and able to indulge my intuitive nature. Nothing‘s left to chance. Symbolic content was also streaming in. Deciding to illustrate her book using appropriate symbols served to contribute another layer of meaning to Kathleen’s book.
Well, something must have clicked just right because of the book’s phenomenal success just within the first few weeks of being electronically published. Even though the Kindle version has been available for two years, the book has been blessed with unprecedented sales. Maybe it is simply Kathleen’s time to shine. In this case, I’m glad to have been a catalyst. But maybe, just maybe, the energetic is a powerful factor in its success.
But there is a downside of being in the Zone. And that is it can become physically detrimental over the long haul. For the sake of one’s vision, every twenty minutes you are supposed to look up and re-focus the eyes at something in the distance. But all too often, I’ll be submerged for hours. Once I “come up for air,” I have to make a point of standing up and walking around.
One miscellaneous comment: when I am in the creative Zone, the cat loves to sit on my lap. It’s as if he is riding the creative wave with me. Perhaps he might even be actively accommodating it.