I have written several articles about the Saturday Night Special and my love for these events. I don’t think I could find the words to say it any differently this time – I simply love Rob and Billy and Mike and Stephen. I love to watch Mike play that guitar. I love to watch Stephen as he passionately pounds the drums. I love to watch Billy pour his heart and soul into his guitar. And I love to watch Rob sing, and dance, and smile as he commands the center of the stage. Simply put, Louden Swain gives me joy. This concert gives me joy. I have said it before, and I know that I will say it many more times to come… the Saturday Night Special is special because of Louden Swain.
The concert in Pittsburgh apparently had some technical issues – mics not working properly, guitar issues, and so on. But let’s be honest, I didn’t care, not even a little. These guys could come on stage and sing the phone book completely a capella and I’d be so okay with that.
So without further ado, and without a lot of commentary, here’s a recap of PittCon’s Saturday Night Special.
The night got off to a rockin’ start as Jake Abel introduced the band.
The Supernatural convention in Minneapolis is notable for a couple of things. First, it’s in the grandest theater on the whole tour – an actual slanted floor tilted and cushioned seated amphitheater style theater with two clamshell balconies that open up like magic on Sunday for J2 Day. The stage is so big that some of the guests aren’t quite sure what to do with it and it makes the Saturday Night Special seem like a rock show in a bona fide concert hall – and Louden Swain and guests know exactly what to do with that!
The convention center, and the city itself actually, is also notable for being connected by a series of hamster trail elevated tunnels that allow you to make your way from the hotels to the convention center without being pelted by the inevitable wind and rain. My hotel was also playing host to a furry convention, so we had furries and Supernatural tee-shirted fans sharing space and high fiving in the hallways. I was struggling to transport my hundreds of copies of Family Don’t End With Blood the mile and a half (okay okay, exaggeration, but it felt like that…) of hamster trails to the convention center when a very nice young man at the furry convention offered to help. He pushed the overloaded handcart the entire way to the convention center, while we chatted about what our two fandoms had in common and why nobody should be ashamed of what they’re passionate about.
I was in the vendor room throughout the con, and was so honored to meet many people who had read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by what the actors and the fans shared in their personal essays. I also was thrilled to collaborate with Jodi from Eldwenne’s Fantasy – she created an original Women of SPN – FDEWB necklace that I adore, and was kind enough to give one to me. The necklace symbolizes that for the women of Supernatural, family means more than just blood – there’s a blue backdrop that matches the cover of the book, hugged tight by silver to symbolize the found family that surrounds the Winchesters, and black for Baby. And of course the drop of blood red. Gorgeous. Jodi is giving $5 off the necklace to anyone who purchases the book, or $10 at a con!
The con kicked off on Friday with Rob and Rich a bit overwhelmed by the amount of greenery onstage – not just the usual couple of dead trees, but a whole forest of them, along with some equally-dead potted plants.
Rob and Rich rearranged them, made a makeshift Supernatural Christmas tree, and generally had way too much fun with inanimate things. They even had a Christmas story, with Richard sitting crosslegged on the stage.
I’ve been too busy to post con reports this year for the most part, but I’m trying to change that – at least for one con! Vancon, as it was called for almost a decade and will still always be called in my head, is a special con. It takes place in mecca for Supernatural fans, where the show is filmed, and that means that lots of other Vancouver-based Supernatural alums and crew members often come by to say hi to the fans. It’s also the place where some of the best days of my life have taken place, and where many of my SPNFamily friends come to congregate, so that makes it a special con for me. This year was no exception.
I didn’t have any extra time to take in location filming or revisit some of my favorite Vancouver restaurants and sights, and I’m still grieving that the con is no longer at the beautiful Sheraton Wall Centre, but the Westin Bayshore is also quite nice. It’s also way above my budget at the non-con rate, and thanks to my aforementioned busy, I neglected to book it early enough to get that. So my friend Alicia and I spent the first two nights up the hill at the Coast, a European flavored hotel with an international bunch of patrons and a portable AC machine that served as possibly the best white noise I’ve ever experienced. I totally wanted to bring the giant thing with me! I then cashed in every single Starwood point I’ve ever accumulated to move over to the Westin, which rewarded us with an amazing view of this amazing city. I love you, Vancouver!
I mean, look at it! That’s the view from my window once I finally got to the Westin Bayshore.
I had a lovely seafood dinner out on the water on Friday night and a few good meals at the hotel restaurant too – I wasn’t in the vendor room, so I had a lot more time to hang out and have some good conversation. I was also very honored to sign copies of Family Don’t End With Blood for lots of people who had read it and been inspired by it, which totally made my weekend. If you came up to me and asked for my ‘autograph’, I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book and that I got to meet you. And I hope you all told the actors what a fantastic job they did writing their chapters!
I had very little internet reception on Friday and especially Saturday, so I tried to make up for the lack of tweets by taking pictures. Thus this is Part One of my Vancon post, since wordpress was a wee bit upset with how many photos I was trying to cram into a single post. Part Two (SNS continued and Sunday) up shortly!
There were lots of SPN alums on hand for karaoke and during the con, most of which I forgot to take photos of, but I had to have a picture of the lovely Kuma, star of television commercials, and his owners Kevin and Jill Parks. Kevin has been with Supernatural as a First Assistant Director ever since I can remember, and is instrumental in making the show the high quality tv that it is. In fact, he’s joking referred to as “Parkasapedia” for his encyclopedic knowledge of SPN canon! Kuma has appeared on the show too, as well as in that Flonase commercial you see all the time.
Adam Williams, who supervises all that amazing VFX wizardry on Supernatural, was also on hand – along with the always awesome Lucy. Together, Adam and Lucy wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood about how the show changed their lives completely – by bringing them together! Talk about life changing.
Friday kicked off with Alaina Huffman (filling in for the busy-filming-Supernatural Kim Rhodes) and Gil McKinney.
This is the second in a series of articles in which I am shining the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. Friendly reminder that, for the purpose of these articles, I am spotlighting some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!
As I explained in the first article in this series, “art” has a multitude of definitions. If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. In this article, I am spotlighting artists who use a variety of mediums and materials, each creating their own unique style.
This article was truly a learning experience for me. I don’t know anything about drawing. Trust me, fam, you do not want me to do artwork for you. You’ll get a stick figure sketch worse than anything Sam Winchester could ever draw. Seriously. But the artists featured here, well, how do I even begin to talk about their talent? Are there even words to describe their works? I am so glad I had enough sense to ask the right questions, because they told me about materials and mediums and styles and used words and terminology that I did not know even existed in language. To be honest, I’m a bit scared to write this article, fearing I won’t do justice to these amazing artists.
So without further ado, gather around and join with me in drooling over their work and celebrating the talents of S. Dahl, Christine Griffin, Kaiya Plagenhoef, Angie Siketa, and Scout Villegas!
The first featured artist is S. Dahl. Formerly an elementary school teacher, she is now teaching art to middle school students – I hope these students and their parents appreciate the gift of having Mrs. Dahl as their teacher! She is primarily self taught. She uses oil, acrylic and watercolor paints, and has recently begun experimenting with colored pencils. However, she works primarily with graphite pencils, which is perhaps her signature look.
Mrs. Dahl explained her process of creating art. She typically starts by studying a photo, studying the details of the subject. She went on to explain, “When I draw a picture, I always start drawing the right eye, for some reason, then the left. If I can tell who the person is from just the eyes I have drawn, then I proceed. The eyes are the most important part of the picture, they are the focal point. So, if I can’t see the person in just the eyes, I keep tweaking until I can. I easily spend 10 hours drawing a picture.”
I asked each artist who or what inspires them, and to offer a piece of advice for aspiring artists. I thought Mrs. Dahl’s answers were interesting in terms of perspective; how we see things with our own eyes versus how others see us. Her advice to aspiring artists: “You have to be strong, learn to take criticism, learn to change when it is needed, see your mistakes for what they are, and be your own cheering section. Push yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try new techniques and materials; I am constantly experimenting with other mediums. I experiment with other mediums for not only a break, but also to see if I can find something that will finally help me feel a sense of personal success in art. I get frustrated with being mediocre and want to create something that I can feel really proud of.”
She said that she is inspired by Michaelango, Rapheal, and John Singer Sergeant because of “their ability to take a paint brush and create art of subjects that look as if they could walk right off the canvas.”
I asked her if there was a specific piece that she would love to create. First she said that she would like, for once, for her parents to look at her art and say, wow, that is really good. Then she said she would love for TPTB behind Supernatural to see her art and say “hey, we want to use your drawings of the cast for our show”.
Seriously, Mrs. Dahl, nothing mediocre here! Every time you post a new piece on Twitter, I am just awed! I really think your subjects could just walk off the page! #AmIRight
Christine Griffin is the next featured artist. Cris is a lifelong artist. She has a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in painting. Her primary job is as a Domestic Engineer (A+ terminology!) however she does take commission work and she also designs book covers, such as the cover of Family Don’t End With Blood. She uses a variety of materials, including graphite, oils, acrylics, watercolors, carbon and conte pencils, and Photoshop. She prefers the genres of urban fantasy, horror, traditional fantasy and scifi.
She went on to explain a bit about her process, which typically starts with a tiny doodle to hash out what goes where. Then she looks for photoreferences and takes this new information to create a more detailed drawing, working out anatomy issues and whatever additional bits need further exploring. Then she begins painting. When she paints in Photoshop, she paints the same way she would traditionally, with the added bonus that she can play with the colors ad nauseum. As anyone who paints digitally knows, you can have a nearly infinite amount of layers in your file. Cris explained that she used to paint this way, with a ton of layers, but the past few years she’s been trying to limit the number of layers as much as possible because it just feels more comfortable and traditional to her. She said it’s not unusual for her to take 30-40 hours to finish one of her more detailed pieces.
Cris said she experiments constantly, in part because she gets dissatisfied easily. She would like to focus on one ‘look’ more consistently, because consistency is what gets you jobs. It’s what gets you arting better. She also said which technique she uses for a given piece depends entirely upon what she wants for the MOOD of the piece. She said, “If you can get your viewer to feel, then you have truly rocked it. They will forgive you many sins if you hit them in their heartplace.”
Cris had a fabulous piece of advice for aspiring artists. She said, “Beginning is always the toughest part. I’m worried I won’t be able to get the image in my head out onto the ‘page’ (or screen). I’m worried I’ve forgotten how to hold a damned pen or use words. But listen, you will ABSOLUTELY fail if you never try. So at least TRY.” Good advice, indeed. Her other tips included:
• Don’t take short-cuts. Learn your basics, like anatomy and light and perspective.
• Photo reference is not a SIN, but do use it prudently. Don’t let it become a substitute for knowledge.
• If the photo isn’t yours or stock, you’d better get permission to use it.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for concrit. Get used to people having opinions about your work.
• Don’t be so hard on yourself. There is a spot for us all, for all of our gifts and skills.
• Let people help you. F*ck the doubting voice in the back of your head and embrace the one that brings you the joy.
Cris would love to be able to celebrate the completion of something big, such as her own book, a gallery show, or something she can share with her friends and mentors and idols. Um, yeah, I am 100% there for this! She would also like to create original canon about Supernatural. She has a small handful of characters creeping to life. Interestingly, her favorite piece that she has created thus far is called The Flock, an image that had festered in her mind for ages. She said it’s not often that a piece surfaces exactly the way you wanted it to, but this one did. And let me just say, to anyone and everyone reading this article, can this become canon? Please?
Kaiya Plagenhoef is my next featured artist. She is currently in high school, and no, that is not a typo. Suffice it to say that, yes, she is taking art classes in school, but hello – she is very much self taught at this point in her young life! She does want to make art her primary source of income one day. Currently she does commissions for people based upon photos, typically of children. She said that she enjoys creating pieces for people that they would love, that would make them smile. I think she’s definitely well on her way to that goal.
Kaiya’s preferred genre is portrait realism, and she uses graphite and charcoal pencils. While she typically sticks to black and white portraiture, her classes allow her to experiment with different styles, techniques and mediums. Oftentimes, what starts as a requirement, turns into something she thoroughly enjoys as it allows her to expand and fine-tune her abilities.
I asked her if she has developed a signature look. She explained what her art teacher told her, “In art there are light people and black people. Those who stay on the lighter end of their pencil, not shading too heavily, are light people. Those who love the darkness, who reach for charcoal and strive to create heavy shadows in pieces are black people. You, you’re both. You’re a paradox.” What a beautiful thing, to be so gifted, so talented… and to have that both recognized and acknowledged by your mentors. #Paradox
Kaiya’s process also starts with a photo. When she comes across a photo that she loves, her immediate thought is “how do I draw this”? In doing portraits, she focuses hard on the little details in the subject’s face: the way their eyebrows curl, a hidden scar, the freckles around their nose. Because of her attention to these details, her pieces can take anywhere from 6 hours to 70 hours to finish. “It’s a grueling process, usually accompanied by me doubting how well I’m actually doing, resulting in many do-overs or re-sketching certain physical traits”, she said. Ultimately, her goal with every piece is to create something that evokes an emotional response with the viewer.
Kaiya is inspired by many artists, but there’s one who always, unknowingly, pushed her to do better. Fellow fandom artist Angie Siketa is a huge inspiration to Kaiya because she has a unique look to her pieces, with incredible detail and a beautiful balance to her shading. Through studying Angie’s works, Kaiya found ways to improve her own pieces.
So many fellow artists experience feelings of self doubt and anxiety, and Kaiya often feels it too. She said that she can see “every flaw, every mistake… it jumps out at me like a giant, flashing red sign, which just adds to my anxiety with my art.” She pushes through these feelings by turning that negative energy around and using it to fuel her desire to become better. Her tips for aspiring artists:
• Do not compare yourself to other artists.
• Art is a learning and growing process that can be slow at times, but the more you work at it, the better you get.
• Keep working, to keep creating art whether you hate what you’re doing or not.
• Allow yourself to feel, really feel, that sense of reward and accomplishment when you make something you truly love.
Kaiya’s favorite piece is a portrait based on a photo by Kelsi Sickmann of Rob Benedict, titled Fare Thee Well. She completed the piece in three days during her after school hours, finishing at “4:30am covered in charcoal and utterly exhausted.” Kaiya went on to say that if there is one piece that she would love to do, it would be to paint a mural on the side of a building one day. I know I’d love to photograph it – the whole process of her creating this mural, and of course, the finished project.
Angie Siketa is the next featured artist. She has been drawing since she was two years old and is mostly self taught; art was one of her least favorite subjects in school because the class was heavily theory based, with an emphasis on writing and research rather than actual drawing. She also tried a Digital Media course, but it was ultimately cancelled due to lack of interest, teaching staff, and funding. At that point, Angie decided to just move forward on her own.
She uses Palomino Blackwing pencils most of the time, however, she has experimented a bit with color using Faber Castell Polychromes. For her digital art, she sketches the piece in pencil first, then scans it and finishes it in Photoshop. She enjoys drawing portraits and chibis of actors/characters from TV shows (Supernatural was a big foundation), movies (Tim Burton!) and bands (My Chemical Romance, The Used, Green Day) as well as anime/cartoons (Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon). She also draws family members, people, and pets on commission. Although she does have a ‘day job,’ she has been freelancing and doing commission pieces since 2013, and she hopes to grow her art base into her primary source of income someday.
Angie has developed a signature look in her portraits, something she describes as “very high contrast with a unique blending/texturing of the skin.” With her chibi work, she says it took a few years to develop a style that was hers, but now she feels it is recognizable.
Angie’s process also begins with a reference picture. Next, she grids her paper and then she starts with the eyes. Depending on the size of the project, it can take anywhere from three hours to a few days. When drawing her chibis, she searches for photos to use for referencing details and outfit ideas. She sketches them in pencil, starting with the head and then determining their pose. Next, she adds all the features. Then she takes a photo of her piece, imports it to her laptop/Photoshop where she then traces over her pencil work and adds color. One chibi can take 1-2 hours or so to finish, from sketch to the final product.
Angie also had some advice for aspiring artists – lots of practice. She said she draws almost every day, and encourages artists to draw no matter what. She also echoed the advice of others, saying not to compare yourself to others, but instead compare your current work to your past work and keep goin’. She said looking through her past work also helps her combat the feelings of self doubt because she is able to see how far she’s come and how much she has improved. One of the things she said really struck a chord with me. She said “art is a never-ending lesson, and with every piece, you are learning and improving.” That’s definitely something I need to remember as I continue to work on my photography.
Angie is inspired by many artists, praising and applauding artists such as Mel (@melissanti), Adele (@uhdele), Katie (@artbyktgamboa) and Euclase (@eliciadonze). On Euclase, Angie said, “her digital portrait work is both soft and vibrant, and so very stunning – always has me in awe. One time she (Euclase) messaged me on tumblr and told me my work was amazing and I was giddy about it for days.” It is a beautiful thing when Artists Support Artists.
Angie doesn’t have a favorite piece, but she does enjoy scrolling through art on blogs/instagrams/whathaveyou for hours. She said it becomes something she “can really feel in her heart, and it’s such a feel-good ache and I just want to ooze my love all over the art.” She doesn’t really have a piece that she would love to create. Instead, her dream piece is a bit more extensive than just one piece: she would love to see her name in the credits of an animated movie.
The final artist featured in this article is Scout Villegas. She has been interested in art for most of her life and is mostly self-taught, with some minor education throughout high school. She considers herself a cartoonist and digital artist, but she also loves working in fantasy and portrait work. She started working in the digital medium about ten years ago, now using primarily Photoshop CS5 with her own custom brushes. She does occasionally do more traditional art, using Pigma Micron pens in a Moleskine sketchbook. Recently Scout has been experimenting with other mediums, in part to give her eyes a break from the digital work. She does have a signature look, something that she continues to work with and build upon to strengthen that signature style.
Although art started as a hobby for her, now it is her primary job. She does everything by herself (management), and she would like to work in close collaboration with others in the future. She also mentioned an interest in getting into an art department. She hopes to go further in the industry, possibly within animation or comics. Traveling and doing cons have been super beneficial to helping these things come closer to tangibility.
Scout’s process begins with a very, very vague blob of an idea. She said it’s like seeing a vaguely-shaped chunk of marble, something that can be carved into a bust. A piece can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours. She has learned that the implication of detail often creates a visual illusion to the viewer, allowing them to see more than is actually depicted. She said, “The emotional impact of those works can be heavier, so I’ve been teaching myself to take less time on painting and more time composing.”
Scout said that she is honestly so inspired by everyone that just puts their best foot forth in the arts now. “No one has to necessarily wear the professional title of “artist” for me to admire them. Anyone that creates inspires me to do more, especially when the general mood of the world is “tense” and “chaotic.”
Perhaps it is that tense, chaotic mood that leads so many artists down the path of self doubt and anxiety, including Scout. She said that she always experiences self doubt and anxiety when working on a new piece. Although she has moved past the feelings of completely giving up on her art, she did explain how she works through the anxiety. She said, “It’s become a natural habit to continue creating for me. It’s strange, but I’ve trained myself to make drawing a very strong muscle memory. Even if I’m overwhelmed with a project that’s over my head, the way I calm myself down is by focusing on one that I’m more confident in. Which, in turn, helps me improve so I can go back to what I was originally scared to work on and eventually finish it.”
Scout shared her tips and advice for aspiring artists. I really appreciated her frankness as she explained why we, as artists, should stop comparing ourselves to other artists. She said, “To get good at anything, you almost always have to completely suck at it first. This is a huge barricade to get over, but once you start looking at artists as mentors and friends rather than Untouchable Art Gods, things get a bit easier.” Amen.
She had other tips too, such as try not to take too big of leaps. If you don’t think you’re ready for something new, work up to it. She said, “It’s like drawing a face. Sometimes you have to work on it in sections. Draw a thousand noses first. Then a thousand eyes. Then lips. Eyebrows, etc. Afterwords, you’ll be able to put together what you couldn’t before.” She also advised that persistence and experimentation are powerful tools every artist needs to use.
Scout does not necessarily have a favorite piece, but she does have a favorite project. The God’n’Gabe books that she has done have been huge feats for her, so each one she finishes in the series is something she considers a huge accomplishment. She recently finished The Swaingels, which is her favorite series of works as of right now. Her dream project is to animate a music video for Louden Swain. Um, yes please, can this be a Thing?
Lastly, we all discussed posting art on social media. They all agreed on several key points:
To Post, or Not to Post, That is the Question:
I think Scout summed it up best when she said “There’s a time and place for everything, and art is art.” She explained that there is likely a platform out there for literally anything and everything, so find the platform that is best suited for your work. They all agreed they would be hesitant to share art that is perhaps unflattering or embarrassing to any given celebrity, and they would not tag said celebrity in the posted material.
Some Do’s and Don’ts:
• Don’t try to claim or distribute or sell an artist’s work as your own. Not Cool.
• Don’t show the celebrities an artist’s work without the express permission of the Artist. As Cris said, not all art is suitable for widespread display.
• Do consider carefully tags. Perhaps avoid using anything rude or crude, or offensive/profane language. Obviously, these kinds of things are subjective and vary from person to person.
• Do credit your inspiration, such as “inspired by (photographer’s name)” or by a song (title and singer/song writer). Angie oftentimes includes a link to the music video that inspired her work. As Kaiya said, “I think by crediting what inspired you as the Artist, it could open up a better understanding of your work to those who view it.” On the other hand, sometimes the line blurs a bit when it comes to the finished piece; it may have been inspired by something, but the final product may have ended down a different path.
ONE MORE TIME, FOR ALL Y’ALL IN THE BACK:
For the love of all that is Holy, Don’t crop out or remove watermarks. And tag the artist when reposting. I think Cris said it best as she explained: “If someone wants to hire me, then that client needs to be able to find me; that’s partly why watermarks are so important as it helps potential clients identify my work.” So on that note, why not help spread these names out there for potential clients? #SpreadLove
To learn more about these fantastic artists, or to buy their works, please visit the following links:
When my agent suggested that I have a party to celebrate the release of Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, I was skeptical. Who does that? Not unknowns like me, that’s for sure. Who would come? Would I just be standing in a Barnes & Noble tossing confetti up in the air in an empty room? But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to celebrate this book that was two years in the making. This book is not mine – it belongs to all 25 contributors who wrote from the heart and poured their genuine emotions into their chapters, both fans and Supernatural cast. For most of them, it wasn’t an easy task. They are students and business women and moms and IT consultants. They are talented actors. But they are not, for the most part, writers. Or at least they weren’t before they said yes to contributing to this book!
I know the process was heartwrenching and intimidating for many of them. They are all people who care a great deal about this show and this fandom, and they didn’t want to let anyone down. Although they didn’t have much confidence about their writing ability, they felt it was important to share their stories – and so they persevered. Through self doubt and starting over and edits and a lot of hard work, they kept going. The result is no less than amazing to me. Every single contributor wrote something that speaks to others – that inspires others. The courage they showed in telling their real truth, in print, for the rest of the world to read, blew me away.
So I decided the wise and wonderful Amy Tipton was right; we would have a book release party. Now to figure out when and where and how. Which turned out to be a story in itself, so I thought I’d share the before, during and after of our rather unique celebration of #SPNFamily.