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Fremont Doomsday map

Posted– November 15, 2013

Thanks to my friends at Google, The Fremont Doomsday Map is now part of the permanent collection at the Seattle Google Offices (along with a nice full-size print of the Seattle Doomsday Map). This means there are now three of my maps hanging on walls at Google, as far as I know.

18″ x 24″, pen and ink and watercolor. Prints available.
Detail images. Click for larger:




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Barbarian and Robot

Posted– November 7, 2013

So busy today with a triple work deadline today, but I’m going to post some sketches. I am not much of a comic artist, but last year while I was hanging out in Portland, I drew this fun little series of panels:


I’m totally psyched about how it came out, even though this is just rough sketches. There are a bunch more, this is just a sample. It’s totally wordless, full of mayhem and dungeon craziness.


The whole thing is also a dungeon crawl that stitches together into a huge map. If the experiment works, the big map/cartoon will be a Patreon release. I *think* I can fit the whole thing on an 11×17 sheet, which I could then print using my big printer, fold like a streetmap, and stick in an envelope for people.

On the other hand, it could be a recipe for disaster. There’s already one atrocious draft of this hidden behind my dresser.*


* What? You don’t hide your failures behind your dresser.

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Art I Love: Keith Tilford’s Mill

Posted– November 3, 2013

@ZakSmith lamented on twitter:




…and I’m inclined to agree. At least I’ll agree that most of what’s written about contemporary art today is shite. But it doesn’t need to be. Anyone who can 1) write, 2) look at art, and 3) think should be able to write something intelligent about a piece of art. I’m taking it as a challenge that anyone who like art and writes should spend some time writing about art. And so, I’m writing a review of a piece of art I’ve seen a few times and rather like.

Why Keith Tilford’s “Mill” is Awesome

This is “Mill” by Keith Tilford. He’s a Seattle artist who graduated from Cornish pretty recently and he’s had a couple of shows that have been well received. That’s almost everything I know about the guy. For a bigger picture, you’ll have to go to Kieth Tilford’s Web site.


I love this painting. I wish it were hanging on my wall, and here are three reasons why:

It looks awesome

It’s a small painting, but it really you from across the room. It’s got these crazy lines leaning across the painting like fallen girders, or are they apartment blocks? Or, it’s like you’re inside a crushed cellphone and the screen is all coming down around the circuit boards or something. You have to look closer. But looking closer doesn’t resolve anything. After staring for 5-10 minutes you’re forced to conclude that no, this isn’t a painting of some thing, but an abstract. And is it even a painting? It takes several more minutes before you’re sure the lines aren’t painted or drawn using any familiar technique at all.

From a distance Mill–like Keith’s other works from the same show–looks like the ruin of an organized structure, but what structure is a mystery. It’s a ruin with a sense of proportion. When you look closer, each part also looks like a little ruin of its own, fractal-wise till your nose is an inch from the acrylic board and you’re still finding detail. And yet, the whole thing has this otherworldly harmony that stays and stays–no matter how close or far away you stand.

It’s a product of technical mastery

How did he get those lines on there? Their texture and opacity makes them look more photographic than painterly. At times they are razor straight, but at others they waver and flow, making you wonder what kind of tool the artist used to make them. And they pass over and under one another in a way that creates a deep three dimensional representation, but also tricks your expectations, making you struggle to grasp the overall form.

Keith Tilford reportedly makes his own tools. Even after long examination, I can only guess what they might be. The lines look like they might be drawn with some kind of straight edge, palette knife or squeegee, or some combination in different sizes and thicknesses. Is he using acrylic ink? Some kind of emulsion? It looks like some kind of chemical process is involved. You can tell that every line and splotch is right where he wants it to be in order to achieve the effect he’s aiming for. I’ll bet he had to work like mad to get there. The point here isn’t that Keith Tilford has apparently created an artistic technique all his own, but that he has clearly mastered it.

It’s Interesting

This is obviously not a painting of a mill. The pieces look functional, but have no real function. They’re apparently connected, but upon inspection the connection can’t be found. It looks like a ruin, but it’s not a building. It’s a heap, but a heap of what? The painting evokes and depicts function, connection, ruin, and accretion without resorting to the particular objects that usually constitute these conceptions. That in itself isn’t anything new. Art schools are full of pictures that do the same thing. But the point is that Keith does it well. Some of his older pictures evoke a similar effect, but with bits of clocks or books included, which I think diminishes the effect.

As far as I’m concerned, this is true information age art. We run into highly organized images with an incredible density of information every day. Some of them are useful, many of them are deceptive, and a huge proportion of them are ultimately advertisements for some product or idea. This art has high information density, but the didactic level has been stripped away. It’s not trying to warn you about something urgent, win your support, show you how to get ahead in life, or even convince you to buy more art. It’s just sitting there being a painting in a very new and interesting way.

As an aside I was once lucky enough to run into one of Keith’s older pictures hanging in Building 109 at Microsoft’s Redmond Campus–very different from Mill and the pictures in that series. It was the highlight of my day. Keith Tilford is doing something good.

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Other than the vanished empires, ancient manuscripts, and armed rebellion, this post has nothing to do with gaming

Posted– May 26, 2013

Last month, this article showed up in The New Republic: How a team of sneaky librarians duped Al Qaeda . It describes how a team of librarians, archivists, couriers, and regular people smuggled a huge trove of priceless ancient manuscripts out of Timbuktu in the midst of a fundamentalist uprising, essentially saving them from being destroyed forever.

Unfortunately, the manuscripts are still in danger from the change in climate and conditions. I’m involved in running an Indeigogo campaign to help fund the preservation effort. The project is appealing to me as a gamer, a geek, and a lover of knowledge. It’s like being present when the Library of Alexandria has caught fire and finding you have a bucket handy.

There’s a lot about this project that’s amazingly cool. Not only is it chance to save something priceless from disappearing forever, but it’s a chance to personally become a part of saving it. We’re able to physically put each contributor’s dedication on the box of a manuscript they helped save. I suggest checking out the video. It’s worth seeing.

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When will things get back to normal?

Posted– May 10, 2013

The answer is not very soon. Thanks again to everyone who offered kind words on my art and/or supported the Kickstarter. It was a blast. I’m still dealing with the last few wrinkled of fulfillment, but it’s essentially done.

I’ve got a bunch of new projects in various stages from “just an idea” to “almost ready,” but everything is on hold now as I’m getting involved in a new and entirely different crowdfunding effort. It’s not game or art related, particularly, but I’ll post a link here when we launch nonetheless, because it is pretty cool and very exciting!

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The Eye of the Storm

Posted– April 6, 2013

This is a weird weekend. For the first time since the beginning of January, I don’t have any pressing Kickstarter-related things I have to be doing. The poster has already been delivered to the printer. I’ve seen a proof and it looks fabulous. It’ll be ready next week. Jez is wrapping up the last bit of layout on the book. He doesn’t need any more artwork from me. I’ve ordered the huge pallet of shipping tubes for the poster and stored them in my basement. I don’t have anything to mail yet. Next week is going to be crazy. The week after will be crazy. But this week, I get to relax.

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Aliens for Epidiah

Posted– March 23, 2013

My friend Epidiah requested some alien drawings, so I took a little break from doing layout on the Seattle Survival Guide book (almost done!) to draw these. They’re in the mail, Epidiah!

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Ten Awesome (and difficult) maps I want to Make

Posted– March 15, 2013
  1. Colonial site on Mars, the Moon, or Europa, based on accurate topographical maps.
  2. Chernobyl exclusion zone
  3. Kowloon walled city
  4. Cyberpunk Rome
  5. London, done Venice style after the ice caps have melted
  6. Post-singularity Portland Oregon
  7. Seattlehama, from the novel Yarn
  8. Portions of a Warhammer 40k Hive City
  9. San Francisco with the Alien Landing Site
  10. Alien Occupied Hollywood
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What’s Going On?

Posted– March 10, 2013

What a few months it has been! I just wanted to post a quick blog update and let people know what’s going on. The Kickstarter for the Seattle Doomsday Map was a fabulous success, and now I’m deep in the process of fulfilling the backer rewards. I spent today printing and signing backer postcards. The Dee Dee’s Survival Guide is a hair away from the final edit and layout. I’m ready to make the poster order as soon as the book design is ready. Things are looking great! In the Real World, my work has never been busier (I work as a tech writer and consultant), which means even more things to squeeze into the day. On the horizon I’ve got a few more art projects, as well as a Dungeon World campaign faction game thingy that’s sort of half Stars Without Number, half How to Host a Dungeon. So life is busy! I can’t wait until things slow down and I have more time to blog.

Printing backer postcards! Oh my, there are a lot of them.

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Pre-ordering for Seattle Doomsday Map

Posted– February 28, 2013

It turns out a lot of people missed the Kickstarter for the Seattle Doomsday Map, so I’ve set up a page where you can pre-order the poster: Seattle Doomsday Map Home Page. Backers will get their maps first, I promise, and naturally not all the exclusive rewards are available, etc.