the arts

the arts21 Nov 2016 08:06 am

harris1John Harris has produced book covers for many science fiction authors including famous names such as John Scalzi, Ben Bova, and Orson Scott Card. In fact, Scalzi himself, calls the artist’s work highly iconic, the phrase he uses is “Bookstore Iconic – which is to say it can be seen from across the bookstore.” (Harris p4) It is bold, striking, intense art that guarantees a good read. John Harris has also illustrated online fiction and produced artwork for NASA.

Harris is one of the few commercial artists working today who dislikes the nature of computer enhanced art (he calls it a bloodless medium) yet he has, however, produced some pieces in this manner. By taking the richly coloured roughness of his pastel sketches as starting points, so that the full bodied nature of his tangible pieces shines through, he develops them digitally by only a little. He is particularly fond of pastels as a medium, due to their hazy, atmospheric quality, which is, in fact, one of the key aspects of his art – the heightened sense of atmosphere his pictures evoke.

harris2In the forward to a recent book on his work The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, the Author John Scalzi, whom the artist had painted book covers for, comments that: “quintessential John Harris art [is]: vibrantly coloured, impressionistic, yet technical, implying a whole universe outside the borders of the cover.” (Harris p4) In fact one of the most powerful aspects of the artist’s work is its obvious impressionistic influence “recalling, oddly, the romantic tradition of the 19th Century artists.” (Harris p4) John Harris is, perhaps, what Turner might have become, had he lived in the space age, or some future world.

The artist is particularly interested in the depiction of mass and in capturing the sensation of “floating yet having weight.” (Harris p16) This can be produced in many different ways; by a juxtaposition of motifs, such as lines of steam escaping from a spaceship which implies a sense of falling, or by using a background of ‘hanging’ curtain-like nebula, in front of which a spaceship may a appear to rise (its nose tilted up).

Yet, the believability of his paintings of massive objects hanging in space “are not simply the result of knowing about the lack of gravity in space, but are the result of actual bodily experiences of weightlessness in transcendental meditation…[other images] were provoked by things witnessed in lucid dreaming.” (Harris p8) In fact John Harris studied meditation for six years after graduating from art school in Exeter. (Eldred)

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the arts06 Jun 2016 07:25 am

Update on the Athena mask (see previous posts for the background):


the arts01 May 2016 04:36 pm

I’ve commissioned a mask from master mask maker Eric Bornstein,, and throughout the month of May I’ll be showing the progress on it.

artist profile and the arts25 Jan 2016 09:45 am
the arts11 Jan 2016 09:03 am

Next week, I will be at Arisia, the big SF convention in Boston. I’m going to have a table at the art show. Please comment if you’d like to get together.

I won’t be working on any new cameos this year, but I’ll have more knitted bracelets and some gargoyles. And maybe some other things as inspiration strikes and time permits.

harpy_gargoyle fish_gargoyle

the arts20 Aug 2012 06:10 am

Stories in Yarn

Creating art yarn is an abstract exercise, using only strokes of color in a thin strand (and the texture of those strands) to create something new, something a knitter can fall in love with. Yet, for me, color has the possibility to recall stories, personalities. As a lover of stories in general, this keeps me exploring the medium of this most basic of the fiber arts.

Bad Girl Maleficent

Bad Girl Maleficent

“Bad Girl Malificente”

I started spinning because all the kids were doing it. No, really–my homeschooling younger siblings and their peers were all learning how from a close friend. Not being a kid, it was a little embarrassing to be the last to pick it up. It would be more embarrassing to never learn, though. A lot of secret practice later, and I actually got a job at a tourism-focused sheep farm because of this skill.

It was there I got a chance to explore the dimension color could have in a yarn. One of the sheep breeds on the farm is Jacob Sheep, who are spotted and have a naturally two-tone fleece. Spinning up a roll of that wool, watching the balance of black and white shift to create texture was fascinating. Like dominos falling, was the thought that crossed my mind, or moonlight on cobweb by night. Not long after, I was given some beautiful dyed wool. I spun the soft blue up with gray and white natural wool I had, like clouds against sky. When I was finished, the colors were strongly reminiscent of Haku, in the film Spirited Away.

Memories of Haku

Memories of Haku

Memories of Haku

It was ridiculous—it was enthralling.

I’ve since realized that I associate things strongly by color palette, be it movies, places, or even the ones imagined from the descriptions in a book. When setting up my yarn shop, and checking out the competition, I found that I wasn’t the only one doing this. Not by a long shot–artisans crave inspiration.


Arabian Nights by Weird and Twisted:

Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights

Weird and Twisted Etsy store


Mei from the Totoro Tribute series by quovadishandspun



quovadishandspun Etsy Store


I’ve always been a fan of Impressionism, using broad streaks of color to invoke an image and mood, and treat my yarns as that sort of canvas. In the end, my work is not even a finished product. I just take colors, focused by stories I love, to makee material for yet another artisan to create with.

As my skill catches up with my ambition (never for long, but it does happen) I try to create skeins that use not only the multiple plies for dimension, but also the length, the texture. My Phoenix Spiral yarn is one of my best so far, and it followed a very specific narrative arc, each step from death, rebirth, maturity, back into fiery death and rebirth as the yarn would be knit up. The knitter’s finished object will have a narrative built into it.

Phoenix Sprial

Phoenix Spiral

Phoenix Spiral

I love working in an old art, with new inspiration. It’s exciting to be part of a revival of hand-made materials, and also a wave of geek-themed art, too. The best part, though, is being able to turn around after encountering a piece of art in another medium and celebrate it by drawing out its colors.

the arts23 May 2011 06:51 pm

Textile and ancient literature when blended together can create a unique learning experience. The national costume of the Indian woman — the ‘saree’ which dates back to 2800-1800 BC — expresses these sentiments. Every state of India, defines its saree styling with different motifs and patterns based on its cultural influence and habitat. The southern states of India derive their designs from carvings made on temple pillars and archways. One particular eastern style of saree known as the Baluchari specializes in depicting folklore and translates momentous scenes from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Baluchari designs are woven in silk and epitomize some of the landmark incidents from the Mahabharata – the confrontation of the armies of Kauravas and Pandavas at the Kurukshetra battlefield, ( ) the agony of Bhishma, the grandsire of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, lying on a bed of arrows. He was so blessed that he could decide the time of his demise from this world. (Introduction of Bhishma ) These epics are the backbone of Indian heritage and there are innumerable soul stirring events that can be encapsulated through weaving and painting. Another favorite scene is the depiction of Lord Krishna driving the chariot of Arjun, taking him to the center of the battlefield and narrating to him the essence of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. (Srimad Bhagavad Gita ) There are lessons to be learned from these patterns which many are ignorant of. We can only narrate a fraction of the meaning of these motifs because these epics were written with a purpose and are transcendental in nature.

Scenes from the Ramayana are elaborate and distinct where the most common backdrops are the exile of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother, Lord Laxmana from their kingdom of Ayodhya and their meeting with the Simian God, Lord Hanuman. (A short narration on Lord Hanuman ) The great devotee that he is, Lord Hanuman is always depicted bowing with humility at their feet. He plays an instrumental role in locating Goddess Sita when she was abducted by demon king Ravana and finding the right herb Sanjivani, to save the life of Lord Laxmana.

Lord Hanuman is often portrayed in a flying stance, carrying a mountain on his hand. The legend behind this is when Lord Laxmana was wounded in a battle with Ravana, he was critical. The only way he could survive was if he was given a special herb. Lord Hanuman volunteered to find this potential remedy and flew to the Dunagiri mountain. Amongst a variety of vegetation, he was unsure of which the right one was and as time was running out, he lifted the whole mountain and rushed back.

Besides illustrating epics, Baluchari saree borders are weaved with symbolical designs like conch shell, lotus, wheel, bow and arrow. Lord Vishnu, the god of preservation is always depicted with a conch in his hand. The conch is played in several auspicious ceremonies and its resonance emits positive vibrations. It provides a welcoming atmosphere for the deities to partake in the rituals. The battle of Kurukshetra too began when the conch was sounded at dawn and ended for the day, when the conch was sounded again at sunset.

The lotus flower denotes the presence of Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of fortune. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe and the goddess are depicted seated on a lotus. The lotus-eyed one is another name of Lord Vishnu. The lotus has a lot of significance associated with the chakras of the human body as well.

The bow and arrow depicted in motifs extends its significance with the great archer Arjun from Mahabharata.

The wheel motif has several interpretations. Some wheels depict epochs while others signify the chariot wheels that Lord Krishna drove and took Arjun to the core of the battlefield. Some wheels explain the various battle strategies and formations that were used to outmaneuver the enemy during the Kurukshetra war.

Kantha saree is another style of saree from eastern India that translates literature in art form. This stitch is used to describe folklores and the most popular among them is the story of Behula and her husband Lakhinder. Once Lakhinder’s father had offended Goddess Manasa and she taught him a lesson by sending a snake to bite his son on his wedding night. In those times, it was believed that a person deceased from a snakebite was still alive and could be revived by a resourceful snake-charmer. So the body was set afloat on a boat and allowed to wander across the river. Behula decided to remain next to her deceased husband’s body and sailed across the ocean. After a lot of hardships and angst, she managed to appease the goddess who then by her benediction brought Lakhinder back to life. (Behula Lakhinder Folklore in detail )

The widely used Kantha motifs are solar motifs depicting the power of the sun and energy from fire, the swastika which depicts a sign of good fortune, the tree of life that expresses fertility and abundance while the “Kalka” represents a mango leaf which is sometimes also stylized as flames. Mango leaves are considered auspicious in most Vedic rituals. Kantha patterns are embroidered on bedspreads, handbags, cushion covers, tablemats and so on. They can be mounted on frames and can be used as exquisite wall hangings.

Folklores are still existent and we can give some of the credit to the workmanship of the artisans who entice their audience with vibrant embroidery threads and paint true to life colors that beckons us to take a journey back in time. Art and its various forms can be best appreciated with the comprehension of literature.

You can find more about Nayanna Chakrbaty’s work at

the arts and Weird14 Feb 2011 05:57 pm

monster inspired by JoCo's Skullcrusher Mountain

Looking for something hugely fun and interactive for a party? Try a Monster Mash — cut up bunches of stuffed animals and recombine them into monsters. Plush fabric is pretty forgiving, so you don’t have to sew well to make your monsters work. Mimi Noyes has been running these for a while for house parties on the west coast and at Norwescon every year. I got to enjoy one at Arisia this year at one of her east coast visits.  She suggests using three stuffed animals per monster on average.  Trying to use more monsters can work, but often just leads to a jumble.  Make sure that you have a lot of variety to start off with, more than just teddy bears and bunnies.  Things with tails and wings and horns are good.  Mimi has set up a livejournal community at if you’d like to see more of these.  If you have your own Monster Mash party, add it to Mimi’s page so we can all share, and please comment here so we can see it.

I combined a gorilla, puppy, and elephant to get Loverboy.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the red heart on the tip of his tail, I show him with the only cute couple around, my daughter Alice and her young man. When I made Loverboy, I was tempted to put the elephant face on the other side to make it obscene, but I showed restraint.

Here are some process photos of the carnage… I’m particularly fond of the decapitated heads.

monster carnage

Works in Progress

Leftover Body Parts

Leftover Body Parts

Monster Heads

Oh my god, the heads....

the arts13 Dec 2010 03:57 pm

Interactive Fiction – From Art to Entertainment and Back

by Bogi Takács

Interactive fiction, in the broadest sense, includes all fiction with an interactive component. However, the current usage of the concept is much narrower: it usually refers to computer software that is organized around the ‘gameplay’ paradigm but is entirely composed of text. Is there any distinction between these text adventures and interactive fiction (IF) itself? Can IF be an art form? Is the technology behind IF an essential component in the shaping and development of the medium or is it incidental?

Interactivity on paper

Discounting sporadic predecessors, the development of  IF started with nonlinear narratives like Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar or Nabokov’s Pale Fire, both in the 1960s. These early literary experiments failed to start any meaningful trend, even though they were well-received in their own field. The breakthrough came with genre fiction instead: in the 1980s, Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books where readers could determine the protagonist’s actions in fantasy adventures became massive hits in young demographics. These works were heavily influenced by pen-and-paper roleplaying games, but had advantages over them: they did not require a group of players and an experienced storyteller. The strict second-person perspective these gamebooks used (“You are standing in front of a brick wall”) was different from previous interactive literary works and owed much to these forms of entertainment.

(While Fighting Fantasy and similar print gamebook series mostly died out by the 1990s, the format of choosing from fixed options instead of more open-ended actions still remains. Most contemporary literary hypertext fiction also uses a similar format.)

The text adventure boom and bust

The first text-based adventure games appeared in the second half of the 1970s – they ran on mainframes and were developed by researchers and university students who had access to them. In the early eighties, these people formed companies like Infocom and Adventure International and braved the home computer market. The meteoric rise of the text adventure slightly predated the success of paper-based gamebooks, and these adventures also had a different gameplay mechanism: instead of picking from a handful of possibilities, players were given a prompt describing an environment and the possibility to interact with it by entering verb-noun combinations like “open door”. This was enabled by the use of a parser that interpreted simple natural-language commands.

As technological advances increasingly allowed the use of graphics, first these games began to feature static images and then – with King’s Quest in 1984 – character animation. As fast as it had arrived, interactive fiction soon disappeared from the mainstream of gaming altogether, giving way to graphic adventures.

There is one form of interactive fiction that enjoys continued mass success in the game market: in Japan, a large portion of PC game sales consist of so-called “visual novels”. These works involve mostly static artwork of characters in front of backgrounds (usually both drawn in elaborate manga style), and large amounts of dialogue between the characters with occasional points where the reader can make decisions about the direction of the story. Visual novels are more akin to interactive versions of theatrical works or screenplays than actual nonlinear novels; indeed, some people have adapted plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the visual novel format.

Adventure and art

In the first half of the 1980s, text adventures were massively popular in English-speaking countries. While this success has not been repeated ever since, they still exist, and out of the spotlight, they have gone through a notable transformation: with no commercial pressure, they gravitated away from formulaic fantasy and toward experimentation and artistic aspirations. To be sure, this tendency has always been present: even back in the eighties, science fiction writers authored text adventures (not necessarily making the linear-nonlinear transition successfully!) and there were nonconventional releases, but not to the current extent.

As part of this trend, more and more authors and fans alike began to use “interactive fiction” as the preferred label. Indeed, influential pieces like Galatea by Emily Short, described by the creator as “a conversation with a work of art”, could not be called an “adventure” in any meaningful sense of the term.

The great expansion

While interactive fiction in its present-day form grew out of text-based computer games, the concept of IF can be applied to nonlinear literary works, Japanese-style visual novels, wikifiction (both authorial and crowdsourced) and other forms of hypertext fiction just as well. There is plenty of cross-pollination already: to cite a lesser-known example, Neel Krishnaswami’s Lexicon RPG, a collaborative wikifiction game/project that takes about a month to run, was inspired by The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić; one of the classics of nonlinear literary fiction.

A number of easy-to-use authoring tools also appeared – and continue to appear –, and the Internet allows people to share their creations and to build large databases like the Interactive Fiction Archive, the Interactive Fiction Database and the Ren’Ai Archive (for visual novels). There are regular contests like the Annual Interactive Fiction Competition which also serve to drum up and maintain interest. Thus technology serves as an enabler of interactive fiction – even paper-based forms like gamebooks have made the transition to the Internet, and this has been most fruitful with many fan-made gamebooks appearing that would have had little chance of finding a traditional publisher as the demand for print gamebooks decreased.

Unfortunately, many online fiction venues still shy away from accepting interactive fiction, sometimes for technical reasons, but probably more often due to a general non-awareness of IF’s existence and tradition. The ones that show an interest – like the speculative fiction magazine Ideomancer, which openly solicits for “hyperfiction” in its submissions guidelines –, still do not publish much of this type of material. The reason for this is probably that interactive fiction developers are often not aware such paid venues exist, and thus most often just self-publish online. This gap needs to be filled if we are to see a rise of IF as an art form whose influence reaches beyond its own well-circumscribed group of enthusiasts.

the arts15 Sep 2008 08:06 pm

You might be surprised to see these pieces described as dolls. Maybe you think figurative art is a better description. But I hope you like her work as much as I do. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the pictures, and read on below to learn more about this artist.

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